San Francisco is full of crappy places to call home, but Tim and I were lucky enough to live in the worst. It wasn't a crack den or in the projects, but if I can do it any justice with my feeble writing skills, by the end of my tale you will see that it was much, much worse than a crack den. It was such a dark, depressing time of our life, we didn't even take any pictures.
I was working in downtown San Francisco at the time, and Tim was about to start a job in Palo Alto. We decided to move from Oakland to SF so Tim wouldn't have a bridge commute. We also thought we were were financially comfortable enough to rent a house, and found a Craigslist ad for one in the Portola District, a 10 minute bus ride away from the Glen Park BART station. The street name was Bacon, which we took to be a good sign.
It turned out that the house was the first 2 stories of a 3-level building similar to the ones pictured above, with space in the garage for 1 car and half of the backyard. The interior was beautifully decorated and obviously remodeled with love. It was way too much space for us (this place was 2600 s.f. and we were moving from an 1100 s.f. apartment), but we figured we could use the entire bottom floor as a play area for Isaac (who was 2 at the time) and Riley.
The owner of the house was a young and hip Chinese chick who made a ton of money as a salesperson for some huge telecom company, and she claimed although she loved the house and had a good relationship with her upstairs neighbors, she wanted to live in a hipper neighborhood and had the money to keep this one while she lived it up in some loft somewhere. She seemed really laid-back and flexible, so we decided to rent the place right then and there.
We soon learned the real situation. The upstairs neighbors, a strange Filipino couple named Luz and Allen, were an obvious marriage of convenience (they were of much different ages and openly despised each other). Plus, they were absolutely nuts. Our landlord warned them that we had a young son and a big dog and they claimed they were okay with that. We also made sure that Riley was able to poop and pee on the wood chips in our part of the backyard, and they were okay with that, too. But once we moved in, almost every time we walked Riley back there (on leash of course, out of respect), Luz or Allen would be there, keeping an eye on things, making sure we didn't enter their part of the yard, that we picked up after ourselves appropriately, and even would replace the 2 pieces of wood chip that got picked up along with some poop (keep in mind that even though they were adamant that we not touch anything of theirs, they had no problem doing things like this on our stuff). Allen was retired, so he had nothing but time to stalk us like this. Every time we would open the door to go down the shared stairwell, he would open his door to make sure we turned off the hallway light. We forgot once and Luz taped an extremely angry letter to our door saying "You AGREED to turn of the lights EVERY TIME. You are WASTING MONEY!!!!!!!" We responded by re-attaching the letter to their door with a $20 bill taped to it. They responded back by re-attaching the letter to our door, but kept the money.
Luz and Allen were also anal about the garage. They would hang a futon pad on the outside of their car doors to keep away any dings we may give them. They would hire this poor contractor every couple weeks to repaint their cabinet doors white, standing right behind him while he worked to make sure he didn't cut any corners. Then they would inevitably find something wrong and refuse to pay him, telling him to fix his "mistakes" in a couple weeks.
When we asked a few friends over to have dinner to celebrate our new home, the get-together would be punctuated by occasional bangs on the floor. We were seriously just having dinner, no music was playing, just conversation amongst 8 people, including children. But the banging would keep coming, and our puzzled guests left with uncomfortable looks of sympathy on their faces at around 9 pm. Meanwhile, there was a huge party going on across the street, complete with drunken fistfights and house music blaring like a nightclub. So when the police knocked on our door around midnight with a noise complaint, we figured it was because of that party.
"Ma'am, we got a disturbance of the peace call."
I was in my pajamas. "Oh, you must be talking about the party across the street? It wasn't that bad actually."
"Um, actually, the caller gave us this address specifically, unit #1."
"Really??? We just had a few friends over for dinner, and they've been gone for a while. Our upstairs neighbors probably called, they didn't like the noise and were banging on our ceiling until our guests left."
The SF policewoman looked really, really annoyed and asked if she could enter so she can tell off Luz and Allen herself. Allen excitedly opened his door when the policewoman knocked, and started railing about how loud we were. But the cop sternly told him that he was completely in the wrong, he just wasted everyone's time, and she had her eye on him, and if she received any more frivolous calls she would take action against him. Oh, it was awesome.
Another day, we had a friend stay over from Vancouver with her 2-year-old daughter. The sound of 2 kids running around laughing during the middle of the day on a Saturday was enough for Luz and Allen to slam what sounded like 50-pound weights down on their floor, over and over again until our friend's little girl started crying, then they pounded on the floor to express their displeasure at the crying. Needless to say, our friends looked for other lodging.
Over the course of a few weeks, Riley started acting strangely. He no longer wanted to go out back to pee and would instead have accidents for the first time in his life downstairs. Things got so bad that we eventually laid down several layers of industrial-strength vinyl under some newspaper so he could go potty that way because he would just cower at the door frame and shake. We wondered what was going on while we were at work, but couldn't do much about it. Then one day I had to call in sick and saw Allen climb down the emergency ladder into our patio. He started screaming at Riley and shaking this noisemaker device. Riley cowered in the corner furthest away from the patio door. As I approached him, Allen turned pale and scurried back up the ladder yelling "Keep that damn dog away from me!"
Things deteriorated quickly after that. They called our landlord repeatedly complaining about the dog smell and the mess we were making in the backyard. She would then come over and look around and see that none of their claims were true, apologizing each time, saying that Luz and Allen were annoying but ultimately harmless.
Then came the harm. I was dragging Riley into the backyard before leaving for work when suddenly I heard from the upstairs deck, "Goddamn motherfucker!!!" I looked up to see Allen, and then he sprayed me with his garden hose. Riley cowered and immediately ran back into the house, and I knew this wasn't the first time Allen terrorized him with the hose. I ran back inside as well, dripping wet, and told Tim what happened. Tim was enraged, and opened the front door to see Allen sheepishly scurrying down the stairwell to escape. Then a shouting match occurred, where Allen claimed he did nothing, that I was a liar, he didn't know what I was talking about, and that actually he was aiming for the dog. Idiot.
We called our landlord and told her we were moving out and she let us go without any argument. We were out of there within a week to some ghetto house in south Hayward. A few days after we moved, we got a letter of apology and our original deposit check back. A few days after that, we got an email from her that she found another renter: a good friend of hers, in fact. And with a smirky emoticon, she oh-so-casually mentioned that he was a single dad...with a very large German Shepherd...and was black. And Luz and Allen haven't made a peep. Apparently he scared them into silence. What a punchline!
Actually, the even funnier punchline was that we paid $2500 a month for the privilege of living with these lunatics. Looking back, I can't believe we survived it.