The Luckiest Rent Increase Ever

Wind-whipped roofing material scraped across the author's car (left), and then the rains came  DON CHAPMAN PHOTO

Wind-whipped roofing material scraped across the author’s car (left), and then the rains came

Gratitude was not my first response when I learned Jan. 12 that my landlord of 16 years was jacking the rent 60 percent. But by the morning of Feb. 14, I could not have been more thankful.

Back to Friday, Feb. 13: My plan after putting the next week’s MidWeek to bed was to attend the season-opening baseball game between Hawaii and Oregon. I cheer for both teams – one representing the state of my birth and many generations of Tillamook tribe and white pioneer/farmer ancestors, the other my adoptive home of the past 35 years. Plus, I’ve attended both universities.

Unlike past years when the Ducks and Rainbows started seasons at Les Murakami Stadium and I was there for multiple games, it was to be the only game of the four-game series I’d attend, as I was in the process of moving into a new residence – the search started immediately after getting that rent-jack notice.

The new landlord had graciously let me move in small loads for a couple of weeks prior to that night, and I planned to take the next two weeks off to continue small moves. It was to be a detailed, organized move, including setting a date for professional movers to schlep the big stuff and for cleaners to come in. “If you want to make God laugh,” Woody Allen said, “tell him your plans.” On that Friday the 13th, he got it too right.

So all of the above is preamble, because I skipped the ball-game when I heard kona winds would be blowing 30-40 mph.

On the Windward side of Oahu, where I’ve lived since 1983, 24 of those years in Kaneohe, kona wind is even stronger than in town. Essentially opposite of the usual trade winds from the northeast, what happens with strong kona wind is that the energy in the wind when it comes in over townside Oahu is blocked by the Koolau mountains and accumulates in valleys, while the wind above continues streaking over the peaks. That forces the accumulated energy down the sheer face of the Windward side of the mountains, and the wind actually picks up speed coming down into Kaneohe.

I didn’t want to deal with that in the dark on Pali Highway after the game, so skipped Ducks-Rainbows. But I did venture out for dinner at Chao Phaya, where chef Guy Smith is doing some absolutely stunning locally sourced, Thai-esque food (not to mention the best oxtail soup I’ve ever tasted), while continuing Mama Toy’s traditional Thai recipes. That, too, is preamble. But I’ve been meaning to give them a plug. And, as it turns out, take-out leftover boxes would provide dinner for the next couple of evenings. You take your unexpected blessings where you can.

The wind was whipping that night, but we’re used to that on the Windward side. The noise on the roof started about the same time power went out, 2 a.m. or so. At first it was a small thump-thump. Soon it wasn’t. The noise grew until by about 3 it sounded as if a monster were attacking the roof, trying really hard to force its way inside – bang, boom, bang! – loud and violent and unrelenting, for hours. I didn’t know what it was – maybe a solar panel come loose, or a satellite dish? – but certainly wasn’t going outside in that wind to check. I also wasn’t sleeping.

Come daylight, I looked outside and saw much of the roofing sealant – a tarry composite embedded with grainy pebbles – lying on the ground all around my car and in the yard. That’s what had been malevolently slapping the roof as it peeled away. Inside, there were at least 20 places I could see sky through redwood planks and beams. Three-quarters of the ceiling was now unprotected. I can see now why companies like Midland Texas Roofing get so many calls when there has been bad weather and storms – roofs take a pounding every time the weather takes a turn for the worse!

Then the rains came, not hard at first, but rain all the same. I managed to get my desktop computer out to the car and pushed a 52-inch Sony TV-theater system away from ceiling pukas (or so I thought), likewise for a wooden file cabinet. I dashed to City Mill for a big tarp to cover things, but by the time I returned it was pouring rain inside the house, making a mockery of the pots and pans I’d placed on the bed and floor. Rain was pouring into the top of the TV. At least a half-inch of water covered tiled areas, and the carpet was squishy underfoot – no need remove slippers before entering!

I lost the TV system, the bed (which was now a big sponge) and its wood frame with four drawers, a wood desk and a desk chair, the file cabinet and a leather LA-Z-Boy recliner. Thank goodness for renters insurance, though I have not yet received a settlement check, so am not sure how much will be covered. (Oh, my car sustained multiple scratches when roofing material blew across it. That’s a car insurance thing.)

But it could have been way worse. I’d already moved 99 percent of my clothing, towels and bedding, plus a large CD/DVD collection. They all would have been ruined by the brown, gritty water that poured in.

Best of all, I had a place to go the next night, warm and dry, safe and new.

I can’t help but ponder: If the old landlord hadn’t jacked the rent … If I hadn’t made an immediate decision to move as soon as possible and started a manic search that produced a great new place within 13 days … If the new landlord hadn’t let me start moving some items in …

Well, things could have been so much worse. I might have ended up sleeping on one of my kids’ couches or in a Red Cross shelter for who knows how long while desperately looking for a new place to live and replacing everything.

One more bit of great luck: The portion of the old house that remained dry is where I kept family photos, some going back six generations.

And I love the new place. So all in all, I’m grateful the old rent got jacked. To quote the immortal Roebuck “Pops” Staples, somebody was watching over me (though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the old landlord).