Village ‘cleans up’ family house

To the editor:

As some of you may recall, our mother had the playground built where the carousel is now. If you want to use the old equipment, you will have to trespass into backyards around town. There is something poetic in that, as if our lives were a sick joke scripted by some malevolent trickster.

When village staff boarded up our house for the public safety of vandals, they were also “cleaning up” worthless waste. If you wondered why it took so long, there was a court process that ultimately did not work out in their favor. That must have been really inconvenient, so they gave themselves the power to sort it all out later. Our father was asking for it by dressing so provocatively.

What is more strange is they blocked every possible entrance with plywood but left most of his manic “eyesores.” When they obstruct windows, “safety”; when our father does, “fire hazard.” More bizarre still, there was little to clean up. The issue was not benign neglect; he blatantly provokes them. He is not an artist in the same way Andy Kaufman was not a comedian.

His satire of “the cure cottage myth in the slumlord district” critiques the antiquarian pretense of the upper-middle class by appropriating kitsch for the avant-garde. There is no accounting for taste. His heirs are losing millions in compounded returns over some lawn ornaments. Sometimes I think he is the only one trying to gentrify that neighborhood.

It is reminiscent of situationist praxis from the French student radical movement, subversively playing on the found object anti-art of the Dadaists with militant irony. He has deconstructed the illogic that objects are somehow more historic than the people who use them. There is no difference between “restoring” houses all at once or piece-by-piece over decades. Tear it down. He does not care.

It would be a mistake to conclude that they took nothing other than everything. Whenever they say “garbage” and “debris,” remember the translation: “The antique Mobil gas pump, propane grill, above-ground pool and who knows what else from storage.” They stole our Christmas tree. Neighbors witnessed them take the electrical generator from a closed shed.

There is no way to know what is missing without breaking into our own house. I am sure our heirlooms will look lovely in the homes of whichever private contractors they hire to run up his taxes. He is being charged for the privilege of having his assets stolen, much like drug enforcers who turn routine traffic stops into an excuse to cavity search the drivers and bill them for the medical expenses.

They have a perverse incentive to make it hazardous so they can minimize their exposure for eminent domain. When the basement floods in the spring, the interior will fill with toxic mold because they sealed off most of the ventilation. Squirrels will be lost in a death trap through the openings they left out back. They are inciting kids to commit arson, and his children are being burned.

Merry Christmas.

Robert Schnibbe

Saranac Lake