Wednesday, December 7, 2016

This Dummy's Guide to Being a Slum Lord

snidely whiplash slum lord
Slum lord Snidely Uncool, at your service.
Not many people will admit their life’s ambition is to become a slum lord.
However, after spending a week repairing rental homes and the week after changing various bandages on my body, it seems like a solid career move.

I’m already off to a good start. First, I obviously own the property. (Did you seriously think I was fixing up some other people’s rental homes? Perhaps I can interest you in this nice bridge? Or electing me in 2020?) I also have the complementary skills of being both cheap and mechanically uninclined. And, I know for a fact, I look awesome with one of those Snidely Whiplash mustaches.
Blocking my path to success: my investment partner, my co-owner, aka — my wife.
Our journey started a few years ago. Following the crashes of Wall Street and the mortgage industry, we decided that picking up some modest vacation-destination units on the cheap might be a good long-term investment. After all, it couldn’t be worse than our previous schemes to cash in baseball cards and collectible Waterford Champagne flutes. The net of those moves: We ended up with lots of coasters on which we can rest our Miller High Life.
We chose the coast of North Carolina for our investment based on our two decades of vacationing there. Have you heard the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”? The person who coined it also struck upon the brilliant idea of owning an investment property in his soon-to-be former happy place. Now instead of looking forward to sipping cocktails to the sound of lapping ocean waves, a nine-hour drive south has me dreading the knocking back of over-the-counter painkillers to stifle the sound of my aching back.
I knew that when we purchased these units that they would require some elbow grease at the start and the occasional updating as time went on. Leaky faucets would need tightening. Dinged walls would need patching and painting. Videotape players would have to be replaced. Eventually. Maybe. I’m convinced someday they will make a vinyl record-like comeback.
Then My Love went all HGTV on me.
She began replacing couches that still had at least a little bounce left in their one functioning spring. Buying new bed pillows when the permanent head sweat stains on the old ones had yet to fully spread to the edges. Worst of all, she inflicted me with putting together build-it-yourself coffee tables and night stands — also known as Swedish waterboarding.
I’ll grudgingly admit that some of those things really needed to be done, even if it was by me, the man who thinks a crescent wrench is a technique for squeezing excessive gravy from a dinner roll. But then we had a conversation like this one during our latest episode of “Fixer Upper” that the rest of America called “Thanksgiving.”
“I want to you risk your life by climbing that ladder, unscrewing all those perfectly functional glass light covers on all the ceiling fans then replacing them with these very similar looking covers that I spent money on that very well could have gone to buying that beer-fetching drone you’ve been wanting,” she said, in essence.
“Have we received complaints about the light covers?” I said, more or less. “Are people writing in the comment book, ‘We love the water views from the house, and the hot tub is to die for but — oy, those light covers!’ ”
“No. Change them.”
So I did. Or I tried to. Many, many times. The new covers were roughly 1/32nd of some tiny increment of measurement too big for the holder. And if you’re wondering how many Uncools it takes to change a light cover, the answer is not “two.”
“Huh,” my wife conceded when she tried to confirm my unhandiness.
So maybe I should start growing that mustache after all. I have a feeling at least once next summer I will need to twirl it while yelling “Light cover be damned! You must pay the rent!”
-- A version of this was first ignored by the readers of The Stamford Advocate.

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