Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Am I cool enough?

Welcome to the roller coaster ride that is our search for the perfect home for us in our town. Here we go. Up, up, up... Next stop, the colonial on our street.

1774 Kimball house beehive ovenIt is old. Very. 1774 to be exact. It was built by the brother of the founder of Bradford College, a four year liberal arts college that closed its doors in 2000.

There is a similar building in Haverhill MA, a tavern where they founded the college in the very early 1800s. And for many years, this was probably the only house on this street.

This house was built away from the city as a gentleman's home, a place to entertain and relax. It isn't a working farm house like a few others in the area.

This was the Puff Daddy home of 1800s America. Unique and amazingly cool.

What makes it unique, in addition to a fireplace in every room, is the ceilings, which are 8 or more feet high. This is pretty much unheard of in architecture outside of big cities at the time. Most homes have a 6.5 or so ceiling height.

From the street I really had no idea it was as huge as it is inside.

Three bedrooms, an extra room that is kind of a hallway or playroom, another room above the den, a formal living room, a formal dining room, an eat in kitchen with a beehive oven (see above), the aforementioned fireplaces in each room (only the kitchen one works) and a woodstove in the den. Two bathrooms (1 full shower and one with a shower stall). Over 1/2 acre of land, fully fenced back yard. It's amazing.

And the question is -- am I cool enough to own and live in a house that is this unique and awesome? Again with the Seinfeld Orgy Friends analogy -- but I'd need all new everything. The place has more rooms than I have furniture for, so that is a good thing. But the ghetto blue couch would not be finding a resting place within these walls.

Doug even said that instead of using a formal livingroom, that'd be a nice place for a pool table. Hmmm.

Are we cool enough to live in something with that much character? This is a walking/garden tour house. We'd have to surely sign up to be one of the houses on the annual spring flower tour. I don't mind doing that. Do I?

When Doug was walking room to room he said to our realtor "I keep expecting a velvet rope here keeping me from going into the bedrooms." It seriously is like looking into a museum.

It is amazing. I'll say it again.

The listing broker grew up in the house. Her parents sold it 10 years ago to the current owner and it broke her heart. She has four brothers and sisters. She said that she has to personally approve of anyone who owns her childhood home. She was a riot, and I really liked spending time with her. She walked us through and told us where each kid in her family slept, what they used to do in this room and that, as well as the history of the house itself from way back in the day... So it was almost like a real historical tour. I could tell how much she loves this house. I got such a good feeling from it and from her.

She told us that the seller needs to sell. He's a retiring college professor and will be settling in northern NH at the end of this academic year. He wants to be done with this house and move along and timing wise, it would be perfect for him to sell this month or next ... We could be the people who help him do that.

The other house we looked at is all right. But it didn't bend me over and spank me. Certainly not at the asking price. Or even 15% off the asking price. Not the place for us. I liked the unique bathroom and the western view and the bedrooms were an awesome size. Doug hated the bathroom and really hates golf, so abutting a 3 hole golf course is not so cool. It is an acre of land, but about 1/2 of it is wetlands/creek/overgrown and unusable. It provides a nice sound buffer to the driving range. It isn't the place for us.

I had a hard time falling asleep last night because in my busy mind I was putting my bureau here, the dresser there, I was imagining what bedroom set I'd buy for Geoff, where the computer would go. A second computer? Where to put the 42" TV that we have yet to install here (and we won't)... wondering where the cable line is best suited to go. Picturing the nice dining room set that I'd like in the front room.


So much to consider and imagine. I think I could be cool enough to live here, and not fill it with IKEA stuff. That would be weird and a little to meta for my liking.

I'm off to work. Just put the kid on the bus and am waiting for the curling iron to heat up. There are pictures in Flickr, be sure to go look.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dumpster Diving

Doug came home from work the other day and someone had ransacked the dumpster.

He, my husband, is a master dumpster packer. It's like Tetris to him -- all those years of video game playing have really paid off. In the mix of the stuff was an old propane grill which belonged to our tenants, and they said they didn't want it, so we put it in the dumpster. It was packed in there, arranged like a puzzle piece with tons of other crap. And way way towards the bottom of the pile.

Well, someone wanted it badly enough to dig through everything and undo the puzzle and take it.

And Doug was bullshit -- not because they took our trash, but because they got into the dumpster and messed everything up.

On top of that, we had thrown huge panes of glass in there from the old storm windows. (We had all the windows in the house replaced, and the storms were still in the basement). There were huge shards of broken glass everywhere in there.

What would the liability be for us if some douche sliced the shit out of his garbage-picking ass? I'm calling our insurance agent this afternoon to ask. I want to make sure we don't get sued if someone chiffonades their hands while fishing for treasure.


We are looking at two houses this afternoon. I wish there was something else to talk about here -- but it is really all-consuming in my life right now. There isn't much of an update on anything. Nothing is coming on the market for us to look at, so we are looking at two houses that we summarily dismissed when we started the process.

One is two blocks up the street from us. It was built in 1776. Four bedrooms, fireplaced kitchen, family room with a woodstove. Just under an acre of land. Reasonably priced. But because it is ON our current street, we weren't interested. I wanted to get off busy roads, remember? But. Now that some of our criteria have changed, we're going to take a look at it. It could be awesome. I'm a little worried about the age of the building, but. We'll see when we get inside.

The second one is a three bedroom 1.5 house with about an acre of land, not quite on a busy street but on a cut through from the busy street to the woodsy street. It abutts a 3 hole golf course, and they are asking CRAZY money for it. Based on the outside and its location I cannot for the life of me figure out why the asking price is so high, except that the listing broker is a maniac (we've had dealings with her twice before when she sold the house next to us and I really dislike her). Doug didn't even want to look at it because if we buy it, that means she makes money off of us and we can't have that. No. We can't. But. If the house bends me over and spanks me when we walk inside, we will make a reasonable offer. Way below the asking price. For certain.

Meanwhile, the house the next town over that we would love to buy sits there waiting. I made a bunch of phone calls yesterday to try and find out about school choice for elementary within the district -- and no one can give me a straight answer. It ended up with "call the principal of the school" and I did -- and now wait to hear back from her. She's not good at getting back to people. The assistant principal is a peach, a gem, an awesome guy -- so I went to him yesterday and he told me he's going to try and nail her down for an answer. If it is yes - all our problems are solved.

I am actually tiring of this situation. The spring market is when all the houses are supposed to go on sale. Everyone sells their house in March and April. But for some reason -- not here.

There have been no new listings in over 3 weeks in our town, and everything we looked at except Pink House (which we'd so buy but the seller will not renegotiate the land deal) and Cat Piss House have sold.

Where are all the houses that are supposed to be on the market?

Now that my tenants are out, we spent some time upstairs looking at the apartment. Part of me says "cancel the sale, and convert the house back to a single family -- but no -- it's time to move along.

Which leaves us the two houses we are looking at today, and nothing else. With nothing new coming on the market and not wanting to stay here, we're kind of in a bind, a pickle. As it were.

My biggest fear in the universe is that we may just settle for something, just to get out of here, and the most perfect house ever in the entire universe will go on the market a week later. And we'll be locked under agreement or already moving boxes into the u-Haul.

Pray for us please. I'm normally cool as a cucumber with stuff like this, but when you're talking a 1/3 million dollar investment, it's a bit nerve-wracking. And I could use your spiritual mojo and good vibes and prayers at this point. Thanks.

On another front, the neighbor cousin has his offer letter and deposit in to my lawyer. She sent us the purchase and sale agreement to go over and sign with him. Our realtor is going to review it and have us ask right questions to the buyer, seeing as we've never done anything like this before. So that end of things is happy and comfortable at this point.

And I need to leave for the office now. Take Geoff to the bus, get a move on. Wish us luck with the two houses today -- I'm sure there will be an update.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

You may tire of me...

I got email from three people asking where I was. I'm not avoiding updates due to being sad about the house. That's for sure. I've sat down no less (no fewer?) than three times, started entries, and abandoned them because we had to go somewhere or do something. It is painful to be busy.

Da Skinny Black Man - Things I love ThursdayBefore I get started with the entry, I've neglected (through lack of time to update but not intention of heart) to give mad love, props and thanks to my boy, my favorite Marine, Mikey.

The week before last was a very hard, very busy week. Not only did we lose out on the house but work was stressy, and family was stressy, and it just was a rough week.

This week, out of the blue, I got a box in the mail. Mikey sent my my very own Mikey In The Middle Of The Road mug from Cafe Press. Now, it often goes to say that there is a lot of friendliness between folks on line. I can say Mikey is a friend of mine, even though we've never met. We've never spoken on the phone. We've exchanged emails, and now I have a mug with him playing dead on the road. I am more comfortable with him than I am with my neighbors. If I were ever in his neck of the woods I'd look him, the wife, the kids up -- and have a Guinness and some fun with them. And oogle Nic's new truck.

Is it a bad thing that in the Blogsphere I have more friends than I do in my home town?

Is it a bad thing to seek out the likeminded, or, the not likeminded but still nice to you types? (ie: half my read list is very different from me politically, socially, spiritually but we still seem to get along okay over the five years or so I've been involved with reading and writing online).

I don't know and I don't care -- I have a Mikey Mug, and I bet you don't. And I know my neighbors don't. So ha! In your FACE!

Thank you Mikey -- you're a gem.

Just for the record -- I started a blogger blog because two of my reads abandoned their regular journals and put up either a members only or a comments can't be left by non-members types... and I find that publishing there through Flickr is a lot of fun. I can use my pictures for instant entries that flickr just sends over to blogger. It kicks ass.

So if I have a quick, pithy comment on one of my pictures, I may just slap it up there in the chaos of the days. Bookmark the above address.

Yesterday we went to see the Harlem Globetrotters in Boston. Geoff's cub scout den was rewarded with tickets because they finished all their Bear level requirements. The rest of this year is electives and fun. So we'll still be doing stuff, but it will be more driven by what is fun rather than what is necessary. Almost all the boys went.

Back to the Globetrotters -- The place was half full, I guess the Globetrotters aren't the pull I remember them being in the 70s. I also grew up in NY where they were hugely big. I remember their Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and right up to this moment sitting here I had NO idea they didn't do the voices for their characters. Thank you IMDB for your help.

Anyway -- they were good, and they were fun, but there weren't nearly as many tricks as I remember there being. The other team wasn't the Washington Generals, which made both Doug and me gasp audibly... The New York Nationals? What the F?!? Who are these guys!?

There was a lot of needless stuff thrown in like this Globie mascot thing, which all the kids around us were so into but our kids were like "huh? What is that? I don't get it." I guess the real fans had the upper hand because the people behind us sang the Globie theme song (oh please go visit the Kids Court page and download it and read the heartwarming story of How Globie Came To Be...).

I wanted to see tricks and basketball. I wanted a good laugh from the clown princes of basketball.

There was some of that... but not enough to make me feel like I really got my money's worth.

It was more like watching rodeo clowns between rides. The banter between Paul "Showtime" Gaffney and the ref got tiresome after a while. There was a lot of "let's get western union out here and have fans throw balls into buckets for a Campbell's Labels For Education!" competition type of stuff. Boring.

It seems like nothing from my childhood has retained its staying power, can't live up to my memory of what it was like, as I breach the line between my 30s and 40s.

Either that, or it wasn't that good in the first place.

I am deathly afraid of actually ordering the recently released Electric Company DVD because I may watch it and say "I loved this? What was I thinking?"

So the song of the day, the quote of the moment over there somewhat sums up my feelings on being older. That song ("Brothers on a Hotel Bed") and "We Looked Like Giants" make me feel very nostalgic for 20 years ago in my life. And seeing the Globetrotters and realizing they aren't what they used to be either really bums me out.

Anyway -- we are still searching for another house. The one we really like a town over has come down drastically in price -- I need to find out if we can still keep Geoff in the school he's in for 3 more years and figure out what we can do for transportation for him. What I understand is they can go wherever they want for school within the district, but we have to provide transport for him. So that could be a sticky wicket.

Nothing new has come on the market in our town for over a week.

Neighbor cousin finally got his act together and is getting his paperwork in line. We talked extensively on Friday and it is understood that May is the date we're aiming for to close on the house. I will keep you posted, of course. You know I will. In the meantime, back to the basement for more cleaning. Or perhaps some Geocaching first. Not sure what's on the agenda today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who needs sleep?

When last we left our tale of shite in a tank, Mister Title V guy was here. It was Saturday. A beautiful, fun-filled, cleaning day. We were throwing stuff in a dumpster and having a damn good time. We went to the recycling center and returned about $60 in cans and bottles.

At the time of his departure Saturday afternoon, Mister Title V guy couldn't certify us. He said he might be able to ascertain failure or passing if we got our tank pumped. I called immediately and made an appointment for Monday. And the guy came and did his pumping... which a whole other story in and of itself...

Now, Mister Title V guy is back this morning to finish his inspection.

Basically, since Saturday I've been incredibly worried about this, and just want this part to be over with, pass or fail, stay or move. Everything hinges on that.

Hence the title and the song quote today. Sing it with me and play the flute solo.

In the meantime, while all this is going on in our lives, a second party offered on the blue house, right in the ballpark where we were. Our broker told the seller's broker that we needed until today to make a decision on whether or not we'd stick with our offer.

One would think because your offer came first they'd wait, but they didn't have to if they didn't want to. And they didn't.

They took the other offer yesterday afternoon. Which puts us out of the running for blue house unless the second offer is pulled for some reason (ie: they discover during home inspection there is something wrong with the house).

This didn't bother me too much. As you know, I liked the house, a lot -- but it wasn't my dream house. The busy street factor really was something that bothered me, and I'm actually quite okay with the fact that we aren't getting this house. There were a lot of pros which helped me, the eternal optimist, ignore the major con of the busy street. In the end, the balance was right for our family, the fun factor was high, the kids would be happy there. And that is a dream in and of itself.

Yes, it didn't bother me at all. I could live with this, start at ground zero, and re-evaluate other houses we'd seen or wait until something else comes on the market. I was okay with it for sure.

That is, until I got home last night and learned from Doug that Geoff didn't take the news well.

He was devastated. Absolutely positively wrecked. Doug said he cried and cried for over an hour. He had his little heart set on that house, out of all the other ones we looked at, and now he doesn't understand why we aren't going to get it.

Doug did the usual "It wasn't meant to be for us, there's another house that will work out better somewhere out there" but Geoff isn't hearing it. Ice cream helped him feel a little better, but in the end this morning he's still kinda sad. He gets to drive past that house on the bus, and I know it will make him feel as blue inside as its vinyl siding is outside.

In the end, the kids don't make the decision on which house we buy. But. Their comfort, safety and happiness are a major motivator in MY decision making (Doug's too) and now it's kind of heartbreaking. Whereas, it wasn't until 7pm last night when I got home.

Since I started this entry this morning, the Title V guy came in to tell me that he can "conditionally" certify the system. The system itself is okay, not as bad as he initially feared and caused me to experience massive duress over.

That's the good news.

The bad news is there is a small box called the "D" box (Distribution Box) which is cracked in two places and its lid is cracked in half. The D box sends liquid out into the leeching fields. Of which I was surprised to learn we have two. Nice. I'm learning a lot.

We will need to get that replaced, not repaired, so someone smarter than the dorkus malorkus who came out to do the pumping (remember, I said that's a story all in and of itself) will have to come out and do this. Price? Unsure. I have to call around and get a guy. But suffice to say it will be a whole lot less than the tens of thousands of dollars I was thinking we'd have to spend to get the system replaced if we failed.

I'll be able to sleep tonight. Hurrah.

One fly in the ointment though... It could take forever because a lot of companies are booked solid in the spring (solid. heh. punny.) and we may not get them out here in time for the sale. Which is okay because we can have that written into the agreement with a buyer, that we fix it before a certain date. All told, it could be worse.

And in the end, isn't that always my philosophy of life? It could be worse... it could be worse.

One final note -- let my experience be a cautionary tale to you, my brothers and sisters. If you are on a septic system, Get It Pumped. It cost us $170 to get it pumped. It could have cost us $30,000 to get the bitch replaced. So. Invest a little, in the end, it could save you a lot.

Okay -- I have to pay the dude now that he's wrapping up. Heading to work in a better mood than I woke up in. Hopefully it stays that way. Cheers!

Saturday, March 18, 2006


The tenants are moving out right now. And that sucks. They are acting like I set them on fire.

They are moving like lightning, and they are going going gone. They'll be gone today. And they don't need to be. I've tried to talk sense into them, that there isn't a rush, we don't have an agreement inked, no one has given a date. Jesus, it could be freaking May or June by the time all of this is settled.

But they're not wasting a second. And they're fleeing like it is evacuation notice in a hurricane zone.

It bums me out. There are so many factors that come into play here, and they don't need to go NOW. For instance, there is a dude digging holes in my back yard right now for Title V inspection. And I don't know if we're going to pass it when it all comes down to the nitty gritty. He gave us a ration because we have never pumped the system out. In 10 years. He said that it is supposed to be done annually.

Well no one told me that dude. Jeesh.

Doug's parents have septic, and they've NEVER pumped their system. A septic tank is supposed to be self sufficient and runs itself... that's why people use it.

My entire house stinks because of the septic inspection. I feel like I am going to pass out.

Another layer of stress is the buyer is blowing me off, won't return my calls, hasn't sent in his offer letter and his deposit. We can't do anything or go anywhere or burp without that in place. So I'm stressed about that.

The owners of the house we offered on came back with a counter that was ridiculously high. We countered their counter and won't go any higher.

At least that is what we said last night.

This morning my neighbor was out with his entire crew at 7am pushing dirt around, running machinery, and making all kinds of hellacious noise. And to be completely honest, we can't tell what it is he's attempting to do, or improve. Nothing looks different, just dirtier and pushed around.

So right now, I may counter the counter-counter with a higher amount just to get out of here and away from him. Doug and I decided that we cannot move fast enough. But if the house fails Title V, we are going to have to use our entire down payment to get the septic tank replaced. And that, my friends, could ruin everything.

My tenants will have moved out for naught. And I'll be stuck with the bill for the new tank, and we may as well stay here for 10 more years.

Can all of this be for nothing?

Am I going to end up not getting out of here and away from the noisy jerks nextdoor? Am I not going to be rocking out in a puff daddy pool this summer?

dumpsterifficTop all this off with the fact that yesterday afternoon things didn't wrap up nicely at the office the way one would hope a Friday afternoon with irish beer and Baileys and strawberry desserts would, and you find me today feeling kind of upset and anxiety ridden. And you know me. That's not like me.

We've spent the day filling a giant dumpster. We broke glass windows and argued about what to keep and what to pitch. Doug and I had a pretty good time and he makes me laugh and feel much better, so in the end, it'll all be okay. Right?

So a little later, once septic guy seals our fate, we will take all our recycleables to Kappys and Geoff can feed the recycle machine with a year's worth of cans and bottles. We'll end up with maybe 50 bucks from it (and he gets a cub scout elective achievement for his hard work). We'll buy some grillables and a bottle of some thing interesting that mixes with something else to create the end result of something tasty and grown up. We'll have a bonfire with the burnables from the basement. And a few drinks.

... so long as I can get that stinky septic stench out of the house once the guy is done.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Didn't Mean to Break Your Heart

So we accepted the offer from the buyer on this house. It is less than we wanted, but it is still a goodly price and gets us where we need to be in the end. And we went tonight and made an offer on blue house on busy street with in ground Puff Daddy (insert heavy bass beat) pool. We're waiting to hear if it is accepted. Our buyer's broker thinks that they'll come back with a counter offer and has advised us not to go over a certain figure for value on dollar.

Wheels keep on spinnin' round, spinnin' round, spinnin' round...

Tonight I had to talk to our tenants; they know we're selling the house, but we wanted to give them a more difinitive date as to when we plan to close. The buyer wants them to stay, but because the buyer is related to our neighbor, whom they do not like, they plan on leaving. No. Matter. What.

They said that they totally understand where we are, and they have plans, and not to worry -- they'll be okay. But in the end, I feel horrid because out of all the considerations I have had to put into play around this, they are the people I am most worried about.

I told them how much I want them to stay -- just at least until the summer when they can go up to their camp in NH and spend the summer there. I told them how much the buyer wants them to stick with, even if just through the summer. But because of bad blood with the neighbor, they want to bail ASAP.

And it breaks my heart, because I know they could so get on like a house afire with the new guy.

"We love you," she says to me, "and we don't want to get to know some new guy. We know that this is a great opportunity for you, and it is for us too. So don't worry. Don't worry."

Don't worry.

I'm sad. Really sad. My considerations for my wallet and my children aside, they matter a lot to me. Most landlords couldn't give a rat's ass at all -- but I love these folk, and want them to be safe and happy and be living somewhere that they can afford. I wish they'd stay with the new owner.

But it is what it is. They won't hear my argument, they've made up their minds. They'll be gone when we are gone. I love them, they've been nothing but saintly good fun people to have in my home. I've been fortunate and blessed to have good tenants in a universe where crap tenants exist.

If anyone is looking for a 2 bedroom apartment north of Boston, I'll know a landlord who needs to rent out a place immediately for $750. Leave a comment.

So now we play the waiting game. The buyer's broker is pitching our offer, we'll see what the seller comes back with. I'd like for this to not drag on for weeks. In essence, in 45 days I want to be closing. I don't want to dick around for weeks on end just to get to an agreed price. If they want to play games, we'll walk.

There are other places.

This is the best place for us. But there are two others that I'd take as well and be just as happy. Or, we tell our buyer that we need another month to secure something while we wait for other stuff to open up on the market. Spring is here. Other houses are going to pop up like the veritable spring crocus and we'll be able to pick something else.

Anyway. The Office is on. I missed Earl because I was all about talking to the tenants. I'm needing my dose of that hot little Jim now. Bye.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Eggs in Baskets

Tomorrow morning we are meeting with neighbor cousin to talk offer on house.

I'm quite excited, and I'm willing to hear his offer but am convinced he is going to low-ball us way down around our ankles. I'd rather he aim for our navels. We can work on the suggestions and offer he makes, and hopefully come up with a mutually agreeable total amount. I'm willing to say "have a nice day" and walk away if he's too argumentative. We bought this house 10 years ago with the hope that it would launch us into another house and make our lives easier as we step up. Not harder. So a low-ball offer is not going to fly with me.

I'm shrewd like that.

By the way -- we have kind of decided that the Blue House on Busy Street is the one for us. The land deal with Pink Dream house has us totally gun-shy, and we can't afford that anyway. We can afford blue house. And afford it we shall.

So there is this cruise I wanted to go on. And after looking at our finances, and weighing all the factors, we're not going to go. I'm disappointed and heart broken, but painfully realistic in the end. I am able to be both. I went through petulant cry-babyness most of the day. But I've Kubler-Rossed myself into acceptance.

You should go if you have the money. Really. You'll enjoy yourself. Trust me.


It is something I don't think of too often, except when I don't have it, or might not have it. We're number crunching and looking at what stuff is going to cost, and I'm seriously fretting now that we aren't going to have enough for all the things we will need to do.

No wonder I'm not going on a cruise.

We're selling the house ourselves, so we've got a lawyer (money) writing up contracts (money) and have to do a Title V septic inspection (money) and have the town fire marshall come and inspect the house to make sure we have smoke detectors (money) and then we have to get a dumpster or four in order to throw out all the throw-outtables (money). Then we have to make an offer on another house (money) and move (money) and paint the new house non-Bermuda colors (money) and get water in the pool (money) and buy a bedroom set for Geoff, a nice couch, a fridge, washer/dryer (money money money) for the new house...

It's going to be a long stretch of money moving around and vanishing before my eyes. I'm not liking that.

Anyway -- pray for us tomorrow morning, that neighbor cousin is cool and not way cheap, and we don't get ripped off, and that we can stand our ground if he gets all argumentative. We know what we need, and we are going to stick as close to it as we can. In the end, that's all we can do.

It is what it is.

On that note, I'm off to bed. Night all.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

An entry where geocache will be mentioned

Of course it will. The weather, the weekend, the Team Screamapillars -- you know it all adds up to an adventure in stalking Tupperware in the woods.

Agawam Dance fuzzy branchWe went to Gloucester again, because there are so many freaking caches there. Not all of them hidden by the cacher named Dogtown, and not all of them in the area called Dogtown.

We were five for eight in our seekings but it wasn't too disappointing because it was just freaking gorgeous and sunny and bright and the view! And the ocean! And the everything!

I took a million and a half pictures, of course. This one is one of my favorites. But go over to Flickr and enjoy them all. Won't you?

The first cache we did was in the Ravenswood Park property on rte 127 between Magnolia and Gloucester. It is a fantastic property that goes from rocky granite cliffs to deep vernal pools and marshy swamps. We got to enjoy a gorgeous vista looking over to Eastern Point webspinner view to eastern pointLighthouse where we'd hiked just a few weeks ago.

We didn't find that cache, for some reason we missed it totally, but we enjoyed the two and a half miles through that park, and we'll be back to make that find before you know it.

Next we ventured to a little spot running up Cape Ann north of Thatchers Island almost in Rockport. On the right as you're heading north there is a State Historical Information Sign letting you know that French Explorer Samuel de Champlain danced with some Indians there in 1605.

Steepbank Landing is the place, and it sure was a steep little bank. It is marked a public way, and a resident sticker is required, but no one was there yesterday to give us a hard time so we enjoyed having the uninterrupted access.

The beach is gorgeous, and the area above the beach was really cool too with scraggly weatherbeaten trees and a huge meadow for the residents horses. Again, millions of pictures taken, good times had.

Squam Ave, Rockport MAWe then went into Rockport to hit a few caches in Dogtown, one on Pools Hill, and the one on the Granite Pier that we couldn't find in May 2005. We still couldn't find it, but we greatly enjoyed looking.

The Dogtown caches (hidden by Mr. Dogtown) were not very challenging, but finding them totally made up for the lack of finding at other locations.

We left satisfied.

There weren't as many people out and about as I anticipated. I thought we'd be sitting in traffic forever going through Rockport or trying to navigate around one of the Death Circles (aka Rotaries) in Gloucester.

For the most part, the crowds were in the shopping areas because many of the trails were empty, save for our brood.

It wasn't until we tried to get food at about 5pm that it became evident that millions of people were out enjoying life. We drove into Essex to go to Farnhams and there was no getting near the building. After fighting traffic we knew what we would find just up the road -- Woodmans would be equally mobbed, and it sure was. We continued through Essex, and the antiquers who had been shopping all the livelong day were now crammed into every restaurant except the Chinese place. No one was there. But we didn't want Chinese food either. So we continued to Ipswich.

choate bridge pub dinnerWe ended up at the Choate Bridge Pub, where I haven't eaten since 1990. Not for lack of wanting, but just because we never go to Ipswich. Doug said he's never been there, which I found hard to believe.

It wasn't very crowded, except at the bar where dozens of people were indoors on the prettiest day of the year drinking and yelling at the big screen TV showing the ACC basketball tournament. We scored a table in the diningroom, enjoyed a good dinner and a couple beers and then decided to head to Newburyport because WRKO guy and Herald columnist Howie Carr was going to be at a bookstore there to sign copies of his book "The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century."

jabberwocky booksNow, for you Boston area readers, I know, I know, I know -- most of you hate Howie Carr. He can be a jerk, sure. He starts a lot of fires with his mouth, and is far more conservative than I am when it comes to a lot of issues.

I'm fascinated by his wealth of knowledge about the Bulger family. He is a fantastic storyteller, and whenever he is on the topic I listen in rapt attention. For those of you unfamiliar with the Bulgers (yes, all you readers in Kittaning PA and Austin TX) theirs is the classic Irish immigrant story of one brother a politician, one a gangster, FBI agents on the take, newspapers afraid to tell tales of crimes and murders.

Howie even writes about his own experiences knowing he was on the list of people they'd like to kill and he pretty much laughs it off.

Well, we weren't the only people who decided to turn up.

I didn't anticipate he'd be this huge a draw, but we got there at 6:50 and there was no getting in the room.

Doug ended up getting to a spot where he could at least see Howie talking. I took the nutcracker bobkids into a bakery for a little while where they played with a Nutcracker, then I took them up to a landing on the second floor where we could at least hear Howie give his talk on his experience in Boston during the Winter Hill reign of terror.

We didn't stick around for an autograph or anything, I would have liked a copy of the book.

The bookstore should have had a table at the front of the building where they were selling the book while Howie was talking. That would have been smart. So we left empty handed. I'll get the book some other time. I'd love to read it.

We were home by 8 and I think I was asleep by 9. A long assed day all over the north shore.

This morning I slept in late, and we lolled around the house for several hours doing nothing. We set out to grab a geocache or three at about 1pm. While at the first cache it started to rain, so we bailed and came home. Unlucky. But we got a good mile and a half hike in before retreating home.

Now it feels like naptime, only I have dishes and laundry to get to. It was a busy weekend... I like it like that.

The kids have tomorrow off, so they're going to hang out here. Doug will head home at a decent time to meet them. There is a ton of stuff going on at work that makes life busy, and I can't miss a day there. Or a minute really. It's good to be busy!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Roller Coaster...

After yesterday's entry was freshly posted, I walked Geoff to the bus stop.

Neighbor wife was waiting for me, and told me that neighbor cousin LOVES the house and spent hours at their house talking with husband about plans for fixing stuff up and doing this and doing that etc. I acted nonplussed and smiled and nodded. "That's Great!" I said.

The impression Doug had gotten was that the guy thought the place would be too much work and he wasn't interested at all. He told me that the guy is a really good actor, because while he was here checking the place out he was all "Oh man, this'll cost a lot to fix up!" and next door he was all "wheeeee! Yay!" and planning until well into the night...

After talking it over yesterday morning, we decided we'll wait to hear from neighborcousin personally. Not that neighborwife isn't trustworthy -- she's never lied to me before so why should she start now? But we'll wait to see what he comes back to us with offerwise, and we'll wait through the weekend before contacting him back to ask what he is thinking.

Meanwhile, neighbordaughter at the bus stop is very sad that we're going to be moving. She told me she loves us. Ain't that sweet.

So yesterday we went from lowdown kind of sad in the morning to "whee! this could work!" a few minutes later. My realtor said "welcome to the wonderful world of real estate!"


Alright -- I just wanted to update that fact there, and now I've got a boy who wants to play with a guinea pig before leaving for school. So I better go help him get pig out of cage.

Have a good day.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hobo God

"God doesn't have houses. He's a hobo."
-Geoff on hearing the term "House of God" on the news

The quote of the moment, and the title of this entry, are courtesy of Geoff. Last night he was watching the nightly news and the big report was on the apprehension of three knuckleheads who set fires to churches in Alabama. The reporter stated that they had burned several "Houses of God." Geoff, in his simplicity, said that "God doesn't have houses. He's a hobo."

After we stopped laughing we had to explain the whole concept of "house of God" was to him, and he didn't buy it.

In his mind, since God is EVERYWHERE. He's more like Johnny Cash than a bearded sandaled deity. He probably wears dirty jeans and a cowboy hat as he travels around with a guitar slung over his back. He sleeps, when needed, under train trestles and in doorways. Sometimes way out in the middle of nowhere under the stars.

"I've been everywhere, man. I've been everywhere..."

The concept of Hobo God has really started to appeal to me over the past several hours. He is a God who goes around helping the poor, the destitute, the helpless. He rides the rails and hitches rides from Amarillo to the New Mexico border on the back of pig haulin' trucks. This Hobo God doesn't take rides in big huge Limos, who doesn't have busty church secretaries with big bouffant hairdos leaning over his humongous Cherry desk when taking a letter. Hobo God doesn't tell you that you need to up your donations to His organization, there is no planned giving campaign run by suits and ties where they tell you how much to tithe. Hobo God loves when you can give a hand, no matter how small or large. He loves you just the same. If you give him a T-bone steak or a can of tomato soup, either way -- you done good.

I'd rather associate my concepts of God going forward with Hobo God and not some sort of white evangelical preacher God. As of late, the houses of the mighty well-dressed TV preachers have become empty bombed out shells of irrelevance to me. Blown up with hot air and deflated by lies and scandal.

I like Hobo God. I'd really like to thank my son for giving me a spiritual epiphany in this Lenten Season. Thanks Buddy. And, thanks Hobo God.

Since we are on the subject of Geoff in a way, he could use your mojo and prayer and thoughts at about 10am. That is when Geoff will give his very first oral presentation to his class. They all had to do book reports, and he chose "The Magician's Nephew" by CS Lewis, one of the Chronicles of Narnia. He did a great job of reading it, and made his presentation poster on Sunday, and really grasped a lot of what was happening in the story. If you're not familiar with this one, it is basically the Genesis/Creation story of Narnia, and a lot goes on in there... he had to write from the perspective of his favorite character in the book. One of these "If you were in the book, who would you be and why, and tell us what you'd do." And he chose Uncle Andrew.

I'm really confident in him doing the report. The thing is, I can't be there today. I took half of Tuesday off, and have to leave early today to meet his bus. We have a conference call at 11, and his presentation is at 10. There is no way I'd be able to do it.

So he's kind of sad that I won't be there. I am not babying him, but I did let him know how sad I feel to be missing it. I know he'll do fine, in fact, he always does better if I'm not there. He tends to get silly and perform if I'm there. And we want him to play this straight up.

Please pray for him to do a great job and to be confident and not get silly because he's nervous in front of the group. Sometimes he sings his responses because he's anxious. Pray that he has the calm assuredness to just stand up there and do his thing.


So neighbor cousin came to look at our house last night and was here for over an hour. In the end, he doesn't know if this is right for him. On the pro side, he could make money off of 2 rental units and live in one unit. But he sees that the two rental units would never cover 100% of the mortgage and I think that's what he's hoping for. Our rental set up doesn't cover 100% of the mortgage. It covers a little less than half. This isn't an income generating property, it is a place to LIVE. Now, if you were renting out all three units, you could pay the mortgage 100% if you charged the right amount but it would be years until you were income generating.

He said he'd call us. Doug thinks he won't.

Meanwhile, we lawyered up so we can do documents if necessary. I'll give neighbor cousin a couple of days and then hit him up with a call to see if he's interested. If not, I'll hit the neighbor around the way to see if he figured out financing so that he could buy it. If he's not interested, we'll double check with the tenants to see if they are. They have very little cash flow, but a zero down mortgage could work for them if they do things right. We'll make sure they know their options.

And if all that falls to the wayside we call a contractor, get things very fixed up in here, do a bridge loan on the 2nd house, and put this one on the market through our realtor.

So I'll keep you posted, of course.

Anyway -- it's already 7:30 so I ought to get a move on. Have a super day.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Just my luck...

I thought I would have a leisurely morning at home here, do some dishes, mop the floor. Geoff has a doctor appointment close to Boston, and it isn't until 10. Which means we could leave at 9 and get there early and walk around for a spell.

But I just learned that there is an accident, or, as Trooper Grant Moulison on WRKO news radio's traffic report says "an horrific accident" on Rte 128. And traffic is backed up well past our exit. In the next hour, that area will end up backed up all the way to Woburn. And we'll be sitting in it until noon unless we leave right this instant.

I'm not good with Boston AREA driving. I'm much more comfortable up here in the north country, heading to the mountains. Far from the city. I'm a country mouse, I guess. I just really hate sitting in traffic and being safe and conscientious when some dumb bastard in a VW GTI is going to obey his "FAST" and cut in front of me just to get one car length ahead.

The driving around here is the absolute worst. And it seems inevitable that every time we have an appointment down there, something horrible happens.

The last time we were down that way, on the way home someone ran over a state trooper who was giving out a ticket. And after the state trooper got run over, which of course brought everything to a total standstill and every cop in Massachusetts to the spot, some doofus in a tractor trailer decided to drive up the breakdown lane at top speed and he rear ended two police cruisers parked in the accident zone, thus jackknifing his rig across two lanes of traffic.

It took me 3 hours to get home that day. Pray for me, wouldya?

MLS 70309482 fireplace 2In other news, we looked at two other houses at open house viewings on Sunday.

One is the greatest house ever, see photo to the left... but is well out of our price range.

The other was okay, a little small, but workable. It had a huge room off the backside of the garage which could be used as a rumpus room with pool table and big beer fridge and big screen TV, or an apartment to rent out.

Unfortunately they are asking crazy money for it AND it reeks top to bottom of cat piss. No thanks. The cat was friendly and nice though, and let me play with him for a while and take pictures. Speaking of which... pictures are in the Flickr House Hunting Gallery -- go look if you are so inclined.

Tomorrow afternoon the neighbor cousin is coming to look at our house. Which is very exciting.

In the meantime, I got a phone call from our neighbors around the way who watch Geoff on Monday afternoons. Doug had mentioned to them that we are selling. They are concerned about us selling the house because they don't want to see a neighborhood of six houses go up behind our building on the neighbor land if the cousin and neighbor decide to tear our house down.

They may want to buy our house from us and rehab it and rent out three units to prevent this house from being torn down so a cul de sac can go in there and a hoard of homes can go up.

We could have a bidding war on our hands. If neighbor cousin isn't interested in the end, my fall back plan is our friends 'round the way. Doug said he'd gladly negotiate a plan with them, just to unload the house.

Very interesting developments here in amusingsland.

Alright then kids... I'm off. Gotta get the cup of java into the travel mug and get socks and boots on the kid. Cross your fingers that it doesn't take longer than an hour and forty five minutes for me to make a forty five minute trip.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Lazy Sunday and Interesting Food Shapes

Mostly. But not really. We've got a slight undercurrent of busy here, it is just not a deluge of busy that needs to be attended to. For a change.

Geoff has a project due tomorrow. He's at the dining table working feverishly to get the pieces ready for a large piece of posterboard, yet to be purchased. We're going to an open house for yet another interesting house in town that we might be interested in. I think it is way beyond our means. Doug disagrees. Can't know if it is perfect unless we go see it, so we'll go and see it. Then I think we'll geocache, something I haven't been able to do for weeks. Doug has gone out a few times, but I've either felt the need to clean, tidy, organize, purge all our shit, or, I was sick, or, it was too stinking cold out.

So yeah -- we've got a handle on the day, and it's nice and mellow. I hope it stays that way and there are no bumps in the metaphorical road.

unhappy in defeatYesterday was, of course, the Pinewood Derby.

Geoff was eliminated fairly quickly, and didn't know it until the very end, so he enjoyed himself totally while all the racers were going down the ramp.

All the kids were awesome and excited. It came down to two best friends, and the boy who lost was semi-devastated, but managed to pull up the pride and hold his friend's hand in victory to the cheers of the crowd.

Geoff was pissed that he lost and got a "stupid" participant trophy. But he came home and put the car and trophy right on his dresser. Shows how stupid he really thinks it is. We learned a lot this year about how to do this right, and next year our car is going to rule. Geoff's friend Nick won most creative for their rank with the Mister Peanut car, like I predicted. It was awesome. We all had a great time, even though we didn't win and advance to regionals. I took a bunch of cool pictures. Of course. You expect anything less?

After the races, we went to my mom and dad's house. Linda and Ronnie are visiting for the weekend. We took Gammy (our grandmother) out for dinner, and it was fun but hard to visit with her because I was at the far end of the table minding a very grumpy 9 year old boy.

lobster clamAnd, true to form, I did something that shows what a sick person I am. Ronnie noticed that one of his pieces of fried clam looked an awful lot like a lobster. Isn't that ironic? A fried piece of seafood looking an awful lot like another kind of seafood. Gee, ain't that something. So we all had a good laugh at it, and, I took a picture of it. It wasn't until I got home that it really hit me, that I took a picture of fried seafood but didn't take a picture of my kids with their great-grandmother. Yeah, I'm a dunce.

But I have this cool piece of fried seafood to show for it. You love that, don't you? Yes you do.