When I left the FanTek house, the primary motivation was that our landlord had given us 30 days to move out: he was selling the house we were renting. I left nothing to chance, and right away I started looking. It turns out that my coworker and boss Tim and his wife Anita needed a roommate to supplement their income. The house was a LOT closer to work (one bus ride instead of 2), and I knew them pretty well, I thought. Tim was a funny guy with a big smile and dry humor, and his wife seemed pleasant.
The house was the house Tim grew up in. It was a small, post-war single home in an older part of Alexandria right off of Telegraph road. It was a single-story house with one huge basement. I was going to get his old bedroom, and they would take the master bedroom. How they got the house was a really weird story.
It seems Tim's mom started to grow senile when she got older. Having met her, I would say she was a pleasant yet dotty old woman. One of her "issues" was she became a compulsive shopper, and when cable came around, she purchased so much stuff off the home shopping channels and catalogs that her and her husband went into significant debt. I heard the number $70,000, and that was late 1980's money. Because they owed far more than they took in on a fixed, retired income, they were forced to sell the house at a significant loss just to pay off the credit cards. Enter Bobby. Bobby was an older friend of Tim's from high school. Bobby was one of those guys who always seems rough around the edges: poorly shaven, balding at 25, loud voice, and had a patronizing leer that was hard to shake. Bobby has "made his fortune" with surplus auctions of various types. He owned a lot of houses in the area, many of them old and needing a lot of work he kept meaning to get to. Bobby bought the house, and offered it to Tim at a discount. Tim was making retail salary, Anita was scraping by as a dental hygienist. Having a home, especially the house you grew up in at a reduced rent was too good to pass up. But they needed some extra money to cover costs. That's where I came in. But the house was far from perfect.
Our street had a particular problem of being on a slope, and over time, the houses had started to slide off their foundations. Ours was starting to split down the middle like a loaf of bread. One top of that, the basement was just one large area packed to walls with all the junk a family of 3 kids would gather in 25 years. Add to that all the stuff Tim's mom bought, and it was unusable except as a laundry/storage area. If it had been finished off, it could have added a lot more space. The house was too old for central air conditioning, but did have central heating. Looking back on the year I lived there, I really should have invested in a window AC, because the only AC we had was on window unit in the dining room, and it was too old to heat more than a 10 x 10 area. Man, did my room get hot in the summer. REAL hot. I once measured the temperature at 120 F (that's as high as my thermometer would go). Luckily, I had a huge fish tank in the room, and that helped cool things down at night, but my goldfish didn't like their water at 90 degrees, and a combination of that and the bad water we had (rusty pipes we figure, the water was undrinkable) ended up killing them over time. We also only had one small bathroom with a toilet, tub and shower, and not much else.
Then there was "Bull." Bull was a happy-wappy cream-colored Labrador Retriever. He came with the house. Tim's mom bought him only two years previously, so he was kind of young. "Bull" was short for "Bulldozer," a name he got as a puppy because he refused to go around anything, but always tried to knock it aside or go over it (behavior he grew out of). This was my first experience in living with a large dog, and Bull was... sort of trained. He jumped on people and tried to sleep on them. He hated mailmen and UPS guys with a passion that was bordering Cujo (he almost killed one, but Tim grabbed Bull's collar just in time). Apparently, cream colored labs were rare, because there were several incidences where someone tried to kidnap him. The only time I saw it was a pickup truck full of Hispanic guys tried to get bull to jump the (locked) fence with some meat or something, I couldn't see. When I opened the door, they all panicked and ran off. The Vietnamese family behind us had a bunch of Dobermans that ran loose in their fenced yard, and often we had to tear Bull away from a psychotic barking fest with them. Tim told me they were a safe house for the Vietnamese mafia, and was worried Bull would be shot (I never had proof of the people who lived there, but a lot of people came in an out at all hours, and it seemed busy there a lot). Bull also hated balloons, and would attack them until they popped, and then he'd freak out over the sudden noise. He jealously guarded his food bowl, and hated this small ToysRuS "Jeffrey" doll that was always on the couch. Other than that, he was happy, loveable, and fun to be with. I spent a lot of happy times with that dog, and Tim and Anita took good care of him.
The rules we had were pretty simple, and at first, they were okay. I had my own cupboard in the kitchen where I could store my own things. A shelf on the fridge. I could use their pots and pans as long as I cleaned them. Fair enough. Everything seemed cool.
Well, things began to fall apart pretty quickly. In the FanTek house, I learned to stay in my room more often than not: even at that age, I realized I tended to grate on people's nerves, and I kept getting swept up in the drama-du-jour anyway. Things calmed down if I stayed by myself most of the time; one of my former roommates said I was an "emotional barometer with too sensitive a trigger," which I think is fairly accurate description of me even now. Well, this didn't set well with Anita, who considered it "anti-social." But when I spent more time with her, I began to realize she was a little off center.
Anita was a dental hygienist. I have only known two in my life, and she was one of them. I am guessing she was pleasant enough with her patients, but at home, she was a little high strung and dramatic. She had several "themes" in her life. The major one was how Latvian she was. At first, I thought she was from Latvia, but later found out only her maternal grandmother was. But Anita went on about it like she just got off the boat and missed the homeland. This was before the Iron Curtain fell, so she really didn't like what the Soviets had done to her homeland. "Free Latvia!" She had the family crest, some old jewels, and antique lace from "home." The second thing was she was a former dancer. I don't know the whole story, but I have known many dancers in my life, and she was the kind of dancer who always "could have been a contender." She had professional photos, "head shots," if you will, of her in various poses. Once a day, she had this "requirement" that between the hours of 4-5pm, she had to having the living room alone to herself to do her daily exercise routines. "I'd feel foolish and embarrassed if anyone saw me," she said, but made a strong point that bad things would happen if someone saw her. What was most annoying about this was that the living room was the only way in and out of the house. So you had to make sure not to come home at that hour, or you couldn't leave. Over the next few months, Anita admitted crazy stuff to me. Like how all black men wanted to rape her. Or she suspected Tim was having an affair. That kind of crazy. Also, I think she was pretty depressed, or "down n the mouth" about being a dental hygienist. Haha. anyarm will love me for that one.
Anyway, Tim worked a lot. He worked retail hours, as did I, often opposite of one another, so when I did mornings, he often did evenings. Anita had odd hygienist hours, about 3-4 days a week, from 8-3. That left me alone with her a lot, and now that I look back, I think she was lonely. She had just married Tim earlier in the year I moved in. Tim and Anita were really not into my social scene of nerdy people, although Tim used to be a former AD&D gamer. We even tried a few games with Bobby, but Bobby was not a good player; he wanted to do destructive things just for the sake of damage. Like the kind of people who buy Flight Simulator just for the crashes.
Bobby also tried to get me involved in government auctions. He had all kinds of stories about how he and people like him made a lot of money through surplus auction, US Customs seizures, and so on. I went to a seminar with him, hosted by Mike and Irene Milan about it. They wanted $500 for a a training package, and I said "No way." It seemed like a great idea, but it had such an Amway feel to it, I instinctively shied away. This pissed Bobby off to no end. Bobby was somewhere between a friend and a bully in his relationship with people, and he just totally reeked of sleaze. Red flags were always going up around him.
Anita started getting more and more obsessed with me and what I was up to. I don't think she was interested in me in "that way," I just think she was totally bored and needed to add drama in her life. She was really interested that I was engaged to be married at this time. Maybe she was just trying to be friendly, but it was a little annoying. There were more incidents that led to my separation with these people.
When I quit my job at the book store, it was just a lot of crap that had been building up between me and corporate. I don't think I annoyed them as much as they annoyed me, and the story behind working there is a saga all it's own. I quit right before Christmas, mostly because they wouldn't allow me to take my one week's vacation when I wanted to. I missed takayla's prom because of this, and I had just had enough (a discussion with takayla pushed this over the edge from "I am going to quit soon" to "I am going to quit tomorrow"). It's the only time I ever quit without another job lined up, and Tim and Anita freaked out because I quit my job and took a train THAT day to West Virginia. They thought I quit and just ran out on them, and they REALLY needed the money. Luckily, I came back a week later (if for anything, Evecon 6), and got a job pretty quickly after that (making more money as a bank teller). They never lost a day's worth of rent, but it put them in a frame of mind how much they depended on my income. I was getting married, and would move out in June, and so they started asking me why I stayed in my room all the time less often, and started scoping for my replacement. This lead to "Dave," who I will mention later.
After that, things became a little stressful. I think Anita resented my honeymoon-like glow, because Tim and her were definitely having problems. They fought a LOT. I am not sure if Tim hit her, because she made subtle references to that effect, but she never actually said it, nor did I ever see it, and I didn't know if she was being hit and trying to hide it, or not being hit and trying to let me think she was for sympathy. Anita was hard to figure out. Once, when takayla visited me during a person crisis for a week, Anita got upset, stating she "knew the REAL reason she's here." She wouldn't clarify what she meant by that. Anita also seemed very upset our phone bill was too high. I mean, takayla and I called a lot, but I always paid for those calls.
Then there was the issue of kitchen space. At first I had a whole cabinet, but then they kept crowding more and more into my space, and then my food would get moved, and then started to disappear. I saw where this was going, but there was a rule of "no food allowed in your room." This was bullshit, I figured, so this is how I hid my food from them:
- Boxes I hid with my large books in a bookshelf. If you looked at my book spines carefully, you'd see: "The Underwater World of Jaques Costeau," "The Encyclopedia of Space," "Ritz Crackers," "The Illustrated Works of Tim Hildebrandt," "Oreo," etc...
- I bought a small dorm fridge, threw a small tablecloth over it, and put it beside my bed as a nightstand.
- I got a small microwave and put a keyboard in front of it. Tim and Anita were VERY computer-illiterate to the point of being phobic about me using one in their house. They never knew, and I made sure to cook only when they were out of the house.
Then there was the incident about the pots. For their wedding, Tim and Anita got a set of pots... I don't know where they were from or who made them. They looked like Calphalon, but they were some anodized aluminum-clay ... something. Apparently, they were super-gourmet pots for hippies. Get this, the rules included:
- No cooking anything acidic (citrus, tomatoes, etc), or it will stain
- No leaving in standing water - wash with mild soap and dry immediately after use, or it will stain.
- Wipe off all stains and fingerprints from chrome handles or, you guessed it, it will stain
- No use of metal or hard plastic utensils inside pots or it will scratch the "special coating." Scratching this coating will allow foods to stick longer, and probably stain.
These weren't their rules, these were the rules included with the cookware. Honestly, they required more care than an antique book, and I couldn't imagine cooking in them. Well, takayla was trying to impress me with a cooked dinner, and used that "special cookware"... and used a hand mixer for mashed potatoes. Metal blades. Well, Anita found out and pretty much flipped out. The pot itself was $300, so she said, and you couldn't buy them singly, but only as a set from this mail-order catalog... I mean, Anita REALLY flipped out. The whole set was ruined because of this one pot, and I can't really find fault with anybody on this. They were a wedding present to Tim and Anita and takayla could have never guessed such delicate cookware even existed. Hell, if hadn't read the little manual, I would have guessed Anita made the whole thing up.
Anyway, it was all downhill after the pot incident. Anita became increasingly paranoid about stuff I couldn't even explain to this day. They were all random, like one time takayla came in to see me, and it required she get the key to the house from my work, and then go home and let herself in. The only problem was Bull, so I told takayla to say "treat!" when she came through the door, and to give Bull a treat. It worked, but Anita was furious that Bull could be so easily tricked. Anita didn't hate takayla, so I am not sure what she expected. She also got very upset about our huge phone bills if you remember, which I paid, on time, but it was that I called takayla in West VA so much that worried her for some reason on a psychological level.
Finally, they got around to realizing I would be moving out in June when I got married, and they needed a new roommate. Enter "Dave." I call him "Dave" because I actually cannot remember his real name to save my life. I only lived with Dave for a few months, and Dave became their "new best friend," which they flaunted before me like "Ha ha, we don't need YOU anymore." Uh... okay.
How they met Dave is a story I simply must share. Tim and Anita did appreciate the bizarre. One day they were in Old Town Alexandria, and decided to get some ice cream. When they went into the ice cream shop, the overhead music was blaring loud cathedral organ music, giving the whole sterile white area a dark, haunting effect. Dave was the assistant manager who decided to play the music when his boss wasn't around. They all became friends, and laughed and drank wine late into the night. I was happy they found someone who would hang out with them because Tim and Anita didn't fight as much. Dave was a roly-poly kind of guy with a big smile, soft eyes, and a perky red beard. He was an easy guy to like.
By the time I had moved out, a lot of the pettiness we shared had evaporated under Dave's presence, and Anita stayed "friends of the family" for a few years, until CR was about 1. During this time, Dave's relationship with them soured when he quit his job, failed a few other jobs, and then moved out suddenly, leaving them with months of unpaid rent. The house we had all lived in started to fall apart, and Bobby was not repairing anything in a timely manner. For instance, the only bathroom in the house didn't work for about 2 months, forcing Tim and Anita to shower at friend's houses, and use the toilets at their jobs. Money got tight, and they were forced to sell off their furniture for a while to make ends meet. takayla and I bought some bookshelves (which I still have in my guest room) and their whole dinette set (which later went to a neighbor friend when we moved out of our last townhouse in 2000). Some people who were with FanTek at the time also got a lot of their stuff, and I think Bruce still has some of it.
Tim got a promotion to the Crown Books he had always wanted (Old Town), and when I was unemployed, tried to hire me as a full timer. But I had severe babysitting issues that ended when my sitter had a heart attack and died. I don't blame or fault him for letting me go, even though my spotty work habits weren't my fault. Anita also became upset that takayla had some other friends other than her, and she got paranoid again, and tried to convince me that takayla was sleeping around. She also tried to convince takayla that I was sleeping around. We just stopped speaking to her.
I haven't spoken to either one since. It's been over 15 years, and I wonder if they are still married, ever had kids, or what Tim did when Crown Books went belly up.