How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Oh, did I have a busy summer.  Too busy, really, busy but not much fun.  One kid went off to college.  Boston University, to be specific.  I’d tell you the tuition, but I don’t want to faint again.  Before the summer, I was on a terrific writing roll.  My blog stats (as if they’re important) were at their highest ever.  Followers were fabulous.  The comments on my posts were more complimentary than I deserved.  A very – very very – accomplished editor actually wanted to work with me on one of my books, which was a most amazing phone call on the streets of Baltimore during jack hammers and construction.  Then it all crashed when someone wanted to buy my house.

My house had been for sale over a year with a price that  began at about $400,000 and eventually dropped and sold for about $325,000 a year and four months later.  Naturally, I was greatly annoyed at having to sell at price so much lower than what I paid – which was way more than $400,000.  However, I tried my best to remember that I would also be buying a house at a lower than usual price, so the loss would likely be balanced out when it was all said and done.  I’m still trying to convince myself of that.  Sheesh.

The deal to sell my house came together quickly with a family putting down an offer and wanting to settle only about three weeks after.  Usually, at least in New Jersey, this is a process that take roughly a month because of the extensive paperwork and inspections.  However, the buyers were not your usual buyers.

In New Jersey, it’s common to put a $5000 deposit on a house.  If something goes wrong, the buyer runs the risk of losing that money.  These buyers were putting up $80,000.  Why?  No reason, really.  They didn’t have to.  They just wanted to make sure that nothing got in the way of their efforts to buy my house.  Have to admit – it was a really cool house.  Four bedrooms, office, living room, dining room, family room, big-ass kitchen.  Really, that’s the official real estate term.  There’s a box you can check for “big-ass kitchen.”  After eating enough of my stuffed shells, you’ll have a big ass too.

But let me back up a second and explain why I was selling the house in the first place.  What possible reason would I need a house like that anymore?  Kids growing up, going to college, having their own places to live, but one was just going into high school, and it was clear that I needed to be closer to that child.  She wanted to live with me, and I went to court and tried, but an idiot judge decided that her wishes were not important.  Regardless, I don’t want to dwell on that, as crazy as it seems.

So I found a very cute house in her town.  It was painted all cute in yellow, pink, and lavender.  I’m not gay, but I can gush over the cuteness of yellow and lavender as well as anyone.  Quiet street on the second-most-expensive neighborhood in town, not that that’s important, but it’s better than not.  I put an offer, they counter offer, then I confirm to sell my house, then the people whose house I’m trying to buy change their mind, pull their house off the market, and I’m stuck in limbo.  I find another house, put an offer, negotiate, same thing, sellers change their mind and pull the house off the market.  Is there a non-religious version of limbo?  Suspended animation?  Close enough.  I was seriously thinking that my ex-wife was calling the sellers and telling them not to sell to me because, as her attorney told my attorney, she thinks I’m worse than Jack the Ripper.

So, there I am, my house about to be sold, and I have nowhere to go.  Hour by hour I was loading up my Jeep, bringing my stuff to a storage unit, going back for another load, etc.  In a way, I shouldn’t really complain because I did have another place to stay, which is my place at the beach, but that place is also an hour away from my kids.  I was scouring the real estate listings, hoping to find another place to buy before my house was sold out from under me.  That’s not accurate, but it’s a cool expression.

Then I found a house that was so close to my daughter’s school that I could literally hit it with a rock or a fly ball with warning track power.  It’s a baseball thing.  It wasn’t a house with charm, that I’d been looking for.  It wasn’t historically preserved, also what I’d been looking for.  It didn’t have a center hallway or walk up attic, also and also what I’d been looking for.  But it was available and convenient so that every day my kid could come to my house for lunch.  That beats the shit out of charm.

The house was vacant, and I contacted the owners to put down an offer, but I had some conditions.  One, I needed to move in before closing, and they agreed.  Two, I wanted a copy of their home inspection, and they agreed, although the inspector was pretty pissed because it took about $250 out of his pocket.  Three, I didn’t want to pay rent or taxes for the month I was living there before actually buying the house.  They stupidly agreed.  It was like taking a house for a one-month test drive.  During that time, I found several problems and wanted them fixed.  They agreed to none.

You know when you take a shower and the water bounces off you and lands on the lip of the tub?  And then it runs into the tub?  Not this house.  The water ran along the lip and pooled up on the floor.  They wouldn’t fix it.  And the shower/tub had barely any hot water, even though the rest of the house had plenty of hot water.  They tried to fix it but couldn’t.  The front door had a strange gap, letting hot air in and cool air out.  They failed to fix it twice.  The final negotiation in the realtor’s office was a fight.  Dog fight.  I eventually gave in, and I wasn’t happy about it.  I’m usually a pretty viciously verbal person, ask my ex wife, but I went easy on the guys who tried to fix up a house and flip it over to me.

Why did I let them off easy?  Because it was available and convenient so that every day my kid could come to my house for lunch.  That beats the shit out of charm.  Nothing more, nothing less.  And I’ve spent the past month, maybe more, fixing up all the things they got wrong.  Putting up ceiling fans (which I can’t live without) and actually planting grass and flowers around the place.  Also, I have ton of crap to get rid of while trying to downsize.  One of the drawbacks of the previous house that was too big was buying furniture to fill every room, which I now can’t fit in the downsizer.  Sheesh.

Now that all that crap is over, I’m going to get back in the writing saddle again.  Back to the Friday Fictioneers, the New Yorker Caption Contest, the social commentary, and the making fun of the people who deserve the making of the fun.  Of.  I thank you greatly for listening.  IF you’re still listening.

56 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. I did read it all, doesn’t sound fun Rich! You certainly don’t want to pop over to my blog now and see what a fun and relaxing time I had in the summer then (she says trying to cunningly lure him over to her blog)

  2. yea!! welcome back….
    happy to see you back and your post rocked. Good Dad! ( I hear ya on the tuition. dropped my eldest off for freshman year– same area as you– yikes!) Boston kicks ass though

  3. Wow. Buying a house is stressful, as is selling one and moving. No wonder you’ve been off the grid. Congrats for surviving it all and it’s cool how it all worked out. Now, pick up that hammer and get back to work. Welcome back!

  4. Welcome back. Moving is the worst. It’s one of life’s most stressful events. When I moved into my current house, I said I never want to move again. We’ll see how that goes. That first house reminds me of my grandparents house in Freehold. 🙂 Thanks for the memory.

  5. Hey Rich,
    It was so nice to see you pop up in my in box. I was just getting ready to send out a search party. I loved three things about this 1. You were willing to open a vein and bleed right onto the page. 2. It had heft, length, completeness, detail. 3. Like everything you write, it was very readable and engaging. And I’m not being overgenerous. Look forward to you getting back to kicking ass on your keyboard. Ron

  6. Well, it doesn’t sound like much fun, but you have the satisfaction of getting what you wanted from an overall point of view. I wish you many happy days with your young one, in the last stage… before she grows up completely and is on her own. It should be fun. Thanks for sharing a nice picture of how you live.

    • thanks, sir. it’s what i’m aiming for – opening a window that can be entertaining either through comedy, tragedy, or a combination of both. i try to avoid the “rant” or at least disguise it a little.

  7. but the important thing is that your kids has it easy to come over to your place and you seem to be a fixer so hopefully you will get this sorted to be a really nice place when you’re done…

    • thanks. i think so too. as soon as i get all the boxes out of my basement, i’ll put a new cloth on the pool table, hang my springsteen pictures, and it’ll be a rocking place for a party.

  8. Geez, you had one helluva busy summer.. I got tired reading all about the house issue.. let’s hope your winter is more relaxing and you can get back to the typewriter 🙂
    Welcome back!!!

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