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For Rent

I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life living in apartments. I’ve seen some pretty spectacular rentals, and a few that felt like they were straight out of some third world country run by people with an IQ lower than a pomegranate.

I landed a really nice apartment when I first moved to Rochester, Minnesota. My future roommate replied to a message I left regarding his need for a roommate to share his large two-bedroom apartment. It was a much better place than I would have gotten if I tried to find a one-bedroom apartment on my own. The bedrooms were slightly above average in size, but the main room was gigantic compared everything else available in the market.

The complex, Miracle Mile Apartments, had about 40 units. It was conveniently located across the street from an older, but well maintained mall, and only a couple blocks from a great grocery store, and a few fun bars. It was in a nice neighborhood, located close to the freeway, and walking distance to downtown in a pinch.

We had a great property manager, named Brian, who lived directly across from our unit. One really sweet aspect of the complex was Brian had somehow managed to place all the quiet residents at the extreme opposite end of the complex from us. We could be pretty loud without disturbing people. Brian the manager was also pretty cool at hooking us up with some furniture left over from when they had furnished apartments.

My first roommate lasted about a year, then he moved on with his job. I quickly found another roommate, a kid doing an extended internship at IBM as a programmer. We put our stereos together for one monster system, and gave it a full test one Sunday afternoon. I think we played The Clash’s Rock the Casbah at a full 400 watts. Brian was in someone’s unit on the far end fixing something and hadn’t heard a thing. He later told us he didn’t hear any of the music until he was outside, and it sounded great with no distortion. Ah, the beauty of old solid concrete constructed building.

Near the end of my stay at Miracle Mile, Brian left and was replaced by some decrepit old man who couldn’t fix anything on his own and required ultimate silence from all tenants. If he could hear anything from your door he’d bang the door and tell tenets you keep it down. He and his wife would patrol up and down the halls a few times a day to listen for TV’s and radios they could ear. I moved up to Minneapolis for a job commitment, and left the complex.

After my tour of duty in Minneapolis was up, I moved back to Rochester, and landed another apartment at Miracle Mile Apartments. I hoped to keep my noise level down in exchange for the extra roomy apartment. Unfortunately after a couple months I still hadn’t acquired a new roommate. I was going to have trouble affording the rent on the place without a roommate, and I was locked into a year long lease.

Nobody at work needed a place to stay, and the new apartment superintendant was finding things to bug me about on a regular basis. I think that old man was trying to turn the place into a nursing home. Soon there were feeble blue-haired old people with oxygen tanks. I knew I had to get out of my lease, but the manager said I had to fulfill my lease. Regular people were leaving in droves, to be replaced with grey-haired near-deads. I wasn’t about to let them wreck my credit, and I wasn’t going to pay rent on two places.

I became a gremlin around the complex. Some days I would wake up early and rearrange the lobby furniture or re-hang the wall art upside down in the hallways. The furniture was a little heavy, and I can only guess the old superintendant struggled to get it back in place every day. Either that or he’d have to call his manager and have younger maintenance guys come down and move everything back.

Rearranging the furniture wasn’t generating enough of a disturbance, I was only a mild annoyance at this point. I escalated my deviousness; I would come home late, after work, and after few cocktails at the bar down the block, and create quick but loud random noise. I’d bang on the dumpster sometimes moving to block traffic so it would have to be moved again - getting that person blaimed, knock on some doors, or firecrackers. Hit & Run tactics were the call. I wanted to disrupt the sleeping patterns of the caged blue-hairs and generate complaints, without getting caught. I would strive to make sure I wasn’t identified by making sure the noise wasn’t coming from my apartment, and that it didn’t last for long.

Since that wasn’t enough, I had to raise the bar again. I started making little trips out of my apartment in the wee hours to strategically place unidentifiable trash all over the complex. If I came home sober enough I could make the place look like a trailer court full of refugees lived there. I would leave Mountain Dew cans on ledges, tables, and shelves in the common areas. Near the superintendent's unit I would leave pop cans and wrappers. At this point I’m so busy causing mischief with trash, noise, and rearranging the furniture that I'm not getting enough sleep, and my drinking problem was starting to suffer as well.

I started small with all my misbehavior, and gradually it escalated. By the time I was almost done with my project and out of my lease I was leaving mountains of trash against the superintendent's door. Once I even piled the lobby couch and table against his door.

About six weeks of this and I was finally given the option to break the lease without penalty. The superintendents’ boss knew I wanted out, but he wouldn’t allow me to break my lease without penalty when I first suggested it. He knew I was the Gremlin, but had no proof. It was just easier for him to let me out of my lease, free to move to a cheap apartment - knowing the shenanigans would stop..

A decade later I moved to Phoenix. I had moved to a beautiful place called Squaw Pointe Peak Condominiums. It was nestled in the mountains just off HWY 51. It had several beautiful swimming pools, including one nestled up a small mountain peak with a beautiful view all the way downtown. I could see the opening of the brand new Bank One Ballpark while sitting in the pool several miles away. Unfortunately it would only last about 5 months, until the owner wanted to move back.

After our spell at Squaw Peak my buddy and I moved into La Mirada . It was one of those mega complexes with hundreds of units and welcoming balloons. Things started poorly and went downhill. Within a week assumed La Mirada must be Spanish slang for “The Shithole.” There were feral children running around and screaming all hours of the day, no maintenance was ever performed that we could see, constant vandalism to all the cars, and management couldn't care less because they already had you trapped into a lease.

Here's the address, so you can stay the heck away from this shithole;
La Mirada at Squaw Peak
1350 E Northern Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85020

Shortly after we moved in, my roommate Lee was organizing his gear when he found a rifle with a cracked butt tucked in the back of the closet. I had my car towed after I parked in a spot that previously had a tow-away zone sign. The sign was stolen about a week before I arrived. Management apologized, but I still had to pay the tow company. There was poor parking options and frequently I had to part a few blocks away when the lease included parking for 2, my car was vandalized, and the noise from the traffic on the nearby busy road was endless. The cops were constantly in the complex doing arrests for domestic violence and drugs. A couple of the cops informed us that La Mirada was well known for meth dealing. We ended up turning the gun into one of the talkative cops, in exchange for a complete report for documentation.

There was one particular asshat with a souped up VW bug with very loud glass-packs. He was well known by the building we lived in, because he would wake everyone up at 5:15am every morning! We left notes on his car asking him to stop the early morning over-revving, but that only encouraged him. We reported the noise violation to management, who didn’t care. Eventually we found the cool shiny tailpipes would bend down towards the asphalt. He revved up the next morning, and then you heard all kinds of racket and noise, followed by cussing. He backed up and bent the hell out of his exhaust system. That didn’t stop him either. One morning his wheel lug-nuts were all missing from his car. They had been removed and put through the management mail slot.

My roommate, Lee, and I decided to write a newsletter about the problems in the apartment. We called it "The La Mirada Underground Newsletter". Every unit had a clip on the door frame, so management could post eviction notices and the official monthly newsletter. Our first issue was only one page and we clipped it to about 50 units. The articles told tenants exactly who (particular apartment unit) was busted for domestic abuse and meth dealing, the cops helped a little. The name and apartment of the jackass with the loud VW bug, and other items like that, and with a little research we listed his phone number, place of employment, and his bosses phone number with instruction to call his boss daily, and his apartment at all hours!

For the next issue we expanded to two pages (both sides) and we placed advertisements from the yellow pages. We choose strategic ads like moving services, another apartment complex, and a security company. Inside were home addresses and phone numbers for all the complex managers, and direct numbers to the management company. With some careful searching we had everything short of their SSN in that issue. We got their attention, we were the chief suspects, but what could they do?

In that second issue I remember some sort of questionnaire, asking other tenants what the best definition/translation for La Mirada. Tenants were asked to respond, by clipping the response outside their door at a predetermined time, we had several replies. We had a top ten list in the 3rd issue.

I called the manager’s manager and asked him to fix all the problems. I also informed him about the rifle we found in the closet and gave him the police report number. He said that was impossible. I asked to move to the sister complex closer to where the Squaw Pointe Condo was. He agreed, until I demanded the same rate we had at La Mirada. Finally after some negotiation he agreed to let us out of our lease without penalty. I faxed a proper 30-day notice to his office. 30 days later we were moved into an older beautiful garden apartment. I have stories from there too…