- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Odin Tidemand recently knocked on the front door of the neighborhood eyesore, looking askance at the residential disaster before him.

Odin was armed with a clipboard and a pen, along with a business card that revealed he is a senior assessor with the city’s Office of Tax and Revenue’s assessment division.

This was a cue to hide your wallet. Odin had a couple of important questions to ask, none of them encouraging. Odin talked softly, but carried an awfully big pen.

This is the twice-a-year game between the city and its beleaguered residents.

Here comes a property assessor. There goes the budget.

No one from the city ever comes to your place to say what a swell person you are or to announce that the mayor has decided to hold a day in your honor. Instead, whenever a bureaucrat comes to the door, you merely are negotiating the terms of your financial surrender.

Odin wanted to be your friend, as “friend” is defined by the city. He wanted to discuss numbers: the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. He wanted to discuss improvements. He was looking for a sign in order to pull a magical number out of the increasingly oppressive air.

Here is the thing: Odin already had the information at his disposal. He was reading from a prepared sheet. There were no secrets between Odin and the victim lurking inside the neighborhood eyesore.

You tried to let Odin know that all was not what it seemed.

You told him about the pond in the basement that’s stocked with bass. You told him that the bathroom was actually a latrine in the back yard. You told him about the holes in the walls from apparent domestic fights of yesteryear. You told him about the faulty wiring and the crumbling foundation and the lead paint and the lead in the water and the asbestos in your midst.

You also mentioned the name of Cleveland Ray, the official city photographer who snapped an unsolicited shot of the place that resulted in a $35 donation.

Did Odin know Cleveland? No, Odin did not know Cleveland or what happened to the $35 donation or whether the city ever is going to get around to sending a frame for the wonderful picture.

Cleveland does what Cleveland does, and Odin does what Odin does, which is assessing the worth of the crumbling structure before him.

You learn something new every day, and here is what you learned from Odin: ceiling fans.

There must be something about ceiling fans, because this is where it all went wrong with Odin. As soon as the subject of ceiling fans came up, Odin almost started to hyperventilate.

Here, you thought it was all about hardwood floors. Nope. Hardwood floors are passe. It is all about ceiling fans now. At least, it was with Odin. It seems you can go to any party nowadays and mention your ceiling fans, and before you know it, you will have a crowd listening in rapt attention.

Odin was committed to the calculations, and in his expert opinion, we were discussing another $100,000 on the assessment, which amounts to another $1,800 to the city.

What are a few more dollars among friends, whether it is Odin or Cleveland? The money to compensate the most finicky trash men in the nation has to come from somewhere.

You have come to believe that the city works in threes — in this case Odin, Cleveland and the most finicky trash men in the nation.

Memo to self: Remove ceiling fans, pronto. Obtain fishing license for downstairs pond. Plan neighborhood fish fry. Invite Odin, Cleveland and trash men.

Cleveland can take pictures. Who knows? Maybe we can catch a record bass, have Cleveland shoot it and send it to the hometown newspaper for publication.

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