Housing Chronicles: Booker Creek

As the wife and I lay in bed last night, exhausted from another day of work and the usual problems that accompany it, we started reminiscing about the many (and I do mean MANY) places we’ve lived already. Since our random meeting 8 years ago, we’ve shared 10+ addresses together. And we’re not even 30, so you can see how good we are at moving. Perhaps it’s one of the many qualities to draw us together: the ability to quickly bore of surroundings and seek out a new city or new state to inhabit. We’re both intelligent and reasonably good looking (her more so than me, which helps pull my score up) which has made it all too easy for us to procure employment wherever we choose to land.

And over the many addresses, we’ve had many things go wrong. Horribly, sometimes hilariously wrong. It’s time to write about them.

This is not in chronological order, as I’m not that orderly of a person.

Let’s talk about the townhouse. Booker Creek. Ughh. Coming back from a summer up North, we needed a place in Chapel Hill. And we were in a bit of a hurry, which is always a horrible state to be in when considering housing options. With the pressure mounting, we made the dumb mistake of leasing Booker Creek, sight-unseen. Yeah, I know, I said we were dumb. I drove ahead to NC and starting moving stuff from storage to the townhouse. That’s when it got interesting.

It wasn’t a terrible place inside: a little old, a little worn around the edges, but it had two big bedrooms and was bigger than any of our previous places. The location was creepy as hell though – most of Booker Creek was situated like a normal townhouse community with a cluster of buildings and a road going through. But we got a unit in the building on the edge. It felt like a different community because it was a different community. As the leasing agent told me:

“Go past booker creek. No, really, go past it. Make a right at the bottom of the hill, then take the second right onto the dead end street. No, I’m serious. At the end of the dead end street you’ll see a bike path. No, don’t go on the bike path. If you squint your eyes and look to your right, you’ll see a single lane of semi-blacktop mostly obscured by hanging branches. It’s really dark out there. Yeah, go down that.” At the end of this little “road” there was a small parking lot and the last townhouse building.

You could see the rest of the townhouses up the hill, but our building clearly in a different spot. Behind the building was a small “backyard area” with another building backing up to it. Except there was a sizable drainage creek in the middle, forcibly imprinting the idea of separation. We were in the slum of the crummy neighborhood. Point made. Oh, and we had our own dumpster taking up one of the parking spots, which was great, because scumbags from all over the area would come to dump their unwanted stove or bloody mattress or dead uncle because they knew it was completely unwatched. It was, after all, on the edge of the woods.

When I went inside, the first thing I noticed was the machete in the kitchen sink. Hmm? Yes, I said there was a giant-fucking-machete in the kitchen sink. The handle was chewed up and the blade was covered in a black syrupy substance. I’m not kidding. I was immediately frightened at the idea of the former tenant being some sort of voodoo priest. After meeting the neighbors, this was a distinct possibility. More on them later.

The next day I hiked up the hill to the leasing office and informed the nice lady behind the desk, who was different than the one I had dealt with, to tell her about what I had found.

“There was a machete in my sink.”
“A what?”
“A machete. You know, a really big knife used to hack through jungles or sugar cane or rebels?”
“You found a machete in your sink?” She didn’t believe me.
I pulled the machete from the bag I was carrying and she started to shit herself. Apparently it’s hard to look non-threatening while wielding a machete. After meeting the neighbors, I quickly understood why anyone visiting the leasing office with a machete would come across as “threat level orange”. More on them later.

I handed her the machete, saying that I had no use for it at school, and she took it very delicately between two fingertips like it was a used condom dipped in anthrax. She dropped it into a metal wastebasket from about waist high. It made a rather loud bang and tipped the basket over, spilling the contents onto the carpet. We both just watched it for a few seconds. I don’t think I saw her again, and in the nine months we lived in that shithole, there must have been a new office agent every couple weeks. Probably too many machetes to deal with.

Remember how I said “bottom of the hill”. Well, we were exactly where all the rain would run off after a big storm. The large drainage stream in the backyard proved to be wholly insufficient and we quickly learned that big rain meant moving our valuable items to the second floor. Quite fun. When there was a legitimate hurricane on its way, they hired the hispanics to sandbag around the building. Didn’t work so well, as the water came down the hill it washed through one part of the bag wall and then became trapped against our back door. We eventually gave away ALL of our downstairs furniture.

So, the highlight of living in Booker Creek was undoubtedly 16-E. That’s their unit number. Most of the other units in our building housed multiple families of hispanics, and they were generally great neighbors. Very friendly, had nice kids, lived in clusters. 16-E, on the other hand, was the trashiest white trash I’ve ever had to deal with. I’m dead serious when I say that Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s would look down on these people, and only from a distance. Oh 16-E…the stories in your walls.

  • They were a couple, probably about 40 years old.
  • They had a whole buncha kids in that two bedroom ghetto.
  • Many of the kids were probably not theirs.
  • At least two of the kids had a rat tail and didn’t wear shirts, even in the winter.
  • The oldest child was a hispanic teenager, didn’t speak english (that I heard), and I know the “parents” didn’t speak spanish. This guy was very polite. What was odd, aside from being a hispanic living with this trashy white family, was that he ran. Everywhere. I called him Forresto Gumpo. In the morning he’d take off running down the bike path towards town. At night he’d come running back. I understood running away, but never figured out why he ran back.
  • The other teenager, white, had the looks of a male model. Seriously.

The “parents” were avid practitioners of the “heated domestic”. They would scream at each other in the front yard, backyard, upstairs, downstairs, parking lot…it didn’t matter. They’d slam doors, break windows, and peel out of their parking space in the mid eighties hoopty. The police came by several times.

Speaking of the hoopty, we went to get lunch one weekend day and saw a couple dirty mattresses on the side of the road a few miles from Booker Creek. Later that day, I happened to be outside when I saw the 16-E hoopty come rolling up the one lane road with those mangy-ass mattresses stacked on the hood, completely blocking the windshield. I wouldn’t let my dog sleep in the same house as those things.

The thing I’ll never forget about 16-E was when they came to my door. I had heard them doing their usual Jerry Springer try-outs but figured it would end the same way as the others and thought nothing of it. Later that night, while I was getting ready for bed, I heard a knock at the door. Who could this be? Sure enough, it’s Mr. 16-E, mullet messed up, tank top ripped, and gut spilling everywhere, leaning against my door frame. Leaning, like in the movies, against my door frame. He said, and I quote, “Hey man, you got a beer I could get?” I think it took me at least five seconds to process the surreal turn my life had taken before politely informing him that no, I had not a beer for him to get.

Not more than a week later I hear another late night ruckus going on over in the tenement. Knock-knock. You’ve got to be kidding me. Does he think I went out and picked up some Keystone Ice so I’d be a better host for next time? I open the door and, to my surprise, see Miss 16-E standing in my doorway. She’s bedraggled, bleach blond hair hanging in her face, raggedy tank top showing me way too much of her saggy tits, and I’m just speechless. Her exact words, and I quote, “You gotta cigarette?”

Two people, and two conversations, I will never, ever forget. Needless to say, we did not renew our lease.


9 responses to “Housing Chronicles: Booker Creek

  1. What about me catching their cat as it jumped off the roof??

  2. I lived in an apartment once where the downstairs neighbour set fire to his place. And I mean set fire to it in a big way. I could smell smoke and ran downs stairs with a fire extinguisher and banged on the door that had smoke coming out from the cracks around the jamb.

    The door was opened by a drunken guy in his early 30 in his briefs with a beer in his hand and the black smoke (about 3 feet thick down from the ceiling) just poured out of the room.

    When he saw me he said everything was O.K and he invited me in for a drink!

    He had been deep frying some chicken and forgotten about it. The oil in the pot had caught alight and set the paint on the walls and the drapes on fire as well. The plastic cover for the fluorescent lights were on fire as well and dripping burning plastic all over the floor.

    I took me 3 attempts to put the put the fire out. The kitchen was totally trashed, all black and covered in the white powder from the fire extinguisher.

    I haven’t lived in an apartment since.

  3. Is this the one you showed us? PS I don’t believe that these trashy neighbors were not black. It’s all because of the minorites that these whites were acting that way
    PPS – to ayone who doesn’t know me… That was sarcasm directed at the blog owner’s favorite guest commmentator

  4. The favorite guest commentator is no longer with us.

  5. I miss the good old days, late night partys. I live in suburbia, it sucks here. Everyones yards look the same. People are too normal here. I hate the fact that everyone takes pride in harassing their grass , my husband cuts the grass too high, this drives me nuts, i hate that about myself. People still talk about the messy neighbors down the street , i think it would be great to live on a hobby farm and get away from this pretentious crap.

  6. I also hate the fact that most of the people in my old neighborhood dont own their cars, but try to make you feel poor or like shit because they drive a brand new forgien car and you dont, it sucks, these suburbs bred people who are living way beyond their means. These people try to make you feel bad over material shit, well i would think to myself. if i bought on credit like them i would live in a much nicer neighborhod, but they try to one up you, its crazy!

  7. Razz – I’d say that neighbor had to be entertaining, if not a little dangerous. At least your place didn’t burn down.

    Tricia – I think you’ve described the basic nature of the suburbs. Living in cities provides a constant stream of things to take care of and accomplish, things to see and do, etc. People move to the suburbs for the tranquility, but find their minds are still wired for action. What is there to do? Compete. They buy shit. Lots and lots and lots. It’s the circle of suburban life: work, buy, consume, die. And the grass had better be at least as good as your neighbors’.

  8. I must add that not all people are like this, my last home was new consruction, everyone built the homes so it was fun to see the new homes, but it was the new construction really brings out the worst of the worst.

  9. Ok, i just rented a unit in this building.I move in March 1. I have to say I am bit nervous more about the flooding.. I asked the lady at the office if its flooded before after she told me to get flood insurance. So,, how bad is it really? did water leak in.. Please answer me in email if you don’t mind.. I am scared I am renting the exact same unit you lived in,, a end unit…please contact me!!!

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