Friday, October 12, 2012

Cookie v. Neighborhood Gorgon

Well, it's been a few days of general business and time really is flying by:

We had the roof over the "kitchen wing" replaced with like material and done by a very cute contractor and his buddies.  Cookie thanks God for contractor because he is very reasonable and pretty damn reliable.  Contractor is approaching 50, a former strawberry blond - which is Cookie's favorite hair color on a man - and he has the cutest freckles.  He is horribly straight.  I would have taken a picture of him, but we don't want to scare him off as there is much to do around Cookie Manor.

We had a interesting encounter with a new neighbor over the new kitchen roof.  However Cookie disarmed the new neighbor with my background: 30+ years of historical preservation, a statewide chairmanship within that field and lecturing credits, National Register Nominations and professional consulting under my belt.

And the last thing we want is a replay of Frigid and Frigda, right?

She's a real peach...

So husband and I are walking back from the store when the store with a bag of goodies when the Gorgon revealed herself.  Evidently she was laying in wait having seen us walk down the street one way.

Gorgon introduced herself and immediately started in on our new roof.  She was blathering away about how I needed to get a neighborhood sign off because we changed the color and materials. On and on she went, as if this self appointed gatekeeper can even see our virtually flat Kitchen Wing roof from her house.  "When I go up to my attic it ruins my view."


We explained that it was same color, same materials and according to the neighborhood residential association by laws, because the old roof was leaking, that we didn't need to jump through any hoops.  I also pointed out that because the roof can't be seen from the street, it was outside of the process anyway.

Gorgon told me that we misread the bylaws and she hauls out a 1996 copy and starts waving them in our face.  Cookie has played this game before.  So I excuse ourselves and said I wanted to review OUR copy of the bylaws, circa 2012.  And damn if Cookie wasn't right - a lot can change in civic associations in almost twenty years.

So I marched the bylaws down to Gorgon, and showed in print what our copy said.  She said it was a misprint.  I explained that these were what we given, and we are going by them.  I also explained my background in preservation and my love of preservation, so in that we are of a like mind. I thought she was looking for a pyrrhic victory, a graceful way out, and I gave it to her.

But she kept on going on about how I was wrong.  "These changes are not architecturally compatible with our neighborhood," she insisted.

I pointed out that unlike her Volvo SUV, which was viewable from the street, our roof was not.  I asked her that wouldn't it be more in tune with the times of her house if she had a more accurate automobile that went with the house. "Something circa 1920?"

She seemed a bit flustered.

"Not very practical, is it?  And you have a perfectly good car right here, so I cannot tell you need to go out and buy a 1930 Model A, can I?"

I explained that it was far more important to get a solid roof over that kitchen to protect the structure and preserve its integrity.  "The roofing material is mutable.  It can be upgraded at some point.  And we haven't changed the structure or the pitch or the slope, so all we did was place a covering on the roof.  And it isn't something that someone on the ground can see, is it?"

And I asked her if she agreed with that statement.

She could hardly argue with it.

Now when we have to replace our slate roof which is visible from the street, then we'll start the Kabuki theatre of jumping through the hoops, and trot out the dog on the back of the pony.

I did suggest that she get a revised copy of the bylaws, if not for our peace of mind, for hers.  However I fear this isn't the last we'll hear from the Gorgon.  The husband swears he can hear her snarling and fuming in the wee quiet hours before he drifts to off to sleep.


  1. Are you sure she's real, and not a ghost from the asylum? They do that, you know, carry around dated documents, lay in waiting, and snarl a lot.

    1. If she had chains, she could be the ghost of neighbors past and present. I lavished praise upon her, you get more flies with honey than vinegar. And I feel like if I can win her over I might be able to see preservation as preservation, and not "restoration" which she seems to feel that it is.

  2. Oy, bylaws! Oy, slate! Aggravation! Expense!

    I need a Xanax just reading this post. Having dealt with a leaky roof since I had a NEW roof put on my 80 year old house 8 years ago, roofing, ceilings (falling down) and rain (causing falling down) have ruled my life. And God spare me from any neighbor who would wave bylaws in my face. You were so much nicer than I would have been. I would have been an asshole and made an enemy for life, because I speak first and then think. :( In 58 years I still have not learned. She is lucky (on so many levels) it is you and hubby who have moved in and not me.

  3. What I am not getting here is what was her problem in the first place--was it just that the materials looked new? You mentioned that they were the same color and type.

    For example, I always hate it when I see shiny copper on a building, such as a restored courthouse dome, but I know it will soon fade (unless they hit upon the bad idea of lacquering it). I do love the look of verdigris.

    A final thought: If you didn't encounter these dreadful adversaries all the time, what would your devoted readers do for entertainment?

    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Well, there are a couple things:

      1) My personality dictates that I must vent, somehow. So I vent here.

      2) As the husband pointed out that the biggest difference between the Gorgon and Frigid and Frigida is that Frigid and Frigda are insane, whereas the Gorgon is just doing what she does.

      3) And what the Gorgon does is confuse "preservation" (which is to preserve the characteristics of a building using modern materials) with "restoration", which is to return a building to an exact period in it's time.

      I can work with mistaken people. I can work with insanity, as I suffer from too much of my own.

  4. why do i know she'll be the subject
    of more posts?