Big Time

News, friends: we are going into syndication, of sorts. Yes, Modern Muse is now appearing in two counties. I just talked to the local newspaper today and they are interested in running the column here, which means three additional cities. My evil empire is growing – bwahahahaha! I’m working on another round of book-tour stuff: readings and signings around the East Bay and Sonoma County, with an updated edition of my novel planned for later this spring, near the one-year anniversary. I will post a link to the schedule of readings/signings in case anyone feels inclined to attend. I’ve been invited to sign at Books by the Bay again, and I believe we’re getting a booth for Scarlet Letter Press at the NCIBS Oakland trade show in October. Lots of book buyers for major chains there…One hopes for major success.

That and the plan for the lit zine keep me busy. Oh, yeah, and the newspaper and the kids, not in that order. I spent several hours this week getting entries organized for the CNPA (California Newspaper Publishers Association) awards. We entered 10 categories, from spot news to columnists, as well as layout and design and general excellence. It would be very gratifying to win some kind of award, whether individually or for the whole staff. Very nice indeed. They are a dedicated crew, as I’ve said here before, and they make the 100-mile daily trip to Alameda worth it.

Now, for a change of topic, how about something exciting, like…escrow fever? Yeah, I’ve got it — my house for sale is in escrow, and oy vey, it is giving me conniptions. I am sitting here just waiting for it to end so I can move on to the next phase of life. It’s due to close in February sometime, if all is well. (And it had better be — eek.) I have been scanning the newspaper and keeping an eye open for the perfect house, whatever that is. Kind of like the perfect mate — you don’t know you’ve found one sometimes until there s/he is, right in front of you. I figured that the perfect house would insinuate itself upon my consciousness like a faint wisp of perfume, that it would call to me, seduce me, and I would fall in love the moment I saw it. And it would all happen organically, not via a forced march through the classified section.

The other day I found it — my Perfect House. My daughter was staying the night at a friend’s house, and when I dropped her off, I started chatting with the mom, and it came out that she was a Realtor, and I mentioned that I am Looking (for a house, it is implied), and she said the magic words. “Oh, there’s a place in (town) that’s a real fixer-upper. It’s going for $250,000, but there’ll probably be a bidding war. But you don’t want a place like that…”

Oh, don’t I? I started salivating. My mind started racing. I got into my car and drove to the street where the house was and cruised it like a perv looking for victims. At least, I’m sure that’s what the neighbors thought as I very slowly rolled down the street, looking intently at all the houses. Just two had signs out front, one for lease, one for sale, and the for sale one was no fixer-upper. Bugger! I went home and gnawed on my knuckles overnight, and literally could not sleep, thinking, “Why am I even thinking of this? My house hasn’t closed escrow. I don’t have the money to put down yet. If I get the house and my other deal folds, I am screwed. I could be bankrupt. I will have to live in a cardboard box. With my kids and two cats. But if I can get the house, I could (everyone say it with me) fix it up! Paint the walls! Lay tile! I can landscape! I know how to do all those things! I AM WOMAN!! Hear me roar!”

All night long, like manic mice, these thoughts chased each other up and down the hallways of my mind. In the morning I put on my cheeriest, devil-may-care tone, and, as if just by chance, I called the mom/Realtor to ask, what the heck, where exactly is that house? I had to leave a message and bit my knuckles again until she called me back. “Oh, you don’t want that house,” she said. But she gave me the address. I jumped into the car and zipped over there again.

I couldn’t find the house. I went back and forth on the perv-crawl again, and finally got out and asked a neighbor, who was assiduously building rock pyramids in his front yard, where was the house for sale? “Oh, you mean the dump?” he said. Uh, yeah, that’s the one. “You’re looking at it.” I still couldn’t see. He led me next door to a lot that was three feet high in grass, with a high fence across it. It looked like it belonged to the house on either side. But closer up, I could see an orchard in front and the shape of a house behind the fence. “You can’t go in,” he said. Indeed, the gate was padlocked. “Some woman was here yesterday and she fell and hurt her leg.” Apparently there was a lot of garbage on the property. I was disappointed about the padlock but went up to the fence, made of old, knotty wood, and peeked through a hole. There it was, a very dumpy beige stucco ranch house with aluminum windows, about as undistinguished a property as you could ask for. The front picture window faced the street. And the window was like a terrarium — you could see a mountain of garbage piled against it. There was no space at the top; the house, as the neighbor explained, was literally filled with garbage. And rats. And honeybees. Apparently a Crazy Lady had lived there till it filled up. Then she lived in a tent in the orchard. Then she lived in the driveway in her van. There was an outbuilding completely filled with empty cat and dog food cans. When Crazy Lady left, so did the cats and dogs and then came the rats. The house was unlivable and needed to be torn down.

Uh-huh. And for this, the lucky buyer would pay a quarter million dollars or more? And be grateful?

Needless to say, I walked away from that fun house. Yes, I’m looking for a fixer-upper. But even I am not that desperate. I felt exhausted just thinking about it. I went home and took a rest, and slept that night much better, with the ease of a person whose fever has broken.

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