Before we move on to today’s installment of “Texas Toast”, I must let you know that The Spousal Unit and I had 20 cubic yards of red cypress mulch dumped in our driveway this AM, and I’m so exhausted from shoveling, wheelbarrowing (OK, maybe it’s NOT a word, but cut me some slack here people; I may be dying!), and spreading that stuff on all the garden borders and islands, I might not be able to uncramp my poor gnarled fingers long enough to tap at the keyboard. How do people work as landscapers day after day? My pores are oozing red specks of primordial cypress, and I can’t stand erect; perhaps my face-to-floor position might be a permanent affliction. I cannot feel my feet, my lips are sunburned, and my tee shirt is so wet, I’ll probably have to cut it off to get in the shower. Last year we paid our lawn service $600 to spread this stuff for us, and it was a wondrous thing. I came home from work and voila…it was complete in one day, and I didn’t even have to break a nail. This year, we decided that we probably have more free time than money, so why not do it ourselves? After 7 1/2 man hours out there, we aren’t even half-way through, and I’m seriously reconsidering the wisdom of this particular economy. If there’s no post Friday, you will know I’ve expired from mucho mulcho botrytis syndrome. But rest assured I will continue to follow all my favorite bloggers in the hereafter! I love you all way too much to ever leave you The Ramblings, Big Happy Nothing, Stuff Southern People Like, My Parents Are Crazier Than Yours, Mommy Needs a Pinot, I Could Cry But I Don’t Have the Time, Livelaughloveliquor, Pissykittyslitterbox, Charlywalker’s Blog, Toohotmamas, and my beloved co-Texan Mark at the IdiotSpeaketh. Don’t be upset; this is just a short list!
So, in the last chapter of “Texas Toast”, Jack and I had just been burglarized on a Tuesday night. Thoroughly traumatized, I started sending out feelers about finding another apartment. Since we were living in what was arguably the greatest rent-controlled set-up in Manhattan already, this place would be hard to beat, but I felt a doorman building might be more secure, and I couldn’t shake off the willies in the penthouse since that night. I was always looking over my shoulder and listening for noises in the night. Exactly one week after the first burglary, once more on a Tuesday evening, with Jack working late, I heard the doorbell ring. That was odd, because usually someone would have to ring the outer apartment building door to be buzzed in before they could get access to the elevators, and therefore, our apartment. When I looked out the peephole, whoever was out there covered it with their finger. “Hey, it’s ______, I’m an old friend of Jacks in town for the night and I just wanted to drop in and surprise him”.
“What’s your name again?” I asked him.
Mumbled, indecipherable reply. With the door still firmly bolted I told the man that he could leave a message outside the door and I would give it to Jack so he could return his call. He continued to wheedle and cajole me to open the door, but on guard after last week’s events, that was obviously not going to happen, so I guess he gave up and left.
About an hour later, the doorbell rang again, this time with an alleged flower delivery. Same deal with the finger over the peephole so I couldn’t see who was there. Who delivers flowers at 7PM, even in NYC? I told him I was not able to accept the delivery, but that he could leave them with the building superintendent who would sign for them and see that they were delivered upstairs. More begging and pleading followed, and I soon heard footsteps running down the staircase. When Jack finally arrived home and I recounted what had happened, he insisted we call the officer who had investigated the burglary. The detective came and after hearing my account agreed that it was probably either the original burglar or someone he knew coming back to “finish the job” and recoup the goodies that had been left behind.
Fast forward to the next Tuesday. To preface, the officers at the scene of the initial burglary had offered what seemed like brilliant advice. Always leave a $50 or $100 dollar bill out in plain sight where you can see it immediately upon entering your residence. If you ever open your door and that bill is not there, slowly and quietly back away, run like hell, and summon help. It’s the first thing an intruder would pick up if a robbery was in progress, thus keeping a sap like you from walking in on a crime in progress. It was now the second Tuesday following our first burglary, and Tuesdays were beginning to give me the heebie jeebies, so, when I pushed open my apartment door around 5PM that day, I immediately noticed that the $100 bill Jack had put under a paperweight on a table near the entrance was missing. The second thing I noticed was random bits of Tupperware and lids strewn over the floor from the kitchen, through the dining room, and down the hall into the living room. Then I realized the dining room window leading to the fire escape was wide open. The one thing Jack and I had agreed on before I moved into that apartment was that this particular window would NEVER be opened; it was just too tempting to an intruder, hidden from the street below, with access to several doors and windows into our place. On the table lay one of my suitcases, full of things that belonged to us, not clothing, mind you,but objects, binoculars, cameras, small sculptures. I felt a jolt of nausea as I realized what was happening, and immediately did as the police officers had advised. I very quietly pulled the door shut behind me and ran like a bat out of hell down the stairs to the super’s apartment, while he dialed 911.
The police response was incredibly swift, considering this was Gotham City, after all. The intruders had clearly been inside the apartment when I opened the door, because by the time we got back up there, the suitcase with the stolen items was gone. It was a puzzle to law enforcement how they got away so quickly, but there was speculation that perhaps they re-entered another resident’s apartment to wait out the police, or perhaps the perp possibly WAS a building resident. That thought put goose bumps in places the good Lord never intended!
All the building residents received flyers from NYPD about the three crimes, and it was reenforced NOT to let anyone into the building if you did not know them personally. Don’t be a nice guy and hold the door open for someone carrying a bouquet of flowers, or a food delivery bag, or for anyone posing as a messenger. That was all well and good, but by the fourth Tuesday I was a quivering mess of nerves and anxiety; I resembled that chihuahua on the old Taco Bell commercials! Jack and I , along with the detectives, had come to the conclusion that this perp must be someone who had Tuesday afternoons and evenings off from his day job; yeah, that would help narrow it down in a city of 7 million people!
Oddly, by the time we retired for the night on the fourth Tuesday, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Perhaps this person had given up, or perhaps they thought they had stolen everything of value already. In a fitful sleep, around 11PM our phone began to ring; it was Lupe, the super’s wife, whispering, “It’s probably nothing, but I thought you should know. I heard a noise and looked out the peephole and saw a strange Latino guy, very scrawny, very odd, come out of the basement and head up the stairwell. I think he had a big knife, but I can’t be sure. I’m very nervous, after the last few weeks.” Jack thanked her and advised her to call 911, stat. Within minutes, police officers had pulled the man off our fire escape, where he had been trying to pry the lock to gain access to our living room; he did indeed have a 16″ machete in the waistband of his jeans. Under intense questioning, it was learned that this particular burglar wanna-be had no connection to the first three, and had simply heard, via The Scumbag Grapevine, our place was an easy target. He had a lengthy rap sheet, including breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted rape. A real choir boy!
Wednesday several key phone calls were made. Two were to schedule me to see a psychologist every morning to enable me to get through until the late afternoon, when I would meet with a psychiatrist every Monday through Friday. The rest were urgent calls to real estate offices throughout Manhattan, begging for any way in hell to get us out of Dodge.