Sunday, April 20, 2008


Where Did It All Go Wrong?


There we were in our new old house. It was a 1920's oldie, but a goodie (we hoped). From the outside looking in, it was a charmer. People would comment "oh, your house is so amazing." Then the stomach would grumble. "Amazing" is an understatement!

Time would prove that the house almost consumed us. Literally. Picture the Amityville Horror House literally ripping human heads off its visitors then flinging the headless bodies aside.

My recent post entitled "Down The Drain" mentioned a few of the home improvement projects. But to thoroughly understand the true spirit that is "Curbed," one must first understand the home improvement meteor storm that pelted the ego. The will to live. And ah, yes, the wallet.

Jumping In Head First

The house didn't seem so ominous. Sure it had been foreclosed on twice back-to-back. And it had sat empty for a year while paperwork was tied up by its owner - "the bank." After six months of searching for a bigger place to live, the email alert announcing the latest deal on the market arrived in my inbox and within a week, the find was ours.

We were able to look past the black cesspool in the backyard that was literally boarded up by the bank so there wasn't any risk associated with someone falling in and suing.

We looked past the ivy stalks as big around as a human arm that grew 30 feet up the pecan tree then cascaded down again toward the ground.

We looked past the garage that was missing its garage door remote, but featured a wall so rotten you could move it with the touch of the hand.

We looked past the empty hole in the kitchen where the oven was (it had been stolen by the previous Loan Defectors). I later learned the hole was not the home for an oven, but the palace for a "range," which costs about ten times that of its hickabilly cousin - the "oven." We later learned previous residents (a.k.a. the Clampetts) had their version of a range in the kitchen (a "range" also known as a B-B-Q grill). And for those of you who have been over for the nickel tour, you've undoubtedly heard the story of the replacement range project that literally consumed the profit from my last house and took four months of extreme project management skills due to the horrible situation bestowed upon me by the not so "Great Indoors."

We could look past it all. While we were visionaries, we weren't nelly belles. And we were ready to make this house a home.

Ding Dong

When you walked into the house, the eye was immediately drawn UP. To a ceiling where the texture was so thick, the only thing missing was glitter, a disco ball and some roller skates. I wouldn't have it.

The first check written was to literally scrape the ceilings flat again and it would set me back a few thousand American dollars. Where do I sign?

Wait. First Things First.

Before any work could be done, however, the house needed electricity. I was a TXU Energy customer at the time so I went online and submitted a "transfer of service request" to the new address.

After eleven days of no power and several emotionary phone calls with the electric giant, TXU told me that I would have to pay an expedite fee of $150 to get my power turned on. Turns out my service request was lost and even though I had a confirmation email as proof, they didn't care.

The ceiling scraper couldn't start work without electricity and there I was. Trapped. But with what seemed like enough rage to power a nation.

I love telling that story. Especially during an interview back in 2005 in the very halls of TXU where executives smiled at how easy it was to break their system. Despite the fact I was not a TXU customer any longer because of the wretched service, my made for Broadway reenactment got me the job offer. And scene!

One Fine Day

A cleverly-timed direct mail offer showed up mid-fiasco so rather than battle with my current company who couldn't give a rat's ass about my needs, I switched over to a new R.E.P. (that's Retail Electric Provider) called Reliant Energy.

It took over SIX MONTHS of constant follow-up, belly aching and even threats made to Reliant and the P.U.C. (the Public Utilities Commission, who was worthless) before the defiant electric company finally caved and granted my $50 "Welcome Bonus."

During the debacle I learned that "Defiant Energy" made offers to select meters (not customers) and since the offer was mailed to my old meter and I turned on service at my new meter, I was not eligible for the new meter welcome bonus. Go figure.

That's funny, I said to customer service lady. Your legal didn't disclose any of that secret information. Turns out I was the only one on the phone who had the direct mail letter and after much eloquent and fact-based old fashioned bitching, I finally was able to close the door on that chapter of this saga.

The $50 Was Mine. All Mine!

About a week later and the ceilings were done. No more lemon merange ceilings. No more urges to rollerskate to "the hustle."

I turned on the A/C for the first time and two days later noticed an ominous brown stain forming on the bedroom ceiling. I later was told that the "evaporator coil" in the attic was rusted, a leak sprung and my wet ceiling was rendered unsalvageable. So mere hours after moving into the bedroom, we promptly moved the bedroom into the living room and arranged for the ceiling scraper to remove crown molding and replace the entire sagging ceiling. Another $2,200 gone.

Then there was the check to replace the coil. Then repainting. The list went on and one.

So What's Up With The Curb?

In amongst the rubble going on inside, we shortly learned that outside, our curb was literally disappearing. The day I made the connection of where the curb was going, I almost lost [what's left of] my mind.

The Shitty of Dallas trash collection crew was literally eating our curb! Since humans don't pick up trash anymore - machines do - we literally saw the claw machine picking up our bulk trash. And front and center of the debris was a chunk of our curb. The non-curb hole had grown to about four feet in length and the only thing holding our yard together was a squashed piece of metal edging clinging on for dear life. The edging was put where the curb void now was by previous residents who probably ran screaming, arms in air, for the safety of the hills.

Several phone calls with the The Shitty later, and a case number was issued for further investigation. A few weeks later and The Shitty rendered it's decision. "Curbs are decorative," we were told. And they weren't going to replace it.

This Just In: Curbs Are Decorative!?!

Really! If that were the case, surely curbs would be more, um, decorative!?! Like glitter-covered curbs. Macaroni art-studded curbs. All lit-up-at-night curbs. Easter egg colored with fluffy bunny tail curbs. Christmas-time by the curb. WTF??

This attempt by The Shitty to brush us off made me laugh. Actually, I think it was a chortle. The Shitty had no idea who they were dealing with.

You see, to truly be a Consumer Victim, one must embrace the fact that they will be screwed over the simple things. Like The Shitty not replacing what they stole, right? Key for a Consumer Victim, however, is that she must also know how to dig-in and hunker down for one's rights. To be a bigger butt-head than the one on the other end of the phone.

I Am That Butt-head.

Literally a year had transpired. Patiently waiting for The Shitty to clean up their own mess. Joe called in one day and learned our case had been closed and nobody told us! Simply amazing. We resorted to notifying our district-woman and her office jumped-in and within two weeks, our replacement curb had been poured.

The Sweet, Sweet Smell Of Concrete

Some days I stand in front of the house and admire our "decorative curb." It reminds me how painful persistence can sometimes yield satisfying results. It also reminds me of how The Shitty, given the chance, will try and beat you into assimilated submission.

Little did I know the experiences with The Curb would undoubtedly pave the way for the much-needed intestinal fortitude needed to combat The Shitty after they repeatedly punched holes in our backyard fence - this time with alley garbage trucks.

But, oh, that's another Consumer Victim saga for another rainy day.

A Special Note To My House: If you are reading this, please know that we love you. We know you at least like us as we still have heads and are living. Please be good to us because if this keeps up, we will go broke and move out and The Clampetts may move back in. With their kitchen B-B-Q grill.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Loco For Mico

 id=BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5185791047182694706 target=If you know anything about the places to see and be seen, you'll agree Mi Cocina makes the cut. Their food is my absolute favorite and I'm willing to endure the hoity vibe by the location nearest me in the high lands of Highland Park.

I shudder to know how much money I've given the Rodriquez family; my bills usually top $100 largely in part to the intoxicating margaritas that are about $9 a pop. And worth every penny.

I was a regular customer at the Galleria location for about five years. I'd meet-up with friends, get my drink on, then do some drunk shopping... Dallas-style! Now that I'm in my older years, I've segued from drunk shopping to drunk ONLINE shopping, where it's easier to order-up some things I don't need from the comfort of my armchair or floor.

One heckuva character there at the Galleria "Mico's" was a lady named Maxine. She knew me by name and when I was in her eyesight, she knew a "margarita on the rocks, no salt" was to be ordered rapidamente. Mico's wasn't a place where everybody knew my name, but it sorta felt that it was as close as I was gonna get.

Mesa Por Dos, Por Favor

One day back in 2005 Joe and I went there for a sensible lunch. Being the glam that I am, I actually wore my sunglasses into the mall to avoid anyone recognizing me and rushing me for my autograph.

During the meal I took my glasses off and set them on the table top. When we were done, we got up and made it about 20 steps from the table before I realized I had left my glasses. You see, without them, I'm a little Helen Keller.

In a matter of mere seconds, the busboy had already frantically disassembled the table and there I was: frantically trying to find my glasses.

They were nowhere to be found!

Que Horrible!

How could this be? I won't spare you the gory details so read the letter here at right for the full nitty gritty then report back to this post for the conclusion to my contusion.

Angry Letter Shown At Right: Not Actual Size. Click the letter's image to enlarge it for your viewing pleasure.

Did you finish reading the letter? Bueno!

I was surprised that a few weeks after sending my letter to Mico's Mothership, I received a gift card in the mail from them. The $100 gift card didn't come close to replacing my $600 spectacles, but it was some sort of peace offering. An attempt.

In the end, I had to reorder new glasses and swallow my pride. I couldn't stomach the thought of boycotting my favorite food source no matter how much rage I had within.

However, I still hold the grudge against the Galleria location and have not been back in over three years.

I narrowly dodged a near fatal break-up with my favorite restaurant but rest assured when I eat there, I don't take off my glasses!