The wide, the wide river

His usual minimalist approach

wide riverMy daughter was up early, for her, in the late summer (September 4) around 9 a.m. She went out with a friend but immediately doubled back into the house. What is that sludge that is covering our sidewalk?

Someone at our next-door neighbor’s house has poked PVC tubing through a basement window. A slurry is running down the walkway between our houses. The wide river reaches the sidewalks and goes mostly left, in front of our house. This is because the sidewalk when it was reinstalled by the city, was poorly designed. Every time we get a good rain, it puddles there.

I called the absentee landlord of the property, who I’ll refer to as Tick, and left messages on two phones. Then our contractor, John, calls. He’s going to haul out the defunct water heater from the basement. I suggest maybe he ought not right now. But he and his adult daughter are in the neighborhood, so they come over.

John believes the effluvium is sewage. I call the city of Albany. After two transfers, I get a guy from the water department. “Is there sewage there right now?” I said yes. “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” He arrived in eight.

Do you get the Fugs reference?

By this time, Tick and his wife have arrived. Mike from the city takes pictures and tells Tick that 1) he will be fined and 2) he needs to clean up the mess. Tick askes me if he could borrow my water hose. “NO!” Mike inserts himself. “You have to clean it up. No spraying it out onto the street. You ought to hire someone.” He suggests a local septic company. But Mike, who has seen Tick for maybe 15 minutes, KNOWS Tick won’t spend the money to do the right thing.

This leaves Tick and his wife to literally shoveling…manure. He hauls it to the farthest point in his backyard, where he digs a shallow hole and pours the waste. This is heavy and tedious work. Shoveling wastewater with a shovel is quite inefficient. Mike leaves.

Tick sprays ammonia on the walkway and sidewalk. Then he asks me if it’s clean enough for my satisfaction. I dodge the question: “It’s not to my satisfaction, it’s to the city’s.” But no, it was his usual minimalist approach, which is almost always inadequate.

Wisely, my daughter posted signs from both directions keeping pedestrians away for several hours until the slop largely evaporated.

My doctor, who I had already scheduled to see, recommended 1 part Clorox and 9 parts water to really clean it. But then I mentioned the ammonia. After the rain, we went with that cleaning formula. It was NOT how I had planned to spend my morning.

It’s not unusual

In the decade or so Tick has owned the property, this is not the first time he’s tried to take the shortcut, only the most egregious. Well, maybe his inadequate lead abatement was worse. Any of his former tenants that we’ve gotten to know always have stories to share, often the usual gambit of taking months to return the security deposit, and occasionally something more problematic.

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