JN83.5: Holy ferret…I think we just bought a house

March 18, 2010

Dear everyone,

Yesterday, I soaked morel mushrooms in water and salt, hoping to drive away gross, horrible creatures that tend to make homes in them. No, not Tea Party Republicans, but little bugs and insect. We were saving them to eat in celebration when our offer on the house is accepted, but hearing no such news yesterday, I sautéed them in olive oil and garlic, and ate them anyway over fettuccini drizzled with truffle oil.

They were awful. I mustn’t have cleaned them right, and they tasted very, very sandy, as if I had soaked them in cat litter instead of sea salt. It was strange, because I rinsed them at least three times. It was very disappointing.

Today the sellers faxed in their counter-offer. Nope, they said, no reduced price. They wanted full price. They’ll help pay some of the closing costs. But they’ll let us keep the kick-ass stainless steel fridge and oven. You know the oven with the smooth ceramic top that you can clean by simply wiping? There are TWO inside this house!!

So I rushed to Jameelah’s school to be stared at by her 28 students while she initialed the counter. On the way over, however, I just had to call my brother Long, who is a real estate investor who has made quite a load of money flipping houses.

“Are you nuts?!” he said, “That’s way over what you should be buying! Do you want to be a slave to this house? At that house payment, you won’t be able to enjoy life! You’ll be trapped in your house forever, and when you sell it, you’ll lose money. And renting out your basement may sound like a good idea, but you might encounter horrible tenants who trash your place and be a nuisance.”

“You two are young,” he said, “Don’t you want to travel the world? Don’t you want to explore Africa? Trust me on this, you don’t want to tie yourself down, working only so you can support your mortgage. You don’t want your house owning you!”

He’s completely right. We could wait and find the perfect fixer upper. Long would make sure it’s a good deal. He would help us fix it up. We would live in it, and he’d help us sell it, and instantly, we’d have 30 to 50K. “Your first house won’t be your dream house! You need to use this opportunity to invest!”

But we’re not real estate investors. We’re just trying to find a place that we’re comfortable living in! I want to be able to go home each day and relax in my yard and plant herbs on my deck and stare at the clouds and raise ferrets if I want to. We’re homebodies! On my birthday Jameelah and I stayed at home and cooked and then we watched “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” on Netflix. And I was happy. We could travel every season to a different country if we had the money, but home is always where we’ll be spending 90% of our time. I want it to feel good.

And this house feels good. We’re not going to make 30K when we sell it in five years. We might even lose some money. But during those five years, dammit, we’re gonna enjoy the hell of it. Needless to say, we agreed to the counter-offer. The house is now pending inspection. If the inspection passes, we start financing, mild renovations, and finding tenants.

Long’s words linger, like those morels, crunchy and slightly bitter.  Sure, we’ll have to cut back for a year, probably have to survive on ramen and pasta, and those have to be on sale at Grocery Outlet. But just thinking of being able to eat ramen on our deck, or cooking oatmeal that we dumpster-dived for our guests on our awesome stove, or picking apples from our neighbor’s trees late at night when they’re sleeping, those thoughts fill me with happiness.

JN83: We’ve made another offer on a house!

March 16, 2010

Dear everyone,

Jameelah and I bought some morel mushrooms! Half a pound’s worth! And we might have also bought a house.

All these months of house hunting have been fun, and exhausting, and heartbreaking, honestly. After we withdrew the offer on the last house, the listing agent called back, begging us to resubmit the same offer. Aw, I think, that poor old couple, trying to move to Florida.

But heck no! Because this weekend, we found this awesome little house. As soon as we walked in, Jameelah and I fell in love. I’ve only fallen in love a few times in my life, and one time was with Rubbermaid Stainshield containers, so you know it doesn’t happen often. This house is really cool. It’s not too big, but much bigger than our apartment, and it has a little view of the lake and mountain in the distance. And it’s a little out of our price range, but it’s OK, because the basement is all done with a bath and kitchen and we can just rent it out to supplement our income.

And our neighbors are retired and love gardening! They have fruit trees! And kale! And grapes on the vine! We’re already thinking of what to bring over to them so they will like us and give us helpful gardening tips. Vegan flan, that should do it.

Of course, we’ve started daydreaming of stuff we could do: Vegan barbecues! Sunbathing on the deck! An office for me to play video games in! And a cage to start our very own ferret farm! (That last one is a maybe, since Jameelah has never appreciated ferret farming).

Anyway, please keep your fingers crossed for us. We submitted the offer today and gave them two days to respond, so we should know by Wednesday if we get this house. The morels are soaking in salt water to get rid of bugs. If we get the house, we’ll celebrate by sautéing the morel mushrooms in Earth Balance butter and garlic. If we don’t, we’ll sauté them in Earth Balance butter, garlic, and tears.

JN48: The world is a morel mushroom…with maggots

May 18, 2009

My friends,

I’ve just escaped from a three-day board retreat in Virginia, and my sanity and faith in humanity has really been frazzled. Virginia is pretty, with verdant deciduous trees and colonial-style houses. Why, walking down the street, you could almost hear the sound of Paul Revere’s horse galloping down the cobble-stoned paths, warning of the British’s coming. And in the distance you can hear the terrifying sound of the Brits as they came: “Looky, you just take the lift to get to the bog, and Bob’s your uncle.”

But I didn’t get much time to see Virginia, due to three hellish days of board meetings, where it became clear to me that the organization is in serious trouble, and that I will probably have to once again launch a revolution, like the one the freed America from the Brits (“Cor Blimey, Stevens, rotate anti-clockwise or you’ll blodge the whole pudding!”). All the while, I was praying that nothing would happen to my new office equipment, or to my car, or to my flat-panel TV after the office break-in.

That’s why I want to talk to you about morel mushrooms. Now, you may be thinking, “What the hell do morel mushrooms have to do with anything?” Every Spring, I go to the farmer’s market, eagerly anticipating the morels, which look like this:


photo by Pamela Kaminski

They are expensive because they cannot be grown, only harvested from the forest. Some will only grow after a forest fire. Last Sunday, after going week after week and being disappointed, there they were. Jameelah and I bought a pound for $20. They were beautiful, smelling of the earth, of the forest, of gym socks, but in a good way. I was giddier than a Japanese school girl with a new weeping panda backpack. I took them home and threw them in a bowl of cold water, anticipating savoring them sautéed in olive oil and garlic and served over microwaved pasta, with a glass of Jack and Coke, the epitome of culinary elegance.

Then, to my horrors, little white larvae—tiny little worms—started wriggling out of them. Not many, but enough to make me queasy. They fell to the bottom of the water, where they drowned. But still, they were there. It was sickening to think that morels, one of the most delicious things on earth, are tainted by the presence of disgusting little worms. I had to think about whether I wanted to eat them still.

After several week of horrible luck, I’ve come to realize that the world is like those morels. Delicious, but home to occasional worms. Incompetent, selfish people are always present in the morels of life. It is discouraging to think that the things that we do to try to make the world a delicious plate of pasta with sautéed wild mushrooms, can be undone by little wriggling worms of ego and ineptitude.

So, what did I do with the mushrooms, you ask? Throw them out? Hell no. They’re fricken $20 bucks a pound. I soaked them in salt water, rinsed them, then sautéed them as planned. While eating, I tried not to think of what else were in them. I remembered last year, I just used a mushroom brush instead of submerging the morels in salt water. Now I realize that I probably ate a dozen of those little worms without knowing. The mushrooms were delicious last year…and I wonder if it was because I was ignorant, or because the worms added flavor. Maybe that’s it. Maybe the morels are delicious because of the worms.

So perhaps all the crazy break-ins of my office, of my car, all the political scheming in nonprofits, the mutinies, the defense of insipidness, and that stupid Jack-in-the-Box “mini sirloin burger” commercial, all those add flavor to our world. I have no idea. It is past mid-night, and I am losing concentration. But this much I know: However how much awfulness there is in our world, no matter how much craziness, at least we don’t have to talk like the British (“Sweet fanny Adams, why all the slagging?”).


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