The Bratt-Powers Couple and My One Million Dollar Smoking Lawsuit

The Petty Bureaucrat Neighbors Whose Names Say It All

As of last week my one million dollar law suit for smoking in my own condo in Washington D.C. was settled.

This libertarian vs. petty Washington bureaucrat showdown started about a year ago. My neighbors, Mrs. Bratt (maiden name), an administrator at George Washington University, and Mr. Powers, who works at the Federal Election Commission, spent a year complaining to the condominium board, and hired a “secondhand smoke expert” to conduct tests and write a 150-page report. Then they finally sued me for one million dollars for smoking in my very own, fully owned, condo — in a building that is not a non-smoking building. Let me repeat: not only did I not break any laws, but I didn’t even break any condominium rules.

George Carlin

Editor’s note: George Carlin, I miss you.

The Bratt-Powers couple paid a tremendous amount of money to their smoking expert and in legal fees to try to deprive me of using my own home as I wished. They offered a settlement of $US 40,000, which I dismissed. When they realized that I wasn’t paying legal fees because a friend was doing it pro-bono, they lowered the settlement offer to 5,000 USD. I didn’t want to pay that either, but my lawyer friend convinced me to accept it and paid the settlement himself to be able to leave Washington, D.C., and come and party with me in Brazil.

The weapon of choice of the Bratt-Powers couple was the legal system. However, they failed to realize that I have a weapon of my very own: communication. And on that note, please find below the Facebook entry I posted when this whole thing started to unfold, a year ago, along with a picture of the Bratt-Powers.

In the name of life, liberty, and love, and against anal-sadistic petty bureaucrats making life miserable for their surroundings, please share and help make the following message a Facebook meme!

Dear neighbors in unit 303:

I hope this letter finds you well. There have been some tensions between us lately, hence I’m keen to reach out to you, to ensure that we keep the lines of communications open and maintain a friendly and positive dialogue.

 Bratt-PowersFirst of all, let me tell you how much I appreciate having you as neighbors. I realized this at our last board meeting. Just as I was fading away in my own thoughts, pondering how dull my life had become over the last weeks for me to even attend a board meeting, your animated outbreak of passionate hatred against my smoking broke me out of my melancholy.

Fascinated, I watched you talking loudly, screaming at times, and gesticulating vividly. After spending more than half a decade at war, where life and death are the primary if not the only significant concerns, it’s amazing to realize that people can actually get that excited over such mundane things. To tell you the truth, I was mesmerized.

Thank you. You didn’t only make my day, but you made my whole week — or year, considering how long that scene will live on in my life as an entertaining story in any given dinner conversation.

I found your insistence on children particularly interesting. How you exclaimed “I want to have children in this building” with an increasingly high voice and hysterical tone.

“It’s not the smoke. We don’t have smoke in our unit. It’s the nicotine levels in the apartment. We have sent it to a laboratory to measure it.”

“Aha,” I said, trying to grasp the concept. “Are you also concerned about the 500 or so cars passing by in front of your window every day?” I did not get an answer, as you were busy enlightening the board about what the laboratory costs had entailed. Please forgive my ignorance, but it seems like a better way to have children is — as you say in English — “to fuck like rabbits” – rather than send nicotine tests to laboratories. I suspect the former will produce more tangible results than the latter.

However, I can see that you are good people. Painfully plain and largely insignificant to the human race? Yes. But evil? No. You’re good individuals, and I wish you well. In fact, I want to help you.

So, here’s my two cents of advice to you both. You successfully created a fictional enemy to recreate a bond that appears meaningful and thus secure the failing relationship. Of course, I’m happy to play the role of the object of hatred, and I hope it will bring results to your love life.

I applaud your success with it up until now; bravo to a constructive problem-solving approach. However, the problem with fictional demons is that they tend to appear and disappear in speed, so you’ll have to maintain much creativity throughout the years to invent new ones, which may create a slightly dystopian reality for you.

If you’re accustomed to moving variables in your life, it’s probably worth it. Hence, to preserve you both from the humiliating process of divorce, I’ll keep being your worst neighbor. You can thank me later.

And I am the perfect candidate for the role, taking our fundamental divide that will never be bridged into consideration – that of an entrepreneurial freedom lover versus two insecure Washington, D.C., bureaucrats rushing towards conformity at every turn. I have come to terms with that. But I’m hoping that, when reaching out my hand to you like this, we will come to an understanding of mutual despise, that will ultimately enrich our lives through making us all thrive on the positive comparison against the other.

Susanne in dc

Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof enjoying her condo in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Emma Andrea.

These are all just some thoughts, however, passing through my head as I sit on my windowsill, watching the colors shift through the sunrise. With a glass of Chardonnay, I’m enjoying the smell of the cherry blossom in our beautiful city, observing the most ambitious of bureaucrats making their way to work while the rest of the population jogs like lemmings towards an unknown destination, slowly inhaling the smoke of my cigarette, while wishing that some day, other people will enjoy the amount of personal freedom I’ve been blessed with.

I look forward to seeing you both at next board meeting. Thank you for being my friends, and my neighbors.

Yours truly,


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Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof About Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof

International conflict zone entrepreneur, tech investor, and the author of the forthcoming book, The Googlement: The DIY Guide To Starting Your Own Nation (And Changing The World) by Nortia Press, 2014. You can follow her blog,, and subscribe to her updates on Facebook.