My buddy Stan called.
(Why do so many of my stories begin like that?)
But this call was unusual. It was not 3:00 a.m. and his voice betrayed no trace of panic. This led me to believe he must want to borrow something.
So I asked.
“No,” he told me, “I wouldn’t call for that.”
Stan never calls to ask for something, he just shows up and takes what he wants.
I could hear the rumble and road noise of his eighteen wheel work truck over the phone which made me wonder if his wife tossed him out of the house again. When that happens, he takes up residence in the sleeper.
“Are you and Daphne getting along?”
“It’s hard to tell,” he said, “the girl has her moods.”
“Are you fighting?”
“No more than usual.”
“Then why are you calling me?”
“Do I need a reason?”
I let my silence answer that question.
“I sold my house,” he said.
The news stunned me.
Stan lived in the same old house in the same old neighborhood where we grew up for as long as I knew him.
He remained long after things turned lethal and he hung on long after the government dumped millions into the area to chase off the riff-raff and bring in the yuppies.
Who ruined the place by fixing it up.
But Stan liked to fix things too.
The pimps and meth dealers never objected to him repairing construction equipment in his driveway – but the MBAs and doctors did. They petitioned for an ordinance prohibiting it, so Stan tore down the carriage house and put up a pole shed in his backyard.
They liked that even less and really threw a fit when he replaced a set of stained glass windows with aluminum ones.
“The old windows were cracked,” he explained.
“Why not repair them?” I asked.
He was incredulous. “When I could trade for perfectly good used track windows?”
And that was just the beginning.
For years, Stan reveled in his war with the neighbors. He did things that no rational person would do unless their rational was to piss off the people next door.
He painted his exterior in colors inspired by a trip to the Caribbean.
He replaced his grass with gravel.
His neighbors countered each move with a blizzard of ordinances and a parade of inspectors but Stan is a master of regulatory manipulation and bureaucratic jujitsu.
They never stood a chance.
But along came his marriage to Daphne and that ended that.
She had the pole shed removed and rebuilt the carriage house. She brought back the stained glass and had the grounds landscaped. She replaced the Sheetrock and refinished the floors. She ordered granite counter tops and updated cabinets. She hired a professional painter.
“I blame it all on HGTV,” Stan grumbled.
“At least you have a nice place to live – or had,” I said, “but why sell it?”
“You are not hearing me,” he cried, “I blame it all on HGTV. Now she wants another house to fix up. She’s addicted.”
“That is too bad,” I told him, “but back to my earlier question, why are you calling me.”
“Like I said, we are in the process of moving and you have a shed.”
“Oh no, you don’t.”
“I’m loaded up and calling from the freeway.”