The post below is rife with typos, repeats itself, at times makes no sense whatsoever, and will probably leave you confused and frustrated.
It’s fine. It’s synecdoche.
You weren’t an English major?
OK, that means that its stylistic conventions mirror its subject.
Well…that’s not really what synecdoche means.
It’s more like when someone writes a poem about a crown, but they’re really referring to a king.
The subject is: red tape, and my attempt to think I wouldn’t get tangled up in it. (enter pun about how I’m now tangled up in blue here)
So this post is messy, and I’m too tired to care. I highly suggest you skip around. You won’t miss much.
A therapist (all great blog posts start out with those words, right?) would probably say that the reason I’m so obsessed with fairness is that my childhood was so ridiculously unfair. Who knows. The fact is, like most lefties, I just can’t make my peace with the fact that life is not fair, and a huge portion of my life is devoted to making it as fair as possible.
Also like the leftist movement in general, this paralyzes me to such an extent that I never really get anything done on a larger scale because I’m so freaking obsessed with righting tiny injustices.
Because I work for myself, I have the luxury of being fair to my customers and myself—striking that balance can be tough, but I enjoy the challenge of it. It’s fair that I would send out your chocolate orders within four days of you ordering them, no matter what other shit I have happening in my life. On the other hand, it’s also fair that I would not have to work 20-hour workdays. Usually I can balance this just fine, but around Valentine’s or Easter I’m OK with temporarily letting the fairness slide toward my customers, or else I just lean on my excellent helpers, who I make sure to pay a fair wage. Fairness all around is the goal.
It’s an easy goal to meet when you control everything.
Unfortunately for me and my sleeping patterns and my propensity for panicking, I’ve got it into my head that I’m being treated unfairly in my quest to get a Special Use Permit for the chocolate shop, and it’s completely and totally taking over my life.
I need to just get over it, but I can’t. Shall I try the write-it-out trick? What was that Hemingway said? If he could write it he could get rid of it or something? Let’s see how it goes.
And so begins my latest tale of woe:
The Planning Board (not the one I’m kind of an alternate on, that’s the town PB. This is the Village PB. New Paltz is blessed with the ludicrous system of a village and a town nestled inside each other with the same name. It’s very confusing.) has decided that I need to build a sidewalk on my road frontage of the building. You remember the building, right? Jacob and I just bought it after an epic 11-month battle that took all our money and energy and sanity? It was just two posts ago, I doubt you could forget it.
In theory I agree about the sidewalk.
Except that my property line is really strange and ends way before the street, and actually stops in the middle of the parking lot.
In this photo, Jacob is standing at the property corner, isn’t it weird? We don’t actually own any of that chewed-up blacktop there that looks so crappy. (We own the building that looks so crappy.)
So, the PB is saying I need to submit a plan to them of how I will build a sidewalk on land that isn’t my own, then I need to ask for permission to build a sidewalk on land that isn’t my own, from the Village of New Paltz.
So I need to ask my town (well, village) to let me build them a free sidewalk in order to have permission to do minor cosmetic renovations (all I have $ for right now) to a building I am fixing up in order to open up a world-class chocolate shop in their town. (If you’re confused, I’ll explain in more nauseating detail in a minute.)
Again, I’m all for a sidewalk. Yay, sidewalks! It’s just that in elementary school I was taught that taxes go to pay for things we all need, like sidewalks and school busses (no comment, says the childless brazen careerist), and our personal money goes toward things we want, like antique chocolate display cases that cost almost as much as a car but that I must have.
So I find it a little unfair, but I guess I’d go along with it, because I don’t like to make a fuss and I’m a bit of a socialist—from each according to her ability, to each according to her need, ya dig? Except that I don’t have the ability to afford a sidewalk, but I suspect the village doesn’t either, so maybe we could meet in the middle somehow?
But here’s the thing.
Until the plans for the sidewalk are submitted and the sidewalk is built, my Special Use Permit (which I need in order to open the shop, because of the codes in my district) and Building Permit (which I need to start renovations) will not be granted.
This means my part of the building is currently sitting vacant, uselessly sucking up money and not making any money. (The apartments in the back have received their building permit and are currently being renovated, so that’s something.)
Meanwhile, I need to be out of my kitchen by May 15, and on May first I’ll be faced with a gigantic mortgage payment on a building that isn’t taking in any cash, as well as a homeless business.
This is what we in the planning community would call a “self-imposed hardship” —it’s my fault I bought the building, and the fact that it put me in the poorhouse has no bearing on the actual code requiring the sidewalk.
I totally agree.
Ah, except that: there is no code requiring the sidewalk.
More on that later.
I knew the sidewalk was going to be an issue before we bought the building—like any responsible potential landowner, I scheduled a site visit with the Building Department, Planning Board, and Health Dept before we even bought the building. We discussed the rocky road frontage and I knew it would need to be fixed up. There is actually no true “sidewalk” on my entire side of the street, just blacktop that, personally, I think is better for biking. I suggested fixing up the uneven blacktop. The PB said a sidewalk was what was needed.
Again, I have no problem building a sidewalk—even though it will be a sidewalk to nowhere, as there is no sidewalk on either side of me. New Paltz is striving for a more walkable and bikeable community (yeah, I know you don’t ride your bike on sidewalks. One more reason why I suggested blacktop instead), and sidewalks are part of that.
At the site visit, I figured we’d work out the sidewalk issue in time. I showed everyone the survey stating that almost none of the area where a sidewalk should be built was on my property—it was owned by the Village and my neighbor. Everyone agreed this was strange, and I figured we’d iron it out at the meeting.
Ah, Lagusta! What a fool you were!
I did not know they were going to hold my Special Use Permit hostage and put my business on hold before I built the sidewalk, and this is where the unfairness comes in.
The Village had decided that it’s a priority to build sidewalks, but, life being what it is, there really isn’t money in the budget for them right now. I’m not saying that’s why they’re making me build the sidewalk…I’m just stating the facts of the case.
So, why don’t I just suck it up, build the sidewalk (the estimate is roughly $1000), and move on? First of all, it will take weeks to get approval, build it, go back to the PB, and then begin the process of a public hearing for my Special Use Permit again and this is getting boring but basically what I want to say is that time is a-wastin’ and time is money and I REALLY NEED MONEY RIGHT NOW.
I have been told by more than one fellow Village building owner that if I break down and the build the sidewalk, I will set a dangerous precedent for agreeing to make improvements on public land on the backs of struggling small business owners. The pressure is on to stand up to the Planning Board and make the case that I shouldn’t need to build the sidewalk.
(I have also been told that I should have brought “a lawyer, or at least a boyfriend in a suit” [<——ACTUAL QUOTE] to the Planning Board meeting, instead of representing myself. I was so confident I could represent myself, but the truth is that I didn’t know how to respond when they stated that my only option was to hire a surveyor and an engineer to create a plan to build two five-foot chunks of sidewalk (yeah, you read that right. Two five-foot stretches of sidewalk.).
I suggested building it in six months when my cash flow recovered a bit, or doing the blacktop, or promising to build it soon in exchange for the SUP now. Nothing worked, so I just said thank you and left and went to the car and called Jacob and said I failed and I was a failure and how could I fail? I failed. I was a failure. Fail fail fail fail.
Meanwhile, the pressure is also on for me to move out of my kitchen in a month.
In order to do this, the new kitchen needs 3 weeks of renovations.
The soonest I can get the Special Use Permit and thus begin construction is three weeks, since I have to go to at least two more Planning Board meetings in order to get it (one for them to approve the sidewalk plan, one for a public hearing where, if you live locally, you will hopefully come out and speak in favor of the chocolate shop!).
I’m hemorrhaging money like crazy right now and because we didn’t know what else to do, we hired a lawyer to help us out with writing a letter to the Planning Board offering them a compromise they will hopefully accept at the next meeting: that we offer to pay for part of the sidewalk on their property in exchange for me getting my grubby little paws on the Special Use Permit.
I don’t know if this will work.
I worry it will make the PB angry and they will send me back to square one: hiring an engineer to draw up formal plans, then constructing the sidewalk, then coming back to the PB. That will take at least a month.
I know this is just how things go, and I’m not asking for special treatment because I’m poor and need to move out of my current kitchen, but I don’t understand why all my other ideas have been rejected. There’s no actual law that the sidewalk needs to be built—it’s completely up to the whims of the PB. One PB member stated flat-out that it’s his personal mission to get a sidewalk built on North Front Street because he built a building (BUILT A BUILDING. I’m asking to do some minor work and painting to an existing building!) across the street and had to build a sidewalk on his frontage. Sigh. What can I do with that?
I don’t blame them for deciding the sidewalk (to nowhere) is needed. It just seems the desperate needs of a small business owner are being run rough shod in favor of red tape that could be easily cut. Everyone (even Mr. North Front Street Personal Sidewalk Mission) on the PB is perfectly nice, and I’m sure they are perfectly lovely people, and I’m sure if we were friends and they weren’t on the PB they would agree that the situation is comically ludicrous. But something happens when you’re a part of the government. It’s the tyranny of the masses, and it’s almost enough to turn me into a Libertarian, I swear.
(Oh god, it’s not that bad.)
Really, this is a small matter. But I’m obsessed with it.
Not sleeping, the whole deal.
Other stressful things happening in my life right now:
-The oven at my current kitchen has broken and I’m currently making matzo toffee at a friend’s commercial kitchen, which means a whole lot of hauling. My landlord won’t fix the oven because I’m moving out in a month. Nice guy, I know.
-My home kitchen sink is leaking and Jacob swears he can fix it when he gets home—in a week and “don’t call the plumber, I can fix it.” Sigh. Until then I can’t really use the kitchen sink.
-My work sinks are backing up and my landlord is refusing to do anything about it. By about, oh, tomorrow, this is going to become a huge problem. My landlord negotiated a terribly unfair deal with the next tenant (who I found for him) whereby she will agree to all repairs in exchange for him not raising the rent. I told her this was a terrible idea but…alas. So I know he’s not going to want to fix the sink, yet, I really need a sink in order to make chocolates, because:
-Easter orders are pouring in (yay!) and I can’t hire anyone to help me because I need every dollar to go toward kitchen renovation expenses.
-I’m eating like shit because I’m working like crazy and because I’m trying to eat an entire freezer worth of meal delivery leftovers (I have literally FOUR GALLONS of something called “sauce” in this freezer. I can’t figure out what the crap it is.) so I can sell the damn freezer. This week I ate peanut noodles, I KID YOU NOT, twelve times in order to use up a giant vat of, as the label read, “p-nut sauce 5/09 too many szech pep.” Do you want to know what “too many szech pep” (Szechuan peppercorns) do to your tongue after eating them 12 meals in a row? No, you do not, and you do not want to know.
-Related to the sink situation, I splashed Draino into an open wound on my hand yesterday and sat in quiet agony for five full minutes before regaining my ability to stand. Still hurts. That shit is TOXIC, no joke.
-Suddenly my hair is falling out. I am not kidding.
-My mom, who requires round-the-clock babysitting, has decided it would be a great idea to come visit the second week of May (see above, re: move-out-of-kitchen date) and is giving me major Jewish-mom guilt because I won’t let her. Also because she wants me to send her bunnies.
-Speaking of bunnies, the pb bunnies heads and ears keep falling off because I like their shells (SKINS???) to be really thin. Too thin. My friends are really enjoying that I keep making this mistake. Me, not so much.
-Some of our renovation funds fell through and thus I had to, for the first time in a decade after painstakingly paying off credit card debt incurred in college because without credit cards I would probably literally have starved to death (also because this one time in high school my mom wrote bad checks with my personal account and ruined my credit for seven years), start applying for credit cards like crazy to fund certain vital chocolate shop items. I hate living off credit and this is killing me, but have I mentioned this display case I’m buying?
–I’ve been watching Brothers & Sisters while I work lately, and it’s OK, but Calista Flockhart’s facial structure disturbs me deeply. I know it’s anti-feminist to say, but SHE HAS A WEIRD FACE.
Basically: I took a giant huge leap that I know will pay off in time, but today it all seems utterly insurmountable.
In five years when the building is making me money and I’ve paid off what I borrowed to renovate it, life will be wonderful, but right now it’s pretty damn terrifying.
I know that’s what big leaps are about, and usually it’s fine, but today:
The sky was heavy and dark and I pushed myself like crazy to get as many boxes out to the PO as possible. My damn Draino-wound hand hurt, but I didn’t care and I got to the PO at 4:50 and began hauling in boxes like a crazy woman, when my lawyer called and said he thinks the process of appealing to the PB to get them to compromise on the sidewalks might work, but his work was going to cost more than the cost of the sidewalk, and what did I want to do. I was trying to talk to him while juggling endless boxes, and somehow managed to get everything inside before 5. I know cutting it so close incurs the stink-eye from the PO workers, and I don’t blame them, but I had no other option.
I talked to the lawyer as I drove to town, then I called Jacob and told him everything the lawyer said.
Then I had ½ hour to get something to eat (I just couldn’t do the peanut noodles again) and calm down before I had a Town Planning Board (the one I’m sort-of-an-alternate for, not the one I’m mad at) meeting. I parked at the building (having a personal parking spot is really nice) and walked to get a taco.
On the way I realized I wasn’t breathing so great.
I felt really flushed and hot, and I am never, ever hot. I’ve been pretty much constantly freezing since August 1996 when I moved to the East Coast, but today my t-shirt armpits were soaked. The guy at the taco place gave me the hugest taco I’d ever seen, overflowing the guac and special homemade hot sauce, and I could tell he wasn’t flirting—he smiled at me with a compassionate “you-need-this” smile, and I tried to pretend he couldn’t see the panic attack I could, by now, tell was slowly coming on.
I’ve only had one other panic attack before, but I watched a friend have one once, and it was terrifying. I didn’t know at the time that I should just keep calm and tell him to just keep breathing, so I called 911, and the paramedics came and told him to just keep calm and just keep breathing, and he did, and it passed.
Jacob was there when I had my previous panic attack, and, Jacob being Jacob, he knew exactly what to do. He squeezed my hand and looked into my eyes and helped me focus my breathing until it passed. But today Jacob was in Arcata, California.
As I walked back to the building my hands started to get tingly, which happens a lot to me when I get keyed up and stop breathing. I passed someone I vaguely know, and he asked me if I was OK. I said, “why, do I look not-OK?” and he said I had the reddest face he had ever seen. I stammered that I was fine and smiled a shaky smile and kept walking.
I started getting panicky about getting panicky, and by the time I got to the building, where I was planning on sitting outside in the sweet spring air and eating my taco, I was desperate to get inside and away from the world, into the dark cool unrenovated soon-to-be-chocolate shop, but the keys wouldn’t work for my desperately shaking hands.
My breathing was becoming really shallow, and I didn’t know how to self-soothe, as a therapist would say. I just slumped down in front of the door and put my knees up to my chest and my head in my knees and squeezed my eyes shut and I was sort of keening/whining/wheezing/crying, but in a few minutes I sort of wore myself down and my breath started to even out.
The calm after a panic attack
is the calmest calm in the universe.
It’s the calm after a good cry or a good orgasm or a good scream—that I got it out feeling. Feeling the rage or panic or lust or whatever temporarily escape. Freedom, before it all seeps back again.
I just sat there until I could move again, and then it started raining on me.
I laughed at the real-life metaphor.
Then I slowly ate my taco, combed my hair, splashed cold water on my face, and went to the Planning Board meeting.
So: unfairness. Perceived or real, I don’t do so well with it.
And now: wine, and work emails, then: tomorrow. The sun’ll come up, blah blah. One week until the Planning Board meeting where I make my case for a compromise.
I’ve just got to keep breathing.