Today in history…

I had planned for today to be one of those most rare of occurrences where I make two blog posts on the same day. First and foremost, it’s Thursday and regardless of what else Thursday might be it’s a time for What Annoys Jeff this Week. If you came here tonight hoping for your daily does of what three things annoyed the hell out of me this week, sadly you can’t read them because WordPress completely overwrote that post a few minutes ago.

However, all is not lost because in addition to the weekly spectacular that is WAJTW, this particular Thursday is also important for many other reasons.

First and foremost on June 1, 1495 Scotch whisky appears in the Exchequer (tax) rolls of Scotland for the very first time. If that doesn’t make it a red letter date worthy of celebration, I don’t know what does, really.

On June 1, 2011 I made the 879 mile drive from Memphis to Maryland for the last and final time. That was a big deal.

On June 1, 2015 I discovered that the basement of the new house I’d so eagerly purchased leaked like submarine with a screen door in anything harder than a drizzle – triggering ten thousand dollars in unplanned back yard renovation work to correct and landing my plan for fancy new master bathroom on the indefinite hold pile.

More important than any of those past events, perhaps, is that June 1, 2017 marks exactly 18 years until I’m eligible to retire and begin my life as a proper hermit on some far off mountaintop hideaway.

Oh, yeah, and as many of you have sussed out through various means, it’s also my birthday, so I guess there’s that. I appreciate all the kind words and texts and emails and calls. You guys are just the best.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Thanks to Facebook, I know that today is the 6th anniversary of accepting the job offer that ultimately let me escape West Tennessee and more importantly, carried me back to Maryland’s blessed shores. Believe me when I tell you that’s not what annoys Jeff this week. In fact it’s a day that I should probably be celebrating with feasting and fireworks and parades. As disgruntled as I now may be, I know that six years ago my mood was far more vile.

What annoys me is the realization that it’s actually been six damned years. That took more than a couple of minutes to really sink in. Even then it still doesn’t seem quite right – like maybe I’ve misapplied some basic mathematical concepts somewhere.

I’ve been forced to admit that it’s more likely the days have crept past at their petty pace more or less unnoticed to cobble together the passage of so many years just 24 hours at a time. Even that feels like a bit of a stretch, though, because I really have no idea where the time went – and that’s profoundly annoying.

The route to my salvation…

Four years ago at this time I was sitting in a very empty house wondering if I had lost my mind for accepting a demotion and dragging all my worldly possessions a third of the way across the country to start a job with an outfit I didn’t know anything about. Anyone who was following along back in 2011 knows I wasn’t quite so much running towards this new life as I was running away from the one in Memphis that seemed to implode at every turn. I was following that most basic of animal instincts: Home = Safety. Now of course I was never in any real physical danger, but mentally I knew my position was untenable. Stay put and I was going to slowly (or not so slowly) come unglued.

Interstate 40 to I-81 to 70 was the route to my salvation. It was the route home. With every mile West Tennessee dropped behind me the more like myself I felt. The last four years have had their own set of issues, of course, but none of them have ever felt existential in the way they were before. I was correcting my Great Mistake and my psyche knew it.

Sitting here now, in a different house, looking out at the last of the day’s sun streaming through the towering oaks and maples, brightening the stark white mountain laurel blooms, I think that listless, wandering part of life is finally behind me. Maybe I haven’t found enlightenment, but finding a sense of place seem to be just as important.

The end of an error…

Having gotten the final call from my realtor a few minutes ago I can state for the record that as of 5PM EDT today I am no longer a property owner in Memphis, Tennessee. I send the new owners good tidings and best wishes and hope that they have better luck with the place than I did over the last four years… but I’m super glad they didn’t call from the closing table wondering what I was going to do about a dripping gutter on the patio roof. Honest to God after the concessions I gave those two already I would have torpedoed the deal at closing just as a matter of principle. I’m glad that between their relator, mine, and the closing attorney they were able to talk them out of that particular course of action.

What I can tell you tonight with certainty is if there’s anything harder than selling a house long distance, it’s probably being an absentee landlord. Like grad school, though, I suppose it’s only a lot of work if you actually do it. God knows I did the work… an entirely new driveway, rerun sewer pipe from the house to the street, every painted surface inside and out redone, tile, backsplashes, tripled the size of the patio and roofed over the whole thing, and more work on the interior than I want to mention or even think about at this point. It’s all their egg to suck now.

Although I’m not quite out of the landlord business, the one that kept me awake at night is now a thing of the past. Let it stay there, ending the longest running and most expensive error of my life to date. Consider that lesson well learned.

Light, gas, and water…

With the potential future sale of Casa de Jeff de Cordova, one of the myriad of pain in the ass things to do is transfer the light, gas, and water service back into my name. That should be easy enough to settle with a phone call to the intrepid people at Memphis, Light Gas, and Water except of course that nothing that needs doing is ever actually easy.

mlgwlogo_aIt seems that the bill from the last month I lived in Memphis was never actually paid and has been sitting in their delinquent account file for the last 3+ years just waiting on the moment I would call to make it right. We’ll forget for a moment that I never actually received a bill for this amount and that as far as I can tell, no effort was made to send it to my forwarding address. I’ll take the burden of responsibility for that. Fine.

Now, these many years later, here I am attempting to make good on my public debt. In speaking to the customer service agent, I’m told that the only way to pay a bill in the delinquent file is to present myself at the offices of Memphis, Light Gas, and Water to genuflect and hand unto them cash, a money order, or a cashiers check for the princely sum of $110.87. No payment by phone. No payment online. Only hand delivery at the office will do with no possibility of exception for those who may now live 850 miles away from that charmed city on the banks of Old Muddy.

I’m trying to get myself right with these guys. All I want to do is give them money. You’d think they might make it easier on a guy than forcing him into a convoluted process that involves overnighting a cashiers check to a realtor he’s never met in person and hoping that she’s able to do the leg work on his behalf. The alternative is a one day round trip flight to Memphis wherein I will spend $1000 in order to pay a $100 debt.

Even sitting here in the comfort of my own rental kitchen, I can’t manage to avoid the utter asshattery of what is clearly demonstrating itself to be one of the world’s foremost bureaucratic organizations. And God knows as a cog in Uncle’s great machine I’m in a position to recognize both asshattery and bureaucracy when I see it.

3rd anniversary…

I’m approaching today not so much as a 36th birthday as the 3rd anniversary of making a 900 mile drive from Memphis to reclaim my Maryland residency. Frankly, it’s the event that feels more important… and I’ll explain why (of course).

As far as my birth, I had very little to do with that other than being present. While I’m pleased that I’ve managed not to step in front of a bus or be eaten by a shark between 1978 and this morning, a lot of that has probably been simple dumb luck more than anything else. As you might guess, celebrating simple dumb luck isn’t really my style.

What is my style, though, is celebrating a very intentional decision I made to extract myself from what had become a hopelessly toxic situation. That’s a real milestone event for today. It’s one of the few decisions I’ve ever made without having doubts or second thoughts after the fact. Coming back to the good soil of my home state was arguably the single best decisions I’ve made to date. That’s not to say that everything is puppies and butterscotch, but at least as I’m sitting here looking out the window writing this post, I know I got the geography right this time. Human beings are generally a resilient bunch, but I’ve long suspected that we are each best suited for and thrive in a particular place… and even as I rant about the out of hand taxes and lunatic nanny government here, this place seems to be it for me. No matter where my travels have taken me, I always seem to come around again.

If nothing else, I can say with certainty that enjoying this fresh-brewed Kona in the rental kitchen is superior in every way to being just past Nashville and screaming east at 90 miles an hour with two dogs and a truck loaded to the gills. I appreciate and thank you for the birthday wishes today friends, but what I’m most proud of on this June 1st is my 3rd anniversary.

Landlording ain’t for wimps…

Everyone assumes that when you have rental property you’re making money. That hasn’t exactly been my overall experience, but I accept that it’s the general perception of how things work. Most of the time, the cash flow from the condo in St. Mary’s offsets the giant sucking sound that is the negative cash flow coming out of Memphis. Between the two, I come fairly close to breaking even more months than I don’t. Of course then we have the occasional singularity in which both the condo and the house are sitting vacant at the same time.

That moment you realize it’s about to happen is probably one of the few times in life you’re ever going to seriously consider becoming an arsonist as a valid career option. When you go from happily paying rent and breaking even on everything else to sucking wind on rent plus two mortgages, let’s just say that all the fantastic financial management lessons you’ve learned from Suze Ormond or Dave Ramsey go right the hell out the window. The only thing that matters at that point is how fast you can bring cash in the front door and how fast you can shovel it out the back. It’s not so much a case of planning as it is an exercise in crisis management and triage.

Fortunately, the two leases almost never expire at the same time, but when they do you’d better believe that you’re about to get a serious lesson in why landlording ain’t for wimps.