Friday, January 22, 2010

Crazy Landlord Story No. 8: A Dog's Life

When we first moved to RiverTown, we had to find a place in advance. I went everywhere with a cab driver we met, getting advice and help. He was the best cab driver ever. I still have a horror story about that apartment hunt, but I'm saving it for later. Meanwhile, my husband was busy meeting his future bosses and touring the hospital where he would serve as a resident.

Eventually Leon the cabbie and I found the perfect place, which was the scene of so many of my street conflicts. With the park across, and the landlord working next door, it seemed perfect. Second floor, and very secure. There was just one problem: No dogs allowed.

The American Success Story
The potential landlord was a carpenter, and I'm talking A-mazing furniture construction. His father had fled an economically-stagnant Europe to come to America during the Depression. Craftsman there learned in the old apprenticeship-to-wandering journeyman system until they either married the boss's daughter or founded their own shop. Germany in the 1930's had not much market for European crafted end tables, so he hopped on a ship to America with his rucksack of tools.

"Ha, I was so stupid," the old guy laughed. "It was the wrong America. North America, South America, what do I know?"

He worked again until he could get back on a ship, I think from Brazil, and started making furniture in a RiverTown furniture store during the Depression. The store bargain was, if you bought a dining table, they threw in eight chairs for free. He made a lot of chairs. And eventually he found his own wife and started his own shop, making Federalist/English Regency/French Rococo style furniture. They had marquetry. They had veneer. They had carved arms. All old-World style craftsmanship. And he brought his son up into the business. Decades later, he handed over the leadership to his son, but still showed up every day for work.

Oh, yeah, that'll work.

"I don't see why they can't have an itty bitty dog, son," the old guy complained. 'What's wrong with you?"
"Papa, we agreed a long time ago this was the policy," his son complained. 'And this is not a little dog."
I kept my mouth shut for another five sentences.
"You've got an apartment with a slob living in it on a month-to-month lease, she hasn't even paid the rent! And I don't like her boyfriend!! He doesn't work!!"

'We'd be here June 1," I said. ''Really, June 10, but we'd pay from the 1st.'
"Charge 'em a pet deposit," the old guy said. "It's just a cute little dog."
"Rosie's obedience trained," I volunteered. "And of course we'll pay a pet deposit."
Score, one apartment, thanks to the old guy.

It was a theme down there in the workshop, with the abdicated king allowing the prince of carpenters to make all the tough decisions, but stepping in with a heavy foot whenever he wanted to. The son was constantly nervous, and you see why.

Years Later
The old guy stopped at a suburban Kentucky Fried Chicken. Somehow, the car engaged in drive not reverse and slammed right through the restaurant. Thank God, nobody was hurt. He came back to work a few days later, his face covered in contusions and tiny cuts. He was also riding hell on everybody in the shop.

"I was really worried. I'm so glad you're better," I told him, and he scowled at me. "What was the matter, Mr. Carpenter? Did they run out of extra crispy?"

His son howled with laughter. "Get out of here," he told me. "Go now." And he started laughing again.


Bob G. said...

That's a great story...
ANd I'd be hard-pressed to find such people like the older German gentleman these days.

Sadly, much of their craftsmanship is being lost...not being passed on with the verve to sustain the artistry they could create out of wood...or fabric.

I remember seeing a glass blower when I was in college...same deal with them

There are so many trades that are just dying of (albeit at differeing rates)...and that should never have to happen.

Glad to see you could keep the dog, too.
Renting seemed to be a lot more amicable in those days.


Ann T. said...

Dear Bob G.,
One thing both of the Mr. Carpenters used to get frustrated about; the lack of apprenticeship programs in high school. They thought they could teach a trade and believe me, they would have gotten life skills too.

I don't know about the old days. That apartment was laid out just a wee bit like a cathouse. At one time, there was a bar underneath, so that kind of bears out!

Ann T.

Slamdunk said...

A fun read.

I have never understood the dog weight limit thing with apartments. When we lived in an apartment, our lease had a 25 lbs dog weight limit.

My puppy met the requirement but soon blossomed into a sleak 55 lbs. Springer--fortunately they rarely enforced the big dog rule. She was quiet, trained, and was best budddies with all the maintenance men and women.

The problem dogs always seemed to be the smaller ones--barking excessively and biting. The big ones were more interested in sleeping.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
As a former landlord, I absolutely agree with you. It's the yappers that ruin quality of life for everybody else.

Thanks for writing in!
Ann T.