I love where we live. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. With the complete lack of neighborhood research that Joel and I exhibited while we were househunting, it is really kind of amazing that we ended up in such a great location.
When I decided that I was sick of crapass landlords charging us $400 cleaning fees FOR STUFF THAT THE NEW RENTERS HAD ASKED US TO LEAVE IN THE APARTMENT FOR THEM, and convinced Joel that buying a house was really a good idea, we tricked this poor Long and Foster agent into taking our case and began househunting. This lasted, oh... a month or two or five. It was frustrating, to say the least. We had very little money to work with, because at the time Joel was unemployed, and I was making less than any college-educated person should ever make in their life. Ever. We also didn't really care where we lived. I mean, we wanted to live in a nice neighborhood and not have crack dealers as our neighbors, and that did narrow the search down a bit, but East, West, South, North... we didn't really care. And so, we looked at everything. Everywhere. And every day, when we were driving to meet the agent, I would give us a little pep talk. "Today is the day we're going to find a house. We are going to find the perfect house today, I just know it. I can't wait!" And day after day, we would see more houses that were "Meh" at best. Or, houses that were pretty good, but on a street that I would be afraid to drive on at night. Or literally one block from the football stadium. Oh sure, I bet there are some people who think that would be awesome, right? Not me. I freaking hate football. I did not want to have to listen to the games and have the drunken fans driving by my house every given Sunday. This much I knew.
A few times we thought that we might have found an acceptable house. We went home and thought about it, and called the agent in the morning to put down a contract. Lo and behold, the house had been purchased by someone else overnight. You know the saying "having the carpet pulled out from under you"? I learned what that really meant from trying to buy a house in Baltimore.
One day, we looked at this one house. It was the last one on our tour for the day. Joel really wanted to buy it, and I have to admit that it was a really nice house. It had these great details, like original crown molding and this gorgeous original stain glass window outside of the bathroom. It was a good price. But it needed a lot of work. Among other things, it needed a new roof and a lot of rehab work before it would be truly livable, although we'd be living in it before then, because we could not get out of our cockroach-infested, wood-paneled, dirty, grimy apartment fast enough. I talked Joel out of it, because he had just gotten a job, and it was taking a ton of his time. He was also just starting to coach his rowing team, which was also taking up a ton of time. I knew I couldn't do all that work myself, and on top of that, with the new roof, it was really out of our price range. I stand by my decision, because: the walls. The holes in them. We just painted it with a basecoat yesterday. IT TOOK US 8 MONTHS TO PATCH HOLES IN THE DRYWALL. A new roof? A complete rehab? Too much for us. Period. The end. I knew it, and I told him so.
As we were leaving, the agent, who really seemed to like us for some reason, even though we had been dragging him all over the city for the entire summer and were looking at houses that were probably going to make him $50 in commission, asked if we wanted to see this other house a block away. It wasn't really in our price range, but he was showing it to another couple, and since we were right here, he wouldn't mind letting us look around.
That house is the house we live in now. I loved it at first sight. Compared to what we'd been looking at, it was beautiful. It was completely rehabbed. It had a cute patio, exposed brick walls, the original hardwood floors from 1901, and a rooftop deck. The 100-year-old floors sold Joel. The new kitchen and working bathrooms sold me. The fact that the other couple had shown up, and also seemed to like the house brought out my competitive instinct. No way in hell I was letting these people steal my house. We begged the realtor to let us go out and sign a contract on the hood of his car. It was more than we'd been hoping to pay. A lot more. But Joel's job was looking good, and we figured we could manage it. Mostly, we were afraid that we'd never find a house this good, in this great of a location, ever again.
I love our house. I really do. Even though, sometimes I want to find the person who rehabbed it, and ask them why they didn't put in any closets. And why they couldn't hook up the garbage disposal properly. And why they couldn't have installed the washer and dryer. You want a story? Now THAT was a story. But the many, many reasons why Sears Roebuck and Company is the devil is another story for another day, my friends.
Possibly the best part about our house is the location. I walk to work. It takes me 15 minutes. Joel rides his bike to work. It takes him 7 minutes. I can walk to my beloved yoga studio, to the vet, the dry cleaner's, and the grocery store. Is there really anything else that a girl needs?
The problem with living in such a great location is that other people tend to realize how great it is, and they want to live there too. And this has resulted in a not-so-small parking problem in our area. It borders on the ridiculous at times. I've had people steal spots from me. Like, I'm driving by, and I see a spot and throw on my hazard lights and start to reverse, and someone will speed up at 50 mph and steal it from me. One time, I was lucky enough to happen upon a Ford Explorer leaving a spot, and went to back into it, when to my surprise, it had disappeared. The girl in the spot behind him had moved up, so she was now occupying both spots with her Honda Civic. What the hell? I sat and waited for a minute, and then gave her a very polite toot of the horn to see if she could please move back so as to only occupy space for 2 full cars, and let me park in the remainder. She gave me the finger. After my head exploded (and I found another spot, 5 blocks away) I saw that she was saving the spot for her friend in the Explorer, who had since returned and re-parked in the same spot. But by far, the worst is when you're stopped at a light and you see a spot right ahead. A spot you can fit in. A spot that isn't No Parking 8-11am. A spot with no hidden fire hydrant. And while you're anxiously waiting for the light to change, someone comes along from the opposite direction, and slows down. They start to do a U-turn in the street, they're hurrying to get turned around before the light changes and oncoming traffic T-bones them. Right before your eyes, they steal your spot. And there's nothing that you can do about it, except for bash your head into the steering wheel a few times and then quietly move along.
It's so bad, that Joel and I weigh every possible venture that requires the car against how hard it will be to park when we get back. Going to the movies on a Saturday night? Probably not worth it. In fact, going almost anywhere after the hour of 7pm? Not worth it. As a result, I sometimes go weeks without using my car. Over the summer, I went 6.5 weeks on half a tank of gas, which was a personal record, thank you very much. I like to think that this whole oil mess? Totally not my fault. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I don't personally contribute to global warming, the garbage in the Bay, or the hole in the ozone either.
When I do take the car out, I usually manage to park on a select few streets, because I am smart enough after three years in this neighborhood to plan my trips to the grocery store for times when I will be able to get a spot on our block. But when I don't get one of my usual spots, things get interesting, because my short term memory is not always reliable.
Like, this morning, for example. I was running late (I overslept! shocking!) and, since it was raining AND I needed to bring something heavy home from the office, I decided I would just drive in and pay to park in the garage. Actually, decided I would drive in and use my illegally obtained parking passes to park in the garage for free. It was perfect, since I was really, really late. "Leave my house 5 min before I am supposed to be at work" late. "Then realize I forgot to put out the recycling and feed the cats" late. But it's OK, I won't actually be late, because I'm driving to work today!
Except when I got to where I thought my car should be, my chariot was not awaiting me. I walked up the block a little farther (by now I am supposed to be at work 5 min ago), still no car. I rack my brain. Joel parked it here yesterday when he picked me up from the train station. Did I take it anywhere later that day by myself? No.... Is my car stolen?? No, I put the club on, I remember that. Did Joel maybe drive my car to work and not tell me? He did leave at 5am, that's reasonable. Let's call him.
Joel didn't answer the phone, and by then I had decided he MUST have taken it, because who would steal a car that looks like mine (131,000 miles on it, hasn't been washed since mile 50,000, several cats have peed in it...)? I start walking to work at a very brisk pace, because my boss just got back from vacation this morning, and she is now going to think that I was late every day she was away.
When I'm about halfway there, I remember. We did take the car out. Joel had to pick that stuff up on campus for practice. We took my car because his was having problems earlier in the day. And then I parked the car approximately twenty feet from my front door, and just didn't see it when I WALKED RIGHT PAST IT. Because, you know. I was in a hurry. To get to my car.
I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened. I wish I could say this is the last time this will happen. But I think we both know that neither of those statements are true.