In a recent Ketamine-induced dream, I dreamt that I owned a mobile home park in central New York State. The park had fifty lots in all, forty-eight of which were occupied. The two empty lots had park-owned homes on them. One of the park-owned homes — the one closest to the pole barn and pump-house — was a small pre-HUD home that a guy named Alex, who I had hired to work as maintenance guy, lived in. Alex had brought his girlfriend to live with him. The girlfriend had invited her sister, her sister’s HOB, and the sister and HOB’s two teenaged children, to live with them. I fired Alex. Alex moved out, but the girlfriend, the girlfriend’s sister, the HOB and the children stayed and trashed the place. When I filed a motion for eviction, I learned that the law had changed, and that I needed the name of everyone residing on the premises had to be on the warrant, but residents’ names kept changing and people kept moving in and out of the home.
Ketamine is a gentle hallucinogen, but it can induce strong emotions in the voyager. I wept bitterly and dug my nails into the palms of my hands when I dreamt of what Alex and his people had done to me.
The other empty park-owned home sat on the other end of the park and was called Hamburger Hill. It had been bought from the guy I had bought the park from, out of another park that he owned on the other side of town. One young family had lived there for a few years. When they moved out, the home was infested with fleas, bedbugs and cockroaches. The cockroaches didn’t bother me because I was — I dreamed — from New York and my wife was from Taiwan, but the fleas would jump up and bite your ankles and leave you scratching and writhing as soon as you entered the home. We heat-treated and bombed the place and then unleashed wave after wave of contractors whose mission was to rehab it. That is where it got the name ‘Hamburger Hill’. Everyone who tried to fix the place was pushed back, ground up and turned to hamburger.
The real Hamburger Hill was named Hill 937 by the U.S. military and Dong Ap Bia by the Vietnamese. In 1969, it was the site of a bloody and, ultimately, futile assault by U.S. airborne troops. The hill was difficult to take because it was steep and covered with thick layers of hard shrubs like bamboo and elephant-grass, and because the North Vietnamese were dug in when the Americans began their approach. The nature of the terrain made air support difficult; the fighting was close-in small arms and grenades combat, and communication between different units was difficult. After heavy casualties, the Americans secured the hill on May 20, but relinquished control of it shortly thereafter, when they realized that it did not have strategic importance.
The first guy to work on our Hamburger Hill was J.B., the maintenance guy who preceded Alex. He did a fair job, but one of the pipes that fed the tub leaked and turned the sub-floor that supported the tub to mush. The second was a guy named Adam, who had rehabbed the home across from it in 2016. One of the first things that Adam had asked me when we first met was, “Do you have kids?” I said, “Two that I know about.” He said,
-I had my first when I was fifteen.
-What the fuck?
-I went out to a bar and woke up between two sisters. Their mother was standing over us, yelling.
I paid Adam five grand to rehab Hamburger Hill. He did a barely-adequate job, but we found a woman willing to lease the home after it was done, so I thought no harm no foul.
When Adam rehabbed the home across the street in 2016, he told me that his oldest son — the son who he had fathered when he was fifteen — was lost to heroin. When he was rehabbing Hamburger Hill last year, he would hit me up for money — cash, the same day, now — when I would come up to visit. I would explain that I did not carry cash any more, and that I would pay the balance when the job was done.
Asking for money before a job is done is bad use of working capital. Asking for money immediately, cash, now is addict behavior.
The woman who leased the home asked Alex to fix a few things. He took her money and did not do any work. She moved out. After she left, we found that she had torn out a light-box and a cabinet and ripped up the flooring in the kitchen. The sub floor under the tub was still soft and the hot water tank ready to fall through the floor. A team of squirrels had found a hole in the diaper underneath the home and built a large, elaborate nest in the crawl-space insulation.
I placed an ad on Craigslist for someone to fix it. We hired a guy named Domanick (Dom the Handyman). Dom quoted me a price of two and a half grand to make it right. He wrote up a scope of work, we both signed it, he gave me the original. He told me that he usually did contracts via DocuSign. He took Zelle and Venmo. He told me that he would be at the job site the next day.
He seemed professional.
I gave him half up-front. The next day, he did not show up. He said that he would show up the day after. He did not show up then. He said that he would finish over the weekend. He did show up for part of one day on the weekend, but did not do much work. He asked for the balance. I said that I would not pay him the balance until the work was done and the code enforcer had signed off. He said he needed the money because he was travelling out of town on Monday. I asked how the bloody hell he expected to finish the job if he would be out of town. He said that I had to pay the balance because he was depending on it. I said, Sorry. Not my problem. Then, he started saying ‘yes’ to everything. He did not answer the phone or return calls, but all his texts were, ‘Kk, it will be done tomorrow’, ‘I see what you mean. I will do it this week’, ‘I will be there in the morning’.
But he never showed up.
I filed a complaint with the BBB and put another ad on Craigslist.
The new guy is not local. He is a native of Worchester, MA, and has the accent to prove it. He is in the neighborhood because he is a flipping a house in town. So far, I am cautiously optimistic. He showed up when he said he would, responds to texts and calls, walked through the place twice to make sure of the scope of work, wrote everything up, and seems to know what he is doing. He owns a kayak. But we will see what happens. So many people talk a good game — and so few people actually do what they say they will.
Ketamine has a glide-path like an inverted hockey-stick. The climb is rapid, but the effects tail off gradually. You return to earth about an hour after liftoff. Near the end of my dream, I saw myself after the objective had been obtained. The 101st Airborne were sitting on top of Hamburger Hill. Much of the bamboo and elephant grass that had impeded their progress had been burned by napalm and random explosives. In a few day’s time, General Wright would decide that the objective had no value and would order them to withdraw. In my Hamburger Hill, the rehabs were done. After you factored in home rent collected since I bought the home, I had about thirty-one grand into it. But the asset had no strategic value. I did not want it on my balance sheet and I would probably sell it at a loss. But that was OK, because so long as the home stayed in the park, I would get lot rent, and that was worth C/(r-i). My Hamburger Hill had a good ending — I dreamed — because in my case the hill was a structure, but the real value was in the dirt underneath it.