Southern dogs…

It was too dark to make for good pictures, but Jorah got what I presume was his first exposure to snow this morning. Given the fully stricken look in his face I got the impression that he didn’t love it. Hard to blame him there.

It occurs to me that with one long ago exception, I’ve always had southern dogs. In fact, Winston, Maggie, and Jorah all originally hail from Tennessee. I don’t suppose that counts as “deep south,” but certainly a great deal further south than their new home in the mid-Atlantic.

Of the lot of them, Winston was the only one who legitimately seemed to ever enjoy a snowy morning… even though his love was based on shoving snow into his mouth moreso than doing anything particularly entertaining.

So I’ve got another southern dog who doesn’t seem to want to spend a minute longer than abslutely necessary standing around in the snow. Do dogs take on the craracteristics of their owners, or do owners taken on their dogs personalities? Either way, I think this new revelation will work out for the best.

No Filter, or The Vortex of Asshattery…

One of my first acts upon moving back here to the People’s Democratic Republic of Maryland was make a stop into one of the local wholesale warehouse clubs and lay in essential supplies in bulk. 100 rolls of toilet paper and 20 rolls of paper towels, 10 gallons of dish soap and a 50-pound tub of laundry detergent – you know, the basics of setting up a new household. A few hundred bucks later, I also walked out with a 900-count pack of coffee filters.

I only mention it because I used the last of that 900-pack this morning, which got me thinking not so much about coffee as it did the fact that I’ve been back from Tennessee for a little over two years now. It feels like I got back about a week and a half ago. Apparently time flies regardless of whether you’re having fun or not, although I have to admit the last 784 days have been a hell of a lot more fun than the 784 days that preceded them, so it’s definitely a net win overall. I’m furloughed, making 80% of my advertised salary, have two houses I don’t live in, and I’m still having a better time of things than when I was busy dealing with what I’ve affectionately come to think of as the Vortex of Asshattery.

In case you’re trying to do the math, that’s an average of 1.15 twelve-cup pots of coffee brewed every day of the year – or more likely a pot and a half every day once you account for vacations, trips to Western Maryland, and sundry other reasons why I wasn’t home brewing coffee on any given day. Whoever said you can have too much of a good thing clearly didn’t have the proper appreciation for regular infusions of hot caffeine.

Newfangled technology…

After extensive deliberation, some would even say argument, with the Tennessee Department of Safety Driver’s License facility, I learned this morning that for purposes of residence verification, electronic bank statements do not meet the official definition of “bank statements.” Just as a point of clarification, it’s not as though I put my statement on a CD and took it to them. I printed the statement to show that I was, in fact, domiciled in the state. Apparently once it is actually printed out, my e-statement became defined as a “photocopy.” Who knew?

The whole idea behind getting electronic statements is so that you only need to print them when and if they are needed. It saves me filing space, it saves the bank postage, and even the environment wins, right? Looking at the fine examples of state employees running the desk at the facility, I didn’t particularly feel like getting into an argument over the finer points of what, by definition, constitutes a bank statement. It wasn’t a crowd that look to be up for a debate of the finer points of… well… anything, really. Sometimes you just need to know when you’ve made a bad investment and cut your losses. Today, the better part of valor was to roll my eyes, sigh heavily, and walk away muttering something about being surrounded by idiots.

This is 2007, folks. We landed a damned man on the moon almost forty years ago. We’ve had home computers for 25 years. Email has been around for about 15. I’ve been getting electronic statements for virtually everything for at least five years. Can someone tell me why I can’t just walk up to some kind of biometric scanner, swipe my USA Identacard, scan my eyball, and have my information validated? It boggles my mind that we still insist on making these transactions on paper. Completely inefficient and bloody inconvenient. We’ll never have to worry about the Brave New World because the bleeding government will never figure out how to use the machines properly in the first place.

Bloody Hell. I really am surrounded by idiots… Present company excepted, of course.

Location, Location, Location…

The old saw of the real estate trade is that the only three things that really matter are location, location, and location. Not surprisingly, it’s the issue that my own decision has come to hinge upon.

Houses in the town of Covington can be divided roughly equally into two groups… those that have been either refinished and maintained over the years and those that are about to fall down. The line of demarcation between the two is stark and you will know immediately when you’ve passed over it. The house I’ve been toying with is close to that line… very close. The house I have been looking at is on a corner lot on one of the town’s main thoroughfares… make a turn onto one of the side streets and by the time you reach the end of the block, you’ve crossed the line… That’s how close it is.

Plenty of people, especially here in the south are going to say it’s a racial thing, but you’re going to have to take my word for it that it’s really not. Living in Howard County for so long has basically given me a level of ambivalence about who or what lives beside me as long as they leave me the hell alone. The reality is, however, this is still the South and that is a consideration I need to make when thinking in terms of ease of resale when the time comes to move on or up…

I suppose I could always build a giant privacy fence, put in a top-notch security system, ignore the neighbors down the block, and just pay attention to the amazing Georgian across the street…

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.

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.