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The Adventures of Skylar Grey

Chapter 21: The neighbors who stole Thanksgiving (and Christmas and New Year’s Eve)

Skylar was thrilled to play Rudolph on her first Christmas.

Part 3 of a 3-part series

Over the six years I lived below Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It, a lot happened in my personal life besides their relentless efforts to force me into unnecessary remodeling projects. My father passed away; two people stalked me; I was burglarized; and my beloved blue-eyed pit bull, Jazzy, got cancer and, after a two-year battle with the horrible disease, passed away at age 5. In fact, my experiences and memories across from Buena Vista Park were more bad than good.

I should have listened to the seller’s real es-tate agent when he told me that the current owners no longer spoke to the Fix-Its. I was preoccupied with moving my father up from San Jose at the time, but looking back, I realize the very first thing they contacted me about was an $11,000 driveway project. The sellers’ real estate agent didn’t disclose it to me, which makes me think the Fix-Its probably tried to wrangle them into splitting the cement work without success.

By the time I brought my new pit bull puppy Skylar Grey home in September of 2012, the situation with the Fix-Its had escalated to the point that I dreaded the holidays. On Thanksgiving, when the smell of turkey started wafting through the house, little 10-week-old Skylar (who was living in a car with a kid in Golden Gate Park before I adopted her) sat in front of the oven with her heart-shaped grey nose sniffing madly in the air. She obviously had never smelled anything that sublime, so she curled up in front of my Viking range and slept there until the turkey came out. It was one of the cutest things I’d ever seen, and it helped ease the pain of my first Thanksgiving without Jazzy, but just as we were sitting down to dinner a note popped through the mail slot about more patching on the roof.

Come Christmas, Skylar was pretty used to the good life so she waited for the prime rib to exit the oven while snoozing on an old dog bed of Jazzy’s in the living room (facing the kitchen, of course, with one big green bug eye trained on the Viking at all times). I had been dealing with texts from the Fix-Its since 7 a.m. the day before Christmas Eve. I finally texted Mr. Fix-It from the meat department at Whole Foods and told him that I didn’t want him contacting me until after the holidays.

He obliged through the first week of January, but one morning while I was walking Skylar at Stow Lake, I got the “final straw” text: Mr. and Mrs. Fix-It wanted me to pay for half the awning — on their private roof deck. “It’s tattered from the storms and needs replacing,” Mr. Fix-It wrote. “How is that common?” I asked. “You added that deck years ago, it’s only accessible through your flat, and it’s used by you guys exclusively.” Mr. Fix-It replied, “It’s a common ex-pense. Read your CC&Rs.”

After the walk, I called my longtime real estate agent, Kevin Kropp, and told him that I wanted out. The timing couldn’t have been better — the real estate market was booming

and inventory was slim. We didn’t stage the house or even put it on the market, opting instead for a “pocket listing,” where a real estate agent puts the word out to select brokers that a property is for sale. We set a firm price, and I took Skylar to visit Kickie in San Jose so Kevin could conduct showings. Just three days later, I got the call from Kevin: “We have a deal!”

In a bizarre twist, the same real estate agent who represented the sellers when I bought the condo was now representing the new buyers. Like the previous sellers, I disclosed how difficult the Fix-Its were, and like me, the buyers wanted a condo across from the park and bought it anyway. Within weeks, Kevin got a call from the buyers’ real estate agent stating they were angry because I “hadn’t disclosed the cement work done near the front steps of the house,” and, according to the Fix-Its, I moved without paying my half of the bill. Thankfully, Kevin is a shrewd, rock star real estate agent who anticipates problems and puts solutions in place before closing. He produced a text I had written to Mr. Fix-It declining to participate in their latest cement project, as well as a letter that Kevin had the Fix-Its sign stating that I didn’t owe them any money. After just a year and a half, my buyers sold the condo. I wish the latest owner lots of luck — he’s going to need it.

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