Decision 2011 [Stay-at-Home Nerd]
People make decisions for one of two reasons: economics or aesthetics. Aesthetics, broadly defined, is anything that creates a feeling. You drive a convertible because you like the wind in your hair even though it sucks gas and comes with an inflated insurance premium. Economics, narrowly defined, is anything that has to do with money. That same convertible is, say, five years old because it’s not feasible to buy a new one every year even though that would certainly be fun. Sometimes these decision-making apparatuses work harmoniously like when Sharon Stone paired a Gap shirt from her closet with a Vera Wang dress at the 1998 Oscars. Other times, for instance when buying a house, it appears the two are irreconcilable. No matter your budget there is always a price point beyond your grasp that has a feature you long for if only you had a few thousand dollars more at your disposal. If you don’t believe me, just watch any of the following porn-centric titled HGTV shows: First Time Home Buyer, My First Place, and my personal favorite, Property Virgins.
Of course, there’s nothing like a housing market collapse to illustrate this point. The whole sham was built on the faulty premise that you could somehow mortgage your future for the house of your dreams now, and should it not work out you could always and easily sell the house for more money than you ever imagined because, you know, its so goddamned easy to sell a house. I don’t blame Joe Homebuyer for this problem at all. Home ownership is such an ingrained family value that it almost seems socialist to still be renting after a certain age, so when the opportunity to buy presented itself in the form of shady, formerly illegal loans, people took the bait. The feeling of home ownership overwhelmed the economic integrity necessary to ward off the impending collapse.
I’d like to say I participated in this melt down and bought the four bedroom spread of my dreams, but my better half, who has incredible impulse control, said wait. While we waited we saw friends buy and lose homes, buy homes that are now underwater, and move out of state. We considered the usual suspects as well and scoped Portland, Kansas City, Austin, San Diego and even Pittsburgh, before deciding to ride it out and ride it out we did. We rode it all the way to a record low interest rate and a three-bedroom condo. And now that condo too is underwater, literally.
No I don’t mean that it’s worth less than what we paid for it. I mean the dang thing sprung a leak. The first of the heavy rains came in February of 2010. Water invaded our condo from the large, poorly designed planter that borders one of our three exterior walls – a wall that protects the kitchen, the living room, and the office. We had the carpet replaced, the wood flooring replaced, and the dry wall patched. We were assured that this damage was due to the heavy rains and now that everything was resealed we would be fine. Of course that wasn’t the case. It rained again later that year and we went through the same struggle to get everything replaced. Strike two. It’s a year later from the second rain and strike three was a nasty curve ball that involves a lot of bickering between homeowners, our HOA, our management company, the developer, contractors and even legal.
Before it gets better, it has to get worse and that’s why our condo has been invaded once again, not by water, but by workers. Currently our place looks like something out of Andromeda Strain or a deleted scene from Outbreak. A third of it is quarantined off in plastic as they remove all moisture damaged wood and dry wall, dry it out with industrial strength dehumidifiers, and filter it for a pass/fail mold test, which will determine whether or not our condo is habitable. It’s not the plastic that bothers me so much as the noise. These are not whisper quiet mini-fridge sounding machines like they promised. It sounds more like being on a plane that’s ready for take off, but rather than moving forward sits on the tarmac for an unknown amount of time while the passengers think twice about having that second beverage lest there be a line for the bathroom.
As I write this in the lobby of the YMCA while my child is being watched in another room – a service provided to members as they work out – my fingers are crossed that I will one day soon be back in my condo hearing myself think. Not being able to think has affected my decision-making abilities. You see relationships are often built in the beginning on some philosophical agreement. This doesn’t have to be big philosophy like Thomas Jefferson believing that copyrighting intellectual property hinders the ability to share knowledge and impedes technological growth; a philosophy shared today by the open source movement. My wife and I bonded over a much smaller area of agreement. On one of our early dates she asked me what I thought of televisions in the bedroom. Having been a movie lover and sports nut all my life and having purchased a 27 inch TV, back when 27 inch TV’s were big, at the ripe old age of 13 after a summer of bussing tables I told her; Televisions in the bedroom are aesthetically appalling. She laughed. I smiled. We were engaged within six months.
I can’t stand televisions in the bedroom. In the old days of tube television I’d go to a friend’s house and there on the high dresser was always a 20 inch, or God forbid, a 13 inch TV with its cord hanging off the side and stretching to reach the outlet. The angle was always off for proper TV viewing and the remote looked like two Twix bars melted together with one red button marked power. Powerless it should say. Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex and yes, in that order. Even the advent of slim televisions has not changed my mind. A wall-mounted appliance may be easier on the eyes, but it is no less intrusive. It’s not the sight of the television that bothers me as much as the idea that someone would clutter their mind in their own personal space. In today’s world, where demands for your time have never been greater, there is still one place that man can be king and that is his bedroom.
Of course, like all great philosophies, this one was put to the test. The noise, the clutter, the plastic, the workers, the heat, and the smell all contributed to making the master bedroom more important than ever. It became a play space for my son. It was my office as I read scripts in bed. It was the dining room table as we ate Trader Joe’s microwavable Chicken Enchiladas. And, yes, it became the TV room. My wife, on day 10, or was it 14, of dealing with this mess said why don’t we bring the office TV in here. Maybe it was the noise, maybe it was my ingrained philosophical bent, whatever the reason my eyes lit up and within minutes I had rescued an unused 37 inch HDTV from under plastic in the office, cleared off a tall dresser of picture frames, placed said television on top, connected my ipad and streamed Searching for Bobby Fischer from my Netflix instant queue. It was heavenly.
I still maintain that it is aesthetically appalling. I offer photographic proof. But, I’d like to add that sometimes, just sometimes, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.