It has been two years, 9 months, 7 days, and a handful of hours since I signed the final papers on the financial boat anchor I lovingly call my mortgage and my little blue house on the edge of the hood.
Homeownership has just not been the dream I always imagined it to be.
My house and I, which I used to lovingly refer to as Ammityville until my local homo-witches advised me to stop doing that, have what I feel to be a very complex relationship. We exist in a kind of 30 year commitment détente where we both seem to be holding our collective breaths and watching the other to see who blinks first.
The house is going to win. It’s inevitable. I’d sell tomorrow if I could but seeing how we’re in a Depression that just is not going to happen anytime soon. For better or for worse, the little blue house on Lexmont Road and I are stuck with each other for a while. Perhaps a long while…so I’d better begin making with some Bob Villa level shit sooner rather than later.
It was during one of my failed attempts at Villa-ness in the back yard two weeks ago that my next door neighbor Dick surprised me with an envelope and an invitation. A little background: Dick is my 70 year old neighbor who has saved my ass numerous times in the last three years. He introduced himself to me during Hurricane Ike when he showed up with a ladder as my back porch was pulling away from the house. He’s been my neighborhood co-raccoon killer; monitoring and dispatching all the critters we’ve caught in our linking back yards. (48 so far…in a year and a half…we’d have killed more but the trap I bought for 30 bucks on Craig’s List finally broke beyond repair six months ago.) And every time it snows, Dick shows up with his snow blower and clears my driveway and sidewalks. In 3 winters I’ve never had to shovel snow. Not once.
We love Dick.
Shut up. We do. Bitches.
Dick and his wife Sharon love me. I really don’t know why but they do. So when Dick wandered into my back yard as I was sitting on the pavement cursing the damp corner of my outside foundation, he immediately had my full attention.
“We’re having a surprise party for Sharon next Saturday for her 70th birthday and we’d love it if you could come,” he asked sounding sincere. As if the hand delivered invitation wasn’t sincere enough.
My mind raced. I had potential overtime at work that weekend. Hell, it was Pride Weekend. Surely I had plans for Pride in place already. (I didn’t. I’m grossly unpopular in Columbus these days.) I had so many damn chores that needed to be done for Ammityvil…er…Morning Glory Circle. Besides…it was PRIDE weekend! If I didn’t have plans, I at least wanted to THINK I could make plans.
“Ok.” I told Dick after about a half a second. “I’d be happy to come.”
…because we love Dick. This cannot be stressed enough.
A week came and went and suddenly it was the day of the party and I had a million things to get done. I did some chores around the house. I did laundry. I went out and bought Sharon a gift. ($25 dollar gift card to Applebee’s. Dick and Sharon LOVE Applebee’s.) I did a little more waterproofing voodoo. I trimmed and I cut the grass.
It was while I was cutting the grass that another neighbor caught up with me to chat for a few moments. Pansy is the neighbor who lives on the other side of my little blue house. Another original homeowner…there are LOTS of original homeowners on my block…she’s always reminded me of Mrs. Louder from the Drew Carrey show.
“Are you going to Sharon’s party tonight?” she said in a whisper. I wasn’t sure if she was whispering so Sharon wouldn’t hear us 3 houses, 2 trees, a few dozen kids, and a barking dog away…or if she just didn’t know who else in the hood had been invited and didn’t want to flaunt our in-crowd status at the Lexmont event of the season.
“Yep. I’m going. What did you get her?” I asked curiously.
“Applebee’s gift card,” she replied all smiles.
“Dick and Sharon love Applebee’s!” she said louder as if to affirm her good taste in gifts.
Pansy actually tried to date Dick about 25 years ago when they both worked together at Sears. (I’ve heard this story about a dozen times from a few different sources.) I guess they went out a few times until Dick started seeing the new girl in the store.
The new girl turned out to be Sharon.
“So do you know where the party is supposed to be held at tonight?” I asked quietly to go along with her whisper. “I think I know but I’m not sure.”
“I did a dry run earlier this week. You can follow me and we’ll go in together!” Pansy was getting more excited. Her whisper was getting louder and louder by the second.
And so began my date with my 72 year old next door neighbor the day of Gay Pride.
Uncle Arthur wept.
At the appointed time, Pansy eased out of her driveway and I followed along behind her to a little BBQ joint and party pavilion out at a local airfield on the west side.
Pansy was so excited she drove right past the turn off to the restaurant and I, not knowing any better, followed her.
A few miles down the road I think she realized her mistake and pulled off to the side of the road and came scurrying back to my jeep.
“I think I missed it!” She was so embarrassed. “I’d better follow you!”
“Ok Pansy. Let’s roll.”
Eventually, I found the place and once there we hurried inside so we wouldn’t run into the birthday girl and ruin the surprise.
The party itself was pretty elaborate. They’d rented out a big Pavilion at Bolton Field and had the BBQ joint there cater the event. 70 or 80 people were there when we walked in the door and more came after us. The Buckeye Alumni band had been hired for the occasion and the pile of gifts by the door was substantial. Judging from the stack of cards between all the boxes, I had a feeling Dick and Sharon might never have to purchase a meal at Applebee’s ever again.
With the exception of our hosts, I didn’t know a single soul there except for Pansy…who was telling everyone we came across the story of how she got lost on the way to the party and I’d managed to find the place for the both of us. (As if I’d followed her trail onto the Arctic Tundra and found her stranded in an igloo after 20 years then hiked us both back to safety using only the sun and my natural sense of direction as a guide.)
In reality I’d driven two miles and made a left.
Sharon arrived. Everyone yelled surprise. She cried. She mingled. She introduced me to her daughters and grandkids.
“Oh YOU’RE Dan!” I heard over and over again. “My parents/grandparents LOVE you!”
Apparently I’m huge with the septuagenarian crowd. Who knew?
The BBQ was…adequate. (Mine is so much better. They even messed up the scalloped potatoes. Who messes up scalloped potatoes?) The band came out and at some point everyone was marching around the pavilion in a long line behind Sharon who was co-leading the group while waving a sparkly baton with the world’s oldest Majorette as the band played OSU fight songs.
It was as surreal as a David Lynch movie. I think Laura Palmer marched by once or twice.
(Where is all this going? What am I rambling on and on about? The payoff...such as it is…is coming. Chill. We’re almost there.)
While we were seated with a few neighbors from down the block I’d never met before…more of the 70+ crowd…Pansy and I sat together a good part of the night making small talk and taking in the sights. She talked about her boyfriend of 19 years who just died this year and I bitched about home repair stuff and projects I couldn’t seem to complete.
“I should introduce you to my handyman!” she offered. “His name is Bill. He did my bathroom, and my back fence and he just put the ceiling fans in my bedrooms a few weeks ago. He’s not certified or anything but while he’s looking for a job for his degree he’s does all kind of handyman work. He’s really good!”
I nodded and smiled. A good handyman reference is like gold when you own a house and don’t know how to fix things for crap….
“He’s a sweetheart and does a lot for me. I’m not sure what he’d charge for things but he’s pretty fair. He’s in his mid 40’s and single like you. I just think he’s too picky though…” And then she leaned forward, lowered her tone, and said in a little bit of a conspirator’s tone, “He’s the only gay friend I have…”
And there we were. The day of Gay Pride and here I was talking to this nice older, lonely woman and I was faced with a choice. I thought my neighbors knew I was gay. I just assumed everyone knew by now. And if Pansy didn’t know, NOONE on the block knew. I swear to God I thought I’d dropped a huge honking hint or two in the past to Dick and Sharon and one or two others but I guess I never just came out and said it to anyone. A gay neighbor? That kind of thing does NOT stay secret on Lexmont Road.
…and so I paused for a moment. I considered the timing. I considered the venue. I considered the reaction. I considered the gossip.
And then I considered what day it was and I said Fuck It.
“Pansy, my dear. You have TWO gay friends.”
“What did you say Dan?”
I waved a kind of peace sign up in the air in front of her: also the international sign for the number two.
It took a moment. It took two actually. Then she got it.
“Omigod!” she gasped. “Really?”
“Yep. Really. You didn’t know? I assumed everyone knew or had guessed or figured it out by now…”
“Oh no, Dan! I had no idea. I don’t think anyone else knows either!”
“No big deal either way,” I told her downplaying the conversation. “Some people know. Some people don’t. I’ve been single since I bought the house so it’s just never came up before. People find out if they know me long or well enough.”
She nodded quietly; digesting the information slowly. She was either confirming some facts or suspicions she’d had all along or she was mentally preparing the speed dial list of neighbors she had to call when she got home in her head. Either way, I was prepared to let her have her fun with it. Pansy needed some fun and I think being privy to this before anyone else knew just tickled her to death.
“So tell me,” I tried to ask casually. “Tell me about this single, mid 40’s gay handyman friend of yours...”
And now I’m torn. I do have a few projects I’ve been afraid to handle on my own. Two in particular that have nagged me since the day I first bought the house. (I need a new side door on my garage and I need a bathroom fan installed.) And now faced with this gay mid 40’s handyman prospect, I find myself confused, unsure, and a bit conflicted.
Oh. I’m going to hire him. I’m sure as HELL going to hire him.
I’m just conflicted on whether or not to put up a Pay Pal button soliciting y’all for donations for house repairs and/or blind handyman dating prospects…
…or just wait a while until I have a face pic in hand first.
What? He’s a handyman. He’s got to have references somewhere right?