Although we have settled in nicely into our new home, there are still a couple of aspects of Southern life that I have yet to get used to. Oh, I’ve mastered yelling “UNSWEET” quickly after I order my iced tea. I’ve figured out what a Meat and Three is and I’ve even learned that rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey, as well as making Tennessee cars slow to .4 mph. But even after all of these Southern life lessons, my biggest conundrum remains: how anything gets done around here.
I’ve said before that someone could make a fortune actually providing services that people want and need down here, and yes, I realize that makes me sound like a Yankee carpetbagger. But then at least YOU’D HAVE SOMEONE INSTALLING CARPETS, SOUTH.
Our homeowner troubles began before we even moved in when the landscaper from the previous owner wanted to charge us $5600 for yard work. On the yard that he had been paid to maintain. And then it was the cable company who installed cable in the house, but if I wanted any “non-covered” services like moving the TV or putting batteries in the remote, I could pay them cash on the side.
We hired a carpenter to build some shelves and install a wine cooler. After months of excuses, on the day he was supposed to deliver it his wife emailed to say the cooler had died in an unfortunate car accident on the way to our house along with the receipt and dental records.
I had a repair man come out to fix our gas grill. Before he even rounded the corner to the back yard, he threw up his hands and declared that “on behalf of myself and Sears, I decline to work on this equipment,” as if he was stating his intentions to a hidden NSA agent. He said I didn’t have a “grill,” I had a “De-luxe Bar-B-Cue System,” that required a specialty repair service from a fire and hearth store, despite having bought the stupid thing at Sears the year before.
We’ve had three different trash companies because they just stop picking up, you know, trash?
I’ve been on the phone getting solicited to sign a service contract with an A/C company that I’m already under contract with. When I reminded them that I was due for a service call, I had to wait 2 1/2 months before they could find an opening. And they even had to reschedule that appointment because “it looked like rain.”
When we decided to get an outdoor fireplace built like many of our neighbors, I started calling the numbers from some of the home magazine advertisements. Only one actually came out and then wouldn’t show us a rendering until we paid a deposit so we wouldn’t use anyone else. I went to a store that had outdoor fireplaces on display at its entrance. I filled out a request form in person for a contractor to contact me. Not only did they never call, but I think they blocked my number and put my picture on the wall warning that I was as dumb as, and therefore not to be sold any boxes of rocks.
So when in a last ditch effort for outdoor warmth a postcard addressed to “Resident” which I was beginning to doubt referred to me, arrived with pictures of fire pits and hardscapes I was not only hesitant and skeptical, but perhaps a bit masochistic when I placed the call.
I left a message knowing full well it would only end in ignored heartbreak, but much to my shock and awe, he returned the call. And he came out that same day to take measurements and give me a brochure. And then he emailed me that very night with an actual price quote.
And then if I heard him right over my screams of joy, he said he could start the work on MONDAY.
When the orchestra of angels quieted, I sent a quick note to my Homeowner’s Association letting them know that s’mores were being served at our house next weekend and instead of offering to bring graham crackers, the woman sent back an architectural modification request form and instructions that it would take 45 days for a response.
45 days? South, have you met you?
Because I assume that a Homeowners Association are owners of homes associated with my geographic area and therefore know that the number of obstacles, natural disasters, suspicious fires, and shiny things that can derail a home maintenance project in the South are only outnumbered by the amount of cowboy boots and aspiring country singers at Tootsies on a Saturday night.
And before you think this is only limited my bad northerner luck, our neighborhood clubhouse holds a support group for grief-ridden residents mourning the loss of their deposits and souls to a driveway sealant company every Tuesday.
At the time of this publication, I face a dilemma. Do I listen to the proverbial angel on my shoulder telling me to submit the required paperwork, wait for the inevitable approval a month and half later and based on nothing in my history, experience or common sense hope that the contractor will still be in business, available and/or not incarcerated? Or does the devil’s advice of submitting the paperwork but going ahead with the project before the actual approval comes and risking nasty letters and possible fines from HOA win out?
I hear official stationary makes the best kindling on cool Southern nights.
Fire-roasted, Marinated Red Peppers and Olives
(Adapted from the Viking Cooking School) vikingrange.com
2 large red peppers
3 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
5-6 oz. pitted olives such as kalamata
Vinaigrette (Use the extra on a salad or a dip for fresh bread)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
!/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1.) Char the red peppers by placing directly over an open flame such as an illegal outdoor fireplace or your gas stove burner. Hold with tongs to blacken the entire surface then place into a bowl and tightly wrap with plastic. Let sit in wrapped bowl for 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
2.) Peel away all of the skin off the peppers, remove core and seeds, and slice into thin strips. Arrange on small platter.
3.) Mix the first 6 vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil to form a dressing. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Set aside.
4.) Pour half of the marinade over the peppers, rough chop the olives and mix in the remaining marinade. Layer olives over top peppers and sprinkle on capers. Serve at room temperature.
5.) Serve proudly at the next HOA Disciplinary Hearing.
©2013 Tracey Henry