Wednesday, November 13, 2013
I'm Fixing A Hole Where The Intertunnel Gets In
I fear I must go back to the beginning.
It wasn't my intention. I started writing about fixing the foundation I keep under my money pit in western Maine, because that's what I did this summer, but one thing led to another, and people got interested in the birth of the baby, even though I was trying to talk about junior high school, as it were. The public is demanding the bathwater, too.
I'm familiar with one thing leading to another. After all, I have two children. House purchases and babies often happen under the same kinds of circumstances. Bad lighting, slightly inebriated, running up tabs you really can't afford, being shown strange people's bedrooms, that sort of thing. Well, if it wasn't for bad judgment, I'd have no judgment at all, so why should a house be any different? We were supposed to live in Turner.
Turner's over an hour closer to, well, everything. We'd gone on Zillow and Google Earth and MLS night after night, looking for the cheapest nearly habitable place we could find. We thought we found it in Turner. I talked a few times with the realtor, and they were as helpful as realtors usually are: not helpful. They couldn't answer any important questions for me, because realtors don't know anything important about the properties they sell. Well, that's not entirely true. They often know very important things about the properties they sell. Those are invariably the things they're hiding from you, hoping to entice you into standing in the decrepit shack they're listing while they perform their Svengali perorations about its potential. Weave a tapestry of possibilities in the air that'll have you frisking yourself in no time, looking for your checkbook before that handyman that's interested in the property snatches it from under your nose.
Oh, I know that handyman. That guy gets around. I never learned his name, but he seemed to be interested in every property I was interested in Maine. No matter where I went -- Turner, Cornish, Peru, Livermore Falls, Norway, Rumford...
Anyway, that polymath handyman with the lead foot and the nose for diamonds in the rough was always one step ahead of us, ready to stuff our defeat into the jaws of his victory. He was very interested in Turner, I hear.
I had one request for the realtor on the phone, and by email, and then by the phone again, and by email. Go to the house. Stand outside. Take four photos: North, South, East, and West. Show them to me. That's it. I'd researched the house to a fare-thee-well already, knew every owner it had ever had, what the taxes were; hell, I even had the septic plan for it on my desk. Just take the the pictures, willya?
Well, that realtor must have been the most notable realtor since the Algonquin Century16 office did that handshake deal with the Dutch. She was always too busy to travel the 5000 yards from her office to the house and take the pictures. My, how busy some people get.
We drove the four hours to get there on a weekend. We had an appointment with the realtor at 10:00 AM, which I gather is considered 3AM on Christmas in realtor time. We decided to go early and drive by the house alone. It was a three-bedroom, end entry, Greek Revival farmhouse, with an attached ell and a barn attached to that. It looked like Dresden, 1944, but near a fire hydrant. And about fifteen feet from one side of it was another house, which appeared as if someone with the decorating chops of Ed Gein owned it, but rented it out. On the front porch, which was really just some crumbling concrete steps, was a man that looked like he had just cooked and eaten his entire family, and was still hungry. He was smoking a cigarette, standing outside in the snow -- in his socks.
My wife told me to keep driving, because my wife likes to tell me to do things I'm already doing. It's like a hobby with her.
We kept driving, following signs to one strange place after another, until we found the house we live in now, with a For Sale sign standing drunkenly on the lawn. We stopped and stood on the Queen Anne porch, and peered in the windows. The house looked like it had been picked up six inches and dropped. It had been decorated by someone that didn't like their customer, or human beings in general, very much. There was ice -- not frost; ice -- on the inside of the windows. We were looking as best we could into a triptych of windows in a bay, under a sort of turret, and my wife said, "That's where our Christmas tree will go."
The rest was conversation. We bought the house that winter, snatching it from under the very nose of that handyman, the dastard, but the For Sale sign stayed out front until June, because it was frozen solid into the ground. Now I'm the only thing that stands drunkenly on the lawn, and that's the way we like it.
(to be continued)