M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, June 20, 2002  

Trash and I have been talking for months about the possibility of cashing in our absurdly overvalued house and moving to a nearly debt-free existence in a bigger house in a cheaper neighborhood. We’ve been taking steps to prepare for the transition ever since the house next door sold for five times what we paid for ours. Weeks have been spent buffing the place towards a condition in which our consciences will allow us to accept a fistful of annual median household incomes for it, and while it’s not quite there yet, we can see it from here. We’ve been (okay, really, Trash has been) combing the real estate pages, watching homes in our neighborhood going for twice the price of houses twice their size in the suburbs. But most of all, we’ve been talking. Talking and thinking about what we’ll need to do to make this happen, and what our lives will be like after we do.

Well, there’s a time when talking stops and action begins. My friends, we have reached that point.

On Sunday, we found a great home while an open house was going on there. It’s a postwar rambler in beautiful condition, with a completely finished basement that’s barely smaller than the ginormous back yard. It’s thirteen blocks from where I work. We loved it.

But it wasn’t…quite…perfect. The upstairs floor plan was just a little too standard for us and there wasn’t quite enough character in the neighborhood. We went home, where Trash pulled a bunch of new listings off the Internet, and in a few minutes we were back on the streets, stalking the elusive Dream House on our suburban safari.

We didn’t find the perfect house, but we did find a perfect neighborhood. There are a couple of blocks in Bloomington where every house has a different style of mailbox by the curb. All of them were unique, and most of them were works of art. One had, in place of a standard pole, a sculpture of a stylized human figure lunging toward the street like a four-foot-tall hood ornament. This, we agreed, was an expression of neighborhood individuality that we could get behind. Oh, the houses were nice too.

On Monday, Trash made an appointment with the family realtor. She asked him to come over, take a look at the house and everything we’ve done with it in the nine years since he helped us buy it, and tell us what we could charge for it. Kind of an informal inspection, during which he’d make suggestions about what we need to fix, what we don’t need to fix, and what we can hide.

That’s when it his us: this isn’t just an intellectual exercise any more. This is actually happening. We’ve actually involved a grown-up in this process, a grown-up who will rightly expect to be paid. We’re going to find a house. We’re going to put this house on the market, and everything that entails—the fixing, the cleaning, the packing, the donating, the storing. We’re going to conscript every man jack of our friends for whom we’ve ever carried so much as a tune to schlep all of our possessions out of the city and into our capacious new dwelling sitting on a huge green lawn like an afterthought.

This is it.

This is finally it.

This is…not what we want.

Smash cut to analogy: you’re on a rollercoaster, and the chain is slowly ratcheting you up that first hill. You’re not sure you want to be there. You can’t look straight ahead, because the length of track between you and the naked blue sky is getting shorter every second. You can’t look behind you, because behind=down, and you NEVER LOOK DOWN. If you look to the side, you have to deal with the fact that the horizon is so very much not where you left it. And closing your eyes or keeping them on your shoes is out of the question, because you want to be ready for the next thing that happens.

There’s only one thing to look at: the staircase running alongside the track. It’s incongruous—a strangely practical detail in a world that stopped making sense the second that that padded bar locked into place across your lap. You know it’s there so maintenance people can climb up and change the light bulbs, but that’s not what you’re thinking about now. No, you’re thinking about how long it would take you to disengage from your safety gear and hop out of the car onto those nice, solid steps. You’re imagining a leisurely walk back down with one hand on the railing; maybe you’ll wave at the next train when it’s on its way up. That, or sit there helplessly and wait for gravity, momentum, and countless other forces from centrifugal to G have their way with you.

We cancelled the appointment with our realtor. Being the gentleman he is, he graciously assured us that whenever we’re ready, he’ll be there. That’s appreciated, because someday we will be ready. It took putting things in motion to make us realize that we aren’t yet. We’ve been getting used to the idea of moving for months, and we never quite pulled it off. Now we’re getting used to staying where we are, and it barely took us a day. The bottom line is that our house got really expensive because people really, really want to live here. And as it turns out, we’re two of those people.

That walk down the stairs was a lot shorter than we thought.

posted by M. Giant 4:44 PM 0 comments


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