So our time in Virginia has been pretty idyllic. No small part of that is that this is my first visit to my friend Justin’s house. He’s been here for over a year and I’ve never been out and I have no-one to blame but myself.
Owning a home is something that generally carries a lot of negative weight for me. My parents purchase a new house shortly after I was born and that was the home I spent most all of years before I turned 18. All the years I can remember. All the years that matter. The house always had problems. Seabrook was a poetic name for a neighbourhood built on a filled-in swamp and the house had started settling shortly after my Dad bought it, while simultaneously sinking, occasionally flooding and generally pulling apart in a number of directions. A crack in the Living room, a crack in the dining room. That corner was going that way and that door was no longer flush. At some point before I’d reached high school a summer was spent literally jacking the house up off the earth to redo the foundation. It only took another couple of years to show that this effort was futile – but the continued settling didn’t show up fast enough to keep that company from making a KILLING in the neighbourhood with like efforts financed by expensive loans and second mortgages.
Truly – growing up I was constantly aware of the house being a Problem. And since my Dad owned it… it was HIS Problem. The movie “The Money Pit” was a crappy 80’s comedy that nearly brought my father to tears of rage because there was nothing funny about a house that just had one more problem…
And so the American Dream never seemed TOO dreamy – and as I reached the age where even my younger friends were purchasing houses I really have always waffled about the idea of moving on from the renter Lifestyle. I’ve got the money. I’ve traveled the nation and have a pretty good idea of where I wouldn’t mind Living. But every time we have that conversation, every time we start eyeballing for sale signs – well…
Brennan’s basement flooded. Julie’s roof came off. Amy’s house has BEES. Sewer lines, weeds, yardcare. Flaking paint, flaky neighbours. Sharif’s neighbour’s house caught fire and the fire department kicked HIS door in. Rowan had a tree fall on his house. Home insurance put him in an apartment. The apartment flooded. The apartment put him in a hotel.
Ya know? My dishwasher wouldn’t close. I called my landlord. He fixed it. My dryer quit drying. I called my landlord. He replaced it. Every year he has a guy check the furnace. Every couple of months he checks on things. Every week come summer he takes care of the yard. There are cracks in the ceiling. The house is settling, sinking and possibly pulling apart in a number of directions… and it’s absolutely, positively, in no way my problem.
And so I have few positives associated with home ownership. But Justin… Justin makes me download Zillo. Justin’s place makes me think about my stocks. Justin makes me look twice at the For Sale signs in the neighbourhood.
He said it himself – as a young bachelor, it might’ve been a LOT smarter for him to buy a condo in the city, use public transit to his job and Uber to the hot nightspots in town. He’d meet more people, those people would probably be hip. He’d have his finger on the pulse of DC, or at least he’d have a grip somewhere near the reins if not has hands around its throat.
But he wanted a garden. And he wanted a workshop. He wanted some place where there would be space to MAKE things… and the money goes a LOT further out in the burbs… and he has all of those things he wanted. And he’s made the space where he’s made the tools where he made the planters for where he’s going to plant the plants that he’s going to eat in his massive kitchen. And he’s got a yard big enough for his sister to get married next year. And I lay in his dandelion patch and thought “huh… having a house isn’t too bad”.
Though as he opens his tax assessment for the home he owns and doesn’t pay rent on but totally owes a mortgage and taxes on I think “but… maybe later”.
His house BREATHES future and there’s a general pervasive optimism and beauty of possibility here that I don’t know that I’ve felt almost anywhere else. But I have the suspicion I have too much baggage for a house. I’d move my stuff in just in time to get back out on the road. I’d come home to unpack my gear from tour with just enough time to do laundry before packing my gear for a gig. And five years later my house wouldn’t have a pervasive atmosphere of anything other than stuff I’ve been meaning to get to.
Or maybe that’s my father talking.