Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Every Story Needs a Villain

     There's a scene in 2005's Cinderella Man, the movie detailing the historic comeback of boxer James J. Braddock, that's always stuck out like a shining jewel to me. In a great movie about the triumph of the human spirit, great quotes about boxing and life in general abound in the wonderfully-written script, this quote by Mrs. Gould to Mrs. Braddock always remained with me.
     The scene starts with Mrs. Braddock marching with righteous indignation to her husband's manager's house. She's outraged that this man, Joe Gould, is trying to get her husband another fight when everyone but Gould thinks Braddock's best days are behind him. Gould doesn't want to let her in but not for the reasons one would think.
     He opens the door to an empty parlor bereft of all but the smallest, most marginal furniture. Far from being the "bloodsucker" Mrs. Braddock accuses him of being, Joe Gould and his wife had sold virtually all their worldly possessions in order to fund Braddock's comeback. Gould sees something left in Braddock's tank and thinks he's worth taking a chance on.
     At some point during this pitiful tea party, Mrs. Gould tells Mrs. Braddock that their men are harder on themselves than they have a right to be. "And every day," she says, "they always think they're failing us." That, to me, is not only the best line in the movie but one of the great lines in cinematic history for the simple reason that it's true and timelessly so.
     Men accept responsibility for things for which they are responsible but the true standup guys are the ones who take responsibility and accept blame even for things that are beyond their control. Before writing this post, I watched this video and broke down when I heard that indelible line. I didn't want to, I didn't mean to but I broke down in front of my fiancee at a time when I should have remained strong for her.
     She's been in tears literally every day since we got that notice to quit stuck in our door last Friday. And this has been psychologically devastating for me and exacerbates my incipient sense of failure and inadequacy.
     And it angers me the more I think about it, at the effect this impending, needless eviction is having on her because she blames herself.
     She blames herself because even after I'd been telling her for weeks not to tell our slumlord about the busted oven until after we sign the new lease that expired on February 28th because after four and a half years, I knew exactly what kind of a man, for want of a better word, we were dealing with. He'd jacked up our rent all but the first full year he'd taken over the property and I knew how he'd react to hearing the oven broke down for the third time.
     She blames herself because when she went down to pay the rent last Friday, despite my telling her, twice that morning, not to tell him about the oven just yet, she went ahead and told him, anyway. As I'd predicted, he blew up at her, issued a couple of vague threats then jumped in his van and sped off in a huff without, pointedly, taking his rent, his entire reason for being there (She had to call him the night before, the 25th, to ask him when he was going to come by to get it).
     About five hours later, he sped back, banged on our front door a few times, stuck a notice to quit in 14 days (predated the 24th, thereby giving us just 12) and was gone by the time we answered the door 30 seconds later.
     Mrs. JP and I, you see, have been battling her short term memory issues for years, now. I'm not a medical expert so I'm not going to speculate on what's wrong with her. All I can say with some authority is that, whatever's wrong with her, it's not going to get better.
     She blames herself as I blame myself, even though the blame for this turn of events rests squarely on the shoulders of the malignant sociopath who's been our slumlord for the last four and a half years. I don't hold it against her. That would be useless. In her mind, she thought she was doing the right thing in giving him the chance to in turn do the right thing and fix the oven..
     He's audaciously going to try to evict us for, get this, the nonpayment of March's rent that I'd withdrawn from my checking account when the funds became available on February 16th. This, despite the fact we'd never once paid the rent late either before or during his ownership of the property. We did everything we were supposed to do. We were, if not perfect human beings, at least perfect tenants. 
    You all know what I do for a living. I blog. I write historical novels. I lead a quiet, boring, scholarly existence and Mrs. JP lives her life the same way. We keep to ourselves, don't bother the neighbors, don't damage the property and, most importantly, we always, always pay the rent on time. For the 144 consecutive months I have lived here going back to March of 2009, I have never once paid the rent late. I have 144 dated receipts and will provide in court printed transcripts of my every checking account transaction going back to November 1st proving I withdraw exactly the amount of money we need for our rent days, weeks or, in this month's case, even months in advance (the stimulus checks we got recently enabled us to get April's, May's and June's rent out in advance.).
     Even though he doesn't take care of us, we take care of him because that's our responsibility, regardless of our personal feelings toward him.
     We did nothing wrong. We'd done everything we were supposed to do. so how come we're the ones getting eviction notices and how come we're the ones feeling guilty?
     I made a private email appeal to several past contributors for help, giving them the abstracts, but that had resulted in just $130 in donations. While we're, of course, grateful for that, it will certainly not help us in the long term. We're looking for a place to move to but our striking range is limited and, as always, Craigslist is packed to the gills with con artists and crooks offering properties to which they have no connection so they can get you to submit to intrusive and costly "ID IQs" that are designed to steal your money and maybe even your identity.
     In other words, we're fighting an uphill battle considering our limited means. Even the CDC's moratorium on evictions extension last Monday is porous, at best, and any slumlord like the sleazebag trying to throw us out on the street can easily sidestep the moratorium simply by stating he doesn't wish to renew our lease.
     To make matters worse, just getting hauled into court for an eviction hearing is enough to get you passed over for future housing prospects. Any property owner can simply go through the state's court records and once they see your name in connection to an eviction, they've made up their mind. They never seem to check what the disposition was or even if the tenant was culpable. It's called, "Evicted for Life."
     And our slumlord knows this. And he doesn't give a shit. That's because he's a Donald Trump wannabe, an emotionally stunted, malignant sociopath. And now he's resorting to lies to throw two blameless people in their 60s literally out into the street... because he thinks the law will allow him to. And perhaps it will.
     This is by far the biggest crisis that's ever faced us in 12 years. If we needed your help more than  ever, now's that time.


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