Thursday, April 19, 2007


(What WOULD Jen's Management Company Do????)

This has become the buzz phrase in my life as of late. I hadn't bothered to write a post about current dealings with my landlord as they started very mundane and have only recently snowballed into a "What else could they possibly do????" situation.

I should state, to put this rant into perspective, that this is THE FIRST AND ONLY REPAIR that I've requested in the two years I've been at this address. The fun started about 6 weeks ago when I called to get a light switch fixed; both to avoid any hassle at my checkout and as a courtesy to the new tenant. Fast forward to 2 weeks ago when after multiple calls they finally decided they could come out and make the repair. "Beavis" and "Butthead" (as they shall be known for what will be obvious reasons) showed up to fix the switch; apparently they actually HAD been out several days earlier but couldn't figure out what the difficulty was as the bathroom fixture in question also has a manual thumb button on the side. Guess the word "switch" in the maintenance report threw them off! I escorted them into the bathroom to flip the offensive circuit on and off showing that nothing happened. They said "OH, well we'll need to get a new switch" and after that brilliant exchange, they left and didn't show up for 2 more days.

This time, just "Beavis" showed up and had the repair done in about 15min. About 2 hours after he left, my power started flickering and then failed completely. A call the management office sent both "Beavis" and "Butthead" out this time. They mucked around in the bathroom and breaker box and decided they would need to have a professional come out after I moved to fix the bathroom switch, which they replaced with the old unfunctioning one and put in a new breaker switch for good measure, dubbing everything fine.

Four hours later, the power again flickers and goes out, only now it's 8pm in the evening and I frantically call the emergency maintenence line which results in my building's manager coming out, looking in the box and saying "They f*cked this up, we'll send an electrician in the morning." Thankfully, Bosco was there with me by this point and advised that I should kill all the breakers (with a wooden spoon to avoid being shocked), pack up my groceries and stay at his place as whatever was wrong, was seriously wrong and could lead to an electrical fire if more power was drawn overnight.

This next repair I know little about, and can only assume it was both "Beavis" and "Butthead" as I was at a meeting downtown and had left a description of the problem, foolishly thinking they would send a professional this time. I returned home to a scrawled missive on the back of my note saying "The breaker we installed was bad, so we replaced it". Once again, several hours later my power starts flickering and I call the management office (thankfully, still open this time) and am assured help is on the way. This time it's the landlord and the fellow to be known as the "Pseudo-Electrician". This charmer tells me the problem is clearly caused by "All your electronic doo-dads", dismissing the fact I have lived here 2 years with nary an issue and am in the middle of packing, thus having LESS "doo-dads" plugged in. He mucks around in the box, rips out and replaces my fridge outlet just to placate me, declares the problem fixed and leaves.

The evening proceeds without problem, but then after watching TV for an hour the power flickers and fails. This time, however the box makes some really scary crackling sounds for almost a minute. I place another call to the "emergency" line which this time is conveniently out of service, more playing the "OFF" concerto with a wooden spoon in my breaker box, more packing of my food and pack-muling to Bosco's.

The next morning, the "Pseudo-Electrician", "Beavis", "Butthead" and the landlord show up to perform more mucking around. More blaming of my TV and cable box since they were on when the power failed. Apparently they replace ALL the breakers this time and, once more say everything is A-OK. My landlord shows the only bit of courtesy in this whole episode and calls me both that evening and the following morning to make sure all is well. Two days go by and everything is hunky-dory. I go to bed on the 2nd night, still slightly on edge and having bad dreams about waking up to flames and jumping out my 5th story window to a painful death. I finally decided I should get up and watch TV for awhile, hoping to eventually catch some Zzzz's on the couch. Whatever could happen next? Yep, flicker and out with the lights!!! I wooden spoon the breakers, pack groceries, make a call to Bosco informing him of his imminent midnight visitor and make another brutal call to the management, informing them that if this is not fixed, FOR GOOD in the morning by a real, professional, Local 134 card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, I would have a chat with my good buddies over at the Board of Chicago Renter's Rights and they would have city inspectors to deal with.

Tthat was evidentally all I needed to say. The next morning, a knock at my door produced "Beavis" asking for a detail of the problem to tell the electrician (my landlord apparently having morphed into a 13-year-old girl and refusing to talk to me now). Two hours later produces the "Pseudo-Electrician", "Beavis", "Butthead" ANNNNNNNDDD "John, member of IBEW". This motley crew disperses around my apartment and starts disassembling lights, outlets and pulling out my breaker box. "John, member of IBEW" has a real voltmeter---the first one that has been in my unit since this whole fiasco started. I remain in an adjacent room to eavesdrop on what is going on and catching bits of conversation including these "John-Gems":

"You have to really clean out all the corrosion when you're replacing breakers...."
"See where the insulation on that wire is pulled away so it's bare? That could have caused the arcing...."
"That's too much load on that breaker, it needs to be split into two....."

AND my favorite gem was asked to "John" by the "Pseudo-Electrician"
"So, what's the way to determine how to set the breakers up?"

I have had power for nearly two whole days now and hope it will continue for the remaining week I'm here. Yesterday, I was quite excited to finally have a quite stress-free evening, but, last night when I came home I discovered THIS:

Ripped out mailboxes, of course! That's What Jen's Managment Company Would Do! There of course was no written notice to residents of why, or how long it would be like this. I'm sure the mailperson will be THRILLED when she shows up today! (Oh yea, in case you didn't know, my first outer glass door has no lock, so without secure "tops" on the mailboxes anyone off the street can walk in and steal mail!)

These ass-monkeys should not be allowed to rent apartments in Chicago or anywhere. Their name cannot be revealed yet as I am still under the delusion that I'll get my security deposit back. As soon as that check clears however, I will post their name here and scathing reviews everywhere else on the web that has a forum for such things. If you are moving in or to Chicago in the next 45 days however, just leave a contact email in the "Comments" and I will gladly disclose the name to any individual, in hopes of helping to avoid this happening to them!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Rain and Wind and Weather, Hell-Bent For Leather

Today is officially the 2nd day of training for the Illinois MS150!

(Don't even ask why I didn't post on the 1st day of Training....Slumlord + No Electricity = Unhappy Jen with No Coffee or Blogmaking ability!)

Current Forecast from 36°F (feels like 25°F) Light Rain/Snow Mix and Windy. Winds 21-31mph.

Yep, there really is nothing quite like riding a bike in the strange season the Midwest calls "Spring". For those not in the know, I have been doing this particular ride to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter for the past 2 years as a rider and Assistant Captain of one the teams with a longer legacy.

In this my 3rd year, I find myself the Captain of team "Training Wheels Not Required"---a fun bunch of rapscallions that rode or volunteered with me last year.

The "Rapscallions Anonymous Club" from the 2006 Ride

It is a little sad that part of the causation behind the formation of this new team and the placement of me at the helm was due to severe management issues and ridiculous amounts bureaucracy on the previous team we had been members of---25¢ words aside, it just wasn't fun anymore; I came to feel that even though I was part of the leadership of the former team that my advice and opinions were not respected. After the 300th or so phone/email battle with the "management" over every little crumpet from tents to team building goodies it was just not worth ruining my health and personal satisfaction in the ride over. To put it even simpler: I took my toys and went home.

So far, our little experiment seems to be working though. Despite the uncooperative weather we've managed to 1. Name ourselves 2. Get a fabulous corporation to sponsor our jerseys (Thank you Allerton Hotel Chicago!) 3. Design and receive the jerseys a full 3 weeks before training (Uber-Thanks, Alexis @ Pactimo!) 4. Start DVD core-training to ward off injury and make us speedy! 5. Have a short and productive 1st team meeting 6. Snag a volunteer (G-dawg, you rock!) and 7. Book hotel rooms!

Not too shabby eh?

Probably the only weakness, (especially on my part) is fundraising. It has definitely taken a back seat to my upcoming move and seemingly always job craziness. And, I find myself at the drawing board as to creative ideas to start getting funds as my previous outlet of co-hosting and writing for a local Pub Quiz has not only been eliminated, but the funds I had started to earn for this year's campaign were embezzled by the quiz host and put in his own MS account to win some prize. While I am grateful that the money will end up going for the greater good, it has taught be a valuable lesson about trust and friendship--and when these combine with money how a greedy and megalomaniacal nature can be brought to light quickly.

But, enough of the past!

I would welcome all well-wishes for a successful 175mile ride (100 of which I will be doing on my 33rd birthday!) and, if any of my loyal readers would like to contribute financially to this worthy cause, you can DONATE HERE

Any little bit would be appreciated, Rome wasn't up in a day and even your $10 will go to help some really amazing people fight their battle and do what most of us take for, walk, see, even open a can of soup. They are developing some amazing drug-therapies for this devastating illness and there look to be major advances in the next decade coming, maybe even a cure.

Thank you for listening to me rant and plead on a random chilly Tuesday morning, but the bike is calling so I must go. And by bike, I mean the one sitting on my indoor trainer stand...even I don't ride when it's snowing!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wasting Away in Manischewitzville

On Monday, I helped Bosco attempt a very improvisational Passover meal to great success! We decided to forgo the traditional seder plate and ceremony as by the time there was a final guest list it was close to 4pm, a mere 3 hours to sunset and the only one of us with any fluency in Hebrew had not spoken it in years!

The menu featured quite an array of the classics:
Moroccan Brisket with Olives, Tomato Sauce
Apricot Pistachio Charoset
Kishke (which I was MUCH happier about before looking it up on Wikipedia--schmaltz??? I ate schmaltz?!!?)
Egg-Matzo Crackers
He'brew Beer
Chocolate Chip Macaroons

Everything turned out marvelously despite a few misteps; apparently there is both Kosher and Passover Kosher and I made the gentilian mistake of getting egg-matzoh which apparently is intended for the elderly, ill or infantile---which in a pinch most those present could have qualified for!! It was Bosco's first brisket and it was supreme....this is from a gal who never met a cow she didn't dislike! Upon telling his mother he was making brisket for Passover, I think she cried into the phone a little bit with pride. The other "mistep" was actually intentional as no one had the stomach for kosher wine, so between the choice of non-kosher wine and kosher (but not Passover kosher) beer, we wisely decided on the beer.

After stuffing ourselves with the ritual feast, we settled in to view "When Do We Eat?" a little indie film about a dysfunctional family's Seder that takes a turn for the bizarre when one of the sons slips his Dad a tab of ecstasy to bring a new "perspective" to things. It is quite funny as the premise suggests, but don't go into it expecting slapstick's more of a tongue-in-cheek holding up of the ridiculousness that family gatherings tend to breed; religious or secular.

Also, for your Passover week amusement (and for my favorite Parrothead, K!) this little video ditty "Manischewitzville"

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lefse, Lingonberries and Lutefisk, Oh My!

Well, it's official! I just hung up the phone with the movers and I will no longer be a resident of Chicago's illustrious "Boystown" neighborhood as of April 26th.

Even more of interest to some, this is not a solo moving project. Mr. Bosco will be joining me a mere 16days or so later as a roomie in a delightful 3 bedroom graystone 4-flat located in the picturesque Scandinavian neighborhood of Andersonville.

This prospect leaves me quite excited and also with a pit in my stomach. I am thrilled to up my servings of Bosco per week, as at present it is a royal pain to hike up to his current building after a hectic day, frantic workout and thrown together supper....not that he doesn't join me at my abode some evenings, but then it's a lightning-round cleaning session on top of the aforementioned tasks!

It makes a heck of a lot of sense too as we've been dating exclusively for almost 2.5years and are very much of the advanced age than any future formalization of this arrangement would be out of pocket....rough estimates put our combined savings at $6000-$7000 for the year, nothing to sneeze at for sure!

The pit, however, is that while I've informed my parents that I'm moving, I have not yet mentioned that it's into a house with Bosco. I have as the colloquially put it, "shacked" up with someone in the past and mentioning that to my mother went remarkably poorly and resulted in a tap-dance shifting of people and beds every visit to satisfy her puritanical views and insistence my father's cardiac welfare would be diminished if he were to find out.

The former actions are not something I'm willing to go through again, and while "for appearances" there are 2-non-office rooms, that is mostly due to the fact we both have a fair amount of stuff and having another bedroom allows me to keep my bed; a plush $1500plus Stearns & Foster that fell into my lap from off M's moving truck. It makes for a fabulous guest room and place for the second TV, assuring that I will not be submitted to any more Red Sox games than are necessary!

I am fairly positive things will go badly oncemore, and I will either be unequivably disowned and designated familas non gratis or the visits will stop and I will be making many flights to Minnesota to make-up for them not being able to visit the 'rents for whatever reason my mother dreams up. Bosco will not be sacrificed. Period. Even if it was an option, he is a legal resident of that premise bound by a lease and responsible for 50% of everything (unlike the previous situation in which I was the legal resident and the payee of most bills).

It makes for a nail-biter of a Spring, and I have never been one to claim my life is too dull. For now, all those typical clichés are running through my head "Que Sera Sera" " What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" "No guts, no glory" "There is nothing to fear but fear itself" "That's what friends are for"...yikes, there shall be NO Dionne Warwick in my world, I must retreat dear readers and put on something soothing, methinks some nice old fashioned Urge Overkill is in order....loudly of course, to scare off the rental agent who has shown my place 17times in the last 3 weeks; twice on Friday!
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