Ooh yeah, the Billy Joel references couldn’t even wait for the main body of the screed. That proud son of the Guyland needed her in his house ’cause she was his home (just a starter home, of course). Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t mind having a good woman in my house, assuming a parallel universe in which I have so much as a studio apartment and am not trying to hack the residential aspects of life in a 2001 Civic. An improvement over the Audi of Many Colors? In narrow terms of the propriety of the paint scheme, yes, and in terms of fuel economy, but that’s it.

It sucks, and as I can demonstrate easily enough, callous relatives have contributed to this state of affairs. Farmer Uncle  is the one who, in some of the most weaselly and disingenuous ways imaginable, barred me from returning to the guest cottage where I had been staying at his and Stoner Aunt’s house after I walked out on them in desperation and disgust last May. He’s the one who has nonchalantly, in fact, far too nonchalantly, insinuated to anyone who will listen that my living in a tent on the farm in exchange for serving as his assistant farm manager is an acceptable arrangement. Civic living is but a concession to the weather, which feels a lot colder without recourse to an inhabitable dwelling than with one for five or six months of the year. I should specify, as Farmer Uncle conveniently omits, there is no flush toilet onsite. As a result, I don’t always move my bowels, but when I do, I usually drive into town to do so; most of my neighbors are more inclined to shit into some sort of box, likely overflowing. There but for the grace of the much-put-upon help goes the Department of Health, to shut the whole unsanitary operation down. Hardly a week goes by that I’m not at some point inclined to catalyze this blessed government intervention.

Billy Joel isn’t enough to get the job done. At a bare minimum, we’ll need some help from Glen Campbell, Jim Croce and Rodriguez to explain what’s wrong here, as well as code enforcement, bankruptcy court, and some receivers (the court-appointed kind, not the audiovisual kind) to sort out this Faulknerian nightmare. Rodriguez is right: you can’t get away from it, no, you can’t get away from it, but your futile attempts to get away from it are a lot faster and easier in a reliable sedan that gets 37 mpg highway on a good day, even if it looks like a goddamn jalopy, and is inexorably turning into one due to deferred maintenance.

Here’s another way to look at it. Farmer Uncle is housing his staff in conditions that are clearly uninhabitable under the Oregon state building code, and he’s charging some of them rent. It is clearly unlawful to charge rent for such dives; I have to think that only a corrupt or incompetent court wouldn’t invalidate his rental agreements on grounds of unconscionable squalor under 10 ORS Section 90.320 (shorter title: Don’t be a scumbag slumlord, you asshole).  Worse, not only is Farmer Uncle engaged in this shady, disgusting enterprise, but he has hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of money invested by friends and relatives tied up to facilitate the squalor as part of the package deal that is the farm. Yet not even his investors have the nerve to challenge him for this shit. As far as I can tell, they’re scared that any confrontation will be extremely unpleasant and nervewracking, and that it may have bad long-term effects on their relationships with him and Stoner Aunt.

So, to put it in even starker terms, we’ve regressed from the rule of law to the rule of men. This, among avowed liberals on the edge of a town where Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 80-12. Isn’t it a great country, America, where disingenuous quasisocialist assholes intimidate their friends and relatives for money so that they can pretend to be quaint yeomen! In Soviet Oregon, private joint stock company owns YOU!

Even if we redefine “it” as Yakov Smirnoff memes, you still can’t get away from it, no, you can’t get away from it.

With a good Russian name like that, you’d figure that the hackneyed immigrant jingoist knows a thing or two about the cold. So do I. Again, isn’t it a great country, America! Medford’s low this morning, March 23, was 25 F; it was probably a few degrees colder at the farm. Russians, or even the Klamabama rednecks on the other side of the hill, might regard this as balmy, but whattaya know, Russian building standards are more stringent. Shit, so are Oregon building standards, but to a lesser extent. The other night, I applied ten or twelve feet of masking tape to cracks in the winery door, which has a lot of them since it was hammered together from the damnedest pieces of splintered, unsanded trash wood. I also constructed a redneck cat door of sorts by folding a dirty, partly shredded old rag in half and taping it up above the open hole that the farm cats use to come and go from the winery. A real redneck would have used duct tape. Actually, more than a few honest-to-God rednecks would regard Farmer Uncle as a pitiful incompetent presiding over a contemptibly squalid wreck, especially after hearing about the other gaps in the walls that I have yet to mention, such as the missing window pane that has been replaced with a punctured piece of mid-gauge translucent plastic tarp. The list still isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea.

Farmer Uncle, being a lesser kind of redneck, apparently considers this building more or less adequate, and a great opportunity to preen over his cats in front of me: “Ooh, yes, Kitty is such of a good kitty, and Alien Watcher will feed you if you run out of food! Uh, yeah, you’ll feed them, right?” He also told me to move some clothes that I had laid out near the wood stove because that was one of the prissier cat’s favorite spots.

At the risk of bragging, may I mention that I have never passive-aggressively bugged an unpaid agricultural employee and shanty tenant of mine to take care of my valley cats while I neglect feeding them in order to preen over my other cat, the one I keep at home on the mountain? It’s a lot easier to live the petty virtues, the small graces, when one isn’t half-assedly maintaining two separate cathouses in two distinct microclimates. (And I wish they were the other kind of cathouse. Do I ever.) Nor have I ever neglected thousands of feet of bird netting from the previous fall all winter, then tried to light a fire under the help’s ass to pick up the pace at a time when his fingers were already chapped, knicked and bloodied from rolling hundreds of feet of the shit up at a time, sometimes having to untangle pieces of brush from the rolls because I was too lazy to properly dispose of the cuttings while pruning with the netting still in place.

The trouble here, I aver, arises from deeper problems than those attendant to being a principal in a labor-intensive agricultural operation. Farmer Uncle is getting sloppy in his craft and narcissistic in his social life. And, again at the risk of bragging, I’m the one who’s trying, successfully for the most part, to keep calm and carry on throughout this unconscionable horseshit from a 66-year-old.

The Civic helps. So does the leanness and professionalism of the Oregon State Police, a force spread too thin and generally of too decent a disposition to dog poor bastards for overstaying the eight-hour limit at freeway rest areas. I appreciate this, as I’ve lost count of the number of nights that I’ve spent as a guest of the state, and a contributor to its gas tax revenues as I struggle to modulate my car’s cabin temperature.

It’s really been quite an amazing frog-boiling exercise. I never meant to sleep in my car as a matter of course. I never meant to end up effectively homeless because my relatives-cum-employers used their exaggerated sense of grievance over one of the very rare times that I held them accountable for being deliberately malicious as an excuse to evict me from the only inhabitable place within three thousand miles where I could stay for extended periods. I never meant to end up getting by on multiple successive nights of fitful, shortened sleep on account of my rising every few hours to restart the wood stove or reset the breaker feeding the 1,500-watt space heater that I’d set up as an auxilliary heat source at the other end of the barn, the only one with an electrical hookup. I never meant to live for extended periods in a tent or in a cluttered, dusty old milking barn that hadn’t been properly repaired in at least 35 years. I never meant to have my parents invest money on my behalf in this clusterfuck, and then cower before the principals and bail them out when they got double-crossed by entering into an oral amendment to a written mortgage contract with another friend/investor/noteholder.

And good fucking God, pets are not people. The welfare of indoor-outdoor cats that you house in an uninsulated barn should be subordinated to the welfare of the unpaid farmhand that you house in the same barn. What a typical Ashland conceit, showing ostentatious solicitude for the comfort and whims of a couple of barnyard animals that one chronically neglects and contempt for one’s human employee and relative who lives in the same barn.

It’s a fine spot we’ve come to: supplicating to malignant narcissists who humiliate their near-homeless employees by preening over their fucking farm cats. Don’t be surprised to see litigation pursuant to these matters at some point.

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