Friday, May 20, 2016


As of today, we're in escrow.  The top offer came in about 8% above listing.  Plus they waived the appraisal contingency AND gave us a free lease-back (meaning, we can live in the house for month after it's sold and they won't charge us rent).  AND we have a backup offer already signed in place--meaning that if this offer falls through, somehow, we are legally already committed to someone else (who's agreed to the exact same terms as the initial buyer).  AND they agreed to install a fountain that makes gumdrops in both our old AND new house.  And the gumdrops are lemon-flavored only!

Many more hurdles to get through, escrow-wise, but (maybe) the worst is over.  Tomorrow night we're going to see a performance of Mozart's Requiem.  (No connection to the house sale--wife got the tickets weeks ago).  I've been listening to it all day trying to get to know its contours before seeing it live.

Here's an article I'd recommend strongly: I've been thinking about it a lot since I read it last month.  It's about the most effective ways to use money to buy happiness. It assumes, in other words, that money can, if used well, make you happier.  What it wants to know is, what does it mean to "use it well?"  What's worth spending money on?  And what isn't?

A sample:

...f you take nothing else from this post, take this tip: buy great soap. I think that people strongly undervalue the happiness to be had from excellent products in cheap categories. A Chanel bag costs $5,000 not because it’s 1oo times better at being a bag than a $50 bag, but because it’s a signaling-positional-keeping-up-with-Joneses-luxury good. On the flip side, in every category that’s not consumed conspicuously the highest quality things will not be overpriced. I drive a cheap car and wear $30 jeans but I buy the best soap, underwear, toilet paper, tea, socks, shaving cream and bbq sauce I can find.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Offers Are In

As of noon today we have six offers on the house.  They're all over list price, some by as much as 5%.  Now our agent is putting out 'best and final' counter; essentially he sends everybody who's made an offer a description of the best offer on the table.  They try to beat it (if they want to).  Then, I guess, we pick the best offer.

Bink, in collar and tie.  He's preparing for Escrow.
It's been about as painless as it can be so far; we're lucky, I guess, in that we have a house that people want.  Of course I attribute that to our incredible good taste and decorating skill (not to mention my wife's reverence for the house, and ongoing insistence that we maintain it as well as we can).  But who knows.  The whole process awakes a complex stir of emotions.  On one hand, it's nice to feel like you have something people want--to be desired, in a way.  Two different clients, we're told, have told our realtor that "this is their house."  Yesterday afternoon I looked out the window to find two people standing at the foot of our driveway surveying the property.  They were discussing the tree, they were discussing the view.  Clearly they were imagining themselves in it.

That's the unsettling part of the whole thing--the sense not of losing the property, but of losing its meaning.  This is the house where we started our marriage.  This is the house where we dealt with the vicissitudes of California.  It's filled with our meaning--things we did here.  People we have over, movies we watched.  Everything.  And those meaning are about to emptied out.

My wife wants to take the front door with us when we go.  It's unlikely this will be possible (the door is a statement piece; it has a complicated stained glass and wrought iron pattern on it) but I understand, fully, the desire.  We want to retain something of who we were when we lived here.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

One Down, Several More to Go

Thursday night we had our first Open House.  It's an odd and unnerving feeling, having to first clean and then vacate your house so that a horde of strangers can tromp through it.  This was on Thursday night--what they call a "Twilight Open House."  The idea seems to be to give prospective buyers a sense of how wonderful it will be to come back to your house after a long day of work.  We never did one when we were buying houses: maybe it's a new thing?

During the three hours we had to be gone we went to a top-rate wine bar.  Throughout the evening our realtor sent us updates.  News seems to be very positive: he said this was one of the most crowded and well-attended Twilight Open Houses he can recall.  Today he told us that he is "confident" our house will sell above its listing price.  So that's good.

Monday, May 9, 2016

House Is On the Market. Our Dovecote May be Evil

The listing for our house is now on the MLS.  A "For Sale" sign will soon appear in our yard.  It is sad.  We love our house.  It's where we started our marriage.  It's where I first learned to play the bassoon.  It's where my wife first intuited that HIV could be cured by only eating oranges.

No, no.  But it is sad.  We are excited to return to a city with friends and families, and LA has been mostly not great, but I do love our house.  And now strangers will tramp through it, casting a cold and judging eye on the contents within.  Strangers!

Our realtor, in writing up the description of the house for the website, has described the dovecote as being 'infamous.'  I now must a polite email asking he change it.  The dovecote is many things, but it is not infamous (I hope).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Inside the Bowl

We've had painters at our house for the last three days.  They're working on the exterior right now--getting things prepped for our Open House next Thursday.  They start inside next week.

The problem is, our house is 80% windows.  At least, that's how it's felt the last few days.  Having strange men wander around your home's exterior tends to make you want to close those windows.  It's a little disconcerting to be in the midst of trying to read or change clothes or engage in ritual disembowelments and looking up to see a painter's face two feet away from you.  So, I close all the shades.  The result is that I've been essentially living in a cave since last Thursday.  It's like I'm Trent Reznor, or Des Esseintes.  It's very gloomy.  Plus, there's constant scraping noises coming from outside.  It makes me feel like I'm holed up against a siege.

During these days of darkness, we've taken the Bink to be boarded; he does not do well with strangers  at his perimeter.  Today, though, we've decided to keep him in the front room.  Even now I hear his beleaguered howlings.  The siege engines draw nigh, he says.  To the battlements!

I know how he feels.

Here are some of the photos of the house, btw, from our listing online.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

House Works

So judging by the comments on the last post, the real way to keep people reading your blog is to talk about bees.  Who knew?

We have an update: the bees, it turns out, were not what we thought.  (Just like in X-Files).  Turns out the photo sent by my realtor--the one in the post below--was NOT a photo of their hive.  Yesterday the realtor showed me where on our tree he'd seen the "hive"--towards the front, facing the house.  When I showed him the actual hive--which is in the back of the tree, away from the house--he was confused.

So what had he photographed?  A swarm.  Bees living in the hive had outgrown the space and decided to emigrate.  When this happens, they first assemble in a pack.  That's what he had seen--a group of departing, colonist bees getting their marching orders.  Sitting on the docks, waiting for their outbound ocean liners, so to speak.

But now they're gone.  The hive is massively reduced, and there are no bees visible from the house.  So all is well, at least bee-wise, with our home.

* * *

I spent the last day and a half finding and haggling with the tile guy cum painter who we're using to spiff up our home before next week's showing.  First, I bargained his initial quote down by 20%.  Then I felt bad that I was making him do a big job (four days of work) for too small an amount.  So I told him I'd give him back 10% of the fee at the end of the job, assuming it was done well.  Not exactly the most ruthless of negotiators, am I.

Bink lobbying to leave the beehive alone.  "Can't we all just get along?"

* * *

I've just finished Grand Expectations, part of the Oxford History of the US.  It covers the period from the death of FDR to the resignation of Nixon.  Nixon was a terrible terrible person.  That's my 5 second prĂ©cis.  Even worse than I knew.  There's really almost nothing good you can say about him--even the much-ballyhooed 'opening up to China' was mostly a sham.  I'm going to write some more about that soon.  Also surprised by how little impressed I came away by JFK.  The more I learn about him, the more hollow and inadequate he seems.  All charisma and good lucks, but very little real acumen.  They were ruthless, those Kennedys.  Not a very inspiring bunch.

Reading now a truly unusual book: Nightmare Alley by Thomas Love Peacock.  I'll try to talk about that too.  But now, the painter has arrived.  He is about to start power-cleaning the outside of the house.  Thank God the wife took The Bink to be boarded.  If he'd had to stay indoors all day while men worked on the exterior of our house he would have lost his fuzzy little mind.