This old house… again…

I don’t know what it is that makes me stand in the center hall of an turn-of-the-century house, knowing the back third of the foundation is currently being held up by jacks, that the back porch is quite literally in danger of falling off, and that the entire second floor joist system needs reinforced, and think… I can fix this.

Sure, the place has 16 foot ceilings on both floors, bedrooms that have more square footage than my apartment, and a room downstairs that screams to have floor-to-ceiling book shelves installed, but it also has a bathroom in what should be the butler’s pantry, walls where doors should be, and a kitchen upstairs in what, apparently was once an apartment…. And then there is the location… on the old maple-lined main street, in a neighborhood that has been placed on the National Register, a block from the town square and it’s hundred and fifty year old courthouse.

The asking price is low, in part because of the work that needs done… not quite a gut-job, but close (kitchen, bathrooms, several walls, etc. need go, second floor needs to be reinforced)… but also because the old lady who now owns the place wants to sell to someone who will bring her childhood home back in line with the rest of the neighborhood. The price is low enough, actually, to probably do $100,000 restoration and still be safely inside the margin if I had to resell within a few years.

I know I can bring the fiduciary resources to bear, but can I bring the time and patience to live in a construction zone, with a microwave, hotplate, and “hand shower,” while the contactor guts the electrical, bathrooms, and kitchen, does the structural work, and gets everything to a point where I can do the finish work?

It’s a hell of a project… and could be a hell of a house. Of course I could buy one of the smaller places in the same neighborhood that have already had the heavy lifting done. They wouldn’t quite be in the same “prominent” place in town, but still in the historic district… and more or less ready to move in.

The handwriting is pretty much on the wall that I will be moving here in the next six months and I think I have settled in on an area that could easily be home. Now I just need to stop looking at home improvement pornography and figure out what I can realistically accomplish.

Blast from the past… Kind of…

I have never been a real computer gamer, but Age of Empires is a game I have fond memories of from living on the 5th floor of Cambridge. Nothing better than rallying your troops to crush the civilization next door… Or, more specifically, the civilization built by the guys living next door.

What I’ve found is that living in a hotel room brings out all of those bad habits from dorm life… Not picking up after yourself. Shit piled all over the floor. Mini-fridge jammed with stale pizza. Unfortunately, it has none of the scenery that made college life so interesting… No one has passed out head down in my toilet and there is no one walking across the parking lot who will flash the building on request. So, it’s not exactly like dorm living, but it’s close.

In keeping with the theme, I happened to be in Walmart tonight and wandered by the electronics section… There, sitting on the shelf, was the third installment of Age of Empires… and I couldn’t help myself. So, I’ve lost five hours of my day to sitting here, playing Age on my laptop… and drinking cheap beer… Ahhh, that really takes me back. 😉

Cheers, ya’ll. I’ve gotta go sack the Ottoman city center.


I think it is safe to say that most people don’t know, or particularly care, what it is exactly that I do on a daily basis. There are, from time to time, however, questions. In an effort to address some of these, I provide the following. This in no way reflects my actual job description, only what is taking up most of my time currently.

In the Church, canon law lays out the doctrine, regulations, and procedures that define what it means to be “in the faith.” While the Pope is the spiritual head of the faith and the Vicar of Christ, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is charged with preserving and enforcing the central tenants of the faith. In this role, he functions a bit like the Supreme Court in its role as arbiter of the Constitution. Unlike court decisions, which cannot be appealed, the prefect’s decisions can be reversed by the Pope.

I am keeper of the business processes and standard operating procedures… Ensuring that our own dogma and doctrine are carried out and interpreted correctly by the faithful. It only sounds dull because it can be. It’s driven by a perverse attention to detail and a profoundly retentive belief that all of our people, everywhere on earth, should do everything exactly same way. Sadly, I lack the power of excommunication, a deficiency I should probably bring up at our next staff meeting.

After writing this out, I realize that using the internal organization of the Catholic Church in an effort to simplify the explanation of what I have been up to may not have exactly hit the mark. Sorry.

I’m not dead… yet…

I somehow feel that I have been neglecting my blogging responsibilities as of late. I assure you, I have not suddenly developed a sense of compassion or become less curmudgeonly under the influence of too much steak and barbeque. Quite simply, there hasn’t been that much to bitch about as of late, but fear not… a new week is starting and this one has all the potential to be overflowing with stupidity.

What they don’t teach at business school…

So, I’m thinking of writing a book about all the things they don’t teach you at business school. The problem with business schools, or mine at least, is that it is taught by instructors and populated with students who desperately believe that the world is full of puppy dogs an lollypops and that all that hard decisions can be a “win-win-win” for everyone.

I call bullshit. Want to guess why it’s a hard decision? Because if it were an easy one, some schmuck further down the corporate food chain could have made it. It’s a hard decision because in the end someone is going to walk away with less than they wanted. Paint it any way you want, but losing still sucks even when the whore is dressed up and called “compromise.”

Why are we afraid in this society of head-to-head competition? We love to watch it on television… check out the ratings for programs like Survivor© or the NFL© or any of the other hundred shows that pit one person against another. Competition is human instinct. It’s why we climb over the next hill. It’s why we crossed ocean. It’s why we hurtle brave men and women into space strapped to the bombs we affectionately call rockets.

When we as a society stopped competing and started worrying about everyone’s special sensitivities, we sounded the charge for our own slow descent into mediocrity. The situation is grave, but not hopeless, provided we are not yet too timid to once again stand on the shoulders of giants and dare to do great things.

Things remembered…

I am surprised by the memories from childhood that can lie dormant for years and be recalled with instant clarity by a smell, a taste, or some other small nudge. I couldn’t have been more that 10 years old when we took a family vacation to the Tennessee mountains. I have always had a recollection of this trip and certain sights, such as Fall Creek Falls State Park, but I couldn’t tell you where we stayed or for how long. I also vaguely remember an endless ride in the back of my aunt and uncle’s then state-of-the-art Chrysler minivan.

Driving through central Tennessee along Interstate 40, I saw one sign that I recognized immediately. According to said signage, the next exit would deliver me to a local restaurant called the “Bean Pot.” Now to two ten-year old boys who had been jammed in the back seat of a minivan for 16 hours, there are very few things in life as deeply satisfying as restaurant called “Bean Pot” for all the obvious reasons why 10-year old boys laugh at anything hinting at flatulence.

So, there I was, approaching the twenty-odd years later, hurtling down a major east-west interstate corridor, laughing manically at a long ago fart joke. Some things never change. Thank God.

Back in the saddle…

The short version is that I’m back in Memphis for the foreseeable future (i.e. at least the next two weeks). I’m actually back in the same hotel room I vacated two and a half weeks ago… Incidentally, there is something exceedingly disturbing about spending so much time in hotels you get to know the idiosyncrasies of individual rooms.

Making any prediction beyond what the next two weeks holds would be shooting in the proverbial dark.

I drove down this time and up until the last two hours had a fantastic trip down the Shenandoah Valley and diagonally across Tennessee. A picture perfect drive… actually it was a little too hazy to be picture perfect, but still nice… until the rain started. More on the drive will follow when I manage to sort out some of the cryptic notes I was keeping.