Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Our House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House ..."

I love that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song. I love the whole Deja Vu album; I often play it for my house - to remind it how much I love it and to ask it to behave.

Having lived in small, rented NYC apartments all my life space and peace was what I dreamed of. Imagine being able to park your car and have it be there in the morning - and with all its parts! There is no worse way to start a Monday morning than to schlep five blocks to find your car is not in the spot that took you two hours to find the night before. Or to spend hundreds of dollars a month to rent a shared driveway. The second worse way to start a Monday is with the words - "Yo Vinny, I told you I had an 8 o'clock meeting - move the freakin' Camaro" - It's exhausting.

The last apartment I lived in was on the top floor of a two family house in Brooklyn. Outside my bedroom window was the illegal deck of the house next door. Although the noise they made all night drinking and dancing upset the cats, I did have an endless supply of fresh herbs and figs just by reaching out the window, didn't even need to get out of bed. NY realtors refer to that as "coziness" and "charm". My son's bedroom faced the bus stop and 4 lanes of cross-Brooklyn traffic. Very effective in getting him up for school. Realtors call that "transportation adjacent" And you certainly get to know people from all over when they huddle against your front door for shelter, and kindly leave you bits of their McDonalds breakfast when they run for the bus.

So when we finally had enough money saved (not really) and when I finally felt secure enough (scared shitless) we bought a house!
The search was endless and we had no idea that we didn't know what we were doing. Ahhh - the courage of the truly naive. We finally found a huge house that could be easily (for thousands and thousands of dollars) converted into a Mother/Daughter - every time I say Mother/Son people look at me funny.
It will be five years next week since we closed on this house. In April it will be five years since we actually moved into the house. Whatever a contractor tells you - triple the cost and add 6 months to the schedule. And prepare to get screwed.

Freshly screwed we began to settle in. I loved the yard, the trees, the quiet. My lovely long driveway. I always knew where my car was. I forgot the combinations to the three different steering wheel locks I had used in Brooklyn. We knew the house had some issues (don't we all)but we were sure we knew what all those issues were and they could wait. All the important stuff had been taken care of.

Summer came and we opened the pool. The previous owners had said that the pool liner had a "tiny tear" and they gave us $500 to repair it. The tiny tear extended from top to bottom, bow to stern. The $500 really helped offset the thousands it cost to replace the pool. I do take comfort in the fact that the guys who came to inspect and replace the pool were moonlighting firefighters - so my money went to guys who should get paid enough for saving lives and not need to work second jobs. And I got to watch firefighters working in wet suits! And they called me "honey" - I'd (maybe) pay more for that.

Our first Christmas in the new house was especially exciting - I love twinkly white lights and we decorated all the bushes and trees. After the obligatory decorating arguements - "It's not even!" - "Then you do it!" - "I love you but shut the f up!" - we prepared coffee with rum in it (medicinal) and flipped the switch. Quite the holiday effect as the entire house was plunged into darkness. I'll never forget the look on my son's face as he said "Maybe Santa hates us?" - How lovely that (as an adult) he still believes in a vindictive super power - my Mother's influence rearing its scary head. The story of the electrical escapades requires a blog of its own. Let me just say that for months we lived in fear of blow-dryers and toasters, we never blended - I went back to cocktails and wine, screw the Margaritas - it's dangerous to be drunk in a dark house. Our Brooklyn training came in handy. "Yo Vinny ...." had prepared us well for "Yo Ma! Do NOT turn on the dryer, I'm shaving!"

Our first big snowstorm was fun. My son was delighted by his fancy snow blower (provided by a good and kind Santa) and he was the hero of the hood - clearing driveways left and right and charming all the older ladies. A few days after the storm, as I was working in the luxurious basement office (hell hole under my house), I looked up to see an interesting pattern of water running down the wall. We had forgotten science 101 - piles of snow+warm sunshine=flood. Next lesson was - water runs down toward a willing victim. Seems the backyard and retirement village beyond it all slope toward the house. (another plus here - when I am financially able to retire, 3 years after my death thanks to Bush's piss down economics, I only need climb the back fence) That first flood was survived by taping all the power strips to the dry part of the walls and ruining tons of bath towels by shoving them into the windowsill. Since I was home alone when the flood started it took me a bit of time to shovel the slush away from the house and create an intricate design of irrigation canals.

As Annie assures us - the sun did come up the next day and we learned that - a> land sloping toward a house is "a freakin' stupid thing to do" and - b> we need a French Drain (sexy!). Since we are still paying the electrician and the firefighters we settled on good old homespun ingenuity. A mixture of common sense, prayer, and playing pretty music for the house. We invested in a powerful portable pump, the firefighters came back (yes!) and showed us how to connect all the hoses and my son found some miracle compound that allegedly sends water screaming away in the direction of our wealthier neighbor - their drain is French.

Only one wrinkle persists - Mother Nature has quite the sense of humor and enjoys sending torrential rain my way when I am home alone. Picture this - it is dark. The moat around the back of the house is rising. The pump weighs 50 pounds. The hoses are long and stiff and hard (I must stop thinking of the firefighters!). I throw on my water version of the "haz-cat" suit and waddle out back. I hook everything up. I flip the switch - ahhhh - electricity and water, what could possibly go wrong!? It pumps! It is alive! All that is left to do is check the water levels and reposition the hoses to run away from the newly formed puddles so as not to create a different problem.

And that's where I was this past Friday when I discovered one new issue to be aware of. At 50 degrees the rain will be water and I can run into the yard to my heart's delight. As the evening wears on and the temperature dips - water turns to ice. (I really should have stayed awake in school.) I ran toward the pump and slid across a patch of black ice. Thankfully my head hitting the pump protected it - the pump, not my head. I sat there stunned and soaking wet with a sore ass and a giant headache. Siren stared down at me from his dry, safe perch as if to ask "who will feed me if you die?"

One last tip - before you use the BBQ to pull yourself up make sure it is anchored to something heavier than you.

Can I sue myself?


Jay said...

This whole thing could be made into a sitcom. LOL ;-)

I've never owned a home and don't know if I ever will. But, I watch HGTV and home improvement shows on PBS all the time. I think I'm fully prepared should I ever actually buy a house.

Well, maybe.

Michael Manning said...

Hey Dianne: I'm on a top floor too. I keep thinking about the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere lines: "Top Floor?" "It's the best". That's cool until reality sets in about air conditioning bills in summer. But then there's always one dollar to buy a lotto ticket! :)

Dianne said...

jay - as I was writing the post the bathroom sink started leaking, I swear the house listens to me and reads the blog. Elbow joints, putty compound and duct tape - never thought I'd know what that means.

micheal - well now I've got 3 floors (if you count the hole) so at any given moment it's too cold one place and too hot somewhere else. a menopausal mansion!

Cherie said...

Oh Dear! How's your head? I don't know if you can sue, but you might be able to file a claim under your homeowner's insurance. But of course, you know what that means. Your rates will go up.

That reminds me of a man that I heard on the radio this morning, an economist called Walter Williams. He thinks that the military draft was unconstitutional because the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. And forced military service is a form of slavery.

Anyway today, he was asked his opinion about the pending "economic stimulus package." Let's just say that he was not impressed. ;)

meno said...

Ah, the joys of home ownership! I swear i'm not laughing at you.

The firemen sound nice.

Cherie said...

Oh and I meant to add ... With your sore ass and your headache ... did you also get a tattoo to make your wild weekend complete? ;)

Dianne said...

cherie I swear I tried to figure out a way to work a tatoo into the story but the story is true and a tatoo just didn't fit in LOL

meno - please do laugh at me! I do all the time. Once the shock wore off part of why I couldn't get up was because I was laughing so hard. The teen next door has a new video camera - wonder if I'm on Youtube! Let's search - "big butt in puddle" and see what pops up LOL

the firemen were delightful! I may cut a hole in the pool before summer comes.

Jeni said...

Always look for the good things in anything not so nice that comes your way. Flooding basement =firemen. Wiring problems, possible electrocution =firemen. Slip, fall, broken ass =emt's who may also be, yes, firemen. So many issues, so many that could bring firemen! How bout them apples, kid? Grabbing a bbq that weighs less than you for support though - geez, and I thought I was the only person who would latch on to a lightweight item in a scenario like that!

Oh - and welcome to the wonderful world of home ownership!

SnoopMurph said...

Okay, this entire post had me laughing so much and also knowing how crazy-insane it is to be a homeowner.

I definitely pictured this sitcom-style have a very clever sense of humor.

Jay Simser said...

Well, I can't top this post. At all. Suffice it to say that I laughed, and then I laughed and laughed some more. I really enjoyed your lusting after the firemen.

I then hung my head for five minutes ashamed that I had laughed at your misfortune. (There is a word for that but I can't spell it.) I then decided that it would be all right with you if I laughed so I chuckled and just want to say THANK YOU so much for ending my day on a note of humor. If you want I can sell you my house and you can move out here to wonderful Iowa. Hugs, j-bear (too old and grizzley to be a j-bird)

Bob-kat said...

Yeah, cats are full of sympathy aren't they? LOL!

That's quite a story. It reminds me (in a much lesser way) of the film 'The Money Pit'. I'm glad your home isn't as bad as the one in the film!

I had problems when I first moved into my currnet home. One day in freezing Februray I got up to find the hot water tank had leaked and my dining room had been turned into a paddling pool. I was left with no heating and no hot water until it was fixed. These things are sent to try us! :)

Thanks again for popping by my blog and for your supportive comment.

Mahala said...

I'm thankful there's someone else in this world as graceful as I am lol.

Dianne said...

jeni - my son said that when I first met the firemen he was worried that I might do something to get them to come back LOL

snoopmurph - it is crazy insane isn't it!? and thanks for that lovely compliment - hopefully the house starts to think I'm clever cause so far I know it knows that it is smarter than me!

jay s: I think the word is schadenfreude - taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. don't be thinking I'm smart now, a friend named her cat that - another story that needs its own post. As I told meno - I LOVE when I make people laugh - what would be the point in these ridiculous events if you can't laugh at them. So you are correct - I am glad you laughed.

bob-cat: I swear Siren just looks at me some times as if to say - "all I need is thumbs and a driver's license and you're out of here"
Luckily we've never been w/out heat or hot water for more than a day! Oh crap - I shouldn't have said that! ;)

Dianne said...

mahala: we have so many other wonderful traits who needs graceful! In my mind's eye I am a ballerina, a gazelle even. But then again my mind's eye is looking into a crazy place ;)

bobbie said...

dianne, it takes special talent to turn this kind of problem into something so darned funny. I think it falls into the category of "You gotta laugh, or you might cry". Been there, done that, for sure.
I can empathize with you on the fall on the ice. I took one myself recently when I stepped outside and headed for the handicap ramp. Didn't make it. Sat down hard, and spent the next half hour trying to get up.
Keep laughing. And please, keep writing about it!

kenju said...

Bobbie is right! YOu write about it so well that all we can do is laugh, and remember similar times. We had to have a French drain put into our back and side yard too, as every time it rained we had a pond that stayed for days! I finally learned that I couldn't plug in a skillet or crock pot when I was also running the coffee pot and the TV, and the food processor would always blow the fuses. We had to laugh - or we would have cried.

♥♥♥ A- Licious ♥♥♥ said...

ooh my! i hope your head is okay (and your arse!)

wow...THANK YOU for coming by my blog, I thank you, because in turn i got to come check you cool is that? ;-)

i have TRULY enjoyed your read today - fabulous writing, very VIVID - i felt like i was there WITH you, stuffing towels to stop the leaks, listening to music and sipping coffee (hot chocolate?) with you in the dark and singing tunes to make the house behave!

wish i had been there to help you up instead of the BBQ!!! enjoyed myself on your behalf! ;o) i will DEF be back for more!

oh....and they have FANCY post it notes? and post it notes that tell me of my OTHER post it notes? WOW....i am like SO excited now.

who knew?


blessings & LUV....

a-licious xoxoxoxox

CG said...

Oh Dianne, I laughed out loud reading this. What a writer you are!! I was picturing everything!! I hope you recovered from your fall on the ice. I REALLY enjoyed picturing those moonlighting firemen....:) More please! (and thanks for the LOVELY comments on my blog !!)

Dianne said...

bobbie: hope you didn't hurt yourself!

kenju - you HAVE a french drain! oooohhhh fancy LOL - I'm so sensitive to electrical quirks then even in other people's homes I ask before turning a light on.

a-licious: I enjoyed your last post too! and your pics of the most beautiful baby boy just made me smile and smile. I'll be back as well :)

cg: I can't believe I didn't take a single photo of the firemen. I was trying to play it cool in my bumbling, lusting way!

and thanks all for such kind, appreciative words! I love picturing everyone having a good laugh.

Lisa said...

Oh, My God, Dianne! What a great post! Like everyone else who read it, I laughed and laughed and laughed some more.

We lived in one room of our 1890 Victorian while we rennovated it from top to bottom. I can relate to the whole "home repair" crap. The stories I could tell, if I remembered them. I've tried very hard to forget. :-)

My favorite lines:

"Maybe Santa hates us?"

"Yo Ma! Do NOT turn on the dryer, I'm shaving!"

The hoses are long and stiff and hard (I must stop thinking of the firefighters!).

(I really should have stayed awake in school.)

Siren stared down at me from his dry, safe perch as if to ask "who will feed me if you die?"

Those are my favorites but all of it was absolutely terrific!

Sitcom? Maybe. Major motion picture? Definitely!

I am so glad you decided to start a blog. You really have such a great talent for writing. Next step--getting paid for it. That is not outside the realm of possibility, you know. :-)

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Ah, the joys of homeownership.
When I got divorced, I got the house and my ex got the money. Someone convinced me that I was getting a good deal because, real estate is a good investment. Yes, there were all those projects that had been put off for 18 years, but really, how much could that really cost to fix?! A year later, I know the answer -- too much! I've gotten about halfway through my original list. Not bad, except for the fact that I've added to that list and I think I'm actually in the hole - literally and figuratively. least it's my hole!
When you're done with your firefighters, send them my way why don't you?!

Odat said...

Omg...I hate to laugh but you do tell a funny story! Sorry about your fall tho...Hope you're ok.
I have a feeling that I'll be telling some of those kind of stories in the near future!
(do me a favor, tho, send the firemen my way?)

Dianne said...

so many women - so few firemen!

and lisa was so well behaved, she didn't ask.

lisa: your favorite lines are my favorite lines - coincidence? (shakes head no)
a local paper has a "neighborhood color" type of column and they take submissions a few times a month - perhaps I will try.

kapu: it is a "living list" - it will never get any shorter. what will happen as you get better at it is that you'll start to know what you can let wait and what needs immediate attention. and always get at least 3 bids and check references. (unless they're firemen - then just grab them)

I'm OK odat :) It was only my head! LOL

Theresa said...

Welcome to the joys of homeownership- They don't call it the money pit for nothing- there is always some project on the list.

your recall of NYC made me laugh and think of my sister-in-law, who in her thirties had a boyfiend that "had a car"- like what is she in high school? We love to tease her about that one.

And to answer your last question, as long as your in America anything is possible, hey you might even win enough settlement money to do more house projects :)

Dianne said...

LOL theresa - I might make it on national news if I sued myself!

It is big doings in the Big Apple to have a car - no matter how old you are. It takes guts and stamina!

One of my favorite Seinfeld lines is when he went to the NY Auto Show and asked that every new car come with a spot to park it in.

Kerry said...

Oh my. Just...oh my.

Dianne said...

LOL kerry - I find myself saying Oh My quite a bit.