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The Very Nice Piece of Shit 

Wednesday, May 10 2000
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$775 PIECE OF SHIT Unf. 1 Bdrm 1 bath bungalow, lower, refrigerator, stove, new carpet, AC, large closets, balcony, wc small pet, laundry, quiet neighborhood, street parking, one year lease.

“I’m calling about the piece of shit?”

“Yes.”

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“Is it still available?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, good. So . . . let‘s see. It’s a bungalow?”

“Yes.”

“But then it also says ‘lower.’”

“Yes.”

“So . . .”

“It‘s the lower of a bungalow.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“It’s very nice.”

“Mm-hm.”

“Very good size.”

“Oh yeah. Do you know the square footage?”

“No, not really.”

“Could you . . . venture a guess?”

“No.”

“So it‘s about . . . medium?”

“Yes, I’d say about medium. It‘s not small, but it’s not so big, either. It‘s a very nice piece of shit.”

I decide to visit the very nice piece of shit, because it sounds as promising as anything else I can’t afford. After parking in a meadow of broken glass directly across the street, I select a patch of Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite upon which I can stand, stretch, fill my lungs with a passing pickup truck and admire the three-story stucco dungplex in all its glory: the disheveled open windows blasting Jerry Springer and Power106 through makeshift curtains; the rupturing balconies and their ancient kettle grills poised to thrill during the next minor earthquake . . .

. . . and, mysteriously, a stark, spotless courtyard deck. It must have been painted recently, I soon realize, because, although there are no WET PAINT signs anywhere, my second step slides hard forward and to the side. Fuck! I say, just once, as I flail around, elbows and knees akimbo, and fall about halfway to the goopy pale-yellow ground before catching myself, somehow, and reverse-flailing back up to my traditional post-simian posture. Damage: almost none. Temporary pale-yellow-latex soles; a few light splashes to the jeans (who cares).

The next day I find a different piece of shit -- a dry one -- and move into it a few weeks after that. Among my current piece of shit‘s amenities: small rats, large roaches, popzombie neighbors armed to the teeth with home-entertainment products, concealed asbestos in the ceiling, and property managers who do nothing but affix imperious communiques -- “Dear Tenant. You are bad. Prepare to suffer the consequences.” -- to the front door. For two years.

But I have two jobs now; I make a bit more money. Enough to afford something other than a piece of shit? I’ll just open up the paper, here, and . . .

$1,275 PIECE OF SHIT Unf. 1 Bdrm 1 bath bungalow (lower), refrigerator, stove, carpet, vertical blinds, AC, large closets, balcony, indoor cat o.k. with add‘l $600 deposit, laundry, quiet neighborhood, close to all, street parking, one year lease.

“I’m calling about the piece of shit?”

“Yes.”

“Is it still available?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, good. So . . . let‘s see. You say it’s a bungalow?”

“Yes.”

“But then it‘s also a ’lower‘?”

“Yes. It’s the lower of a bungalow. It‘s very nice.”

“Oh. Okay. I think I may have actually already seen this a few years ago.”

“It’s a townhouse bungalow. Very good size.”

“Kind of medium?”

“Yes, exactly. It‘s not really small, but not that big, either. It’s a very nice piece of shit.”

“Yep. That‘s the one. I looked at this same piece of shit two years ago. Remember? I’m the guy who came over and the floor of the entry area had just been painted, only you hadn‘t put up any wet-paint signs, so I slipped in the wet paint and almost fell on my ass and yelled ’Fuck!‘ real loud, and you heard me and came over and couldn’t stop laughing because you were tweaked on crack or speed -- crack, wasn‘t it? -- and then you let me clean the paint off my shoes in the bathtub of the piece of shit you were asking $775 for and I said, ’You want $775 for this piece of shit?‘ and you still wouldn’t stop laughing so I left. Remember that?”

“No, not really.”

Then allow me to refresh your memory. (It only takes 10 minutes -- about as much time as you‘ll spend maintaining the building this year.) You’ll need to download files to represent three elements: inflation, outrage and PFP (pop-for-profit) music. You‘ll find a QuickTime movie algorithmically simulating the inflation of a balloon at the University of Maine’s Computer Science Department‘s Emerge Group (http:inferno.asap.um.maine.edustarlogomodelsmoviesballoon.mov); an MPEG video of adults interacting with balloons at www.geocities.comSouthBeachCove6978btc1.mpeg; and a MIDI file of the Fifth Dimension’s 1967 hit single “Up, Up and Away” at AngelWinks Heavenly Post Card Shoppe (http:angelwinks.webby.commusicupupandaway.mid). Open all three files from within your registered QuickTime Player, arrange to taste, set everything to Loop, and select Play All Movies. ‘Member?

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