あなたの皿〔料理〕をしてください!(Part Two)
November 12, 2008, 11:00 PM
Filed under: Cleaning and Maintenance, Roommates, The Orient

The next morning, I woke up with renewed vigor.  I was on a mission to find a new place to live, somewhere that I could stay for longer than just a few months.  I started searching at work on Craigslist, and ended up finding a ton of possibilities.  One of them was a studio on Brady for $450 a month with utilities.  The perks were obvious: living by myself, cheap rent, close to a happening part of town.  Throw in a street-view window so I could see all the midnight crazies stumbling out of bars while puking up their Boca burgers and it was a done deal.

What was not obvious was how unbelievably tiny the living space actually was.  Sure, you could live by yourself for $450 a monthon fashionable Brady street, but you’d be living in what I could only describe as a glorified linen closet.  As the manager of the building “gave me the tour,” as she put it, I began to wonder what exactly we were touring; there was almost nothing to look at.  You could walk in the room, spread your arms and legs, and be touching both ends of the apartment.  When she said, “This closet over here is PERFECT to put a stove, or even a refrigerator,” I thanked her for wasting my time.

Feeling the crunching pressure of the move-out date, I had a second viewing the next day on Brady street, two days before my move out date.  Brady street is a huge part of Milwaukee culture and is home to many downtown festivals.  I only half-recalled seeing a sign for the next upcoming Brady-hosted festival, and it wasn’t until I got on the bus the afternoon of the showing that I realized it was the most feared festival in all the land: Harley Fest.

It only makes sense to hold Harley Fest in Milwaukee for two reasons.  One is that Harleysare manufactured here and originated here.  Two is that we harbor the kind of people that Harley-Davidson is trying to attract.  You know the type.  The man withthe lager-scented breath and the bandanna who slams into you at a bar screaming a Nickleback song at full volume and completely off key, all while you’re trying to enjoy your lemon drop in peace.  Harley Fest was just thousands of those men and their wives riding on motorcycles, yelling their thoughts to each other over the loud roar of the engine.  I guess the word “WHAT?!” is on a Harley driver’s mind a lot.

Getting to the duplex on Brady on the city bus wasn’t all that time-consuming, but I still ended up running late, which is never a good sign.  The house was very cute, with a relatively large front yard and an enormous backyard that bode well for the tenants’ Irish Wolfhound, who was the size of a station wagon and could probably swallow a small child whole.  I forget the man’s name, since we only met that once.  He had wilted black hair, almost peppered, which is strange since he wasn’t too much older than me.  He was pale, almost sickly pale, with large eyes and multiple facial piercings.  I figured from the septum ring that I could get along with this guy pretty well, so he took me inside to show me around.

It wasn’t a large living space.  Actually, what would have been my room wasn’t even a living space, it was currently an office, meaning that I would only be able to fit my futon and maybe a fold-out chair in there.  But the kitchen, living room, and bathroom were all too good to be true, and for the price, I was ready to sign a check at that moment.  Unfortunately, I had to go and open my big mouth.  After praising the place, he asked if I was interested.  I told him I was, and whenever I’m seriously interested in renting a place, I have to have the “I’m gay, don’t worry, I promise not to rape you” conversation.  I feel it’s one of those things that unnecessarily necessary.  It angers me that people would even care, but the last thing I would want is to bring a boy home only to find out that my new roommate is a neo-Nazi.  The phrase “that homo skin of yours sure would make a nice lampshade” is a phrase I’d rather never hear.

When I told him, I didn’t think he minded all that much.  His response was pretty typical, “Oh, that’s no big deal.  No big deal at all.”  I was excited: his approval meant that I could now negotiate an actual move in date.  He had no interest in that.  When I said I would write him a check right this minute and start moving whenever I could, he just shrugged and said, “Well, we’ll see…I’ll call you.”

He never did.  Plan B was a complete bust.

With only a day left until my move out date, I sat on my front step with a cigarette, immersed in thought.  I kept trying to convince myself that my move into the Courtyard Condominiums would be fine.  ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I said to myself, ‘A few days ago, you were fighting for this place!  Just remember all of the good things about it.  It’s close to work, close to a grocery store, and you can tell all your friends you live in a condo…you know, make ’em jealous!’ This was true, but my other half had a decent argument as well.  ‘What do you mean ‘good things’?  He’ll be away from all of his friends, so it’ll be twice as hard to make them jealous and has to spend $700 a month just for rent!  You call that good?’  I wanted the argument to stop, to be resolved; it wasn’t, and the next day, I was moving into the condo.

My first night, as I was trying to breathe through the noxious scent of dead animal carcass, Jack talked to me for a short period of time.  I learned some interesting things about him: he had a job, a family, and couldn’t vote.  Unfortunately, that’s all I remember, and to be frank, all I could understand.  It wasn’t that his English was terrible, it was actually rather good, just with a Japanese sound to it.  It’s more so that he talked at the volume of a field mouse, and I wondered how he would alert me if there was, say, a burglar in the house or a fire.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I’m messy, but not, I repeat, not dirty.  There is a difference.  The bad news about my messiness is that it reacts nicely with my laziness and my procrastination.  That being said, I used to get guff about dishes all the time when I was living with my friend Hannah.  Whether the note was warranted or unwarranted, she was always right: there WERE dishes piling up in the kitchen, and they were almost always mine.  The notes she left were quite sweet, always ending with, “I love you!” and never had a harsh tone to them, but I can’t deny that I felt constantly irritated.  After reading it, I’d roll up my sleeves, plunge into the grease and grime muttering, “Thanks Mom…”

When I started living at the condo, I began to think of Hannah’s notes, and I missed them.  A lot.  They needed to be here.  Jack needed a little, “Hey, could you do the dishes soon?  Thanks dude!  Love you!” in his life.  I may have left two or three plates in the sink, but with Jack it was comparable to Thanksgiving Dinner.  There was nothing that wasn’t already used, so instead of cooking or complaining or even cleaning the dishes, I just ordered take out and ate it in my room silently.

I remember one morning I woke up to an astonishingly putrid odor.  It was a new one, unfamiliar and twice as disgusting.  I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly be, so I opened my door to investigate.  The fumes nearly knocked me on my ass, but while covering my nose with my sleeve, I was able to race into the kitchen and look around.  After a few minutes I realized that he left an entire bag of frozen shrimp laying out overnight.  I thought about doing the right thing and throwing the seafood away, seeing as they were clearly no longer edible.  But instead, as my own little attempt at revenge via stomach flu, I placed the bag back in the freezer, cackled, and went to wash my face.

When I did attempt to make myself something to eat, I did what I normally do: I left it there until I was ready to clean it.  It was never left in the sink for weeks; probably about two or three days at the most.  I had cooked some rice on a Monday, ate it, and left the dishes alone.  Coming home from work on Tuesday, I walked in to see the unthinkable: Jack actually doing dishes!  Only he wasn’t doing his dishes.  He was doing mine.  My one plate and my one pot.  I cocked my head in wonder and announced myself.

He flashed me a wry smile, and began an overly hypocritical tangent.  Coming from me, that’s quite the comment, since hypocrisy and I go together like PB&J.

“Ohkay…soooo…weemembah dat when you cook foo, you have to do the deeshes.  I want to try and keep the prace crean.”  I glanced over at the counter, which was harboring four pans full of grease and what looked like bits of cornish game hen, “So, no probrem, just make sure you do deeshes.  I don’t want dis place smerry.”  Too late, it’s smerry as hell my friend.  I sighed emphatically, “Thanks for the tip.  I’ll keep it in mind.”  I slammed the door to my room in his face, and began, yet again, a search for a new apartment.

When I found my current roommate, I told Jack that I would be moving out by the end of the month.  He was slightly surprised, since I had only been there for a month, but he said he understood: “Man like you need his friends!” That was part of it, but what I also needed was an apartment that wouldn’t gas my friends to death should they drop by.  I told him I would write him a utility check and move out on the 25th of September.

I came home from work about three days before my move out date witha Subway sandwich in my hand, humming “All Is Full Of Love” merrily to myself.  It was a good day at work, and I was glad to have made a decision with my living situation.  When I got home, I retreated to my room to enjoy the gyro sub.  Jack was in the dining room on his computer, per usual, and he gave me a simple quick nod when I entered.  Twenty minutes later, I heard the front door open, and the sound of voices.  But these weren’t just any voices.  Oh no, it was the high-piched, shrill cacophony known as a child.  Two of them.  One of them was too young to talk, so it kind of just clicked and whizzed, and the other one knew too many words.  It was an entire family and apparently, they were here to look at the condo.

Feeling slightly violated, I emerged from my room awkwardly and introduced myself.  The man was a very kind Arabian man who was dressed for a business meeting and began to scour the house immediately.  He polietly asked if he could see my room, and despite the horrible mess, I conceded, and he took a look around.

“Very nice…what a perfect place for two young bachelors looking for wives!”

I tried to hide the look of amusement on my face, but failed miserably.  Since I had my own bathroom as well, he asked if he could take a peek in there.  “I just want to double check…make sure there aren’t any naked women in the shower!”

Rather using a witty quip or even just a homosexual confession, I shrugged.  A shrug doesn’t make any sense in this situation, because a shrug suggests, “Eh, could be, see for yourself.”  The man laughed heartily, making me believe that he took my shrug as a joke, so I felt slightly better.  I turned around to see his kids swimming in my laundry basket, and decided it was time for a cigarette.

After they left, I confronted Jack, who immediately apologized for any inconvenience.  “It’s just that…well, I still live here.  I need to know about these things, you know?” I implored him to make sure and let me know if there would be future showings, and he promised he would.

That very same night, two hours later, I was in the bathroom.  I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for a little NC-17 fun when I heard voices again.  I figured Jack must have been on the phone, until I realized that the voices were coming from inside my bedroom.  I hastily threw my clothes on and bolted through the bathroom door.  I greeted both of them with pursed lips.  “Hi, I’m C.J., Jack didn’t tell me you’d be stopping by.”  I shot an angry glare at Jack, who seemed relatively unphased by it.  When the guy finally left, I didn’t have the strength to have the same conversation with Jack, only to hear, “Shure!  Shure!” and then see a family of eight rummaging through my unmentionables.

On the move out date, my mom, my sister, and her friend, Charmain all came over in a mini-van to assist in the process.  I got off work early and unfortunately had rehearsal that same night, so I was unbelievably stressed, to the point of wanting to curl up in the fetal position and begin sucking my thumb.  When we finally got all the furniture out, my mom confessed to me that she “didn’t really feel like taking any of this with us.”

“Well, what do you suggest we do with it?”  I asked.

“We could just leave it on the side of the road.  Someone will take it.”

I tried to tell her it wouldn’t really work in downtown Milwaukee like it would in West Allis, but she swatted my complaints away.  “You said the place was furnished right?  You’re running late right?  Do you want to carry all this?”  The truth was that I didn’t, so we left it there.

My goodbye to Jack was quick and business like.  Our relationship both began and ended with a “I barely know you” handshake.  The difference was the second time, I did know him, or at least, a particular impression of him.  I knew that he loved video games and stir fry.  That he couldn’t vote and that he enjoyed talking like an Anime critter.  Finally, I knew that he was a hypocrit.  Just like I am for even complaining about him in the first place.  Just like I was for complaining about Hannah’s disdain for my cleaning habits.  So you better believe that, at my new place, once I make something, the dishes get done.  Otherwise, all I can think about is those children doing the backstroke through my linens, the moldy bag of shrimp, and most importantly, the small, scribbly notes from Hannah, all imploring me to “DO MY DISHES!”  Or for Jack, “あなたの皿〔料理〕をしてください!”

Thanks Mom.


あなたの皿〔料理〕をしてください!(Part One)
November 2, 2008, 11:13 PM
Filed under: Cleaning and Maintenance, Roommates, The Orient

At the end of August this year, I began to start looking for yet another place to live.  I’m somewhat of a self-proclaimed nomad, a title I embrace only to halt the sting of what it’s actual meaning: I’m indecisive, but when I finally make a decision, it’s usually careless and without much thought.  I don’t think about the roommate (“He says he’s into leather…maybe he means couches?”), I don’t think about the location, (“Just a quick 1 hour bus ride to work!”).  All I care about is the price, and if there’s enough room to not only fit all my belongings, but also extra room so that my belongings can be strewn messily about the room.  If an apartment can fit this criteria, then I’ll consider it, even if the roommate is an ex-con or a Republican.

Per usual, I waited to the absolute last minute to do my apartment hunt.  I do this with almost everything, but having honed my procrastination to almost an art form, I justify my lateness by saying I pulled through in the end.  Pulling through is a stretch actually.  Barely making it would probably be more concise.  My current roommate, Hannah, wouldn’t necessarily hound me about it, but I would tell her how I’ve looked at all of these places, most of which I had only seen from the outside or were completely imaginary, and they just weren’t working out.  “Well, what’s wrong with it?” she’d inquire, and I’d just respond with a shrug and maybe a, “no on-site laundry” or “rabid wild mongoose in the backyard,” to which she’d nod, indicating that she understood and applauded my thorough screening process.  This made me feel guilty, but not guilty enough to look for apartments rather than sprawl out on the futon watching “Dancer in the Dark” while eating Reese’s pieces and blubbering like a newborn beluga whale.

I had finally found a place about five days before my scheduled move out date.  The place was on Craigslist, the only website I will use to find a roommate ever since meeting one of my best friends on there by chance.  It seemed perfect on the screen: a beautiful condominium, 1 bedroom, everything included, in the heart of downtown…all for…$650?  ‘Am I reading that right?’ I wondered.  I called the number of a very nice Asian man named Jack.  He said that “siss fiffee” was the correct price and reminded me that this place would “go vewy kikly” because of the how cheap it was.  He was probably right, which meant I, in turn, had to act kikly.  I asked him if I could see the place the very same day, and he said he was available.

I left straight from work and walked to the complex, which excited me since that meaned that if I did take the place, there was no more taking the city bus.  Just a quick ten minute walk and I was “home.”  On my walk there, I began to fantasize about what life might be like in a condominium.  I imagined luxurious bath and shower combos with the water pressure that could knock over a steer.  I pined about soft beautiful carpet that always smelled delightfully like calla lillies.  People would walk in and say, “Wow, what is that incredible scent?  It’s…I just can’t put my finger on it, but very floral.  Very euphoric…oh my…um, did you need a roommate?”  I’d shake my head and laugh, pitying them slightly, all while handing them an application and telling them to throw it on the pile in the corner with all the others.  A breakfast bar, a jacuzzi, a pool table, a gymnasium…the sky was the limit it seemed.  But just as I was picturing myself being fed strawberries by two men dressed in sarongs while lying on a bearskin rug, a Kia honked at me, and I was snapped back to reality.

Shocking as this may seem to you, condo life isn’t like that.  At all.  But it’s not half-bad, and it’s certainly a step up from some of the grottos I lived in previously.  The building itself was attractive looking.  With aged maroon brick with large golden doors and high archways, it was a dominating and regal force on the corner of Milwaukee and Juneau.  How could a person not want to live here?  I went up the steps and called Jack.  He let me in, and the walk through the hallways to the unit was incredibly tasking.  Not only did I have to moderately jog just to keep up with him, but he expected me to converse too.  After walking in 80 degree heat with heavy black dresspants and a cardigan, the only thing I had to say to him was “水!”

I had learned that while Jack was Japanese and spoke it fluently, when I initially asked him what nationality he was, he said he was Canadian.  I was slightly jealous and a little embarrased, since here in America we don’t have free health care or equal rights for gays.  I figured he probably thought this was a step down for him, but he didn’t view it that way. “I ruv Amewika!  Is gweat heer.”  I smiled.  It is, isn’t it?  I made a quick mental note not to take it for granted, but I also noted I should try out Canada someday, just for a good-natured compare and contrast.

When we got to the unit, he opened the door, and I was almost knocked off of my feet.  Not by the beauty, no, but by the stench.  The horrible smell that makes you wonder why you ever complained about dog farts in the past.  Just to give you perspective, I would have rather stuffed my nose in Michael Moore’s ass than continue to smell that putrid odor.  I managed to somehow internalize my disgust, and walk through the entire apartment without passing out or beating myself to death with the nearest rice cooker.

The place itself was actually very nice, but you couldn’t tell unless you moved a pile of clothes or several stacks of paper.  The bedroom was relatively roomy with a large window, and I had my own bathroom that was attached to the bedroom, which was exciting because it meant I could do anything in my room completely in the nude.  Reading.  Exercising.  Composing.  Au naturale.  Suddenly the smell didn’t bother me so much.

The worst part of the place was how dirty it was.  Not just messy, but dirty.  Trust me, there’s a difference.  I’m messy.  Messy is throwing your clothes on the floor because you can’t be bothered to put them on a hanger.  Messy is having tons of loose change sprawled everywhere.  Dirty is having a family of squirrels living in your crockpot, feeding on the five week old egg drop soup you figured would just evaporate when you no longer had use for it.  Dishes were everywhere.  In fact, they were in places that were so odd, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that he purposely put them there.  Instead, I was convinced that during the night, the collander got up, walked over to the bathroom floor and said, “Ahhh…nice and cozy.”

To top it all off, I was under the impression that this was a one bedroom, as in I would be living there alone, so I didn’t care that the place reeked or that he had dishes that went bump in the night.  Once I moved in, the smell would be gone, the dishes packed and shipped, and the squirrels either drowned or strangled (I was having difficulty figuring out which one would be more humane).  Until he took me to the second bedroom.  His bedroom.  It was then I realized that if I wanted to live here, I was going to have to accept its nastiness.  Or was I?  Maybe I could change him.  Or, even better, get him to move out entirely.  Yes, that’s right, for a split second, I seemed to think I had the conversational skills to evict someone simply by asking them politely.  Here’s how that conversation went:

“So…you live here too?”


“Okay…okay, okay…well, you did say it was a one bedroom in your ad, you know.”

“White.  You onry get wahn bedwoom.   I get dee oder.”

I sighed pathetically.  Since I had no response to this, I moved forward.

“Well, were you thinking of…making a move anytime soon?” I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but go back to the paragraph about the smell, reread it, and tell me what I did was wrong.

“Sure, sure!  Yeah, I tink abow dat arrrrrott!”

I was surprised at this, but instead of asking more, I just let him continue talking.

“Yeah, I tink abow going to Frorida for work, see?  O maybe Washeengton.  I have some intavues so…if you move in, you kahn find new roommate!”

I began to think about having a fabulous female roommate.  Her name was Annette, maybe.  Or maybe it was Nadia.  We’d have posh jobs, Nadia and I, live in a posh neighborhood, only drink Bordeaux, and never swear in the house.  We’d have a labrador named Rascal and our neighbors would think we were married, but we’d always laugh and say, “Nope, just friends!”  I would be her Will, and she would be my Grace.  We’d talk about how hard work was that day, how our boyfriends are never as attentive as they should be, share childhood secrets…maybe even share the bed.  In the morning I’d wake up and look over at her, lying so still, with her beautiful canary yellow hair draped across the pillows. And I’d say, “You know, I don’t think I could live without you.” 

I told him I would be back tomorrow to write him a check.

I left feeling completely empowered, and immediately called my mother, who, as usual, didn’t share my same celebratory tone.  “Well, what’s he like?” she asked.  I thought for a second.  I didn’t know too much about him, but I since I moved out, I’ve always been honest with my mother.  I tugged at my sleeves, “Well, he’s very nice.  He’s just a little creepy.”  Dead air followed this comment, and I kept walking to the bus stop, puzzled.  She finally followed up, “Well, creepy how?  Like murder creepy?  Rapist creepy?”  I could have told her that it was easy these days to just be creepy without having a criminal record, but that would have complicated the matter.  “I don’t know…probably just assault creepy.  Nothing major.”  Her huff was audible, “Well, you need to make sure that you think about this before you make your decision.  This is a lot of money for you to be spending on rent, I don’t care how close to work it is.” I always get defensive when I know I could be completely wrong about something I thought I was so right about, so I said, “Look, this isn’t your decision, it’s mine, so don’t worry about me.”  Once again, dead air, and then, “Fine.  It is your decision.  I’m just saying.  Think before you make it.”  I said I would and hung up, knowing full well that my mind was still made up.

I returned home to recap the details about my day to Hannah.  She seemed all too relieved that I had found a place, mostly due to the fact that it took me so long to even start trying.  I told her about the condo, but left out anything negative, so that when I was finished, all I got was, “It sounds perfect!”  Music to my ears, I thought.  I needed someone else to confirm that my decision was the correct one, so I called my friend Doug.  Doug is a phenomenal person, but one of the reasons I ever ask him questions about my judgement is because I know that he’ll agree with me.  And if he doesn’t, he’s easily persuaded.  After about a 10 minute conversation, I received yet another, “It sounds perfect!”  With two ripe testimonials, I knew I was in the clear.

Because I can be a complete asshole sometimes, I decided to call my mom back and tell her that both Hannah and Doug had approved of my moving in there.  “And?” she spat, “Just because you’re friends tell you that handwashing a porcupine isn’t going to hurt, you’ll volunteer to do it?”  I really wanted to tell her that you probably got to wear rubber gloves while washing a porcupine, but I didn’t.  Instead I said: “You should really be more supportive of me.”  I use this line a lot, and it doesn’t just sound stupid, it IS stupid.  My parents, especially my mom, support me a lot, so it’s almost comical when it comes out of my mouth.  But I had gotten her angry, which is what I wanted, “Look, you need to stop making decisions on a whim, but if you want to go ahead and move with a creepy man you barely know for $650 dollars a month, I’m not going to stop you.  Just don’t come crying to me when you find out he jipped you or anything like that…I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear any of it.”

And that was that.  We both hung up.  Fuming, I climbed in bed and set my alarm.  As I turned off the light, my mind started to race.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  I just kept hearing her words, “Creepy Man” or “$650 dollars a month.”  But it wasn’t until about 3 AM when I knew that it was time for a Plan B.