Full and happy

Los Angeleno by birth, Northwesterner by choice, Second-hander by nature. Librarian, housebound chef, father, and lowly subject ruled over by the needs and whims of a very old house.
Partial to Mexican, Italian and Vietnamese cookery but will eat damn near anything. Collector of many strange things..the result is chaos and anarchy and a very pleasant place to live.
There is pleasure in accumulation, not just "collecting": music, books and film, in all their multi-formated glory. Outsider artists and those kinds of prints you would recognize if you took liberal studies classes in college. Cooking implements and gadgets for recipes still untried or those ventured. Glasses for most types of libations. Flowers in the garden, herbs in the pot.
It's a life of the senses and a good home life reflects that. Walking helps take in all the rest. Requires no special equipment, opens up the pores, brightens the taste buds, clears the decks for further adventures, puts on the miles, widens the eyes and helps fuel the imagination.

Live boldly, play graciously and love with all your heart knowing that true love comes only once or twice in this lifetime. Speaking of which..donde estas, Empress of my Heart?


"Lack imagination and miss the better story" Yann Martel

"Life is a great adventure and I want to say to you, accept it in such spirit. I want to see you face it ready to do the best that lies in you to win out. To go down without complaining and abiding by the result....the worst of all fears is the fear of living." Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

"Not I - not anyone else, can travel that road for you
You must travel it for yourself" Walt Whitman

And above all, friends should possess the rare gift of sitting. They should be able, no, eager, to sit for hours-three, four, six-over a meal of soup and wine and cheese, as well as one of twenty fabulous courses.

Then, with good friends of such attributes, and good food on the board, and good wine in the pitcher, we may well ask,

When shall we live if not now?

-From Serve it Forth,
M.F.K. Fisher

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"It's bad times"

"Everything must go". A true sign of the times.

I will have to think twice about dickering at a garage sale these days. For years it was the staple event of our summer weekends, that is until I started working for systems that plugged me into Saturdays on a regular basis. I have to admit that was a good thing for someone to do to me. The whole summer went by this year and I never once stopped at a garage sale.

But maybe, right now, I should. I know don't have much cash to spare these days but maybe it's time to spread a bit of that wealth around. Maybe my gas bill will show up a week late, or maybe my grocer will feel me tighten up at the register, but I know that if I don't drop some real cash around town somebody in my neighborhood might feel that pinch a bit deeper than I, or the grocer, or the gas man ever will .

Reading the article posted below gave me my own California foreclosure flashback. I lived through a big boom back there in the early nineties, one that had housing prices skyrocketing out of sight and folks scrambling to secure loans in order to get in on the next "big thing". I was no different. I had a GI Bill loan burning a hole in my pocket, I had a chance to buy a nice old house in a quaint neighborhood, and to top it all off, I had no sense at all about the realities of monthly household finances. Some things never change, or sometimes they change for the better. With the purchase of that house I learned a very hard financial lesson, yes indeed.

In those days I was somewhat young, fairly stupid, flush with hubris, and very puffed up with myself. I just having secured my MLS from UCLA and had just married my latest wife, one with a degree and a nice paycheck to boot. The house we were renting in Santa Ana was poised and ready to go on the market. It was a charmer, an old 1920's bungalow, recently remodeled, freshly painted and very nicely landscaped. A real beaut, but a very pricey beaut. I still remember thinking how cool it was to be able to buy a house and not have to put a down payment on it. All I had to do was show that I was working, plonk down that GI Bill guarantee that five years worth of service bought me, and viola! instant home ownership! I never really looked at what that house was going to cost me on a month to month basis. I was too enamored with my success and what thought I had. I was looking at rainbows and ignoring the rain. IN the end what I had was a dream resting on shifting sands but no amount of convincing would get me to see it.

An old house is an old house, no matter how pretty it might seem from the outside. The porch pillars had dry rot, the furnace had a gas leak. The bathroom was too small, thermostat didn't work come winter, the pvc piping and the pop-up sprinkler heads didn't cooperate in the summer, and the closet space, which seemed so ample when we were renters, just didn't take us very far once we were owners. The bloom was off the rose almost from the start. Too bad, as it was a mighty cute house.

But the biggest problem was the not so much the size of the house but the size of the payment. I know that 1800 dollars a month is a lot of money to blow on rent today, but it was a mountain of cash back then. And it was even more once my relationship fell apart, when I was saddled with that monstrous payment alone. No amount of garage sales could have staved off defeat back in those days. One month went to the bills, one month went to the mortgage, the next month went directly into panic and by the time I made the house payment again I knew that all was lost, and so was the house.

I have to wonder if I had started putting everything I owned out the door if it would have mattered. I know that whoever bought the house that year got a better deal than I did, especially if they got it through an auction. But I know, too, that whoever bought it lost money on that thing. Housing prices in the Southland were way too high in those days, and the market tanked hard. It recovered about five years later and is once again doing what it did to me and countless thousands of others seventeen years ago. It's falling out of the sky like a burning Zeppelin and taking down the "American dream".

I suppose I'm lucky. I have a house I bought on the cheap. I put it back together and refinanced when the rates were right. My "rent" is low and I can afford it. You would think after all I went through I would have learned some sort of valuable lesson. I didn't then but I sure am now. I still wonder what could happen to my house if things went suddenly south again, the way they did in SoCal. Because of those days I play everything close to my chest and close to home.

Experience has shown me that it's only one short hop from success to "everything must go". Yeah, I know all too well. I've been there.


The garage sales of Manteca:

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