raving lunatic rant,  The Hood,  urban life

My Crazy Landlady

washing graffiti 1

The other day, as I was hustling Baby Bug out the door with a cup of coffee in one hand and her buttered waffle (that she refused to eat) in the other, I saw my landlady’s tell-tale half orange half brown curly head out of the corner of my eye. She was lurking at the bottom of the stairs as she is wont to do. She always does this. As I tried to talk Baby Bug into wearing shoes (which is like trying to push water up hill), my crazy landlady quickly disappeared around the side of our house.

I did what I always do. I pretended I didn’t see her. I’ve learned over time that visiting with my landlady never goes well. You could be the most perfect tenant on earth with nothing to talk about other than how much you love living here (in spite of your ten-year-old rug that is covered in so many stains that it scares your friends and neighbors away) and she will turn the conversation around to some thing that you need to do in order to keep her property nice and then she’ll tell you that you look like you are putting on weight. Are you expecting another child? etc etc…

She does it every time. She’s just funny that way. It’s not like she means to be mean. In fact, she is quite doting and will tell you that you are her favorite tenant. She even gave us $50 off our rent as a present when Baby Bug was born. She does things like that. But she’s also like that Grandmother who smothers you with love and then sticks you in the back with a giant guilt-trip covered knife. Except in her case, she would stick you with the knife in the front because she’s not that subtle.

I chalk it up to her foreignness. She comes from Guatemala and according to her, she became a wealthy landowner scrubbing one toilet at a time. I believe her. She’s very tenacious like that. If she wants something done, it gets done. I’ve seen her in action. When she hired men to put in new stairs for us and a new floor in the kitchen after the plumbing debacle, she rattled off strings of staccato Spanish that made them quiver in their boots. She’s only five feet tall but she means business.

washing graffiti 2

Usually our conversations with her run along the lines of: You-should-take-better-care-of-my-falling-down-piece-of-property-because-I-am-very-nice-to-you-and-let-you-live-here-for-very-cheap-rent. Which is true. So we endure her crazy requests. Like the time she made me get rid of my garden because some of the leaves of my plants touched the wall and THE BUGS could crawl up those leaves and into her house! Or that time she handed us a 12 oz. can of bug killer to get rid of the termites that infest every house in our neighborhood and swarm like bees every time the weather gets above 80 degrees… I could go on and on…

Anyway, you get the picture. She’s just whacky. But you have to love her because we do pay half of what everyone else pays in rent around here. She spends half the year in Florida visiting her sister and only shows up every six months or so with some crazy request. As long as we never have to ask her to repair anything, we’re fine. We have a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. We fix our own problems, usually.

washing graffiti 4

So back to my story.

I finally got Bug into her shoes. We’re clambering down the stairs, me holding my coffee with the buttered waffle balanced on top and Bug bouncing off my other hand like a tether ball. It’s our usual controlled-fall-down-the-stairs routine. I was about ready to toss the waffle into the trash at the bottom of the stairs but of course Bug had not eaten anything for breakfast that day (part of her every-other-day food strike) and I knew the minute I got rid of it she would start crying that buttered waffles are the only thing on earth that she would eat. I’ve been through this before.

I turn the corner to head to my car and who do I see? My landlady of course. She’s calling my cell phone on her cell phone but my cell gets no coverage within a mile of my house, so her call is not going through.

“Oh hi!” she says. “I was just trying to call you.”

I smile and try to make small talk while Baby Bug runs around me like crazy and I end up dropping her buttered waffle face down on the dirty cement. Could my morning get any worse? Of course it could! Ha ha!

In her usual style, my landlady gets right down to business. Apparently, someone in the neighborhood has called her to complain about the “graffiti” that Baby Bug and I chalked on the sub wall that divides our alley from the restaurant we live behind. According to “someone anonymous,” our chalk drawings of cute little cats are bringing down the neighborhood. (What?!!)

washing graffiti 3

It’s like the Crips and the Bloods moved in and any minute now we are going to set up shop selling crack! If you look really hard you can see the cats I drew are pointing to the meth lab (with their eyes!). See these wipes in my diaper satchel? They’re actually soaked in LSD.


I’m being sarcastic, in case it wasn’t obvious. Sometimes these things don’t read as well as they sound in my head. But seriously, what harm are my little kid drawings doing to anyone? What kind of neighborhood do we live in if we can’t draw chalk on the sidewalk and occasionally up the side of a dirty old cement wall?!! Is it any worse than the urine stench from all the people who stop their limousines here to use our alley as their own personal hidden bathroom?

I told her as much and she shook her head in agreement. What kind of crazy world do we live in? Orange County, obviously. You can’t own a car older than ten years around here without people raising their eyebrows, but if you want to molest your children in private that’s totally okay. If you don’t mow your lawn they run you out of town with pitchforks. Good thing we don’t have a lawn.

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I’ve been thinking about her claim though. It just seems a bit fishy. Why would someone anonymous call her to complain about graffiti near our property? She lives on the next block over. How do they know she owns our apartment? Are these things registered with the city? Did the city call her? Why wouldn’t the city just give us a ticket? It all seems very weird.

Especially since she just happened to be on our property anyway to let in a plumber into our neighbor’s house (also her tenant). While she was there she took the liberty to rearrange my watering hose, break off a few leaves from some of the plants that were dangerously near the stucco walls of our house and pretty much meddle with things.

She just bugs.

washing graffiti 6

I’m thinking she didn’t like my silly cartoon drawings and made up this story about someone anonymous calling to complain. It’s not exactly her straightforward style but it is whacky, which is very much like her.

Regardless, the chalk drawings have been up there since Memorial Day. I don’t think they were hurting anything but maybe it was time to take them down anyway. They have been there all summer. Maybe in someone else’s eyes I am that neighbor who puts up a million tacky Greek goddess statues (of which my landlady has two).

I don’t like my landlady. She’s not my favorite person in the world to talk to. But if washing the chalk cats off the cement wall keeps her out of my hair, I’ll do it. I’ll do just about anything for cheap rent.

And yes, she did tell me I looked like I’ve been putting on weight and my skin is too dark like I’ve been out in the sun too much. She’s right. I have. I have been eating pancakes every morning with abandon and genetics are a bitch. Her truthfulness hurts like a dump truck running over my toe but if she can’t tell me, who can? So I’m just going to write about it here, try to drop 250 calories from my daily intake and dodge her next time I see her.


  • Annabanana

    Oh B! What a crazy day!
    The cat’s for sure add to the surroundings, too bad they weren’t permanent! In my parents neighborhood where I grew up (the artsy part of town) there is a lot of graffiti and it is beautiful!
    It is done to bring color to drab concrete and the shop owners pay for it! Every year the artists come back and do a new scene. (No gang stuff)
    It would be so cool to see your illios all over the barricade, how cute!

  • Deb on the Rocks

    If you could see me right now, You would see I’m making the hand sign for the kitty gang, which is making each hand into a downward pointing V in the shape of cat ears. “meow-side!”

    Oh my goodness. I think she’s in Florida half of the year because she is employed to train the character witches for DisneyWorld. She totally is “anonymous.”

  • bluejaye

    My kids would have been crying up a storm at Bugs age and that might have change the whole outcome. Then I would be out there the next day drawing them again. Contrary is my middle name.

  • lynne

    This sucks. I would love to have your cats drawings, anybodies cat drawing on my wall, pavement etc but I have lived with and also in too many places, who have NOT appreciated arty creativeness. Big heartfelt “sigh”.

    I once had a landlord who used to suddenly loose his English after 30 years in the country if we had a problem or a repair job that needed doing. Including the time we were burgled due to the lack of efficient locks. We only got a shrug that time.

    Bug looks really cute in these photographs.

  • Gayle

    Oh, that is ridiculous! For sure, the landlady is “anonymous.” What problem could she (or anyone) have had with those totally cute drawings! Don’t let her get you down.

  • Jeanmarie

    LOL on the grandmother thing – my husband’s Great Grandmother gave my daughter a 20.00 bill for her birthday -as she was handing it to her, she said, “now make sure your mother doesn’t use this to buy new shoes for herself…”

    Gotta love those crazy old ladies…

  • Kristen

    I want Baby Bug’s dress!!!! SO CUTE! Do they have it in big people size? The hoodie makes it absolutely irresistible!

  • Jeanette

    But you and BB made lemonade out of lemons, as usual. She seemed to enjoy cleaning the cats off the sidewalk. :)

  • Lisa

    oh, the things we do for cheap rent…your landlady reminds me exactly of my old, Italian landlady back when i lived in Queens. only it was worse because she lived right downstairs and we lived upstairs – so she would stop me almost every single morning on my way out the door to work and nag about some ridiculous, tiny thing. not a great way to start the day, as you know!

  • Melissa

    Oh…of course she is ‘anonymous’!

    Silly, really. If I were your landlord I would take $50 dollars off your rent, give you some paint and ask you to paint that stupid concrete barrier. I agree that the alley could use some color!

    And, I would probably not be able to resist heading out there in a few days with some more chalk!

    At least it looks like BB was a good sport about it. That is just ripe to hurt some kid’s feelings.

  • karen

    Why do I have the feeling your landlady would be happier if you were also Guatemalan? Then, she wouldn’t have to deal with things like your plants too close to the wall…you would just know that invites unsavory insects to the house. And really, chalk drawings of cats? What were you thinking? :)

  • Mysh

    Does she not know what chalk is? Did she think you had drawn with some sort of permanent pastels? Geez, that’s too bad. The kitties were cute and BB is certainly cute though! :O)

  • Jenn

    Okay those cats were cute and this is why I hate renting. The next time she says anything about your weight mention something about hers, it is only fair. Yes, I play mean and dirty especially when it comes to the body image. Crazy land lady.

    I hope things get better and she backs off.

  • range

    That sucks. People are like that. They can’t stand seeing you happy or just always want to but in. Since she’s your landlady, you have to be nice to her and can’t tell her to go screw herself.

    Oh well, I always use the smile-and-nod technique which I’ve learned and run my brain on some music while they talk. That usually works for me.

  • Gypsy

    That’s weird because I thought you looked super skinny in those new pics you posted the other day. She must be nuts—or looking at someone else!

  • leah

    at least babybug didn’t throw a fit that you guys had to wash off the kitties. such a shame too as they brighten up the alleyway, if that’s possible.

  • Jennifer

    She so was the “anonymous” person. This story makes me so happy that my landlord lives in Bakersfield. YET, in true landlord fashion, he and his sister (she lives near YOU, haha) have dropped by at the worst possible moments to check in on us. There are spies in the neighborhood that call him whenever they think we are up to no good.

    I really have to address this weight issue. Your landlady is crazy. There is no way that you have been putting on weight. Seriously.

    I love these pictures of BB. Her little dress is so cute. If I was the landlady I would have felt like such a crumb watching that little girl wash off those cats. What a turd.

  • Abby

    Aw, the kitties were darling – and totally added to the alley ambiance. (And, have you not had rain since before May?! That’s crazy! I just couldn’t imagine!)

  • Clownfish

    There’s a little Mexican hole-in-the wall that we go to and were enjoying their huge carne asada packed tacos. While eating, a grumpy old lady called to the teen girl running the register. I saw her speaking to her and pointing to a sign on the drink machine that read, specialty drink refills $ 99. The polite, young lady came back. with a ball point pen and drew in a decimal point in front of the 99! hahaha I kid you not.

    Please Lord, don’t ever let me become that! And for the patron that offers up ninety-nine dollars for a refill, let me never become that either, hahaha.

  • Sam

    I think when she goes back to Florida, you take your chalk and go kitty crazy in the alleyway! They were PRECIOUS and…well, bless her heart, your crazy landlady.

  • Aladyinredpolish

    You are much more patient minded than I am. I would have been on the defense. What a jealous woman to rain on your parade :(. I feel sad seeing BB having to wash away her art. People reflect there problems onto others to make themselves feel better so dont take her judgement literal. I just cannot believe her with the leaves and bugs!!!! That is just ridiculous, as if you didn’t have other things to worry about in life. She sounds bored.

  • Aladyinredpolish

    OH and I forgot to mention, I live in the OC and there aren’t laws or tickets for these things, if anything it would be because someone was using spray paint which is permanent. As long as the child is being watched and not drawing obscene images, they would have no problem. Unless the cop was not level minded, or the property was private, but even then, it brings a warmth to the neighborhood showing that kids are happy there. She is the one that is the “anonymous” guaranteed.

  • Jerri Ann

    I bought a daycare last year from a lady who refused to let the kids use chalk on the front walk. The first time I did it, she came by and said, “sure am glad that stuff washes off”….as if I would have let them do it if it didn’t wash off? idiots.

  • BeachMama

    Um yeah, chalk washes off pretty quick. I guess if that is all she has to cry about then things musn’t be too bad for her. You guys are pretty model tenants from what I can see, I mean that whole window falling out could have been so much worse than it was. She should be paying you guys to live there really or at least letting you stay for free. Your cats are cute, I am sure they will find a new home soon enough.

  • OMSH

    Your landlady and my ex-next door neighbor should start a club. No one would join, but hey, they could say they had each other.

    Ms. Essie would go outside ANYTIME MY KIDS PLAYED just so she could watch and make sure their soccer ball, softball, picnic, hair barrette, or ANYTHING didn’t touch her lawn.

    She was bitchy like that.