Sunday, November 9, 2008

Life Goes Friggin' On

It's no surprise that in the microcosm of our individual existence events tend to mark significant milestones as we busy ourselves for the Great Dirt Nap. The birth of a baby, yours or someone else's, someone relatively close, that is, certainly can be counted as a major milestone as another mammal begins the great march back to dust. Death is another one of those inconveniences, for the decedent, I mean, and sometimes for the survivors, that's undeniably important except when you're the dead guy or girl, in which case, you could care less. I suppose that's a consolation, not having the ability to give a darn, or not give a darn, for that matter.

Sorry - I got distracted by this piece of information: glass remains a liquid below its melting point because it has a disordered structure. I guess that's proof from nature that disorder can still yield significant transparency. Heh, heh.

There are other significant milestones that are sort of immutable. Losing virginity, buying a new car for the first time, buying a house, marriage, divorce, graduating from anything that puts the stamp of approval on what you supposedly know or don't know about the brand of busywork you intend to collect on for the rest of your meager career: these are all pretty "important" events and are identifiable by most folks in Western, first-world cultures as common and meaningful.

My list from the past year includes a death, a birth, the apparent end of a love affair, the end of my marriage, buying a used car, selling a used car, getting my retirement funds in order, planning for my daughter's college education, qualifying for a mortgage, finding an apartment and a whole of of realizations about myself and about others close to me, or whom I thought were close to me. It's been a busy time during which I've had to make many, many compromises and which hearken me back to my interest in a certain Eastern practice concerning enlightenment and understanding and how all of the above are actually and truly irrelevant.

It's in my nature to do "scenario building." It's what makes me a superior asset in business and an excellent technician. For the past year, nearly, I've been looking at, then researching, then planning, then acting on getting out of what is now my ex-wife's house. I had so specs to fulfill and questions to answer. Should I, or could I, buy a house? I could afford it by myself, but it would be close. Plus, the mortgage cost would be close, within about $100 a week, to the cost of a low-end rental for the same number of rooms. But, closing on a house is a tricky balancing act between how and when credit's reported, the state of the market, how quickly all of the steps can be completed - contract, inspection, survey, title search, insurances and so forth, and I have a date certain to be out of here by November 31. So, I turned away from a purchase to focus on a rental.

You may ask yourself why a divorced man with a teenage daughter even needs a house. Well, the answer is that it's economically smart, since although I could invest the difference between what a mortgage would cost and the cost of a rental into the market, you can't live in a stock portfolio. Further, though we're in a down time now in the real estate market, property values will recover over the next five years and my $225,000 invest today, leveraged with a home mortgage, will realize real-cash, in pocket of around $100,000 over ten years. It's not possible to make this through day trading unless you do it full time with more money than it would take to buy a house.

I also wanted to have enough space for my daughter to have her own private space plus space for my (ex-) girlfriend's two kids that still live with her to have their own space as well. Now, my daughter will be with me a few days a week a couple of times a month. That's now - what will happen in the future? We'll see. My (ex-) girlfriend's kids, one living away from home and two still at home though one is old enough certainly to be on his own, are not little kids and need their own spaces. That's four bedrooms already. In her area, Roselle, buying and affording a house of that size would be impossible only because of the taxes and because getting my daughter to live with me a few days a week would be impossible. Around here, in Northwestern NJ, the taxes are half with a much better infrastructure and plenty of cows. I really like cows.

So, what happened with my girlfriend? I refer you to the title of this blog, folks, as evidence of my people skilz. Yes, I know that's misspelled - I'm just trying, vainly, to be down, yo. You see, I was and am overwhelmed by all that goes into getting to, and past, these particular milestones of which I speak. I have certain obligations under my divorce agreement, like selling off the contents of the garages that hold ancient, unwanted business equipment, along with a whole host of other, administrative things - new life insurance, setting up an education fund, organizing, organizing, planning - it's endless. So, I simply left her in the lurch. She did not understand. I understand that she did not understand, but, realistically, something had to give and I had to gamble on her love. Pretty bad gamble. She sees it as a kick in the ass. I see it as doing what I have to do so that we could have a life together, so that I could be finally "set up" as I know I should in order to function. Further, and she doesn't really get this, and I'll explain it to you, in the private-ness of this blog, I've been so consumed with "business" activity and anxiety surrounding the deadlines involved that my penis has stopped working. You can't have a girlfriend without a penis, let me tell you. Well, unless you're a lesbian. Or gay, in which case you don't need a girlfriend. But I digress. When I left her last, I knew I had to focus on getting sh*t done or she would forever blame me for failing to tie up loose ends and that wouldn't work, either. See? Scenario-building.

Let us say that she let me know in no uncertain terms that I was less than zero (she was very angry and is likely fairly angry still) and that it was a "don't call us, we'll call you" situation. Okay - what can I do? I'm maxed out. I lack the skills, I guess, but I accept that. If I didn't, I would lie around, depressed and get nothing done and still have to meet the deadlines. Women are so demanding. They want you to love them, feed them, obey them, boost up their self-esteem. It's a lot of responsibility. And if you drop the ball, baby, watch out!

So, I decided to look at two-bedroom apartments as well as three-bedrooms. Why am I still looking for three beds? Because no relationship is beyond repair. There was something that caused us to meld in the past and that was the kind of people we are and that hasn't changed that much, the fundamentals, that is. So, reconciliation is possible, though far from assured. Very far, Very, very far. But, still.

This last Saturday, I found a Craigslist ad for a two-bedroom in Andover. I had already seen a gorgeous house in Hampton with a pool and 2.2 acres of land for $1500, a crooked, elderly apartment in Newton for $1200, and Hobbit-sized house for $1000 that was already rented when I saw it (so, I asked the agent, why are you showing me this? She shrugged.) The place in Andover was the schoolhouse for the town until 1920 or so and was erected in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War. So far, so cool. I like the idea of an erection lasting 150 years yet I kept thinking, "I see dead people . . ." The guy renting the house told me his life story. I kept my mouth shut as I wouldn't have been able to get a word in edgewise, anyhow. The apartment is small but very cozy. It was built in a time when people were shorter, clearly, as the doorways are low. He explained that a box spring would not fit through the doorway. He explained how he planned to use no oil this season, just to teach the oil people a lesson. His business is the sale of gumballs and in his office downstairs were boxes containing tens of thousands of them in all colors and sizes, even ones with patterns. In fact, I had purchased via the facility of a Beaver-brand vending machine, a rubber high-bouncer that's decorated like a pool-ball just a week or two ago when I was in Sussex, after eating pancakes with my daughter. To be accurate, she had an omelet out of which she only ate the cheese and mushrooms. She really likes mushrooms, but not eggs. I asked her why she ordered an omelet if she doesn't like eggs. She shrugged and said that it had seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, apparently, the guy liked the cut of my jib and decided to rent to me. No credit check, no employment check. "I'm a man of my word," He proudly announced. He seemed to like the idea that I am the same kind of dopey, trusting fellow as he and so, we clicked. I wrote him a check for $850 as a deposit with the first rent due on December 1. He even offered to leave furniture for me as well as the use of the Hot Tub for $20 more a month and would share the cost of the cable unless I wanted a separate account.

As it turns out, the apartment is four rooms plus a kitchen in two parts. It's tiny, but somehow, like a big, comfy glove. Now, it could be three-bedroom if I don't use one room as a dining area and, frankly, the rooms are a decent size. The wall colors are pretty much what I would have chosen for my own color scheme. And, it's very cheap. I thought that if I got my mortgage approved, it would be a good staging point and without a lease, little trouble to get out.

Just to be sure, I saw one more rental in town. My daughter warned me that particular block was where all the crack addicts and child molesters lived. I doubt there are any crack addicts as they'd have to drive pretty far to get a crack supply and there's only one known child-molester in town, currently in police custody for breaking parole, but I listened. Based on her concerns, whether or not there were demons lurking in the shadows, I resolved not to rent there, but I had to look, just to shore up any sense that I had left a stone unturned. It was a gloomy day and the rain has started to come down in decisive pellets. Gaea was trying to tell me something, I'm sure. It didn't take long to find the address, to climb thirteen gloomy steps to the second floor and walked through an absolutely gorgeous and gigantic loft apartment. Oh, sorry, wait a minute. I'd seen so many ads that I seem to have started to think like a real estate writer. There was no electric light in the kitchen and I could just imagine wandering in at two in the morning, flicking on the light and scaring off a dozen six-legged denizens of dirt. Yuck. There were three bedrooms, I guess, but since it was a "railroad-style" space, there were no separate rooms, per se. Yes, they had redone the floors but, my god, the one word that kept flashing on the warning sign in my brain was "Tenement! Tenement!" It took me less than three minutes to finish the tour. The owner knew I was a waste of time as I was clearly NOT a child molester or crack addict and bade me a weak and cynical farewell with the promise that she would not sweep anything onto me as I went down the stairs as she was going back to her sweeping now. I guess she became impatient as I was leaving as I could hear the sound of her broom swooshing across the hallway floor, raining down on me tufts of dust, probably containing lead and asbestos, along with a rock. I got out of there, double-quick.

So, that's a major task accomplished, that is, finding a place to live. Wouldn't it be a killer if I got my mortgage approved at this moment? And that's just what happened. I'm starting to think that it's absolutely true that there is no free will as one's actions applying to what happens in the surrounding universe. Now what do I do? Buy a house? Yup. And I have ninety days to do it. And I have 20 days left to move. And five days to prep more equipment for sale. And I have to pack. And pay my current bills, work with my credit attorney, plan, plan, organize and plan. With enough money, I could buy these milestones which is the luxury of freedom from middle-class-dom. The rest of us just have to figure it out as it goes and, "git-r done!"

So, it's all more than just getting to that milestone and taking a breath. The next one is just a mile away and it's calling. Busy, busywork. My advice to myself is to keep busy and not care too much. That's been my downfall in the past, that is, to become personally invested in the success of the achievement of goals. The cost is too great. And there's a lot to do. Really. Quite a lot. My advice to you is to keep moving. Those that want to come along with you, will. Otherwise, such people act as an anchor and, just like with sea-going vessels, anchors are meant to stop or restrict motion. That's not good if one is trying to move. Further, don't hold a grudge - it's their decision to not move or to move in another direction. Accept this and hope they accept your choices. After all, that's what nature intends and it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. See you at the next waypoint!