The Abandoned, Broken, and Burned

1950s DishwasherBy the time you read this, inshallah, we will have the new dishwasher purchased and installed in our kitchen.

I’m not holding my breath. It’s been this long, so it is easy to envision a horizon of expectations that continues to recede into the distance a few more weeks or months.

“Oh, come on,” my brother said to me a while back, “what is a dishwasher? $500? $1000? Just buy the thing.” It’s not that we didn’t have $500 lying around to spend—it’s just that there are so many other expenses— private school tuition, church donations, the remainder of our 2014 taxes—to cover, and it is always well to have a little cushion lying around in case of emergencies. (Our cushion is pretty little.)

We are well-paid, middle-class professionals (upper middle class if you look at the average household income for most Americans, though we actually feel pretty working class in our expensive coastal metropolitan area where two twenty-seven-year-old lawyers can easily clear $450,000 a year—First World, problems etc., etc).

So $500-1,000, in our house, is kind of a big deal. [Read more…]

Drive-By Memory

nastroeniya-cvety-cvetkiMy first memory takes place in Lakewood, CA, a small suburb south of Los Angeles. Lakewood, the nation’s first planned community, also happens to be the subject of D. J. Waldie’s Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir. “In a suburb that is not exactly middle class,” Waldie writes at the beginning of the book, “the necessary illusion is predictability.”

Because the families that settle there are anything but predictable.

After they married in 1969, my mom and dad bought one of those small, square dream homes from my father’s parents. It was my dad’s first marriage and my mother’s third. Heidi, my sister born during one of my mother’s prior lives, was in junior high. The street, Maybank, figures nicely into the Facebook formula for “my stripper name,” along with Penny, my first dog.

On August 4, 1972, Penny Maybank took the stage. [Read more…]

Precious Things Come from Staying

notebookJoan Didion’s family, she says, are a tribe of leavers. In her 2004 book Where I Was From, she begins with her great-great-great-great-grandmother and traces a family history lined with people who, she says, are always leaving, always pushing west.

“They tended to accommodate any means in pursuit of an uncertain end,” she says, unsparingly. “They tended to avoid dwelling on just what that end might imply. When they could not think what else to do they moved another thousand miles, set out another garden: beans and squash and sweet peas from seeds carried from the last place. The past could be jettisoned, children buried and parents left behind, but seeds got carried.” [Read more…]

The Odyssey: Homer’s Retort to Current U.S. Policy

Rubens_The_Feast_of_Achelous_1615Are you as numb to news of war as I am?

We the American public are so used to hearing that our country is acting militarily in yet another place on the globe that we don’t even question whether we should be arming the Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen or “supporting” Syrian so-called moderate rebels.

We’re still fighting (and killing civilians in wedding parties and now even a hospital) in Afghanistan. And, incredibly, we’re back in Iraq: “training” (yet again) government forces. Aren’t they trained by now?

At least there’s a bit of public outrage over the recent disclosures about our drone “kill lists” in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan… [Read more…]

Where’s the Guilt?

15698224630_85fddfa509_zI’ve had the experience of dealing with renters from time to time, though more in the capacity of property manager than as landlord. It has been one of the ugliest, most unpleasant things a person can go through in business.

You might say, “Well, everybody knows that—people don’t really respect what they don’t own.” True, I suppose, to a degree. But then, I’ve rented property for most of my life, in one way or the other, and it would be a slander to myself not to qualify such an adage. I’ve kept up the places and paid my rent. I’ve given them back to their owners in as good a shape as they gave them to me, “normal wear and tear accepted.” So I think there’s something else behind what I’ve gone through. Let me relate my woes:

Let it be said that this property is in a prime location, is practically brand new, and is marketed at a price that would chase away the kind of folks who aren’t paying much, so don’t care much. A professional set is the target audience and a professional set, by and large, has been interested in leasing it.

But you’d be surprised at what even professionals are capable of doing. The first group of people came well recommended and had good references; they had the money and were anxious to move right in. They were in transition (which now I know is always a dangerous state—volatile and unpredictable). [Read more…]


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