when it's always best to buy a house
Monday, November 11 2002
Today I realized that if I really wanted to do things properly with the attic electrical wiring, I'd have to have a separate breaker box on that floor. Running individual circuits back to the boiler room would be difficult with all the other levels finished, even given the possibility of using the space around the chimney, so I'm stuck with the two that already exist. But to properly wire the attic, I need at least four circuits. So today I began the process of running wires back to the general location of where an attic circuit breaker box might be. I really hate putting my arms through bats of fiberglass insulation, but circumstances demand it. I'm just glad I don't have a job where I have to do this stuff for years on end. This applies generally to the contractor-type work I've been doing. It might be giving me the body of a Greek god, but I can feel its negative effects in my lungs, on the skin of my hands, and amongst the network of cables that connect my finger bones to the muscles of my lower arm.
Interestingly, I've never had any sort of repetitive stress trouble from computer work - the stuff of which my career has been made. This despite the fact that I usually set my monitors to the smallest pixel size possible while sitting in front of it for sixteen hours a day. One thing that probably saves me from carpal tunnel syndrome is that I never mastered touch typing. I can keep up a good pace on a keyboard using only two fingers on each hand without looking. I can also instantly reassign fingers for different keyboard duties without suffering any loss of productivity. This comes in handy when I suffer injuries.
On a neighborly whim, Gretchen baked some brownies and went over to our downhill neighbors (the only downhill neighbors above Catskill State Park). These neighbors, as you may recall, are the parents of the guy who sold us our house, and we've been interested in cultivating a good relationship with them, since our access to the endless trails of the park is through their land. Things were a little awkward at first, what with the generational differences and their awkward social skills. But then, and I don't know the circumstances, one of them let slip a sentiment about how bad it was for this country that we have such weak labor unions. They didn't know that Gretchen had worked for years as a labor organizer, and this was would be music to her ears. The ice was broken immediately. How impossibly lucky could we have been to have moved way out into the Catskills only to discover that our closest neighbors are a bunch of pinko lefties? This cleared the minefield for a neighborly chat about politics. Gretchen's most amusing point here was that if we hadn't just moved into our dream home, we'd be seriously thinking of moving to Canada right now.
Gretchen also learned a little more about the circumstances of our house's sale. We'd heard from the seller that he just wanted to move to Kingston to be in the center of things (if you will). But from his parents, Gretchen learned that he'd mishandled the family cheese and meat business and been forced into bankruptcy. He had to sell the house for strictly financial reasons. As I pointed out later to Gretchen, it's always best to buy a house when a former owner is selling out of financial necessity. What one doesn't want to do is to buy a house because the owner has secretly discovered a serious structural problem, has nightly shootouts with the neighbors, or has insider knowledge about the imminent construction of an nearby pig fattening operation.
That said, sometimes I wonder if Gretchen and I can really succeed financially where the former owner failed. This house kicked one family's ass and, with its sheer vastness, seems perfectly capable of kicking another's. Neither of us have jobs, we've been maxing out platinum cards, and we don't yet have a closing date on the Brooklyn brownstone. It's not in my conservative fiscal nature to spend a windfall of money before it's actually in my wallet, but Gretchen refuses to let this house linger in the state in which it came.
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