I‘m frustrated and tired. I’m wringing my hands and drowning in the sound of Gordon Lightfoot. My pug is asleep next to me, with a pug baby clasped between his paws. He’s snoring, and I’m wearing Joe’s noise-canceling headphones.
In my living room, Bob Costas is commenting on Olympic marathon runners. Olympic marathon runners with bodies like spaghetti strings are running through my living room.
Today, Joe and I embarked on Home Tour No. 4 with Realtor Randy. And I must admit, I’m decidedly less starry-eyed than when we began this housecapade two months ago.
Of the two of us, I’m the hopeful one. Not Joe. He’s the cynic. But today it was me who spent the duration of our real estate look-see with my hands on my hips and a bitchy scowl across my face.
My friend Liz, who reads this blog, wrote me an e-mail recently that said:
“After three weeks of my own house hunting, I found one. I put in an offer and wouldn’t you know, it’s been accepted. I’m gonna be a homeowner. One of my many dreams is actually going to come true. It’s a ranch in the Lakeview Wanakah area off Route 5. I’m scared, excited and nervous all at the same time.”
Congrats Liz. I take this as a sign that a house with four walls and a functioning shitter is bound to come my way soon. It’s always excellent to hear from you.
(Liz and I played soccer together in high school. We were both forwards. Liz had better aim than me and was faster and more sprite-ly, but we worked in tandem for years, both on and off the soccer field. We were first clarinet chairs in band; clarinet partners until the day we graduated high school. Band geeks really. When all our friends decided they were too cool for band, we begrudgingly stayed the course.)
So why the sourpuss?
Buying a home is a huge emotional undertaking. For me it means planting roots, the likes of which I’ve not been very good at.
I can’t help but picture a big old grandaddy tree when I picture the physical act of home-buying. Say what you will about the ease of buying and selling, and how your first house aint your last house. Buying a house means planting your ass somewhere for more than a year, and let’s face it: I’ve not planted my ass for more than a year anywhere since leaving New York four years ago.
In my Oma’s address book, in the spot where my name is written, Oma has five different addresses scribbled, four of which are scribbled out:
Heron’s Run Drive, Hawkins Court, Osprey Avenue, Pattison Avenue and now 8th Avenue.
An address has it’s own heartbeat. Arteries that run from your place to amenities. Veins that run from your place to neighbors. All of my Florida addresses have had their fair share of veins and arteries. Previous to playing musical apartments, I spent 22 years in one bedroom. The arteries were longer, fewer and more likely to clot in North Collins, which is why I moved.
Granted home buying and apartment-leasing aren’t that different. Both mean staking out a spot on some street, on some corner on some dead end – your own earthly space in some earthly town – where at night stray cats moan and homeless men wander, where across the street when no one is watching, the cook from a Chinese restaurant dumps used vegetable oil in a dumpster, where Starbucks serves $5 Frappachinos and where Chipotle serves cheap burritos and guacamole.
It’s just a bigger commitment, and other than my pledge last year to go fishing every Saturday morning at 8 a.m., I’ve never had problems making commitments. It’s the owning-property-in-Florida bit that’s got me going batty. Owning a house in the Sunshine State wasn’t a part of my master plan.
We all have neuroses. Veering off course is mine.
I did a Google search for my hometown the other day and I came across this essay I wrote my junior year at Buffalo State College. My first thought upon reading my standard preachy prose was: Jesus H! What a hung-up old biddy I am. I’ve changed so little, it’s ridiculous. I’m still making a fuss over some kind of rural paradise.
It’s sick, folks. If you get your hands on my diaries from ages 9 through 18, you’d piss your pants reading things like: “By the time I’m 22, I want to be in Florida writing for a newspaper. By the time I’m 23, I want a pug. By the time I’m 25, I want to be writing a book.”
Old souls die hard. Take this sentence from that same college essay:
“I was a sarcastic kid who thought my life was a big Jeff Foxworthy joke.”
This was me at 19. And I tell you what, I’m not that different. Ask my parents. The only difference was … well, I never once wrote about home-buying in a diary. Truth be told I had no idea where I’d land.
So to quell my anxiety I consulted with John Steinbeck, whose observations have always resonated with me.
This passage is from Travels with Charley:
“I had promised my youngest son to say good-bye in passing his school at Deerfield, Massachusetts, but I got there too late to arouse him, so I drove up the mountain and found a dairy, bought some milk, and asked permission to camp under an apple tree. The dairy man had a Ph. D. in mathematics, and he must have had some training in philosophy. He liked what he was doing and he didn’t want to be somewhere else – one of the very few contended people I met in my whole journey.”
I was lying on my stomach in bed around midnight when I started this post. The A/C in the apartment was turning my toes into ice cubes, and Joe, to heat me up, had brought me in a cup of hot coffee. As he turned to leave he blew me a kiss, which filled me with a kind of red mercury that anyone who has ever been in love, is familiar with. And I sipped from the coffee I was holding and re-read the Steinbeck passage I was typing, and determined that what I was looking for I couldn’t seek.
Contentment is as exotic an adventure as any. I never wrote about contentment in diaries. I think from this point on I will.