Location! Location! Location!

23 07 2010

They say confession is good for the soul, so I’m thinking maybe it’s time.

The problem lies with the internet.

No, I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time at any of those gambling sites.  And I’m not addicted to any lewd or racy sites.  And I don’t like the celebrity-watching sites.  TMZ, take a hike.

But of late it seems when my eyes see the Google search engine box, my fingers automatically generate those three little words: Asheville real estate.

It’s not like we’ll be moving anytime soon.  With a sophomore in a Virginia state college, we won’t be crossing state borders for the next three years.  And with tuition bills arriving regularly, hubby won’t be retiring just yet.

So it’s not like I’m really looking in earnest.  It’s just a curiosity.

Or it was until it turned into an obsession.  I knew I had crossed the line when I started hiding my “little habit” from the family.

I’d wait until I was alone to log on.

Or if I couldn’t wait I’d turn the sound down so no one would hear that awful “virtual tour” music.  It’s a dead giveaway!  And I’d angle the screen so nobody would notice what I was looking at.

Looking for real estate on the web is amazing!

You can pull up all the multiple listings and see prices, lot sizes, home sizes, number of bedrooms and baths, heat source, exterior finishes, foundations, etc. etc. etc.

On the map you get a bird’s-eye view of the house, and see if your neighbors are mechanics who have 16 cars parked in the yard.  And how close the railroad is.

You can toggle on symbols to show you locations of schools, parks, banks, grocery stores, gas stations, airports.

You can get all sorts of test scores from area schools, and comments from parents.

There are discussion forums to learn about local issues, like where that highway might be built.

What I’m looking for is something not in the middle.

I want to either be in the city or in the country.  Not in the suburbs.  Do I want an “in town” house, within walking distance to shops and restaurants?  Or something more remote, with “lovely mountain views” (also septic systems and well water)?

And I want something either old or new, not middle-aged.  Asheville has an amazing number of charming bungalows that were built in the 1920’s, which have been lovingly updated, if you can believe what the real estate agents tell you.  (But is there any insulation in those walls?)

The area is also home to some great builders who are eco-sensitive and up to date on the latest products out there.

Perhaps the thing that most fascinates me is how low the prices are.  Compared to the DC housing market, it feels downright affordable.  It’s like playing limbo.  How low will it go?

I had decided I wouldn’t even look at the foreclosures and short sales.  I wasn’t going to salivate over someone else’s misfortunes.  But then I ran across the $134,900 short sale house (with central air! hardwood floors!)  We could practically write out a check…..  So what if it only has two bedrooms?  And that big highway running  past the back of the property probably shuts down at night.  Under Driveway, it usually says something like asphalt.  Or gravel.  But for this property, it says dirt.  Hmm…  Better keep looking.


Fireworks Fiasco

7 07 2010

On the Independence Day hubby and I decided to forgo the fireworks down on the mall.  We just didn’t feel like braving both the heat and the crowds.  (Is this proof positive that we’re officially old farts now?)  But as darkness began to fall I sensed he was feeling that a Fourth without fireworks was somehow incomplete.

So we hopped in the car to head to the Fairfax fireworks.  It’s just a few miles from our house, easily viewed from the parking lot of the Home Depot, all in all a simple endeavor.  Plus, for local fireworks, they ain’t half bad.

Actually, I was more pumped for stopping for soft ice cream afterwards.  We thought we’d go to Woody’s, a barebones ice cream stand owned by a chap who retired from his work, but wasn’t ready to quit working.  He hires local kids to run the establishment.  Grabbing a cone there feels like helping the locals.

The first sign that something was amiss came when we turned in at the Home Depot and saw only one other car awaiting the evening spectacle.  By this time the sun was pretty low in the sky and we were expecting to see the masses gathering.

We drove a bit further to the high school which is ground zero for the fireworks and saw the sign. Fireworks, June 3.  We missed the show by 24 hours.

Since when are the Fourth of July fireworks on the Third of July?

But, a soft ice cream cone was just the ticket to boost our sagging spirits.

Strike two.  When we pulled up to wet our whistles we discovered that not only was Woody’s no longer in business, the building was entirely gone.

Joni Mitchell’s classic song came true.  They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.  Which we used for turning around.

But the evening wasn’t a total bust.  We found a Wendy’s and I suggested we get a couple of the 99 cent Frosty’s I’d seen advertised on television.  Except in the overpriced DC market they cost $1.39.  Even more surprising was the size cup they used.  A mere four ounces.  I’ve had ice cream samples bigger than that.  Shame on you, Wendy’s.

But as we drove home downing our mini-Frosty’s we could see just above the horizon in the distance the fireworks from the next community over.  I guess the folks in Vienna checked their calendars a little more carefully.

Little ice cream and little fireworks.

And the Award Goes To…

29 04 2010

Well, the party’s over.  Nothing left but a wine stain on the rug by the stairway, a half-eaten piece of cake on the coffee table, a pile of dishes in the sink, and a pair of glasses someone left in the bathroom.

No, no, no!  There wasn’t actually a party yesterday.  It just felt like one because….

I made it onto the Freshly Pressed page of featured blogs!

I found out about my selection for this, the highest of honors, when I got a rash of emails announcing comments to my blog and THEY WEREN”T ALL FROM MY MOTHER!

When I realized what was afoot I reread my post and immediately found four places I wanted to change the wording.  Even worse, I found (YIKES) a typo!

Suddenly I faced a dilemma.  Could I morally edit something that had already been selected?  Was that like making changes to a test paper after it had been graded?

Maybe the software wouldn’t even let me make changes.  Maybe I would bring WordPress.com to a grinding halt if I even tried to make changes.

But the typo was glaring at me.  I felt like I was at a beauty pageant with a coffee stain on the front of my white evening gown.

Ultimately, I decided to correct the typo but leave the rest as it was.

(WordPress.com did not come crashing down.  It didn’t even hiccup.)

The most excitement came as the day wore on and my blog stats reached heretofore unimagined heights.  The graph is usually a zig-zaggy line with lots of ups and downs.  Increasingly, it was a straight horizontal line located just barely above zero punctuated by a single point on the far right, soaring higher and HIGHER and HIGHER!

I was invincible!


Alas, the morning after is always sort of a let down.  Once again, I’m just one of 286,963 people rattling on about the minutiae of my life.  Back to the real world.

But, to paraphrase Lerner and Loewe in one of their great Broadway productions:

Don’t let it be forgot
That once this was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot one of the 11 best blog posts out of a pool of 324,839.

I Got Some ‘Splaining to Do

28 04 2010

When I’ve breathed my last breath, when my number is up, when I arrive at the pearly gates, I think I’m going to have to give an accounting for a couple of untimely deaths.

(I’m assuming I’ll get a pass on all those ants.  You-know-who may have thought they were a good idea when He created them, but surely in the intervening time He has come to the conclusion, like most of us, that in some cases you can have too much of a good thing.  At least that’s what I’m counting on.)

The deaths of which I speak affected creatures a little higher up on the food chain, specifically a squirrel and a chipmunk.

The Squirrel

I’m hoping I can be forgiven for this one because I started out with the best of intentions.  We owned a cat and a gerbil.  (I know–poor planning, but sometimes timing is everything.)  We kept the gerbil in my son’s room with the lid tightly attached and a book on top to secure it.  We kept his door closed all the time.  The kitty knew the room held pleasures that she could only imagine.  But we were on top of the situation.

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with a squirrel?  Stay with me.

We hired some painters to paint the exterior of our house.  The head honcho was a nice guy who happened to really like cats. (He was actually the person who told me our furball was a Maine coon cat.)  I trusted him to be mindful of where the cat was in the house as various windows were opened and closed so our precious feline wouldn’t escape.

And so I left on my errands.

What I forgot to mention was the gerbil stashed in my son’s room.

After an hour or so as I was motoring around I suddenly realized that my son’s door would most likely be left open and young gerbil’s life was at risk.  Speaking of risk, I knew I had to go home immediately to right the situation and so made some road maneuver not covered in the DMV manual.  Fortunately, no policemen were watching.  Unfortunately, a squirrel was making a move of his own at the same time.  I felt the thud as the car hit him.  I actually didn’t see his limp little body in the road, and can only assume he made it into the woods to die. (But–just maybe–he was okay, right?)

Anyway, I got home in time to save the gerbil, but I’ve got to live with this squirrel on my conscience now.

The Chipmunk

I put water in a big plastic bin and added Chlorox.  I used the mixture to clean our outdoor furniture and recycle bins.  When I finished, I hesitated to just dump the water out as it contained Chlorox.  I knew I’d never hear the end of it if I killed a patch of grass.  So I left it to deal with later.

Shortly thereafter we had company and my husband moved this large container off to the side.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Several weeks passed.

I didn’t happen upon the container until a couple of days ago, and in it I found a dead chipmunk.  YUCK!  I’m not sure whether he drowned or died from the Chlorox.  (No autopsy was done.)

My dear hubby cleaned up the mess.  This is what husbands are for.

It might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m hoping when I have to account for my actions, he will share part of the blame with me.  Again, I’m thinking this is what husbands are for.

Erma, Meet Lisa

22 03 2010

When I was growing up, Erma Bombeck was a hero in my house.  She was a humor writer, and my mother loved her, and I loved her too.

I wouldn’t suggest that anybody should be up there on that pedestal with  Erma, but I read a book this weekend by Lisa Scottoline called Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog.

There are similarities…and differences.

Erma was a stay-at-home, suburban housewife, married, with three kids.  She wrote a syndicated column which ran in hundreds of newspapers.

Lisa is a successful fiction writer, a single mom, divorced twice.  She writes a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lisa is kind of an edgy Erma, updated for the twenty-first century.

Some quotes from the book:

  • Everybody has their pornography, and mine is the real estate ads. p. 13
  • Spanx…Girdles…my lower body had been transformed into a cylinder.  I no longer had hips where hips are supposed to be, or saddlebags where God intended.  I was the cardboard in the roll of toilet paper. p. 7
  • I work at home, and the UPS man doesn’t care if I wear the same T-shirt and shorts all week.  So does he.  p. 37
  • There is an inverse relationship between dieting and eating…The more people in your house on a diet, the more often they will eat.  p. 57
  • Franca would be my first phone call after I murdered someone.  She wouldn’t even ask why I did it.  She would know I had an excellent reason.  She’d just  drive over with a shovel and a Hefty bag.  p. 163

And finally:

It started harmlessly enough, back in the eighties.  If you went to a salad bar, you had to make your own salad.  And at the gas station, you had to pump your own gas.

Then it went crazy.

Nowadays, at the food store, you not only bag your own groceries and take them to the car, but you also check yourself out.  You can even bring your own bags.

You can go to a car wash, where you can wash you car yourself.  Or the train station, where you can buy your ticket ourself.  Or the airport, where you can get your own boarding pass.

They still fly the plane.

For now.

And at the fast food restaurants, they give you a paper cup and tell you to get your own soda. p. 157

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks

5 03 2010

I couldn’t set my watch by it, but I could pretty much set my calendar by it.

Every year when March rolls around my husband starts talking about making a pilgrimage to Florida to watch spring training.

Personally, I can’t see why a person would go through all the hassle, inconvenience, stress, and annoyance, to say nothing of the expense, to make the arrangements, go through the airport boarding procedure, survive the flight, get the rental car, stay in the hotel just to see a baseball game that makes no difference played by guys who are totally out of shape from an off-season that was way too much fun.

Especially when one could wait another month or two and, by merely hopping on the subway, see a game that counts for something played by guys who are in, well, slightly better shape.

I think it’s a divide we’ll never cross.  Not so much a male vs. female, Venus vs. Mars thing.  More a true baseball aficionado vs. just along for the ride thing.  I guess I’m really just a fair weather fan.

I actually think there may be DNA involved.  That scientists may one day discover the part of the human genome that will henceforth be called the “baseball gene.”  My husband has it, at least one of my sons has it, but I don’t.

The first time the difference was apparent was when we were watching a game that was, you know, tied in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs.  And hubby says to me that every ball player on the bench was wishing more than anything else that it was his turn at bat so he could hit one out of the ballpark and win the game.

In that situation, I can think of a few things I’d rather be doing .  Like

  • Having dinner at the Inn at Little Washington (a super classy restaurant.)
  • Exploring the Great Wall of China.
  • Watching one of my sons receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

I would even include the following on my list of places I’d prefer to be:

  • Eating a pizza with anchovies.
  • Sweating out an IRS tax audit.
  • Undergoing a colonoscopy.

Anyway, don’t expect to see me in Florida this year.

Savoring Seinfeld Doing Stand-up

1 03 2010

Due to the misfortune of a stranger (an ill-timed bout with a flu bug) and the kindness of friends (who know my husband and I are Seinfeld afficionados) we were able to join them at a sold out performance by Jerry Seinfeld at the Kennedy Center Friday evening.

It was fun and it was funny.  Some of his bits were clearly extensions of material from his classic show.  Some were insights into his family life.

Some reminded me that you don’t have to go far to find material to write about.  He had a wonderful piece about a bag of cookies, each delectable delight lined up in the plastic tray like army soldiers.  And thank goodness they’re in rows, because in a feeding frenzy you can devour a row before you become conscious of what you’ve consumed, but hopefully you’ll pause before you start in on the second row.  (Okay, there’s a reason he was up there and not me.  Trust me, it was witty.)

Because there was a second showing after the one we attended, when the performance was over the ushers shooed everyone out the back exit to make room for the new arrivals.  That, combined with the fact that we weren’t particularly paying attention when we arrived, meant our friendly foursome found ourselves dumped in the parking garage unable to find the car.

If you know the Seinfeld shows, you know immediately what I thought of.  Instead of Elaine, Jerry, George, and Kramer wandering around with a dying gold-fish and a television in tow, it was Patty, Richard, Gary and me wandering around and wishing we hadn’t left our coats in the car as it was getting really chilly.    Life imitates art comedy.