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Home buying blues...


Remember how last time I was waxing nostaglic about my perfect summer in 1993 and how every memory was crystallized and preserved in my brain forever? Well, it must be more like crystal meth because my friend Chris had to remind me that he was already long gone to California that year, so I must have somehow blended the details of my 1992 and 1993 summers together.

This doesn't speak well of my memory or my ability to call it up.

So sorry for that.

Still... those were the two best summers of my life.



I was thinking about having a hole drilled in my head, or leaping off a tall building onto a pile of skewers dipped in lemon juice, but instead I decided to do something a little more painful and scary: I'm going to try to buy a house.

I already have a realtor and Saturday I begin the search. Mostly it's because as much as I like where I'm living now and the low rent, my landlady, the illustrious "Lotus" (that's her real name) sold the place to some other lady whom I don't even know. There's a very real threat that this new woman (who doesn't have as cool a name as "Lotus") will raise my rent, shoot my cat or make me sign a long-term lease. So I'm going to try to get out while the getting's good. Or is it "while the going's good?" Well, no matter. I'm looking.

The thing about buying a house is that you have to put an enormous amount of trust into a bunch of people. You have to trust that the realtor is looking after your best interest and not trying to pawn off the house where the walls bleed crimson and black blood and the children used to worship corn. You have to trust the bank is honest when it tells you that you can really afford a monthly mortgage payment that seems insanely high and unrealistic given that you find yourself balancing your checkbook and realizing that every month you spend at least $60 on items organized in Quicken under the category "Candy." And you have to trust yourself when you start trying to talk yourself into believing that you can make such a payment consistenly for the next 30 years or so.

30 years? I can't even plan into next Wednesday. How the Hell am I going to do this? I'm 26 years old and I can't fathom this very large step into adulthood. I have friends the same age or younger who've bought homes. They talk about it like they came back from the war.

"Oh yeah, I'll never forget it. The day we closed on the house. We raised up the flag and threw a party because THANK GOD IT WAS OVER!"

These are people who have babies and get married and have IRAs and use potpourri. I'm not one of them. I can barely keep it together to make sure there's toilet paper in my home at all times.

This lovely home can be yours for the price of... YOUR SOUL!

But it just seems crazy and wasteful to think that I've spent the last four years in Austin throwing money at a bottomless, resultless pit of rent. I don't own anything. I'm not working toward any kind of ownership. My current place is no more mine than it was when I moved in two years ago. That money is in someone else's pocket. And I can't even paint the walls without worrying that somebody's going to tell me to paint it back to its ugly off-white.

Plus people keep telling me the interest rate is so low, I'd be insane not to be buying a house right now. As if people are just going to give me the keys to some pimp house: "Oh, no, don't worry about paying the mortgage. The interest rate is so low, we're just gonna give you the house. Yeah, you picked a really good time to, not "buy" -- what's the word I'm looking for... "Take.". Right. You picked a good time to take a house."

The bank made me fill out a pre-qualification questionaire where they ask you for all of your bank account numbers and check your credit. I found out that somehow my credit is spotless except for one incident where Target didn't know where to mail my statements and sullied my credit record despite the fact that I didn't and still don't have a balance on that card. They should have been spending less time filming those all-orage new wave commercials pimping Tide detergent and a little more time making sure they weren't spending so much time screwing up my fucking credit.

The credit report told me how expensive a house I could afford. It seemed like an absurdly high number considering I've been living on the Austin renter's market equivalent of two half-cracked peanuts for so long. Everyone, from the realtor to total strangers who get wind of my house-buying, asks, "So what range are you looking at?" The range is brackets of about $50,000, which seems like a pretty damn broad range. For a savings of $50,000, I'd almost be willing to live in a house with no fourth walls in any rooms that facing an Interstate and tilts at 45 degrees.

The realtor, who don't get me wrong, is a very nice guy indeed and helped Andy find her gorgeous home, dropped off a manilla folder with some home listings and helpful literature that I've so far completely ignored with titles like, "So, You're Settling Down And Finally Growing The Hell Up" and "Understanding Escrow (No, It's Not a Part of the Female Reproductive System)."

The home listings say how many bedrooms, when the house was built, location, school district, and my favorite thing, a small space where unique details about the house are listed. You find fascinating stuff here like, "Garage is soundproofed -- great for musicians or kids!" or "Living room carpet has cigarette burn from when Harold fell asleep and almost burned the fucking house down. May he rest in peace." One of them said, "The location the house was built is an ideal location for house building."

The idea of that monthly payment is so scary that it makes me wonder how I'll save the money every month to do that. Should I steal toilet paper from work? Stop giving Cosa that expensive low-fat cat food and switch her over to something cheaper, but that will make her horribly obese? Should I stop going to the movies and eating out and give up high-speed Internet access and turn off all the lights all the time and never run the air conditioner and cash in that big jar of pennies and stop sending money to The 700 Club and stop getting traffic tickets and quit using grinded up dollar bills as kindling?

The idea of living a barren existence just so that I can live that existence in a slightly larger and homier edifice doesn't seem particularly intelligent. Do I really want to chain myself, financially, to a set of walls, plaster and (I hope) roofing material for the next 30 years. Can I afford to give up my carefree Young Renter's lifestyle and become a Grown Up Homeowner? Does this mean I get to throw key parties and sleep with lonely suburbanites? Must I buy a lawnmower? Do I have to wear a robe when I go outside to get the paper in the morning?

Am I selling my soul and my good times for a little bit of hardwood floors and a spacious 3BR 2FB?

Maybe I am. I'll have to make sure to invite my soul and my lost good times to the housewarming party.


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Rehearsals for Harvard Medical School's widely panned production of "The Taming of the Shrew."

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