They Have The Nerve To Say I’m A Safety Hazard

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July 1, 2016

Earlier this week, I was given a written lease violation by my apartment complex manager, citing me and my neighbor for illegally trapping and taking the life of rodents, which for the past several years have become out of control. These rodents like to dig up and destroy our flowers. Below is a copy of my response to the office manager, who declared our acts of murder to be a safety hazard. As you can see in the above photograph of a refrigerator which has been sitting in the middle of the sidewalk for two months, the entire apartment complex is nothing more than one big safety hazard.  The cement mixer has been sitting in the yard even longer.  Making matters worse, just to the right of these two items is the only remaining playground equipment left in the complex, a set of monkey bars.

The first month I moved into Pine Village Apartments fifteen years ago, I told the then office manager that my gutter leaked, and with if being winter, this caused the stoop right outside my front door to become an ice-skating rink. The office manager replied, “They all do.” Not only was her reply crass, but she was telling the truth, as I have found out over the years that indeed they all do.

A few weeks later, my next-door neighbor’s little girl came over selling Girl Scout cookies. As she stepped back when I opened the door, she slipped and fell on the ice-covered stoop. Being an habitual writer of letters, I wrote the owners of the complex, informing them that it was a miracle that this little girl did not bust her head wide open on the edge of the stoop, slipping on ice because the gutters leak. Fifteen years later, the gutters still leak. A few years back, the owners had to replace the roofs on all the buildings in the complex, because they too leaked. However, the owners had their landscaping crew replace the roofs as cheaply as possible. All they did was to lay sheet metal on top of a 1×1 inch framing they laid on top of the old plywood. The roofing fascia in which gutters are attached are all rotted, so they left the leaking gutters alone, re-hanging the old gutters. The fascia is so rotted; the gutters are barely hanging, as it is hard to drive a nail into.

When it rains hard, it’s like walking under a waterfall to enter an apartment. I have had my UPS man toss a package to me because of the waterfall on more than one occasion. And, because the gutters leak, it rots the storm doors. Belmont Properties, the owners of my apartment complex have replaced so many storm doors, that they now no longer replace them. When a storm door goes bad, they just remove it. Thankfully, I have a relatively new door. After it rains hard, I swing my storm door back and forth six or eight times to drain the water from it. The apartment complex looks quite cheap seeing every other apartment not having a door.

For three years, I worked as a part-time maintenance worker for the complex. I know what a safety hazard is. This apartment complex if full of them, and no, it’s not trapping rodents.

Steven H. Spring
Earth

June 30, 2016

Linda Midkiff
Office Manager
Pine Village Apartments
355 Clifton Road
South Charleston, Ohio 45368

Dear Linda,

In regard to your lease violation, dated June 22nd, I would like to reply in writing, as is my right as stated in the notification. You cited both David Hazlett and me for trapping rodents and taking their life, citing section XVII-2 of my lease agreement and section 17.G of the attached Rules and Regulations. Reading both of the sections, I see nothing specifically regarding the trapping of rodents. One might argue that it is the rodents who are both a safety and health hazard, not the trapping of them. Coming from an apartment complex that in the past has trapped and illegally dumped many cats, I find this citation ludicrous. Making matters worse is that one of your maintenance men actually feeds rodents during the winter months.

Ground squirrels, which are what David and I are attempting to get rid of, have become a nuisance in that they are destroying our flowers. The especially love lilies. We are not the only tenants who complain about rodents destroying our gardens. I have even heard you complain on more than one occasion about the problem. David and I both take great pride in our flower gardens and to see flowers destroyed every single morning is demoralizing, not to mention the cost associated with replacing them. You stated that the single rat trap in which we use to trap these rodents are a safety issue for children on the property. This could not be further from the truth, as neither of us has children nor do we ever have children visit. When a trap is set, it is always placed well out-of-the-way on our patios. No one ever knows that the trap is there.

What I find especially irritating is that for years, David and I have maintained the lawn and surrounding common area in the summer and shoveled snow from the sidewalks in the winter. Last summer, my eighty-year-old next-door neighbor bought a weed eater for us to use. David then bought a leaf blower so he would not have to sweep the sidewalk. Before David moved into a handicapped apartment a few months ago, he and I maintained the entire four-apartment side of our building. In addition to maintaining the lawn during the summer months, we also trimmed many of the trees around our building. One might argue that the low hanging branches of the trees are a safety hazard, especially the very low hanging dead branches of the big oak tree by the driveway. With no leaves, these branches are especially hard to see. They very easily could poke someone’s eyes out.

I will never forget how, last summer before Ken bought his weed eater, David was sitting on the sidewalk leading up to Ken’s apartment with a pair of scissors trimming his grass. While I was talking to him, you walked over to talk to us but said not a single word about David trimming Ken’s grass with a pair of scissors. After you left, I said to David “If I were the office manager, I would have told you ‘If you want, you can borrow our weed eater.” However, you said nothing, totally ignoring David’s act of kindness.

In the winter, David and I always shoveled the snow off the sidewalk running the entire length of our side of the building along with the sidewalk where they park their vehicles. Not only does David, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, shovel snow but he buys salt to make the sidewalk passable. Two winters ago, while at the grocery store, I saw David with a five-pound bag of rock salt getting ready to walk home, as his car was not running. As I have no vehicle, I walked home with him, which is roughly a one-mile hike each way. I kept asking him to let me carry the bag of salt, but he would not let me. He had to stop and sit down three or four times in order to make it home. I did not think he was going to make it home.

He and I have both been known to shovel water off the sidewalk when it rains, because the sidewalk has settled maybe an inch or two and when it rains heavy, not only water but also mud collects on it. I have seen David many times shoveling both water and snow from the sidewalk well into the evening hours. However, I think I can safely say for the both of us that the days of shoveling snow and water are over. This will not be a burden on me, but I worry about both David and Ken. However, it is not my responsibly to shovel the sidewalk. Nor am I paid to. In the summer, David and I will probably maintain the grass around our gardens, as we both take great pride in our yards. Neighbor Ken appreciates our work as well and he occasionally likes to cut the grass in his little front yard with his weed eater too. David says he no longer will cut your grass. He has recently given to his mother many of his flowers, as he is so disgusted with this lease violation. However, come next spring his outlook might change.

David and I spend many hours each week making our section of Pine Village look its very best. It is not our job to do so. However, to get shit-on for some trivial matter such as trapping a rodent population that is out of control, and destroying our personal property is asinine.

Belmont Properties should be embarrassed.

Sincerely,

Steven H. Spring

It’s All In My Genes

Grandpa's Father's Band (1C)November 13, 2015

As I turn a rather significant milestone number on this date, oddly enough a Friday the 13th, I have begun thinking more and more about life. I have always been one to self-analyze, and events from forty years ago still haunt me to this day, however, lately I’ve been wondering how much my life could have been different, if not for just one or two events. Everything in life has a bearing on each individual’s outcome, and we all could say if only such-and-such hadn’t happened, or if I hadn’t met so-and-so, however the two events that could have greatly shaped my life only caused a much longer period of time for the events to come somewhat into fruition. Or maybe I’m just a late bloomer.

I never knew my father. My mother moved back home with her parents when she divorced him and lived with her father until he passed away sixteen years ago. My grandmother died in 1971, and Mom died maybe two years after Grandpa. All I knew about Grandpa’s musical background was that every once in a while when I was very young, he would get out his Old Kraftsman acoustic guitar that he bought from a Montgomery Ward catalog in 1942 and played and sang all those old-time songs like You Are My Sunshine. Grandpa always complained about his health, and once after listening to him talk one more time about not feeling well, I ask him if I could have his guitar when he died. I did not realize it at the time but this request would cause much trouble between me and all my siblings.

When I bought my first Stratocaster on my fortieth birthday, in the midst of a rather serve mid-life crisis that cost me everything, my next younger brother and an ex-brother-in-law would come out to my old farmhouse every other Saturday (with all three divorced, this worked out well for visitation with the children) and we would play all day, cook a big feast and have a great time. They both had been playing since they were teenagers. I would set the pace on rhythm and they would take turns on lead and vocals. This went on for five years until I finally lost the farmhouse and moved into an apartment fourteen years ago. At first, they would come out maybe once a year, then gradually less often.

That all ended some years back, mostly I believe because of Grandpa’s guitar. Willie, my ex-brother-in-law was killed about five ago when he was electrocuted at work and suffered a massive heart attack and died a week later. When I would tell friends about my playing it was always my two brothers, not an ex-brother-in-law. It was my guitars that gave me the will to live during my mid-crisis. And still do to this very day.

Getting back to the above photo, this is a photograph of my great-grandfather’s band. Looking at the photo, my great-grandfather is sitting in the front row, on the right side playing what looks like a G chord. I grew up living with Grandpa but never knew that photo existed until right before he died. After I asked for his guitar, my brother soon spoke up to request the photo.  When I first saw this photo, I ask Grandpa if they played bluegrass, since there were four mandolin players plus that crazy looking instrument in the front row, not to mention that Grandpa’s father side of the family comes from southern Ohio hill country. Grandpa let me know that they played country music, not bluegrass. It was like he was offended that I asked if they played bluegrass. If anything, they probably played a little of both. When my mother died, riding with my brother on the way to the cemetery, he told me that it was he that should have got Grandpa’s guitar. I told him that he should have ask for it. Fifteen years later, I believe the guitar lies at the heart of why I have nothing to do with any of my siblings.

However, it is on my father’s side of the family where the story get’s interesting. All I knew of the man was that he was a photographer in the Navy. I was born in the Portsmouth, Virginia Naval Hospital. I have an 8×10 photo he took of me when I was very young that I tried to recreate with my son. It is eerie to look at both photos side by side in a photo album. Somebody told me a few years back that he might have been a police photographer in Los Angeles. When Grandpa died, at one of his viewings, my father’s sister showed up, having seen the obituary in the paper. I spoke with her for five minutes and was amazed by what she told me. Not only was my father a photographer but their father had a darkroom in his basement. I do not remember if she told me he was a professional or just a very serious amateur. However, to have a darkroom in his basement, he was definitely serious about photography.

So, on one side of my family I have a grandfather and great-grandfather who were guitar players and on the other side I have a father and grandfather who were photographers. One look at my apartment and it’s easy to see why I have wall-to-wall guitars, amps, stereo speakers, PA system and 20×30 enlargements hanging on every conceivable wall space. In an even weirder occurrence, I bought my first 55 gallon fish tank back in 1982. But it was not until almost twenty years later that my mother thought to tell me that my father’s father also had fish tanks. I now have two 55 gallon tanks plus a 125 gallon tank. A few years back, I had a third 55 gallon tank in my kitchen and a 30 gallon tank in the bedroom.

Taking long walks down to my local library several times a week gives me plenty of time to think and reflect on many things. Reaching an age that I have yet to disclose and will not do so, I think about what could have been. If only I had Grandpa teach me to play the guitar when I was young. I loved rock & roll and thought those songs Grandpa played were as far apart as the aisle separating the two Houses of Congress. If only my mother and father hadn’t divorced and I grew up with a photographer for a dad and a grandfather who had a darkroom in his basement. I could have shot some great photos at all those concerts I’ve attended since the early ‘70s. It wasn’t until I got out of the Navy before I started shooting concerts, having bought my first 35mm SLR camera and lens while overseas right before I was discharged after serving four years. They outlawed cameras at concerts several years later. I wonder what might have been. It seems to me that I was born to play the guitar and take pictures. If only I had known.

I do regret that when young, I was too foolish to think that Grandpa played hillbilly music when I only wanted to rock. I only wish I was smart enough to have asked Grandpa to teach me how to play the guitar and teach me all those old-time songs. I can, however play You Are My Sunshine. Oh yeah, I turned 60. But, don’t tell anyone!!!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

 

Left Alone To Die

October 13, 2015

Twenty years ago today, on October 13, 1995, oddly enough a Friday, life as I knew it ended. Technically, I did not actually die, and there were a few close calls, but that whole day sure felt like hitting a brick wall head-on doing ninety miles an hour. It was on that dreadful day that I was falsely accused by a subordinate at work of sexual harassment, along with several other serious charges. After being interrogated by a couple of “investigators” and after numerous hearings, I was found innocent of all charges by the Auditor of State of Ohio, which I was employed at the time as an audit supervisor. However, the acquisitions resulted in me losing everything that mattered most in life. It cost me my job, career, health, marriage and most of all my precious children.

What cost me my career was that between my attorney and myself, we made the entire Auditor of State’s office look like bumbling idiots. At my final hearing, it was just the two of us against every high-ranking official in the Auditor’ office except for only the Auditor of State himself. And yet, they looked like complete fools. My attorney kicked all their asses. Each hearing led to another with more officials getting involved. I remember one time someone had to warn the Columbus district supervisor that he needed to calm down, so out of control was he. It was far more circus than kangaroo court. If only I had hired my attorney prior to being interrogated. During the interrogation, I was denied repeated requests for legal counsel by the two “investigators.” I was even told I could not leave after stating more than once that I was going back to work. It wasn’t until they brought in their supervisor, that legal order was somewhat restored.

Losing everything all at once was hard enough to take, however to make matters far worse was the ordeal of quitting my medication cold-turkey. I kept working for about six months after the acquisitions were first filed against me, and over that time, with the approval of two doctors I upped the amount of anti-depressants that I was taking four times the amount one should ever take. When I lost my job and benefits, my nightmare really begin. I went through Hell, both emotionally and physically, while withdrawing cold-turkey from the anti-depressants. I still suffer from numerous side affects of the withdrawal, and will probably do so the rest of my life. Only by the grace and mercy of God did I survive.

My children meant the world to me. I grew up never knowing my father. And, to say that my mother and I never got along is putting it mildly. The best way to sum up my relationship with my mother is something my ex-wife once said to me; my mother told her that she had better think twice before marrying me. Wow, what a ringing endorsement (that accidental pun is intended). If truth be told, it was my ex who asked me to marry her. I did, however, end up in a bad marriage.

The relationship with my ex-wife ended not long after our children were born. I place no blame on the children, it was solely the fault of both my ex and myself, but that was what happened. Except for going to a Buckeye football game once a year and an occasional concert, we did nothing together.  Sad to say, we even stopped talking to each other. When my babies came into my life, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Losing them devastated me. I paid a terrible price for any youthful indiscretion that may have possessed me. It haunts me every single day, and will haunt me all my remaining days.

If any good came out of my mid-life crisis it was buying my first Fender Stratocaster guitar exactly one month after that horrific day, which was my fortieth birthday. I can take a decent photograph, but playing a guitar has been a life-long dream. I’m still not very good, but believe I am getting pretty close to being really good. My guitars gave me the will to live during many dark years. And, still do to this very day. My ordeal also gave me some great ideas for putting words down on paper. I pull no punches, and as I once told a psychologist, my mouth has always gotten me in trouble, as I have always spoken my mind.

The following is something I wrote in April of 2001;

Left alone to die,
I was left all alone to die.
No one seemed to care,
No one had the decency to come by.

The look of death, my neighbor said,
Was evident in my eyes.
In and out of emergency rooms,
Was the only way I managed to get by.

Down on the farm and down on my luck,
And with a family that did not give a fuck.
So unstable was I at that time,
That I destroyed my brand new, bright red Dodge pick-up truck.

Left alone to die,
I was left all alone to die.
If it wasn’t for the man above,
I would not have survived.

Physicians whom I no longer had a plan,
Left me all along to die, there is little doubt.
Of the Hell I went through,
When the meds suddenly all ran out.

Down on my knees, shakin’ in pain,
Out of control and out of my mind.
Pleading with the good Lord, please help me get by,
Life was unbearable, all I wanted to do was die.

Lawyers too, had stopped their shout,
No longer cared after the money ran out.
Cost me my job and career,
They had nothing to lose, nothing to fear.

Family whom I no longer had,
Left me there all alone to die.
If it wasn’t for the merciful man up above,
I never would have survived.

Steven H. Spring

Half Breeds

December 18, 2013

No, this isn’t a racist rant against human beings of different races propagating, but about tropical fish doing so.  I decided to use this particular title just to catch reader’s attention, purely for shock value.  In nature, I know very well that a male dog will attempt to breed with any female.  A miniature male Chihuahua would try to breed with a Great Dane bitch, even if he needed a stepladder to do so, however, it seems that for the most part, the animal kingdom usually stick with their own kind, much to my amazement.  How, for instance, do birds recognize their own?  How do they know what they themselves look like, in order to breed with a similar looking mate?

Earlier this summer, I restocked one of my fifty-five gallon fish tanks with several different varieties of American Cichlids, such as Red Devils, Texas Cichlids, Black Convicts, Jack Dempseys and Green Severums.  About a month ago, maybe two, I noticed that a pair of Cichlids had bred, as there were maybe 30-40 very small fry swimming madly among the rocks at the bottom of the tank.  However, much to my amazement, the two Cichlids that had produced the fry were a Texas Cichlid (probably the male, as it is the larger of the two) and a Black Convict.

As a serious tropical fish hobbyist, I bought my first fifty-five gallon tank in 1982, after first buying a ten-gallon tank maybe a year earlier.  I know people think I’m nuts when I tell them I communicate with my fish, especially the Red Devils, however I am serious about doing so.  Red Devils have such a personality!  I had one who lived to be almost fifteen years old.  They are such a large, aggressive fish, that once they get so big, I end up keeping just one by itself in a fifty-five gallon tank.  I tell people who get up close to the tank that he isn’t mad at them for looking at him, he is mad at me for letting them do so.

Over the years, I have had several breeding pairs of fish, although only once did the fry survive long enough to grow large enough to avoid becoming dinner to the other fish in the tanks.  I currently have two fifty-five gallon tanks and a one hundred and twenty-five gallon tank.  Living in a very small apartment, my neighbors and friends were always amazed that at one time I had another fifty-five gallon tank and a thirty-gallon tank, three of which were given to me over the years.

As the fish in my largest tank are getting somewhat old, hopefully all of the young fry survive, as they would save me a lot of money when the time comes to restock that tank.  With a little bit of luck, the breeding pair of Cichlids will do their thing several more times in the coming years.

Steven H. Spring