Tuesday, April 06, 2010

living in a van down by the river

It's not that I am dying to take on a mortgage. Debt is one of my biggest fears. Mike and I are different in this regard. Not that he is dying to take on a mortgage either, but one of his biggest fears is that the cat will get into the dryer and we won't know she's there before turning it on.

People, I have A LOT of fears, but cats and dryers don't make the list. Marriage is a balance of unbalanced minds. But let's get back to the subject at hand.

Mortgage – not high on my list of dreams. Painting my walls whatever freaking color I want – extremely high, we're talking throw your BFF on your shoulders and you still don't have to bend to walk under this limbo stick, baby.

A simple thing, I know. The two issues – (if you haven't been keeping up I mean mortages and paint colors) seem to be a package deal and I'm at the point where I am ready to dive in. It's kind of like when I chose to have a homebirth. I didn't so much choose to have my baby at home as I chose to have a midwife, and where I live the former comes with the latter. And voila! it all worked out perfectly.

I miss the old days; I won't lie. There was a time when Mike and I could look at a place and know we could make it work, that anyway, it was just temporary. There is something delicious about working with all the weirdness that is already there. But those days are over. I have the worst case of house envy possible.

When we moved to Monterey in 1998, housing was tight. We had no jobs, no cell phone and we were living at the campground. Not quite a van down by the river, but not your ideal candidates to take on a lease.

And when we got as far as the apartment tour, things got ugly fast. And I do mean ugly. I want to believe that now, over a decade later, things are different, but when we were looking at apartments around here in the late 90s, virtually every one boasted a carpet the color and pattern of which I can only refer to as “puke.” It was the standard Monterey carpet. How on earth, we reasoned, could such a beautiful place be overrun with such hideous carpet? I still can't answer that, but let me just tell you that at a particularly low point in our search we nearly took one of the Monterey puke carpet apartments and as an added bonus it was located on a street by the name of “Dickman.” That would have clinched it for me.

Street names are curious. Makes you wonder what kind of karma they bring with them. In dreaming about buying a house we have come across a few beauts for street names: Lovers' Lane. Bliss Street. These are places I'd happily take up residence – a far cry from Dickman.

Bliss and Lovers aside, by my calculations there are about half a dozen street names total in the country. Seriously. Count with me: There's Main Street. Maple. Elm. And at most three more. Center, for example? Do you have a Center Street? Ours is Central, but close enough. Towns right the hell next to each other use the same names of streets. The human imagination limitless? Yeah, check your maps.

By looking at the houses, at least in my neighborhood, you'd think we were a chummy species, all neighborly an' shit. Porches overlook the porches next door, bedroom windows sport views of their neighbors' newly-built decks. Of course there are a few things to tip you off that neighborly isn't quite the descriptor for life in 2010 USA: Maybe it's the No Trespassing signs. Maybe it's the yards where the most prominent thing planted is the car – on the grass smack in front of the door, if there is grass, because just as often there is concrete – lots and lots of concrete. I've long held to the belief that if someone has a house and can't see fit to at minimum *pretend* to be grateful for the privilege, they should lose it and that house should go to someone like ME. Fabric softener showing out the front bay window? Sorry. You lose. Dead Christmas tree laying in the front yard in April? Hand over the keys, buddy.

We have a nice place that we rent here. It's cute. A little island of sweet. But it's not mine, and I'm tired, so tired of my view of dumpsters and chain link fences. I want my own damn place and it ain't gonna have any bloody rose bushes, and it's gonna take more than four strides to cross, and every damn wall will be a different color. And if that means mortgage, bring it on. I'm a big girl now. I'm ready to face my fears.


Christine Gram said...

Love this post. It took us FOREVER to buy a house. We even went into escrow on one and then pulled out because we were just FREAKING out too badly. Two years later we tried again. Unfortunately I then changed jobs and took on a 1.5 hour commute (standard bay area crap) and then moved to Italy... but NOW I'm looking at real estate again. New priorities. I want less commute and to be closer to the ocean. Two biggies for us. Oh, and decent schools. But not a 10. 10 schools terrify me.

Happy hunting.

bobbie said...

How did I miss this one earlier?

I remember the feeling. I hope you still feel that way after owning a house for many years. I'm sure that, at least, you will hold onto it for many. Eventually, I reached the point of settling for a lot less. But I got lucky because I at least have the greatest landlord ever.

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