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Sunday, Jun. 05, 2005
I think I’ll try to string this entry out over a couple of days, starting on Friday, since a lot has happened in the past week and there’s more to come. And since I’ve already snuck an entry in before this one, and it’s now Saturday Sunday morning . . . awww you know what I mean.

It all starts and ends with picking up and moving to a different house, of course. There’s all the trauma and drama that you could pack into a months worth of daytime serials and call it All My Chillen’ or General Haphazard, or maybe One Life to Loaf. The usual cast of characters tossed into a suburban salad bowl and covered with a brick ranch house dressing.

Pam had a fun story the other day about shopping at the Ghetto Mall vs. the Yuppie Mall that rang true with me (like most of what she writes, being my long lost twin and all). I had to look no farther than the local grocery store (yes, again) to bring that message home.

See, I’ve lived in and around this corner of the world for most of my life. Ally was raised not three blocks from where we’ve moved to. The house we just sold was barely three miles from here. But I never connected the dots quite so literally as last Saturday on a run for steaks and beer and paper towels.

New neighborhood store? Heavyset, tired women with flip-flops that flapped on a grungy floor, a floor with narrow aisles and produce slung on shelves with a shovel, a scattered and confused place where the employees are equipped with only a name badge and the uniform of the day is also a fashionable sleeping attire. The store borders a pair of bars and a Dollar store.

Old neighborhood store? The new, the freshly fresh. The sparkling floor and wide open range of butcher shop and literature racks with a specialty bakery on the side. Scrubbed teens with crisp employee smocks and lacquered nails. You can buy dry ice there, and dry flowers and the makings of an even drier Martini.

It’s a crossing of the tracks that I was maybe, dimly, aware of in this town. And it’s not as if I’ve moved into the ramshackle and abandoned the toney. Just made more keenly aware of the difference that having a neighbor with a Jaguar and having one with a tire swing entails.

Back in ‘92, we moved into a high maintenance lifestyle, as well as a high end neighborhood because we wanted to. Hell we almost moved into another area which would have tagged me as an uppity yuppity without peer, and I’m still pretty glad my yearnings for a high social status pegged out on that one and made me turn to Ally and say, “Let’s just get that house over there, the one with the pool and the lawn. That’s plenty ‘nuff for us.” And indeed it was, plenty enough and more.

Somewhere around the turn of the millennium all social graces and the longing thereto stopped, ran out of premium gas and rolled over to the side of the road with a flat and a dented rear bumper. Maybe it’s age, or just realizing that having the mansion and all the trimmings might be just a bit over the top for someone who swings hammers and warms a barstool for 9 and a half hours a day. Not to mention expensive. Mansions or those that want to be have a life of their own when it comes to grooming and fertilizing. Stocking a mansion with children? They can’t hardly sleep on the floor and wear Goodwill, now can they. It takes furniture and long expeditions to the mall to outfit a trio of kids, and an SUV to bring it all home in.

In a lot of ways I wish we’d had this, the new/small place, as an option to buy back some 13 years ago. But I wonder if I would have had the gumption to even look twice at it. It was all about the appearance, and the collecting of things back then. Things that I find myself heaving into the dumpster now and wondering just what made them so necessary and fine. Big house needs big and consumptive things. Smaller means littler, maybe wiser and definitely less things.

It’s a nice way to think. Smaller, that is. It’s a good face to put on it when you explain, for the 867th time, why you’re choosing to move out and slightly down. People nod gravely when I say “I just felt we needed to take advantage of this real estate bubble, get a bundle for the house and take a breath for a while, you know? Besides, the kids are mostly up and grown and on their own. Get Ben out of high school and we’ll be empty nesters, don’t you see.” Yes, they see. Sounds plausible, it does.

What they aren’t told is how big the debt burden has gotten, the debt of doing all that stuff to make Camelot shiny and the keep horses curried to pull the carriage. It’s a mind numbing thing to wake up one morning and find out that ‘up to my eyeballs in bills’ is not just a tag to hang on the more superfluous of fame seekers, that bankruptcy is a shadow warming the tall china cabinet behind you in the morning while the coffee cup gets cold in brooding hands.

Back in the day when Ally and I both worked office jobs it seemed possible to take on a chunk of debt. Maybe, for whatever long forgotten reason it was necessary, too. Creditors loved us. Young upwardly mobile ain’t just for looks, they saw it as a determining, a solid couple with kids in the ‘burbs chance to make money off us. Hoo lawd, did they ever. We were cannon fodder for the line of credit folks who masquerade as bank managers and nameless voice mail pingers calling you on a Sunday to offer, and offer some more.

There’s a many, a very many reasons why we chose to take the big skipping step and move house and lives at this particular time. The financial was the driving one, but there were a number of emotional ones too. Things that I scarcely dare type out, don’t know if I want to go there on a lot of them, but we shall see, won’t we.

It gets a little deeper folks. Venture into Chapter Two at your peril, as the mind of Outfoxed twists a bit more and creeps, groaning and squalling, to a different enlightenment in a much different place.

One of the reasons I have time to tap out an entry of length today is that this, at long hosanna last, is the day we actually close on the sale of the house. Happens in a few hours. Broker Bob, he of Watering Hole and real estate fame, was not the one to set this date up. Oh no. Your humble host made the call yesterday to a very nice lady and in my bestest and deepest “Surrender the moat, knave” voice ( I kid thee not about the voice, I can summon a voice that I’ve been told sounds overmuch like the Chairman of General Motors) and gave summary notice that the closing would be held today, and to stop this tomfoolery right this very instant. She folded, tent-like, into a placating mass of paw waving obedience. Or at least she did on the phone. We’ll just see how she bears up on her home court.

Now you know this is gonna be one of those wretched things. Going to one of those nameless firms that control half of your life without you even knowing it, signing a zillion forms and having some comb-over in Gucci’s make every attempt to intimidate, so that at the end you feel guilty about even timidly asking, “Uh . . . When can I get my money?” You know, the pile of gold that will solve all the immediate problems and, with a little luck, make straight the crooked path for a while in the future. That money.

*Closing Update!* We sat, we signed, with a paralegal girl. The buyer didn’t show up, which made it a semi-closing. He still has to sign and he doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry, even though it was he who asked for a closing on the 27th of May, causing Ally and I to go into high speed pack-‘n-go mode, rent a house, move into it and look back in puffing exhaustion, saying “Did we make it? Did we get out in time?”

While we were signing, Broker Bob showed up and watched us sign. I guess he felt some sort of obligation to be there since he did darn little else. Except for dropping a little story on us, as he and the paralegal chatted about the buyers’ lawyer.

“Yep, he’s slow about this, that lawyer,” Bob huffed. “Wonder if it has anything to do with the time he sued me and lost?”

I looked at my Watering Hole broker with a bit of wonder and said “Wait a second Bob. This guy sued you, lost, got pissed and now he’s handling this closing?”

“Yep, you know I really don’t think he likes me much.”

Oh God. Only in the world of Watering Hole brokers do I happen, just happen to get the one who pissed off the buyers’ lawyer. THIS ought to be fun.

So far I’ve harped at length about money, and it seems to become a theme that I wish wasn’t a theme. Social ladders, finances? Not a few of my favorite things anymore. It took a lot of time, more time out of my life than I wanted, to come to the point that I had to face that stuff in a very real way. I used to lay in bed at night as a kid, dreaming of a golden day when having all the money and all the stuff that was coming, knowing it was, that I was smart enough to get there and be the munificent, caring sort of lovable lad (never married of course, and certainly without kids) to tend to the sick and helpless while roaring about on a Harley and dispensing nothing but good will and bowing to the will of a compassionate and caring government, church, next door neighbor and lawyers of every pinstripe.

I’m serious here. My good parents raised 4 kids to feel that being subservient and law abiding was not only the right thing to do, it was the only thing. Pay your taxes, bills out on time, know your neighbor and take over a pie when the time was right. Church on Sunday and lights out by 9.

But you know me. I just had to go and mess that all up.

Let me backtrack just a little here, in these ramblings. I’m going to get to a point or two eventually, honest. It can’t all be background material.

Last fall after election time I was reading and listening to a lot of you as the clock struck for a couple of candidates in the nations highest office. And I stated, maybe a little loftily, that it didn’t matter who was President, that the nation itself was going to keep on keeping on no matter what. That no one man could knock a society off track.

I’m still not convinced that one man has that sort of power. But as one of the last of the grumpy old conservatives, I’m getting more than a little bothered by what’s going on and has been going on, as a result of many men and women and what they stand for. Just a few:

1. NAFTA, and a slew of other off-shore bills like it.
2. A war against . . . what? And what it has done.
3. Homeland Security.
4. The new bankruptcy and National I.D. legislation.
5. The whole technological advance of Big Brother.

The aforementioned gentle parents, one of whom has already departed this earth and another moving that way, would not recognize nor function well in this day and age. Part of the reason they were able to be gentle people is that they were given the chance to earn a living without being taxed beyond all reason, could get health care out of pocket for the most part, not be monitored by the jiggling waves of some bar code in every store and at every merchant and bank. They didn’t have much credit simply because they didn’t need it. They got their cars and their groceries and gasoline and everything else by way of their own hand, and everyone else did too.

My mom and I talked around the subject of modern day living once and she could only shake her head in dismay when I tried to explain why Ally and I both had to work in order for there to be a roof overhead for all 5 of us. Why it was not an option for her to work part time, or for fun, or as a favor to a friend. It was necessary because everything she had taken for granted as a low taxed, low priced citizen of the fifties and sixties, even the seventies was either on its way out or already gone by the time I hit the daddy stage. I’m not saying they lived on easy street. Just a street that had a little more compassion than it might now.

Yesterday I told the tale of an elderly couple who were met by the robotic arm of technology while trying to purchase groceries. What bothered them, as much as me, was that the mechanization involved was as much a part of the humans on the scene as the offending computer check reader.

Grumpy old conservatives, not unlike the man in that story, might naturally fall into the “This ain’t no improvement here, this damnable machine just took away my ability to do what I’ve doin’ fer the last fifty years or more” mindset. And he did, and who’s to say he wasn’t right about it?

But that’s the way it seem to go in an age where we are supposed to be so much more than we were fifty years ago. The little things, the little by-products start slithering in. Check readers, bar codes. National identity cards - Real ID they call it. Little tax code changes that start building on themselves until they grow all out of proportion. Encouraging trade with overseas countries - not a bad thing at all until China starts doing it at levels of cost untouchable by your factory working neighbor next door. Or Mexico starts selling its workers on this side of the border (and you’d better believe, the lawmakers in this country haven’t done anything but encourage this on the down-low since the day it started).

Credit. Jebus, the level of credit in this country, not only by our own free-wheeling selves but the country as a whole. Housing bubbles, like the one I’m trying to profit from (and then run like hell away from) right now.

Someone I’ve been reading for a while now touched on this, and I’m gonna just go ahead and quote her because she says it quite well:

Something has been wrong with the U.S. economy (and U.S. sanity) for a very, very, very long time. But never in all my years of watching and waiting has so much vibrated with wrongness at the same time. Deficit. War. National ID. Slow collapse of major industries. Dot-com bubble followed immediately by housing bubble (signaling a mass-scale, pathological denial of reality). An economy running on debt, debt, debt. Galloping expansion of government in every direction -- accompanied by the rhetoric of "conservatism" and "freedom." Total apathy or disaffection in the populace. Everything is reeking of dangerous wrongness.

But in the meantime, we've got the Michael Jackson sex-sex-sex trial to entertain us and plenty of credit cards in our pockets. So party on, folks. Party on.

Claire can be found here. Yep, she’s a Lib’rtarian, and makes no apologies for it. Goes even further with it than most of that party might, I dare say. Also writes darn well.

Last fall, after the elections (which is about the only time you ever hear about Lib’rtarians, actually) I read up on some of the Lib parties views and thought, as a grumpy old conservative might, “Sheesh. Ya listen to these guys and you’d better have a good root cellar dug, plenty of ammo for the 12 gauge and just rip up yer SS card and move to the hills.” The more vocal of them are very alarmist, tend to view everything the government says as a potential for more erosion of freedom.

But then you take a look at your daily paper and a handful of web sites and geez, there it is in black and white for you. Or you go to the grocery store and get the real thing.

You know, I’m not going to fall down a rabbit hole here and turn this into a whacko blog with daily rants about Big Government and many links to sordid news articles. I’m not. I don’t have the time nor the inclination, and there are plenty of others who write way better than I do who’ve already entrenched themselves in that role.

You might start to get a hint of why this move, this house sale needed to happen now. Oh sure, we needed to do it financially. More than I’m willing to say. I think you get the picture about that. But there was more to it than that.

I’m getting worried about Big Brother. I’m getting positively grouchy about the gradual worrisome slithering things that need to keep tabs on me. On where I live and what I do. On what I say on this medium, what should be the ultimate extension of free speech where anything and everything goes.

I’m getting worried enough that I think it’s time to take some baby steps away from Him. Kinda put some distance in there. See how he looks from a ways off, rather than right up close to him. Keep reading some of the outlaws. Keep an open mind because nothing anybody says, including me, ought to be construed as Gospel.

Next time, stories about kids and old men and bartenders and funny ball caps.

And things that can be trusted, and slipped carefully into a pocket for safekeeping. Thanks for reading.

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