Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Castle

I was doing a bit of late night trolling for a good movie to watch on Netflix last night, and came upon a movie I remember seeing years ago, but has long dropped off the DVD sales or rentals.  "The Castle" is a funny and clever independent Australian film from 1997 with a cast of people most of us never heard of yet all turn in good performances.

It's the story of a family who lives in a small subdivision "conveniently" located at the end of a runway at Melbourne International Airport.  The land is not worth much, and the houses are.....well lets just say not castles.  The local council has decided to declare eminent domain and pay off the owners what it considers reasonable property value and sell off the land to a developer who wants to put up a commercial business that would be tied to the airport.

Most normal people would have quietly taken the offer and accepted the offer.  But the politicians, and the corporation that wanted the land never met Darryl Kerrigan.  What followed was a man who fought all the legal battles, often with poor legal consul against both the government and a thuggish company. 

Darryl and his family are not the brightest people in the world, but are decent people who just want to stay put, and they are also a good loving family who care about each other, even the son who is in prison for doing something stupid, and didn't have good legal consul. 

On the Ed Morrissey scale, I'd give this a solid 4.  Rent it or watch it on Netflix streaming video.  There is currently no DVD available.

On a slightly more serious note.  Back in the mid 1980's I purchased a small condominium in the far northern city of Queensland city of Cairns.  It is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, and a nice city.  At the time there was an ordinance against high rise buildings, a wise thing.  There really is not a good beach there, and you have to drive an hour north to Port Douglas to get to a really nice beach.

A thousand miles south of Cairns is an area south of Brisbane called Surfer's Paradise that was ruined, in my opinion by high rise hotels and condos that totally blocked out the sun on a very nice beach in the afternoon, and Cairns wanted nothing of that....for a while.

Well, as usual, money talks.  The Nikko Hotel chain of Japan wanted the piece of land where my very nice condo complex in Cairns was located, and paid off enough of the people on the local council to get the property condemned.  Most owners were people from out of state and had their condos either as vacation properties or mike me used it for investment properties.  We were offered pennies against the dollar for the value of the property, and told that is what the condos were worth.  This was not an old run down property and was only 10 years old at then time and well maintained.  The condo association tried to fight it in court, after trying to get our properties reassessed, but Nikko had better lawyers and politicians in their pockets.  Of course few of us were permanent residents of Queensland, let alone Cairns, so the local politicians didn't give a damn about us.

We eventually settled for substantially more money after a protracted legal battle, but still we all lost money.

Two years later I got a letter from my former next door neighbor who's home is in suburban Melbourne, not at the end of a runway at Tullamarine Airport though, and said what was left of the condo complex was a big pit with concrete and rebar in it and that the hotel developers went bankrupt.   Also 2 of the councilmen got indicted for taking bribes and had trials coming up, on something unrelated to this development.

I'm not a vindictive person, but that certainly brought a smile to my face.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Growing old and dealing with aging parents

My 56th birthday is next week and good friends are taking me out to see the Triple A Redbirds play at AutoZone Park, arguably the best baseball stadium in the minor leagues.  I know it will be a good time.  But growing older has me thinking more and more about my mortality.

My 83 year old dad does a "Meals On Wheels' run every Thursday in a town near him home in suburban Scranton.  Many of these people really need this service, but a few of his "Customers" are just lazy welfare people supposedly recovering from some sort of addiction, or a bad marriage, or has a herd of kids.  Still most appreciate dad and let me know it when I helped him with his route this past week.

I know, I know, you want me to get to my point.  Patience grasshopper.  There is more.

My youngest nephew, Ben, graduated from Shippensberg University with a perfect 4.0 GPA over 4 years and was top of his class.  I'm so proud of him.

That is not necessarily off topic, but let me continue.  The day before we had drive from my parents home in a Scranton suburb (which is much nicer than Scranton), there was a huge wreck on I-81 at a major interchange in Harrisburg and all traffic got diverted to another route.  Driving through there was awful.  It only took a little under 2 hours to get to Harrisburg, but took almost almost 4 hours to get around the mess.  Dad insisted on driving, although I implored him to let me drive.  Neither of us see well.  I'm blind in one eye, from an old accident and dad just has old age issues with vision. Well we survived the mess.  Got to out motel in Carlisle, met one of my nephews and brother for dinner at my parents favorite crappy chain restaurant Cracker Barrel.  I personally hate these places and think they have lousy food and service, but mom and dad like it.

It poured all night, and my brother called me up early Saturday morning to tell me that the graduation was moved indoors to the field house and the M-Z's were going to be at 3PM.  Dad's idea of driving home on Saturday were shattered.

We all had a nice time, Ben got his degree and his honors, and we all had a nice dinner in a very good restaurant.

Here's where it gets serious.  From what I observed, Dad has early Alzheimers onset.  When not engaging with people, he hums, and hums loudly.  He hummed at the graduation, hums at church in the middle of prayers and the sermon.  Mom is no help.  She just shrugs it off, but every person from my grandmother's side of the family who lived into their 80's had dementia.  I may very well fall in that category someday.  Dad certainly is in early stages, though very aware of everything once you speak to him.

My problem here is how do I get my mom to understand or at least acknowledge that there is a problem?  And he really should not be driving anymore.

I know that the day is coming and soon I'm afraid where I'm going to have to put my parents in assisted living, and they will hate me for it.  Being the good son sometimes means doing things that may get you cut out of the will.