Read The Suburban You Online

Authors: Mark Falanga

The Suburban You (2 page)

Say Goodbye to Your City Accountant

When you lived in the city, you became a client of an accountant to whom your friend Bill Smith referred you. Your accountant's name is Brian, and he lives with his wife. You think that he told you that he was forty years old or so. Brian and his wife do not have children, but they have a big dog that intimidates you every time you visit Brian at tax time. You deal with it because Brian is a good accountant and you like the fact that he works out of his home and is not part of some Big 10, Big 8, Big 6, or whatever type of accounting firm it is that charges you hundreds of dollars an hour to support their big whatever overhead.

You have worked with Brian for several years, and you like that. It is a theme that runs through your life. You like stable relationships. You like that he knows you and your record-keeping well enough that you no longer have to explain every little line item to him. He owns a few buildings and you like that, because you do, too, and you think that he knows how to position you in the most tax-advantaged way to the IRS.

Brian looks like an accountant. If you ran into Brian somewhere and you did not know him and someone asked you, “What do you think that guy does?” you would respond that you think that he is an accountant. Why? Well, Brian is pasty-looking, summer and winter. You are not sure if he goes outside at all. You have seen him in T-shirts and you would say that he lacks muscle definition. You would also say that he has a paunch. It is not a beer belly, because you are not sure if Brian drinks beer. If he does, you think it would be out of a glass, not a bottle.

Brian waddles when he walks and his voice is a little nasal, like a good accountant's voice should be. His fingernails need trimming and they are dirty. He is methodical in his approach to everything.

You see him as rather asexual. He talks about his wife, but you have never ever seen her. She works at Kraft, you are told, and is a corporate executive. It all fits, but sometimes you wonder if he really does have a wife or if this is just a fabrication for the benefit of his tax clients. On this topic, you have even gone so far as to think that perhaps all of Brian's talk about his “wife” is a way for him to justify, in case he has to someday, taking a larger tax deduction by filing a joint return. This point about Brian's wife is one that you will never bring clarity to.

The other interesting thing about Brian is that you have never seen him wear shorts, not even on the hottest summer days. You usually see him in the winter, and his house is as hot as your nana's New York City apartment used to be. You keep your billable discussions with Brian brief, not because you are concerned with getting overbilled but because you are so frigging hot that you can't stand it. Once you asked Brian if he would mind opening a window and you knew by his facial expression that he did not think it was a good idea. You never asked again.

This year, you pick up your completed tax forms, with all the envelopes addressed and affixed with the proper postage (you love those envelopes and the postage, and that, alone, was enough to keep you coming back to Brian). Your tax forms are thicker than usual, because they include additional schedules for selling your city house and buying your suburban home.

When you pick up your forms Brian announces that this will be his last year doing your taxes. You wonder if you offended him that time when you asked him to open a window, or maybe he just doesn't like suburban clients, now that you are one. You hesitantly ask why. Brian tells you that he and his “wife” are moving. It is 8
. and his wife is not there.

“Where are you moving to?” you ask Brian. He tells you he is moving to Southern California. “Southern California, that sounds nice,” you say, as you imagine Brian as the whitest, pastiest, least muscle-defined male in all of Southern California. You have a hard time seeing the connection. You were expecting his response to be something more like “Cleveland.”

“Where in Southern California?” you ask, to which he responds, “Palm Springs.” You do not know much about Palm Springs, except that every winter your father-in-law and his new wife go to a place called Rancho Mirage, where he plays golf all day, every day. You think of Rancho Mirage in Palm Springs and you imagine a bunch of old people playing golf all the time. You recall your father-in-law telling you that there are more golf courses per capita or per acre or per something in Palm Springs than anywhere else. But you are not so sure that you are really referencing the right place, because you get Palm Springs confused with Palm Something-or-Other in Florida, or maybe it's The Palms in Nevada. Who knows?

“Why are you moving out there?” you ask, a bit surprised, because it seems to you that Brian has built up a healthy pool of clients over the several years that you have worked with him. You know that you have personally referred several people to him. And you assume that his “wife” has a good thing going at Kraft or Nabisco, wherever it is that she does her corporate-executive thing. He responds, “We bought a hotel.” “No shit,” you say. A hotel, this is serious, you think. He replies, “Well, it is a small boutique hotel; it's not such a big deal.” People always say that when they sense that you sense that they are doing something cooler than you are.

For the first time, you get interested in this conversation and make the transition from being conversationally polite to really being interested in what your pasty-white, no-muscle-definition accountant is telling you.

You also note that Brian is loath to offer up any information on his own. He is polite and will answer any question that you pose to him, but he will not be forthcoming on his own. You keep on priming the pump. “So who stays at the hotel? Will it be people vacationing and playing golf?” On this he elaborates in more detail. He tells you that Palm Springs has an older golf culture, which is very strong. But you also have heard that there is a substantial gay community there as well. “And who is your target market?” you ask, as a polite way of ascertaining which choir Brian really sings in. He responds, “Well, this is a niche hotel. It is unique. The name of it is the Clayton Inn. It is an historic hotel that has a colorful past and has been around for a while.” For the first time, he offers an unsolicited response: “Marilyn Monroe used to stay there.” “No kidding,” you say.

“What niche is it that you are pursuing with this hotel?” you ask. “Well, the hotel has an interesting history. It is a nudist hotel.” To this, your jaw drops and your eyes pop out of your head. This is news that you cannot wait to get home and tell your wife. Your pasty-white, overweight, no-muscle-definition, nerdy, dirty and long fingernailed, hot-temperature-loving, long-pants-wearing accountant is buying a nudist hotel with his invisible, corporate-executive wife. Brian, you come to realize, is a self-actualized guy operating at the pinnacle of Maslow's hierarchy pyramid.

You digest that last piece of information that Brian has offered. Brian looks at your surprised expression and then corrects himself, not wanting to leave you with a misimpression. “Well,” he says, “it is clothing-optional.”

“Are the guests young? Old? Do they play golf?” you ask. The answer is yes to all of this. “The guests include anyone who wants to go to a nude hotel,” Brian tells you. You guess that no one from your suburb is familiar with this hotel.

Too anxious to get home to tell your wife, you get up and wish Brian the absolute best with his new endeavor. Then you race home to tell the story to your wife, who you know will be able to tell it better than you to all of your friends who know or know of Brian.

Meet Your Across-the-Street Neighbor

Your suburb, like most, is a suburb of families. In each and every house there resides a family. When couples become empty-nesters, they move out of your suburb to a luxurious condo somewhere and a family with young kids buys their house for more money than you can possibly imagine. Everyone you see is a mom, a dad, or a kid. Well, almost everyone.

There is a house across the street from you that you have heard is occupied by an older woman. She spends half the year in England, so you have heard, and while she is out of the country she likes someone in her house, so she brings in a house-sitter.

One day, you are out on the front lawn playing baseball with your kid and from the house across the street emerges a tall, beautiful, young, blond-haired European-looking woman wearing short tight shorts and a tank top. Her flat stomach is exposed and it looks good. She does not look like a mom, but the funny thing is she does not look like a kid, either. She looks like she would be in between the two.

You are puzzled. You are also a friendly neighbor, and on this day you pull out all the stops to be the absolute friendliest neighbor you know how to be. You are mostly thinking of teaching your son how a good neighbor should act and behave when meeting a new neighbor. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your son the finer points of suburban neighborly etiquette. You really want to make your new neighbor feel comfortable and welcome, especially because she is young, tall, blond, and thin, has an angular face, wears tummy-exposing tank tops, and looks like she will speak with an accent like one of your best friends, who is Swedish.

“Hello,” you say, loud enough to carry across the street and to penetrate any possible language barrier. “My name is Mark, and this is my son, Blake. We live here.” You point to the house whose front lawn you are standing on. “We are your neighbors,” you declare proudly, thinking that the benefits of living across the street from this neighbor are enough to offset the 40 percent reduction in your home's value as a result of living next door to a twelve-year-old pyrotechnician. Soon your hypothesis about your new neighbor is confirmed. She is, in fact, neither a mom nor a kid: she is Annika and she is from Sweden. In your introductory meeting, you learn that Annika is a swim teacher at your gym. Your son likes to swim, and in fact Annika looks like she would be a wonderful swim teacher for him, especially when you imagine her immersed in water wearing a Swedish bathing suit. To you, she looks like such a great teacher that you set up lessons for your son right there on the spot. Not weekday lessons either, no way. Bringing your son to swim lessons is a dad's job, you convince yourself. Besides, you do not want to burden your wife with this job, since she is already so, so busy. She will appreciate that you are trying to ease her burden and she may even reward you for it. Your son will have Saturday swim lessons just so that you can watch his progress.

Each Saturday, you faithfully bring your son to his swim lesson with Annika. You show up early on most Saturdays to make sure that your son is not late, and oh, by the way, you go down to the pool while Annika is wrapping up her prior lesson. You insist that your son take his swim lessons in the coldest of the three pools to toughen him up a bit.

At the next block party, you ask your neighbor Bill if he has yet met Annika, his new next-door neighbor. He asks if you are talking about the tall, good-looking, angular-faced blond Swede who sunbathes nude in her backyard. He then responds, “No, we have not officially ‘met,' but I have
her.” At that moment, you realize that you and your ex-accountant Brian now have more in common than you ever thought.

Being the good neighbor that you are, you ask Bill if you can check up on his house while he is on summer vacation in August. You are concerned that if one of his water pipes bursts his house will flood. You are concerned that his house look lived-in to deter the criminals that are so prevalent in your high-end suburb.

Do Some Shopping for Your Wife

It has been a tough week, because both your wife and your daughter have been sick for most of it. It is the weekend, and because of this sickness you know that you will not get the things done that you would like to get done. On Sunday, your wife gives you a list. Even when she is sick with pneumonia, your wife has the wherewithal to be extremely detailed in making her list. In working off of your wife's list, there is no margin for you to make any creative selections, or equal or better substitutions. Not that you do these shopping trips with any frequency, but you accept the fact that, when you do, you will bring home something that is entirely a mistake, in your wife's mind, even though, in your mind, it is on the list and is exactly what your wife wanted.

You finish up at the grocery store and head over to the Eton Paint store. Two weeks ago, your wife commenced the project of changing the color of the seventy-square-foot ceiling in your kids' bathroom, a project that you thought would take an hour and cost $75. You already did a major renovation of your suburban home before you moved in, and now the white bathroom ceiling, which was fine before, is just not the right color. You came home on the evening when the project should have been completed to take a look at the new ceiling color and what you saw was that half of your kids' bathroom ceiling had been torn out. Apparently, when the painter came he found that there was a leak in the bathroom above the kids' bathroom, causing the ceiling to get damp. There were two possible causes for the ceiling dampness, the painter told your wife: a leaking pipe and/or the shower surround, which might need to be regrouted.

Your wife had the grouter come in first, and that job, with the upgrade to epoxy grout—not the grout that everyone else uses—cost $705. You are sure that if you lived in another suburb the cost would have been $205. After the grout job, your wife brought in the local suburban plumber. He inspected the bathroom and told your wife that there was a leak. Your wife told you that the plumber told her that they would charge $90 per hour to fix it and that they thought they could do it in a day. You do the math and realize that the plumber your wife brought in is making $180,000 per year, assuming no overtime. You insist on another plumber. The next plumber comes in, the one who did the plumbing on your house renovation in the first place, and he completes the job for $400. “It's a great deal,” your wife tells you. “We saved $320.” You are already $1,105 into this project and you still have half of your bathroom ceiling torn out. Another $500 to go, you estimate.

Other books

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig
These Damn Suspicions by Amy Valenti
The Mill House by Susan Lewis
Her Prodigal Passion by Grace Callaway
Moonlight and Ashes by Sophie Masson
Vegetable Gardening by Nardozzi, Charlie Copyright 2016 - 2024