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.


JN81: We bought a house!! Almost!!

March 4, 2010

My friends,

Buying a house is like slapping yourself repeatedly in the face with a sock full of Jell-O: It’s messy, but kind of fun. Try it. This week has been eventful for Jameelah and me. We found this cool little house on a hill in a neighborhood we like, filled with light, with a yard, newly updated, with stainless steel appliances, and sometimes, when it’s clear, you can see parts of the mountain range standing in the distance. The neighbors are a young Asian couple and 20 of their relatives, and we started daydreaming of trading homegrown bok choy and wasabi roots with them and sending our kids to the same violin class and pressuring them to attend the same medical school.

So we worked with our agent and submitted an offer yesterday. Three hours later, they countered with an increase of $10,000. “They’re desperate,” said our agent, “if you increase 5K, they’ll probably take it.” The sellers are an old couple who are trying to move to Florida. Yippee, we thought! These old people are desperate! We’ll have a house, yay!

Then I couldn’t sleep. The house is only slightly bigger than our apartment, and the living room is actually smaller than the apartment’s! Today I called Long, my older brother, who is a brilliant real estate investor. We didn’t want to talk to him, because sometimes in life, you need to maintain illusions to keep your sanity, and Long is the kind of person who can dash hopes and dreams faster than a Tea Party Republican can say “Sarah Palin 2012!” He would rain on your parade, and then tell you parades cause cancer.  I called him today and he said we would end up losing $30,000 or $40,000 when we sell the house in a few years because no one would buy a house this small. He said our children would be on the street, begging, pretending to be lepers, and I would have to grow marijuana in the backyard to make mortgage payments and that the loan sharks would come over and destroy our bok choy and wasabi.

All right, he didn’t say the stuff about begging and marijuana and bok choy, but he painted a very bleak picture, so bleak that I called our agent and withdrew the offer completely. In a way, I am relieved. In another way, I’m disappointed that another house fell through. It always takes a little while to recover, and sometimes, like the first house that was beyond perfect, you don’t recover completely. Each time you find a little house, you start daydreaming, imagining picnics in luxurious lawns and cutting fresh kale for your stir-fry and tiki parties, and maybe a little trellis covered in grape leaves that you can stuff with rice and Greek herbs and boil and squeeze some lemon juice on top and invite your neighbors over during summer evenings when sunlight doesn’t fade until 9 and the world seems so still and serene. You daydream these things, and then you start to wonder how much something like that is worth. Isn’t it worth 30 or 40 grand, a vision like that?

Hell no! 40K, that’s like…a lot of money. I can’t imagine a number that big, having never experienced that before, but I’m sure it’s a lot.

It’s back to the hunt. “Don’t worry,” said our agent, “we’ll find the house that is right for you guys.” I start thinking about the old couple, who are probably daydreaming too, about selling their house, about moving to a condo in Florida. I feel a little guilty for disappointing them, for raising their hopes and dashing them. We were the only offer they got so far. Maybe I should ask Long to call and cheer them up.


JN80: What do we do about the wedding if we can’t find a house?! Vote now!

February 25, 2010

Dear everyone,

Jeeze, I’ve never had writer’s block this bad before, if you can consider blogging writing. It’s like my sense of humor has been drained by a…by a…damn, something funny should go here. By a Dyson vacuum cleaner? See what I mean? It’s awful. I blame it on stress. And Netflix. But mainly stress.

The fiancée and I have been trying to save money. For the wedding. For the house. We cancelled cable, and we drink orange juice from concentrate. No cable and orange juice from concentrate? Why, we might as well live as peasants in a third-world country!

Our offer on that house got rejected, which was ridiculous and very disappointing and makes me just want to collapse in bed with my favorite Care Bear and not get up until we magically have a kickass house with a garden. This particular house was falling apart, and we were kind enough to offer to buy it, and the stupid bank said our offer was too low. Fine, we said, we’ll increase the offer by $40,000. It’s fun to play with incomprehensible sums of money that you don’t yet have: “We’ll increase our bid by 40K and 12 unicorns!”

Our new agent, however, advised against it, saying he had a bad feeling about the house, which made me think that it may be haunted by ghosts, goblins, our worse, Tea Party Republicans. We will drive around again, wandering the city like sad spirits, looking for another place.

While we’re looking for this house, Jameelah continues planning this wedding, which is only months away (July), and we haven’t even booked the face painter yet! Our plan is to get a house, then have a wedding there, which I think is an awesome idea, because then we could buy $5 tikki bamboo torches and space them around the backyard. Then Jameelah could wear a hula dress and a coconut bra and we could exchange pineapples carved with our vows.

But my ideas always get vetoed.

Work is going well, and by well I mean that the Dragon has been going around attacking other community groups, using our organizational name, calling them communists and so on, so then those groups threaten to sue our little nonprofit, so then I bring it up to our board, which starts a huge argument where at least one person nearly got stabbed by a ball-point pen, but luckily we don’t have much funding for supplies, so no one got stabbed.

Today I came back from facilitating my second monthly neighborhood group meeting. 30 people were present, one of whom was a 70-year-old gentleman named “Joe,” who didn’t like the fact that I moved people into a circle seating arrangement. He sat with arms folded, frowning, while we did the icebreaker, which involved cards and was fun. Otherwise, things are going as planned. Soon I’ll be able to propose my genius plan: Edible parking stickers. Look, they leave residues on your car windows, OK? That’s unsightly.

I called Mr. No to see if I could replace the Tempurpedic pillow I stole from him. Couldn’t reach him. I’ll try again later.

Going back to the wedding, which has been keeping me up at night, mainly because I worry that Jameelah is going to strangle me in my sleep for responding to her questions such as “How do you prefer my hair for the wedding? Up or down” with answers such as “I cannot even comprehend that question. It does not register in my brain at all.” But also, what if we don’t find the right house in time? What do we do?!! Here, it’s been a while since we voted on anything. Please submit your advice, or else pick from one or more of the following:

  1. Get married in your tiny 600-foot apartment. Give all four guests surgical masks so they’re not affected by mold
  2. Wait till someone with a big house goes on vacation, then sneak into and use their house
  3. Get married at a hotel or restaurant, like normal people who drink orange juice not from concentrate
  4. Delay wedding till house is found; annoy relatives and potentially get murdered by fiancée.
  5. Elope, then come back and have a house party after house is bought
  6. What? You’re worried about a wedding?! Our government has grown bloated! Join us Tea Bagging Republicans so we can work together usher in a Palinistic theocracy that will save us all!
  7. Stop trying to buy a house altogether. Oooh, a house with a yard and a picket fence. Such a cliché.
  8. Cryogenically freeze selves, then get unfrozen in the future, when marriage as an institution is outdated, and people are grouped in government-assigned social pods.
  9. I don’t care, as long as you have cute party favors

Today a recently married friend told me that being married is the greatest gift in the world. That makes no sense to me. Of course, this was my college friend Anita, who firmly believes that people can live off of love. “Enjoy planning your wedding,” she texted, “it only happens once.” So does an appendectomy.


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