2.24.2009

Now Where Did He Go?


Who tries to sell a condo in a market like this? Charlie and I are thinking, with one showing, this is one of our more stupid ideas. We lowered the price so much that we'll have to come to closing with cash (where's that coming from?). We love this condo. Why doesn't someone else?

We called some property managers to see what it would take to get it rented. We heard we could get $1300 last fall when we were considering a move. Charlie can't retire if we live here because his retirement is less than the mortgage. (I'm good for nothing. Money is like oil to my water so I'm happy renting anyway.)

The same property manager we spoke with last fall said, "Hmm, well the market is slowing. I advertise on CraigsList and maybe I could get $900 for it."

"We'll take it," Charlie says. That's how desperate he is. I'm thinking if rent has gone down this quickly, a hundred dollars a month, then let's do it. What the heck. It'll cover way less than half our mortgage, but that's better than nothing.

He doesn't have time to call her back. I'm not going to. He can make all the real estate decisions. Since I'm not in that career anymore, I want nothing to do with it. It reminds me of work.

The realtor calls me. "Hey, I talked to the property manager at your building," he says. He was the original realtor for the building, the seller's agent to my buyer's agent when we bought. He's the one selling for us, since who better to sell it than the guy who has sold every other one?

"I'll support whatever you want to do," he says, "but I've sold twelve homes in the past ten days. I know I can sell yours. It's priced really well and it's just a matter of time."

Did I mention we've had one showing in 22 days? To my real estate brain, that means lower the price. That means panic.

"I've never had a client call me as often as you have, asking to lower the price. It's low enough. It's just a matter of time."

Okay, I tell him, we'll calm down. In the meantime, we've had this condo for one year. At one year, in a new building like this, you are supposed to get all your repairs done by the builder. You just write up a list and they are supposed to do them. It'd be good to get the repairs done before there's a sale, a whole new home inspection and a whole new list of repairs.

We lived in an Arbor home before this and it was like the military, doing repairs. At one year exactly, they'd ask for the list. You got one try and that's all you got. Any repairs they didn't do when you moved in were supposed to be done then, as well. But being Arbor, they got the move-in repairs done like the military, too: fast, huge crews, lots of signatures on forms.

Not so much here, but we keep adding to the list so it's okay. While I'm writing this a Pella guy is repairing the window behind me. We've lived here for well over a year now. This window has been this way all winter, sort of screwed up hing-wise. We bought blinds and curtains to camoflage the noise and cold coming in through the one-inch gap.

This is the third, fourth, or maybe fifth Pella guy here. The construction manager came by before that to inspect. They keep bringing in new windows, new parts, and parts for the new window. They always say, "It's such an easy fix. This won't take long. Why didn't they get it done last time?" They stay for so long I get hungry waiting. They try not to swear, but they are always here for three hours of so. Even for a little part replacement, they stay for a long time.

I feel bad for them. They have people calling them on the phone asking why it's taking so long. "I'm almost done," he says. He's said this about a dozen times. "I guess you've heard that before."

More drills, more noises, more sawing and pounding, and more calls from the other repair guys who have to do the jobs he was supposed to do after this one. Dr. Phil is already on, and it was breakfast time when he arrived. It's just a tiny piece of metal screwing his life up, and mine. Not mine, so much. This is kind of fun googling and having to be nowhere, waiting.

He's run down to his truck six times now, getting 2" screws and who knows what else. I think he hates his life. He was so happy when he arrived.

I'm happy there are no other repairs. At least not until it's sold. I'll be even happier then.

Salesman

Charlie decided he needed a suit. Being in a uniform all day, all his life, his wardrobe consists of shorts and underarmor or race t-shirts. I thought he could do with another pair of jeans or Dockers, but what would I know? My wardrobe consists of the same sweat pants every day until I can smell myself. So off to Men's Wearhouse we go.

I don't know about this place. I went here once when Dylan needed a bow tie for an orchestra concert. I got in and got out as fast as humanly possible. It was like accidentally stepping into the men's room.

As soon as we walk inside, Charlie sees a tan sport coat in some sort of faux suede. "I love this," he says. "What do you think?"

I think it isn't a suit, which is why we're here. As soon as we fulfill our requirements we can go do something else. I'm looking around and I can't even figure out what these racks contain. I don't like to shop, but I really don't like to shop for men's clothes. What goes with what?

Charlie puts on the faux suede coat. It makes him look like a different person. I don't know if I'd come up and talk to this person. He's kind of professional-looking.

He steps away from the rack and I see his shorts under the coat. Now that looks ridiculous, and more what I'm used to living with. Charlie wears shorts in the snow so shorts with a sport coat looks like home.

"It's nice," I say. I could get used to being around this professional-looking man. Professional-looking if he's hiding behind a rack, that is.

"How about this one?"

He holds up a dark blue faux suede jacket. Everything he owns, I swear, is that same dark blue. How to I politely tell him I'm going to throw up?

I don't have to. Out of nowhere comes a blur of a salesman. "I'll be right with you," he says. "It's just been crazy today. Crazy!"

That made him sound gay, which would be comforting, but he wasn't. He was kind of not much of anything. He's the kind of guy who would work at Men's Wearhouse for thirty years, which it turns out he has. Why do I know this? When you work at Men's Wearhouse you have an overwhelming need to talk about yourself all friggin' day long.

"I was an Art Major in college," he says. "There are a lot of things you wouldn't know about color and what goes together."

Really? I have a degree in Art History. Since I don't work at Men's Wearhouse, I don't feel the need to share.

"When we were in painting class," he says, "We had to paint the canvasses white. Why paint them white? I asked. They said you have to paint them white to start with a white background. Everything looks better on a white background."

I wonder if he didn't realize he was painting gesso on the canvas. You do that for preparation, not for color. I don't think he wants to be corrected. It might ruin his point for future presentations.

Charlie's trying on suits, picked out by the art major Peter. The guy knows his clothes. He pulls a couple of suits up and holds them against Charlie, still wearing shorts. It's kind of like Halloween shopping.

"With your big muscles, you'll need a bigger size. We're going to have to do some tailoring," he says, "because you're so big up top here."

Charlie likes this. He has been working out. It's nice to not hear about the salesman for a minute, anyway.

"You have to buy one of these," he says. "These are our top sellers and I can't believe they put them on the Buy One Get One Free sale. We sell so many of them."

He's working us. At this point I'd buy suspenders for myself if he laid them out on his presentation table. He's got us where he wants us. We know nothing about this stuff and he does, so we're happy to ride along.

"I was the only person ever in a commercial who walked in front of George Zimmer," he says. Why is he talking about this? Did he run out of conversation about his college days as an Art Major?

"It was in the '80's," he says. "My mom was in a music video at the same time. It was a crazy time in our family."

"What music video?" I ask. I unfortunately spent way too much time watching MTV when it first came out. Was his mom Cyndi Lauper's mom in Girls Just Want To Have Fun? Was she in Devo's Whip It video? Anything by Journey?

"Um, I forgot."

"What band?" For the first time since I arrived in this man-land, I'm interested in something.

"I'm a musician at night," he says. "I don't use that part of brain until the sun goes down. Why can't I think of the name?"

He never does answer, but he's laid out a beautiful assortment of men's suits, ties, slacks, shirts, belts, and even suspenders. Burgundy ones. He has a better name than burgundy, though, but I can't remember it. I even asked him twice. It says Burgundy on their website, or Cognac. I notice some snappy white snakeskin lace-up shoes on their website, too. Why didn't he show us those? I guess Charlie's shorts wouldn't match.

We've walked right into his sales pitch and that's fine. I couldn't find my way to a pair of slacks to match Charlie's sport coat if you gave me five minutes and a thousand dollars. We bought not only the faux suede sport coat, not in dark blue thank God, but a couple of suits, pants, shirts, ties, shoes and belts. They all match and look like outfits salesmen wear.

Now all Charlie has to do is figure out somewhere to wear them.

2.14.2009

Somebody Else's Valentine

(My condo --->)

My neighbor Wendy is the reason we moved into our condo. She and her husband Chris were in the sales office one time and we had an amazing conversation about trains and eventually travel. They were so interesting I asked the realtor if she planted Wendy and Chris. Talking to them about their adverturous life made everything seem possible.

They told us about living on a boat that they'd built themselves. They'd sailed for twenty years and not places like Newport Beach or even Mexico. They'd come from Turkey and were heading to Singapore when Chris fell ill. His headache turned out to be a brain tumor. This is her first Valentine's Day alone.

She asked me if I'd help her deliver Valentine-O-Grams for Meals-On-Wheels. All I had to do was ride shotgun and put a cinnabon box in eight lucky peoples' hands. I'd get free coffee, scones and doughnuts.

Last year I arranged for my real estate office to volunteer for deliveries. Everyone told me how much they liked doing it. I didn't actually do it myself. It takes the reward of gelato and a long visit to the bookstore to get me in the car.

I thought about saying no. I could have come up with an excuse easily. But I thought of how cute she and her husband were the few times we saw them before he died. She's been around the world in a boat and who knows what else she's done. Maybe an hour in her car and some of her amazingness will rub off on me, I thought.

I'm still unamazing and more so now. Wendy and I had some interesting conversations while getting lost in Bethany. She deduces things and thinks like a scientist. She doesn't skip over facts like, well, me. She told me she was the first female biologist to work at fisheries in Alaska, collecting data on juvenile fish so species weren't overfished. She told me about her travels, her life growing up in an historic home where highway 217 is right now. She spoke in a matter-of-fact interested-in-everything voice, as if she was relaying something anyone did.

She told me of other jobs she held when she and Chris docked in places I will never go. She talked to the doughnut shopowner about Korea, his original home, while made small talk about doughnuts. Why have I never been to Seoul?

I barged right in her condo, ignoring her warning of messes from unpacking things in twenty years of storage. It's nothing like mine. Hers is filled with art, sculptures and chests from all over the world. My crap's from Ikea.

She had beautiful things, just wonderful encaustic pictures and even an original carved carousel horse. I kept asking her where she acquired this, the history of that, and who made some other thing. "I have an Art History degree," I told her. "I'm excited I get to use it."

I should get out more.

2.02.2009

Is Anyone Buying?

Have you any idea what it feels like to be an ex-Realtor and watch someone else sell your home?

http://www.visualtour.com/shownp.asp?sk=16&t=1789006

It feels heavenly.

Since I don't know all the RMLS statistics and Lawrence Yun isn't RSS feeding me his National Association of Realtors insights, I'll play stupid and hope someone's buying around here. What's ignorance again?

That's what I am.

Since You're Looking at This . . .

(Evan, my oldest, following my footsteps -->)

It's almost 11 AM and I'm doing exactly nothing. I'm very busy, don't bother me. I can't answer the phone or take a shower until I get this done. Look at me and you'd think I get paid for all the frenetic typing I'm doing. Damn, I'm important. You would. You'd say that.

When your brain kicks in and reminds you that looks can be deceiving, you will remember that I hate normal jobs and I don't actually have one at the moment. Keeping me busy involves lots of googling, emailing, texting, Rachel Maddow, and twitters and blogs. It isn't that hard to entertain me online. I don't even mind if you end a sentence on your blog with a prepositional phrase.

Here's how it starts: I'm trying to write my Personal Statement for my MFA applications. Think about everything you'd want to include in your reading and writing background. What pivotal events took place to get you to where you are now? What literary light and lovely visions can you conjure up, at least within the framework of three pages maximum, to show your potential and desirability? What metaphors and meaningful stories from your childhood can you poetically illustrate to convince someone to take your money?

In the middle of writing the second paragraph, I'm thinking to myself, 'How did I end up in Montana, anyway?' I remember reading a little story in Outside magazine. The ex was going through some crazy things, as usual, and the outside world was pure, complete chaos. This little story was about fishing in Montana, unsuccessful fishing actually. The fish were so small they were like little trout cookies or something. It was a peaceful, pretty story. It calmed me down and all was right with the world.

I saved the story and re-read it a few times. The ex and I decided, during the chaos, that to leave the state would leave the chaos behind, too. Laugh if you will, but your town is full of people like that right now. We had enough chaos packed up in our moving van to last the rest of our marriage, but but moving opened a door. I wanted to go somewhere I knew and somewhere far away. As far as possible, but familiar. Is there a place where our troubles won't find us? Does that sound like a country song?

I went to Montana State during my undergraduate education. I went there because they had good skiing and I hated the rain at Linfield, where I was at the time. If you guessed I was at Linfield due to running away, as well, you'd be correct. The winter of 1978 was one of the wettest in Oregon and I didn't like my hair being constantly flat, so Montana seemed better somehow.

The winter of 1979 in Bozeman was one of the coldest on record, with high negatives for three weeks in a row. I insisted on running outside, regardless. People wouldn't go outside and there I was, dumb Californian, running. (If I'm not running figuratively, I'm running literally.) I might have permanently damaged my upper lungs as it still hurts to breathe when it's cold. The skiing was great, lift tickets were $7, and the drinking age was 18. One of my better decisions, even if all the deciding factors had to do with teenage vanity.

We moved to Montana, the ex, the kids, me and my little fish cookie story. The author was an English professor at Montana State, it turned out. I felt a twinge of something sentimental when I found out about that. Enough of a coincidence for me. You don't need to tell me to run away twice.

After daydreaming for a millisecond, I googled the professor who wrote the trout cookie story. I couldn't find the name of the story, so I kept googling. Should I make up the name of the story? Does it really matter? I thought I should at least try to find a fact to weave through all this personal fiction.

Once I found the professor, Greg Keeler, I started looking at his website and his accomplishments. What did my other professors and friends from Montana do since I left? I googled them. Some of them were easy to find. Successful people, or at least successful people who like to have their name available, are easy to find. I found a few colleagues who are now professors themselves, in places like USC. A few I couldn't find, like every one of my old boyfriends. Every one, in every state, from Jr. High to Oregon, Canada to California is nowhere on the google. I spent hours looking while thanking God I was spared from another minute with any of them.

Now it's afternoon. I got back to my essay but had to think of more influences. I looked at Amazon.com and Powell's for book titles. You know how that goes: even normal people can spend hours there. I stayed focused, after allowing myself ten minutes to luxuriate in books I wish I'd read, and found what I was looking for. Good girl.

What's in my inbox?

When you have those thoughts it's a good idea not to act on them. I did, and caught up with my full of personality sister and her played-in-Carnegie-Hall kids. I deleted yet another email from Barack Obama, but only after reading it completely and thanking God we have a President who speaks the language correctly. Another email from someone with a link. I followed it to Good Reads.

You know what happened next: you want my opinions on books? That's like running: I can do it without thinking. I wrote about five reviews. Here's one.

Now someone's at the door so I guess I'll finish my Statement later, after a run. I need to get going with my MFA and my life. Charlie and I both like to run, metaphorically and physically, so I'd better focus. Change is coming, I can feel it.

Wonder what stories are in Outside magazine lately?

2.01.2009

Hard Choices


Lulu is an amazing dog. She's a dog, though, and when you have to decide hard life choices, you have to consider people first. So sadly, we have to do what's best for her. She's going to move to Olympia on February 21st to be with my cousin Annette and her family. Her daughter, Ariana (on the right with Evan and Swedish pancakes), loves Lulu and insisted on seeing her when they stopped by last weekend. I saw how much Lulu needed a little girl. Charlie and I love Lulu but we're not kids. Dogs without kids just doesn't seem right.

Without Harley, Lulu is so stressed and lonely she had head tremors. Now she's just bored. We aren't home much, so we feel guilty leaving her. We're putting our condo up for sale and that might be stressful enough to cause Lulu more head tremors. She already knows something's up.

More about our life changes later. Now, it's time for Lulu to have a little family of her own. Since she's our family, it's the hardest thing I've done this century. If you aren't a dog person, you can laugh now. I would have done the same, pre-Lulu. She's changed my life and I love having such a cute, low maintenance, fat sausage of a dog welcoming me home as if I were the best thing on the planet.

We'll miss you, Wubu.