Thursday, June 29, 2006


I got the determination back from the insurance company—they will cover it, and the estimate stands at about $30,000. I shudder to think about the position I would have been in had they not covered it—max out all the credit cards, get some home equity loans, go back into the kind of debt I had after leaving college. After all I went through to get rid of that debt, to fall right back into that hole would have ruined my whole day. Not to mention my now-sterling credit.

The “contractor” seems to have disappeared. No surprises there. Given the charges and the various agencies that are after him, he’ll only delay the inevitable by running. We’ll get him soon enough…and everyone has his passport number. Score one for the hometeam for nicking it from his portfolio…I had to wonder why he had his passport on him in the first place. It’s all just desserts, his uppance will come.

I’m proud of my handling of this thing—I haven’t missed any days at the gym, I’m eating well, haven’t drowned my sorrows in tequila, and I’m letting my friends and family rally around me. I have a tendency to reject offers of help in the interest of not “putting anyone out,” but in this case, everyone seems to feel better when I accept some assistance. I’ve grown so accustomed to doing everything myself, I’ve had to accept that it’s not a sign of weakness to get help when things go horribly wrong.

I need to figure out what I'm doing here in Arizona, if maybe it's time to move back to Oxford permanently, and do this part time. I don't like it here and never meant to stay. This was the last straw.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


The other thing I have going on right now, is that I'm in the process of finally shedding the extra pounds I've accumulated in the last couple of years. I'm down eleven pounds so far, and counting. After trying over and over to do it myself, I joined Jenny Craig and started going to the gym at least five times a week, no exceptions. I even stuck to it through this nightmare week and lost four pounds since last Sunday. My clothes are looser, I'll soon have to buy new pants, and it feels extremely do-able.

What was the final straw? My old friend, Luci, snapped a picture of me at Jazzfest, with a huge bowl of boiled crawfish in one hand, and a crawfish puff pastry in the other. My arms look like an open can of refrigerated biscuit dough. I used to have enviable arms--muscle comes naturally to me. When the layer of fluff comes off, I have a washboard belly and great definition.

So off with the fluff. I'll post before and after pictures when the difference is dramatic enough to brag about. The last thing on my mind right now is food, so this is the time to make it happen.

Loose Ends

It occurred to me, reading through the last few posts, that I've left some loose ends dangling.

LSAT--I checked into a hotel in Tucson the weekend before I was to take the LSAT, and took three practice tests. I ran out of time on the logic section all three times, leaving 4-6 questions unanswered. I scored 161, 163, and 161, which is good enough to get into any of the schools I like, but not good enough for fat scholarships and grants. So I changed the test date to September 30 and bought two more workbooks for the logic games with the intent of gaining speed on the problems. My accuracy is good, speed is bad. It can be done. I'm also looking around for any workshops in the area that specifically address the logic problems--all the other sections of the test, I scored quite high. If I can pull my score up to 165, I can expect to get recruited--I can get at least that high if I work at it. They average the scores if you take it more than once, so there was absolutely no benefit to taking it now as opposed to September.

Patience, I've learned, can pay big dividends. If I'd been more patient with the roof contract, I wouldn't be typing this entry from a hotel room. I'd be in my pretty house with my animals and no daylight shining into the master bedroom from above.

This whole ordeal has demonstrated to me once again that living in a small town has its tangible advantages--I saw it when my mother was diagnosed with terminal osteogenic sarcoma, a fancy-schmancy name for cancer-that-will-spread-unabated-like-desert-wildfire. Oxford, Mississippi, quickly galvanized and rallied around her--and us, the helpless family. It was amazing.

The same thing has come to pass over the last four days with my house--neighbors I'd never met arrived with offers of help, the phone tree was activated, and I suddenly had District Attorneys, Judges, insurance adjustors, contractors, city building inspectors, you name it--they all showed up with pledges to string the contractor up by his toes and help me fix what's broke. Everyone was enraged. The contractor who owns the water extraction team has been in this business here for over 50 years and I suspect he has a granddaughter my age, as he seems to have taken this thing very personally. He was on the phone the whole time he was in the house saving my earthly possessions and minimizing the destruction. And comes by to check on the house (and me) several times a day.

That brings me to my new roofer. He came highly recommended and showed up while all this drama came down (with the ceiling) with his wife, who owns a cleaning business. They took me out to dinner and we talked about how to fix it. He immediately got up on the roof and spread thick black plastic, nailed it down for real this time, and sealed the roof. He's going to finish the roof at the minimum possible cost to me--these are good people. He'll work right through next weekend, one section at a time, and knock this thing out. And yes, of course, he is licensed--and has had no complaints filed against him, ever. They helped me move the furniture back inside and they call me every day to see if I need anything.

Like I said, good people.

I can't secure the house right now--all windows have to be wide open, fans in each, to keep mold at bay. The police pull into the driveway and walk around several times during each night, the neighbors are on alert, and I leave my car in the driveway to make it look like someone's home. I ride the motorcycle to the hotel. I halfway expect that jackass roofer (the first one) to come back and try to steal all my stuff to compensate for my keeping his tools. The police know about that as well, and they know to check him first if anything gets stolen.

And from my perspective, this just doesn't feel like such a horrible thing. Perhaps it's because everyone has been so kind, but I think it's because I spent thirteen months mired in the kind of misery that makes getting out of bed in the morning feel like a Herculean effort--Iraq has forever changed my perspective. Short of getting paralyzed from the neck down and/or someone close to me dying, nothing I ever encounter will ever feel like the end of the world after The Iraq Experience. Even in those few moments when it looked like insurance wouldn't cover this disaster, as the ceilings caved in and the ceiling fan crashed to the floor, it didn't feel like anything I couldn't handle.

In this respect, I'm fortunate--true despair may never visit me again, as long as no one's getting killed. And after all, the house and everything in it, it's all just stuff. As long as my standard of living isn't compromised in the long haul (which, make no mistake, it is not), losing stuff just isn't that bad.

That's what savings are for--a rainy day. Pun intended.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Disaster Chronicled

Remember this room from a previous post? Well, here's the cavalry trying to save my house. This was after the ceiling fan crashed to the floor--the water ran right through it until the ceiling gave way. I was in tears at this point. The roofer just sat in the kitchen with his head in his hands--he knew he was screwed. I'm done crying, I'm done beating myself up. Now I'm just angry.

Yes, Xine, it's illegal in Arizona to contract without a valid license. The minimum fine is $8000, and there are criminal charges as well. I reported him to the Registrar of Contractors this morning. And the IRS. And he's on disability, so I'm researching how to report that as well--I'm pretty sure that if you're collecting state disability for a back injury, you cannot contract to repair a roof. I'm just sayin'.

The master bedroom. I wish I had a picture of what it looked like with all the art and my gorgeous sleigh bed.

This is their version of "the roof is secured." Did they start making waterproof plywood? Look toward the bottom right corner--I'm pretty sure that water bottle is full of urine.

Yes, that's a cooler full of beer and a bottle of Jagermeister. Which goes a long way to explain the piss bottle--wouldn't want to negotiate a ladder while heavily intoxicated. I wonder how many times they just pissed from the roof into my yard? This photo will figure heavily in the lawsuit, I'm sure...I bet getting the plastic up there and secured would be quite a challenge on three-quarters of a bottle of Jager. I can't manage three shots of that stuff...see how the bottle floats? That's because it's nearly empty. So if some assclown gets drunk while repairing your roof and falls off, you, the homeowner, gets sued.

See why I want to become a lawyer? I will not be the ambulance-chasing, burn-your-tongue-on-coffee-and-sue-type lawyer, even if it means I turn away many potentially lucrative cases. I will only represent people like me, who were genuinely screwed, against dirtbags like this "contractor."

Revenge is a dish best served cold. One day, I'll watch his face across a courtroom as the verdicts are read--and I would imagine that a jury here in southern Arizona, where homeowners have issues with contractors regularly, would give me maximum damages. Sure, he doesn't have anything to go after (and the insurance company will get whatever he does have), but I'll sue him anyway. He'll never get a mortgage, never get another contracting license, never get a tax return, lose his disability, and the IRS will do their thing.

So this little fiasco cost me $8000. I hate to lose it and I will likely never see it again, but at least I had it to lose. It came from my savings, the money I made in both Iraq and selling my house in NY.

This is the top view of the dumpster in my driveway. To add insult to injury, I still have to pay the trash company to haul it away, to the tune of over $700. Nothing like paying for things twice--the roof, the haul-off, the whole deal.

And now for the grand finale:

This is the trunk of my car. These are his tools. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Absolute, Utter Disaster

I made a mistake which I will forever review as The Stupidest Thing I Have EVER Done. I hope I at least get some wisdom out of this. I cannot BELIEVE, that after all I've done and been through, that I can be this stupid.

I hired a roofer from Tucson (not the one I mentioned before, he gave me the creeps) to come down here and get this roof torn off and recovered. So they showed up, ripped off the roof, and suddenly there were all kinds of excuses--one guy quit, one guy hurt his back, blah blah blah. It was taking too damn long to finish, and I was starting to get ugly, starting to be alarmed--shit just did not seem right. There were usually only two dudes here, I'd see them sitting around shooting the shit, and despite all my raising hell, they were dragging their feet, and they had over $8000 of my hard-earned money.

Keep in mind, during all this, that my roof is flat--it's a Santa Fe style house, over 2000 square feet, one essentially, all roof. And as a flat roof, the ceiling is only about a foot below the outer surface, with nothing but insulation and wiring in between.

So imagine my panic when I walked outside today--here, in Arizona, where I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times it has rained since I moved here, and it has never soaked the ground--and it was storming like it was the end of the world. I rushed home to find these two clowns struggling with a tarp on the roof...and inside? I've taken pictures, I can't post them right now because I'm in a hotel and the camera cord is someone in the disaster that used to be my home. It is indescribable.

Water water everywhere does cause the boards to shrink...and the ceilings to cave in. It cannot be overstated, the catastrophic level of destruction. I got all the furniture and precious things into the one room that wasn't ruined (it caved in later, after The Cavalry arrived and wrapped it all in plastic). But everything else? Carpet, walls, ceilings, wiring, all destroyed.

So I called the insurance company, halfway expecting them to laugh and say, "Oh, hell no, we don't cover man-made disasters," but they put me through to the national office, who determined that wind WAS a factor--it blew the tarp off. The tarp was nailed down, that I can prove. So *thank God,* Divine Providence is, for the moment, smiling on me.

So here's where it gets even more distressing...the insurance company told me to call a water extraction team, and they decended upon the home like a flock of condors. The owner/foreman walked through the house, got on the phone, and said, "Tammy, I need you to call everyone in, I need everybody, the whole crew." You know you're in trouble when the WATER EXTRACTION TEAM FOREMAN shows signs of alarm. But THEN (oh, it gets even better), the foreman confronted the roofer, who was sitting at the kitchen table with no color in his face (after my rather large former-Marine buddy threatened to kill him), and asked to see his contractor's license. AND HE DOESN'T HAVE ONE. Well, according to him, he didn't have it with then I checked the Arizona State Board of Contractors website (little damn late for that, huh?), and didn't find his name.

I must be the biggest fucking dumbass on the planet. Pardon my French, but this kind of catastrophe threatens my entire financial future, and I'm not exaggerating. The guy showed me a portfolio, but I never asked to see his didn't even cross my mind. What the HELL am I going to do if the insurance company ultimately denies my claim because this shitbag has no license???

I'm encouraged that they sent me to a hotel and called in the team. But will this all change once they find out he has no license??

As it stands right now, things are okay--I may even come out ahead: as we speak, they are ripping out the carpet, linoleum, and popcorn ceilings that I hated. Didn't hate the walls--in fact, spent a great deal of time and money painting them--but at any rate. Assuming the insurance covers it, I get many of my home improvement projects knocked out most ricky-tick.

But the roof?? There is no way in HELL I trust these idiots to finish--so I'll have to hire a new roofer, and the startup fee I paid (8000 dollars!!) is gone until all the lawsuits run their course. And all the insulation up there has to be replaced, and it's the start of monsoon season, and how the hell am I going to fix this thing???

I am currently accepting any and all donations, seeing as how I'm homeless and just threw away my $210,000 investment, otherwise known as my home. All right, everyone pray with, please get me out of this mess.

*Sigh* Hindsight is 20/20. Hard lesson to learn--but never never never hire anyone to so much as pound a nail in your home without asking to see their license. Just ask me, the homeless, distraught woman you'll soon see wandering the aisles of Home Depot buying stacks of tarps to keep stretching across my roof for the entire monsoon season.

My two best friends came over to see what they could do, and I had my freakout with them--I haven't cried like that since Iraq. I've worked so hard and gone through so much to buy this home, to live to this standard, to have it all ruined over something I SHOULD HAVE BEEN SMART ENOUGH TO AVOID.

But I'm done freaking out, and now it's just time to pick up the pieces, empty my savings account of all the money I had socked away for law school (not much, after shelling out for the roof), and figure it out. I'm getting back to Oxford for sure now...this town sucks and I want out ASAP. I think I'll leave all the rest of my crap there (thank God most of this furniture was rented and insured), and I just made up my mind to unload this house and get off the fence, go South, and make AZ a part-time gig. I'll sell this house as quickly as I can, stay at J's house when I'm out here, and hang out with my uncle in Oxford for the rest of the time.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Day at the Races

Dave, the hero who saves all the Greyhounds in AZ, NM, and TX, called Friday afternoon.

"I have an emergency," he said.

"What's up?"

"I just got a call from the track vet." The track is a Greyhound park, where many of the hounds come from. "They're about to put one down--his racing weight was 72 pounds, and right now he weighs 48. I'm in Texas--can you go get him? The deadline's six o'clock."

It was four, and the track was at least an hour away. "I'm on my way," I said. I was at home, just got back from the gym (I've been such a good girl), and the prospect of striding into the Greyhound Park and rescuing an emaciated pooch sounded like just the right way to spend my Friday evening.

I arrived at 5:30. The track had gotten into some bad meat, and over thirty dogs were sick. I cannot describe the smell--it rivals only some of the crap I saw in Iraq for shock value.

And this one, named Braveheart, is what I found:

If you've ever considered whiling away an afternoon at the local Greyhound park, just stare at this picture a minute or two.

He's been sick, the guy says, then he got that bad meat, and he's just not getting any better.

Moonpie, my big Greyhound, weighs 70 pounds. Look at the difference:

Sorry for the crap camera-phone pics, but the real camera is out of batteries.

This other dog's racing weight (generally the lightest you can safely get the dog) was 72, and Moonpie's couch potato weight is this is a big Greyhound. And he weighs 48 pounds. So needless to say, every time I think about it, I'm feeding him hotdogs, cooked hamburger meat, rice, eggs, nutrition shakes, medication, canned dog food...he probably doesn't know what the hell is going on. He's scared of the doggie door, so I have to take him outside every hour or so, he still trembles, and he's extremely timid.

But I'm already seeing that look, the same one my other foster dog had, the one who also just came off the track. He's loving it. I lifted him onto the couch last night (no amount of coaxing could get him to jump up there), and he sat there, still as a graveyard, staring at me, clearly confused. Then he fell asleep, and woke up, looked around the room, shifted his bony frame on the cushions, and let out a big sigh. This is the life.

The only reason I haven't already decided to keep him, is that I'm going to law school next year...if I have two big dogs and two cats, I might as well accept the fact that I will have to buy a house. Finding a rental with a fenced backyard that will allow my menagerie might be challenging, not to mention expensive. I might have to buy something very cheap, not as nice as I'm used to, so that I can avoid roommates and keep all the accumulated strays and gypsies in their accustomed level of comfort.

I may end up keeping him anyway. He's a very sweet dog, and Moonpie loves him. If I do keep him, he will be RC Cola, so that the two of them together pay homage to the classic Southern Scooby Snack. It's weird, but their coloring works for their respective namesake--Moonpie looks like a vanilla moonpie, RC Cola has all the colors of a tall cool glass.

I'll probably keep him. It's almost like it was meant to be.