Posts Tagged ‘Evictions’

Eviction Day

March 31, 2010

Mario Caldrone pulled the Cook County Sheriff’s late model Ford Crown Victoria to the front of a house that looked to have seen much better days. The screen door was missing the top hinge and had no glass. There were wrappers and cups strewn around the over grown front lawn of mostly crab grass and weeds. In the back yard were two Pit bulls that barked their husky bark. Mario pounded hard on the front door with the palm of his hand that caused an echo against the homes across the street.
“Sheriff’s department, open up… This is your…last warning, we’re coming in,” said Mario.
Mario took his fifty pound lead pipe with two handles attached and hit the door once, splintering the door and ripping it from the frame. Once inside with guns drawn, he and Officer Leon Jones walked through ankle deep garbage looking for occupants. Newspapers, magazines, hangers, clothes, shoes, fast food wrappers, DVDs and shoes were strewn though out the house. The occupants deserted and left two of their dogs in the backyard without food and water.
“So you gone tell me watchu think, Mario?” Asked Leon.
“Okay Jonesy… A black man and maybe a white chick with really poor self esteem. Bleached blonde hair with black roots, smokers, both overweight, pill takers, and pot smokers, children with other mothers and fathers, no job and in collections for everything under the sun. They both eat a lot of fast food and have nice cars and many pairs of sneakers and probably left here and went and shacked up at the elderly grandmother’s home somewhere not far from here. Her house is immaculate and she has World War II pictures of her husband on top of doilies in the pristine living room. She was watching soap operas, dozing and reading her bible when her bust-out grandson showed up with a pillowcase full of important belongings and the train wreck of a girlfriend with him,” said Mario while kicking around abandon junk.
While Mario gave his profile based on the housekeeping and belongings, Leon found pictures of an over weight white woman and a black man with both white and black children in the picture. Leon just shook his head. He knew that nearly every time, Mario was absolutely dead on. It amazed and amused Leon. Leon hated Mario when they first started working together but grew to admire and respect the wisdom of a man who had been working for the sheriff’s department for thirty years.
“You know what today is, Jonesy?” Asked Mario, as they drove to their next case.
“It’s Friday and I’m taking mah woman out foh some dinner and some dancing and then Imma make love to her like ain’t never done befoh because she was on her cycle last week and whenever that happens, I get crazy. I wanna throw a damn party when it’s over,” said Leon, while looking out of the passenger window through dark sunglasses.
“It’s the anniversary of the death of Jesus. He was killed on a Friday. I can’t figure out why it is Good Friday. I went to church this morning and we’re having all our family over on Sunday. It’s supposed to be warm. I’d like to sit outside… You like to sit outside, Jonesy?”
“I love the summer, dude. I cain’t wait for summer days,” said Leon.
“Yeah… The spring… When anything and everything seems possible. If you’re a Cub fan, you start out in April believing that this is the year. Then with the fall of the leaves comes the stark realization that you may never live to see them win a World Series. Nobody alive remembers the last time they won a World Series… Well spring is a great time and Easter is a chance to see your family again since Christmas and sort of reconnect,” said Mario.
A thin man with no hair up the middle of his head took heavy drags from a cigarette as he paced in front of the building. He stopped pacing when the Sheriff’s car pulled up.
“My attorney said you would be here between 9am and noon time. It’s after 12:30… You people don’t value anything but your own damn time,” said the man who couldn’t look either of the officers in the eye.
“You know something, man? We cain git right back in the car and take the fuck off and let the sheriff’s department know that there was no representative at the building to meet us. It costs you $30.00 fucking dollars and then yo ass waits til we git back around here again… You dig me?” Said Leon.
Mario interrupted before the man could respond. His smooth demeanor and smile put the anxious man at ease.
“I’m sorry… It’s just these animals have trashed my place and the court just gave me possession and I just know they’ve ruined my place. I’m gonna have to spend thousands to restore the place and I’ll send them to collections and they’ll file bankruptcy and I won’t get dick,” said the nervous man.
Mario knocked three times. He could hear a television playing in the background. A commercial was on. Ironically it was Peter Francis Geraci.
“Worried about losing your house, automobile or problems with the IRS? We can help you to become free of debt. With offices through out Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, we have operators standing by to assist you…”
A skinny white male with dishwater colored hair in his late twenties with a moustache was lying on a mattress on the floor of a bedroom in the back when Mario and Leon walked in wearing all black with guns drawn. The occupant had been smoking crack the night before and had let the better part of a day pass before waking up to his wake up call. Leon posted a no trespass notice on the door and loudly ordered the white male to get what he needed and clear out. For Leon, the man was the epitome of what he hated in white people. He was a an uneducated, drug dealing, bigoted poor white trash that felt he was superior to blacks just because he was white. Leon showed little mercy.
“You have five minutes to get what you fucking need and git yo ass outta here. You fucked this place up, dude… Look at this shit. You fucking livestock in this mutha fuckah, huh? Who the fuck lives like this? If it were up to me, I’d tie your ass up to your rusted out fucking truck with the confederate flag and drag your ass to the south side… Watchu you got tattooed on yo arm? Is that a swastika? Shit it is, boy,” said Leon.
Mario stepped in again and spoke with a smile and cool tone in his voice while pointing his side arm at the hold over tenant.
“Sir… You were delinquent on your rent and it went to court and the court determined that the owner should have possession of his unit. This means that you must vacate forthwith. Forthwith means that you have to grab what you can hold in your hands and get out fast. Think of it as sort of a fire. There is a fire and you need to get out really fast and if you have the chance to grab something, grab it or just get out while you can… I think you should put on a shirt though. It’s warm now but you know how it gets in Chicago and we’re not far from the lake. The wind could change and then you’d wish you had a shirt on…” said Mario.
The young man blurry eyed, found a dirty Harley Davidson shirt and put it on. He stuffed some items into a pillow case and walked out. The owner complained about the system that seemed to favor the tenant and not the owner. Mario blinked heavy and nodded as if to agree with the man. He calmly listened and then spoke.
“I personally would turn this building condo and get the hell out of here. Who you gonna get that’s worth a damn in this day in age? Nobody has a job, everyone has debt, and everyone is filing for bankruptcy. The day of the little old lady in apartment buildings is gone. Turn it condo and go live in Florida… Have a nice day,” said Mario as they walked down the stairs.
Leon asked his take on the latest case to be evicted. He always liked hearing Mario’s spin on what he thought. As much as Leon detested most white people, Mario was his hero. Leon hoped that one day he could do the job day in and out and just smile. Most days Leon went home hating people and not trusting anyone, while Mario left it in his locker like his black clothes and bullet proof vest.
“Broken family… Mom left dad and went it alone. Dad went on with his life and tried to forget that he ever had a kid and a wife. The boy grew up not respecting his mom due to a slew of one night stands and worthless boyfriends. He grew up breaking rules and had no boundaries. Rather than seeing what was possible and making the best of things, he probably spent his whole life blaming his dad for taking off. The drugs, lack of discipline and so on he attributes to his dad who probably started over with another woman and got it right the second time around…” Said Mario.
Leon shook his head and looked out of the window at young black males that were hanging around on street corners, no doubt look outs for drug dealers. Mario sensed so much anger in his partner and disdain for humanity. Mario surprised Leon.
“I would like you and your lady to come to my place in Elmwood Park for Easter and don’t tell me no either. We get together about three in the afternoon. Don’t bring nothing… My wife will make more food than we could eat in a week with desserts and the whole shot… Hang out with the I-talians for a day. Then on Monday you can ask me what I think about my kids, my wife, my cousins, my brother, his wife and their kids. I can tell you what I think about everything and then I think it’s your turn to tell me what you think about many things in life… Before you explode.”


The Jewish Santa Claus

December 26, 2009

Eli had been a teenaged boy during World War II and wound up in several different concentration camps. When it came time to declare a trade or become worked to death or disposed of, Eli claimed that he could cut hair. Luckily for Eli, he really could. It was just one of those things like drumming, you either got the hands for it or you don’t. It was just a damn lucky thing for Eli that he could cut hair. His job was to cut the hair of all the German soldiers and officers that were in charge of the concentration camp. For a few moments a day, these monsters would talk to Eli as if he really were human. They’d talk about their wives and kids and how they thought the war was going. Many of the soldiers would tell Eli that they really had nothing against Jews. As clichéd as it still sounds, many were just following orders. They all told the war tribunals this too.
Eli cut thousands of heads that eventually were killed and turned to ashes. The will to survive was strong in Eli. At the age of twenty, Eli had nothing left for him in Europe as his whole family was killed by Germans in camps. Eli moved to the United States. He did a plethora of things to earn money and saved his money until he could afford to buy an apartment building in the city of Chicago. Before long, Eli bought many properties and managed them himself. As time went on, Eli had set up a medium sized property management company and a side business of owning coin operated laundry machines. Eli was swimming in money. By the time he was fifty, Eli could have retired but he didn’t. Instead he oversaw the business he had created. His sons grew up and went to work for him and took over the day to day operations of Eli’s property management company.
At the age of eighty eight, Eli had to take a slew of medicines just to keep him going day to day. Eli had to have angioplasty and angiograms and open heart surgeries. Eli had mild strokes, heart failure and so on. Luckily for Eli, he had the means to pay for the best doctors money could buy. Eli’s money helped talented young doctors prolong the inevitable. Eli suspected that his last holiday season was coming with his family and so he left his Miami Beach condominium to spend the “Christmas” and New Year time with his two sons in Chicago. Now both sons grew up good Jewish boys who went on to marry two gentile women and adopted their ways which included Christmas. All of Eli’s grandchildren celebrated Christmas and none were going to have a bar-mitzvah. Eli thought that was sad. Nobody ever wanted to hear the stories from the days of the concentration camps and how he was nearly killed many times. The kids all wanted gifts or money and wanted to be left alone. His daughters-in-law treated him like an old child and it all really made Eli very sick to his stomach. Eli felt that his last chance to be with the only family he had left had arrived in December 2009. As irritating as they were, they were the only family he had.
Eli still had his office inside the office building that he created way back in 1958. On the wall were pictures of him in good looking suits with dark hair, standing next to new Cadillacs and Lincolns. There were family pictures with his two sons and his young wife and even one of Eli shaking hands with the first Mayor Daley of Chicago. Eli sat at his desk that had not really been used in ten years and really appreciated the feel of the comfortable leather chair. He could hear his eldest son yelling at people on the intercom and yelling at janitors on the phone.
“You tell those goddamn deadbeats that I will have their fucking asses out on the goddamn sidewalk if I don’t have every cent owed on that apartment by January 1st. They can go to Mc Donald’s and get a goddamn job so that they can pay me my rent. Merry fucking Christmas… You tell them that…” Said Norman, Eli’s eldest son.
Norman was about forty years of age with three children. He owned a home in the suburbs with all new appliances, three cars, condos in Miami and Los Angeles, a boat and all the aggravation that goes with running rental buildings.
“Nester! This is the last fucking time I tell you to clean the lobbies. I give you and your family a free apartment. You don’t pay fucking rent and you run around doing painting all over town instead of maintaining my building the way it should be. Your number one responsibility is to me. You keep my building clean and tidy. If I come again and there are eighteen fucking Spanish names written with magic fucking marker on my mailboxes, you can find another job and place to live. You got a beautiful label maker which I bought and I expect you to use it. No dust, no ad papers on the floor, no chirping smoke alarms in the hallways and no bullshit calls from people who want to see vacant units who claim you never call them back. If I have someone call you and I will, you better take the fucking call… Are we clear on all this shit?”
Eli shook his head and closed his eyes as he listened. Eli never operated by yelling or threats. Eli understood what it was like to be dehumanized and never wanted to do that to anyone. He always felt there were other ways.
A young black woman made an appointment on Christmas Eve night to talk to Norman about the rent that she owed on her apartment. Norman was already frazzled but allowed the woman to come into his office and pitch a solution to her rent delinquency. Her six year old daughter sat next to her with braids in her hair with little white beads at the tips. She wore a Sponge Bob sweater and sat in the chair next to her mother with her arms folded. Bringing Trina with to beg Norman not to throw her out, was to play on his human side. It didn’t matter though because Norman was desensitized to poor people’s excuses for not being able to pay rent. They were all drug addicts, whores, and people without direction who were dumb and lazy and that was just the black ones. The Hispanics, Indians, poor eastern European immigrants and so on were almost equally as worthless in Norman’s opinion.
“Go ahead, I’m listening to you. What do you want to tell me that you haven’t already told the court?”
“I’m trying really hard to find a new job. I worked at the Subway by the train in Rogers Park and the people who own it, let me go an gave my job to one of they relatives who going to college here from India. I had always pay mah rent on time. I keep all mah things clean and I ain’t never been late befoh. I ain’t nevah complained about my leaking faucets and old appliances with broken knobs and freezer that don’t really freeze. I’m aksing you to please gimme time. Imma git a job soon an I’m willing to pay extra each month til I git caught up,” said Carina.
Carina was young and voluptuous as is the case with many young black women with young children in tow. Rather than taking drugs and sleeping around, Carina had been working at a Subway sandwich shop, taking one class at a time at a local junior college and taking care of her daughter that she had as a teenager. Carina moved from a dangerous neighborhood on Chicago’s west side to live and work among white people. Trina went to a good grade school in a good neighborhood and everything had been fine until Carina lost her job. It was a pervasive problem and she was not the only one under eviction. Others understood the system and worked the system over. They would destroy the apartments and refuse to pay rent for months almost years until the courts forced them out and then they would start over again with a new apartment and new company that may not screen their applicants well. Carina was not in that camp. She was a victim of the times. Carina was one of millions who were living check to check and the last check stopped coming.
“I’ve heard a million stories like yours. Here’s my bottom line; I have to pay a mortgage each month on that building. I pay for the water and the heat. I pay for the janitor and the insurance and if I don’t get rent, I have to pay out of my own pocket. If I have to do this everywhere at every building, how am I going to live? I should just do charity work for all those who can’t or won’t pay? I can’t do that. I have a family and bills to pay and this is how it all works. The court gave you until January 3rd. Pound the pavement to find a job. If you can come up with some money, I’ll work with you otherwise you’ll need to make some other arrangements… I’m sorry, that’s it.”
Carina left stoic, holding the hand of her young daughter who wanted to see Charlie Brown’s Christmas, ice skate downtown and look at the lights and displays at the stores that her mother could not shop at. Trina didn’t understand that she was about to be put out of her apartment with her mother and that there would be not one present or a tree for her. Instead they would have to find boxes and pack up what they needed and prepare to go to a shelter. Little children never understand things like that.
“Momma we gotta git home an git ready foh Santa Claus. He coming tonight aftah we go to sleep,” said Trina, while being almost dragged out of the office by the hand by Carina.
“I already done told you they ain’t no Santa Claus and nobody coming to our place. Hush up and lits go,” said Carina.
Eli rather than lecture his son about his tactics, went to his son’s doorway and told him he might or might not see him later at his house for dinner and presents. Norman was taken back.
“Pop… Jill and the kids are expecting you. You have to come,” said Norman.
“I have to do something tonight… We’ll see how it all plays out,” said Eli.
Eli had his driver take him around to stores at the shopping malls packed with last minute shoppers. It was angry chaos in the parking lots. Impatient shoppers ripping around the parking lot hunting for a vacant space for their cars, rushing around while talking on cell phones, clogging up the lines in front of registers. It was magnificent if you like humans milling about like ants on an ant farm. Eli joined in on the fast paced mess until he bought all he needed.
It was about eight in the evening when a knock came to the door of Carina’s apartment. Carina was in the shower and Trina knew better than to answer the door but she suspected it was Santa Claus and she was right. Trina ran up and hugged the large white man in a red suit that carried a bag full of things. Santa’s helper, a chauffeur in a black suit, set up a small fir tree and strung lights around as Trina giggled and opened several presents of clothes and dolls and chocolates. Carina came out of the bathroom with a towel around her head and one around her mid section. She stood in disbelief as her daughter sat on the floor next to a lit tree that had not existed just fifteen minutes earlier, opening presents and telling Santa just how good she had been that year.
“Tommy… He a little punk and all but I didn’t hit him even though he pulled on ma braids. I said I was gonna sock him in his jaw but I didn’t do it cause I wanted you to know that I been good all year… Foh the most part. I do all my homework and I help my mom clean up the apartment and I don’t cuss none and I go to church with momma. She said you wasn’t coming and you wasn’t real but I knew you would come… I just knew it. Thank you for all the gifts, Santa. You the best…”
And with that Trina hugged Santa as hard as she had ever hugged anyone before. Santa stood and handed Carina a money order to cover the back rent and much more. Santa also handed Carina a business card that had a number to contact someone for a job in the office of the coin operated laundry company still owned by Eli. Carina began to cry. Santa hugged her, patted her on the head and left with his chauffeur. Santa would probably not be showing up again in person but both Carina and Trina believed in the miracle that is Christmas. It can really be a magical time.