Full disclosure…

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that finding a virtually original craftsman house in Memphis is a little like looking for a surrender in the French national archives… they’re so thick you can’t help but trip over them. Now that I’ve had a few days to restore my objectivity, I can say with relative certainty that I’m not going to rush out next week and make an offer on a house that happens to be 900 miles from where I actually live. I’m making great strides in curbing my tendencies towards impulse buying.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this place is absolutely beautiful. The garage needs rebuilt, a back deck that is completely out of character needs to be pulled off, and there is a profound need to install a central air system. Though I can’t be sure, I suspect that the electrical system would probably need to be completely rewired to provide the sort of juice I would require. It’s not an insignificant amount of work to a house that is otherwise in grand condition. The thought of pulling down a ceiling and expanding a master suite into the dormered attic has already hit me as well. A rough order of magnitude on the work I would want to do approaches another $50K on top of the purchase price and as much as I like to think I’m qualified to do everything, I know the reality is different.

Lots of things to consider… not the least of which is whether I want to roll the dice on the chance of my actually moving down there in the next six months. A cursory search tells me that supply currently outstrips demand, but can I overcome love at first sight?

House lust…

Built in 1922, the oak floors and trim were laid down before there was a Great Depression; before Omaha Beach passed into history; before JFK; before Americans could find Vietnam on a map; and before there were red states or blue states. The deep front porch, covered with original terracotta tiles and shaded by a row of oaks, has endured with only a few small cracks. Every door still opens with its glass knob. And the rooms nearly drip with the strong smell of old wood and linseed oil.

I’ve never walked into a house with a realtor to see them stop short, just inside the door, and let out a slow whistle… “Holy shit,” he says, realizing that with only extraordinarily minor modifications, the house has remained nearly untouched by the changes of the last eight decades. The builder’s attention to detail and command of the art and science of his trade are clear. Here, he built a home to last.

I’m smitten with this home, as if it’s been quietly waiting, aging these eighty-four years, knowing I would come. It was spec built for me, generations too early, and if it’s in my power, this place, this old home, on its picture postcard street, will be mine.

Temporary Duty…

…is the Army’s delicately phrased way of telling you that you’re about to be jerked out of your regular job and put on a plane to go stay in a hotel and do something that may or may not be in any way related to your primary area of expertise. Temporary Duty (TDY) is a strange combination of work and happy hour where the two tend to bleed into one another to the point where it’s 9:00 at night and you’re not sure if you are working or just sitting at the bar having a drink… but in a good way. Even when home, I’m not exactly known for leaving work at the door, but being here on the road, it turns into something more of a compulsion. You talk about work having your morning Starbucks. You talk about work driving to the office. You spend 9 hours actually working. And then you spend 2 hours talking about work over dinner. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly monotonous, but it does beg the question if any of us have lives any more. I’ll step to the forefront, save you all time, and admit that for me, the answer to that question is a resounding no.

For the record, I’m not complaining about it, just making an observation that struck me as interesting; how many of us have put or lives on hold to work on this project over the last 18 months. Up until last week, things were academic, like moving the pieces on a chess board. But now we’re here, with a real building, real offices, and whole lot of real people who are betting their livelihoods that we have it all figured out. It’s a little intimidating to see how much is still left to do, more, probably, than we have put behind us. It occurs to me tonight that it’s time to stop being academic and to figure out how this applies here in the real world.

Here comes the hard part.

World War III…

Author’s Note: With a few minor revisions, the following is excerpted directly from an ongoing email discussion considering the current and future implications of the ongoing war on terror. Although some of the ideas are derivative, the sentiment is entirely my own.

Although I do like the rhetorical punch of a “War of Civilizations,” I tend to agree with the current White House likening the current fight to a “War for Civilization.” The Middle East is the cradle of civilization and gave rise to humanities first great peoples. The vast majority of those living in the region still embrace that legacy, but events are not driven by the masses, but rather by fanatical fringe elements who value human lives only to the extent they can be used to deliver a vest of explosives or a truck full of artillery shells.

I like the analogy of our times being reminiscent of the mid-1930s, as England and France sought to placate Hitler by ceding more lands and condemning more and more of the continent to Nazi tyranny. Like our parents and grandparents, we are being called to once again be the arsenal of democracy, to stand in the gap, and muster the power of the new world to preserve the freedoms of the old. Personally, I have no moral compunction with the concept of preemptive war, of stopping terrorists and rogue nations from doing harm before they have a chance to carry out their plans. We don’t expect our policemen on patrol to wait until a crime is committed to act, and in fact, they are punished when they could have prevented a crime, but did nothing.

Sadly, I agree that it is only a matter of time before a terrorist, or one of the countries who supports them, figures out how to smuggle a nuclear device into the heart of an American city and bring catastrophic destruction and war to American soil. While I concede that it is almost inevitable, that does not remove our obligation to do everything within our power to prevent that from happening. We must dramatically tighten security along our borders and at our sea ports and airfields, but our vigilance must not stop at our boarders. We must develop better system of sharing intelligence with our key allies in the global war on terrorism and develop strategic plans that allow American and allied forces to respond rapidly to areas of increased or known threat. Finally, we must seek out and destroy the financial backers of terror in all its forms; false-front charities, illegal drugs, and legitimate businesses throughout the Middle East that funnel money to organizations that would do us harm.

Global public opinion may rage against their vision of an “Imperial America,” but it is a small price to pay, in the end, to preserve American lives and to defeat the barbarians at the gate. I shudder to think at the response America would have to a nuclear detonation on our shores. I know for certain that the destruction that would rain down on our enemies would be of such a proportion to make the world long for the days of “civilized” war that led to the fire-bombing of Dresden and Tokyo.

Sonic…

I just wanted to go on record as having said that one thing that the south has going for it is Sonic… I skipped a trip downtown tonight to try to get some work done for class and made Sonic run for dinner. Bacon cheeseburger, tater tots, and a cherry slush, mmm… mmm… good. Drive-in food and homework, now that’s a winning combination… Oh, God, that’s depressing. 😉

Reserving Judgment…

I’m reserving judgment for the time being, but first impressions of the location of our new office are not good. For those who are familiar with my old stomping grounds, Millington, TN makes Cumberland, MD look like a sophisticated urban center. Nothing is written in stone and there are no guarantees that this is going to be “home” someday, but I would have to see more than I have today and on the drive in last night to convince me that this place should be my next destination. First impressions aren’t the end all and be all, but they’re still damned tough to overcome.