The Consort loves to listen to the Norteno music that we hear wafting from some apartments. The past few weeks (if he hadn’t been in Nicaragua) he would have been in heaven. Our Somali neighbor, Kulatin, has hired some people to put up new siding on his house. People who love to tune to the local Norteno radio station. Rather loudly. I don’t mind, though, because what really gets under my skin is the window-rattling bass that comes from speakerboxes playing (mostly) hop-hop and rap. (There are a few that play Reggaeton, and I like that about as little as I do hip-hop / rap. I just don’t like misogynistic music, no matter where it comes from.) How bad can music with accordions accompanying male voices warbling about lost love be? Heh.
Our neighbor doesn’t like the Norteno music. In fact, Kulatin doesn’t like very much about the men he’s hired to do the siding. And part of me is enjoying his discomfort. You see, whenever we do something—say, rake up the bags and bags of leaves from our ginormous horse chestnut tree in the Fall—Kulatin will wander over to chat. “So, how much do those bags cost?” (We buy city bags for the yard waste, and the city hauls them away to produce compost for city residents.) “So, how long did it take you to rake all those leaves, huh? Looks like a lotta hours. Me, I asked this guy with a truck, ‘How much you gonna charge me to take my leaves away? Fifty bucks? No way, man. I’ll pay you twenty-five.’ And he does it for me. No long hours in the yard, huh?” Then he gives us this grin, like, I’m just teasing you, you know?
Kulatin is king of “knowing someone” and finding a deal. Even if most of these guys take only cash, and don’t have insurance for their “employees” or a valid registration for their truck (as has happened to the current siding guys, who lost a couple of days when a passing police car asked for their papers).
This time, he’s been bitten in the butt with his gray market ways. The guys come and play their Norteno music for about an hour, then go away. A job that should have taken 3 days maximum is on its third week. They’ll sit and eat under the shade of the tree (listening to the music), and the crew boss tells Kulatin that “it’s so hot, we just need some beer, man.” Kulatin gives them $20, and they go buy some beer … and don’t come back!
After telling us the beer story, Kulatin says he won’t pay them until they’re done. I think that’s a pretty smart idea. But I did say to him, the other day, “So, those guys don’t really like to work much, huh?” And I grinned at him, I’m just teasing you, you know?