Sunday, June 26, 2011

Closing Day

I knew this day was coming. On January 1, I made it a goal to own a mobile home by August 1. Little did I know how nervous I would be the morning of the big day.

I have not thrown up since March 1997. I remember it, too. Out of curiosity, I had eaten a can of fruit cocktail in heavy syrup. I do not like fruit cocktail in heavy syrup, but for some reason I bought a can. It was like the time Mary Richards bought asparagus even though she hated asparagus. She hoped to someday like it, and she wanted a change. That was the episode when she moved out of that fabulous studio apartment. Ironically, when she moved, she said after everyone left her new place, “I … hate it.”

Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Oh yeah. The morning of the closing, I thought I was going to throw up for the first time since 1997, and I hadn’t even eaten fruit cocktail in heavy syrup. I don’t know why I was nervous. After all, I had spoken to the salesman every day for the prior week. I had all my ducks in a row. I think I was staring all those years of debt in the face and making myself sick.

What if I, like Mary, hated it? I can’t just break the lease. I will own the goddamn place. I could always pick it up and move it. I could always change my mind. No, I told myself I was going to do this, and do this I was.

I had a few moments to kill, so I decided to go to the car wash. My phone rang, and it was the sales office. They wanted to know if I had this form and that form. Of course I did, but when I saw his number on the caller ID, I panicked, and I thought I would throw up all over my corduroy blue, AMC Spirit upholstery. On the bright side, that would be an excuse to finally get the interior done on that car.

I arrived at the sales office fifteen minutes early, and I was told they had to redo one form because it was off by $32.46. Then, I sat in the room and waited.

Now, here is more advice or wisdom or shared experience if you will for those considering the manufactured plunge. Although no lawyers are involved and there are no exorbitant settlement fees (I only had to pay $45 for a settlement fee), you still have to initial this and sign that and have your license and passport photocopied (I guess to make sure you aren’t using your home for a terrorist cell). This process takes one hour and three checks - settlement fee, down payment, and appraisal fee (which they took out of my deposit, but they wanted a separate check for the appraisal anyway to keep it kosher).

I did learn something. Because of the bad economy, all home sales – manufactured, modular, condo, mcmansion, what have you – are down, so I got a sweet deal. My home appraised for 38% more than what I was paying. Built-in equity, they tell me. As a lifelong apartment dweller, I have no idea what that means, but I was told it is a good thing.

Remember when I said this was like buying a car, renting an apartment and moving into a co-op at the same time? For one hour after the settlement, I sat with the park manager who went over the rules, which I had already read quite thoroughly, line by line. Two violations, you get a warning. Three, and you are asked to pack up your house and leave. I love rules!

Try that in your gated community or condo! "Excuse me, you need to take your home and leave, NOW!"

I think if all residents could do this, the world would be a happier place. Do you know how hard it is to evict people from an apartment? We tried to do that in one of my former residences (I won’t tell you which, but you can probably guess because the experience was neither pleasant nor …), and it was disastrous. We even had the cooperation of those living in the buildings on either side, yet they are still living there today.

I, again, initialed and signed, and initialed and signed the park rules and park lease.

Then they handed me the keys.

Did I cry? Did I smile from ear to ear? All I could think was, “I have to buy my own trash cans, a weed eater, rake, garden hose …”

When I was back in my car, I did call my brother and make a sound we have made since we were little kids that indicates extreme happiness – a sound rarely made. My father used to call it the pig noise and would threaten to beat us every time he heard us doing it. I won’t share the sound because it has been known to cause cats to commit suicide.

After closing, I had to go to the Post Office to pick up my mailbox key because that is yet another thing that is handled separately. Jessup has the most quaint post office in the country – just two guys and a small counter, and oh so friendly!

Then, I went to the nearest grocery store. Again, everyone was oh so friendly. "Welcome to Jessup. You are going to love it here. Did you move here to be closer to the women's prison and visit your sister?" I don't have a sister. 

After living in the city and then in a “luxury apartment,” I forgot how friendly people can actually be. I think I am going to ... like it.

Esmeralda, we are not going to be living in Rockville anymore!

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Now the Fun Begins

The nail biting is over. I was approved. I am on my way to becoming Gay-Jewish Trailer Park Trash! My parents just rolled over in their graves. Some of my friends (read acquaintances) just disowned me.

But from what my home-owing friends tell me, there is always something. Remember when I told you this was like renting an apartment, buying a car, and moving into a co-op at the same time? I wasn’t kidding. For my fellow renters, what follows will very helpful for you when you decided to live single in a doublewide.

First came the insurance company. I have paid my own renter’s insurance since I first rented an apartment, but this was weird. No one told me that the insurance company coordinates with the bank, and after writing a check for the first-year’s homeowner’s insurance, my insurance will be included in my mortgage payment (I almost typed rent there – bad habits are hard to break), and I will never write a check for home-owner’s insurance again. I took care of this right away. I don’t like to share explicit financial information, but let’s just say it averages about 60 percent of stick-built homeowner’s insurance.

I was then asked to call the electric company – for once, not Pepco! Yay! For those who don’t live here, Pepco is not the company you want during a terrorist attack. Last summer, we had a fifteen-minute thunderstorm, and the power was out for ten days. The acronym stands for “Potomac Electric and Power Outage Company.” I am now with Baltimore Gas & Electric, another acronym, BG&E.

I also had to set up the water, which apparently was already set up, but needed to be put in my name although mine is a new home on a previously unoccupied lot. This was most apartment-like. All we have to do is turn a knob, and I will be happy and moist. That works every time.

However, the fun part is something that in all my research into making the mobile home plunge, I never knew or missed completely. There are no gas lines for a mobile home. I had to set up a propane account. Yes, those same tanks you have for your $1,500 Weber Grill are used for my new home for hot water, cooking and heat. This reminded me of one of my favorite movies, The Long Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and directed by Vincent Minnelli. Remember that yellow trailer, which by the way was Minnelli Yellow, a special color created by MGM for Mr. Minnelli as yellow was his favorite color. Watch Til the Clouds Roll By and fast forward to the Judy Garland number, “Who Stole My Heart Away,” and she holds a scarf that is Minnelli Yellow. Great number, too. Mr. Minnelli only directed Miss Garland’s scenes in that movie. That is why I told you to fast forward.

Where the hell was I? Oh yes.

In The Long Long Trailer, the second night they decide not to stay in a trailer park, and they get stuck on an old logging road, and one of the things Nicky (Desi) has to do is hook up the gas. So I wonder if my first cooking experience will be like Tracy’s (Lucy’s)? And is it illegal to cook in a mobile home when it is mobile? I do have windows up front with blinds and curtains like hers. Let’s hook it onto a 1953 Mercury Monterey convertible and see!

So if you decide to go the mobile route, be prepared to sign an agreement with a propane gas company, which is more comprehensive than a new car lease or anything I needed for the other utility companies.

What I also forgot about since it had been so long since I changed jurisdictions – or even states – was that each of these new companies had to run a credit check. With each credit check, your score drops a point or two because people keep running credit checks. I would not be surprised to find mine has dropped by 100 points since everyone within a 20-mile radius of Jessup, MD, has run a credit check on me in the last three weeks.

I never realized it takes an excellent credit rating to become trailer park trash. Dolly Parton was right, "It takes a lot of money to look this cheap."

Then came my favorite part, dealing with the cable company. This actually went smoothly, until I got a call two days later telling me that I scheduled my appointment too far in advance and I must do the process all over again. So much for being punctual. Pepco also told me I scheduled my cancellation too far in advance. How does one cancel too far in advance? Your computers don’t have calendars on them?

And last, I called the movers!

But there is always something, and in my case – two somethings.

First, after scheduling the movers, I looked at my calendar and realized the National AMC Rambler Convention in Annapolis was the same day as my move-in date, so I had to push it ahead one week. This also meant rescheduling the other utilities, even the ones I scheduled too far in advance, so I started the process all over again.

Then came the other something. Two days after approval, I got a letter in the mail from the Mobile Home Finance Corporation telling me I had been denied! I am usually not one to panic or worry, but my stomach went into my throat, I began to sweat in a very unlady-like manner, and I think I farted, too. I flailed my arms, and I screamed in a high-pitched tone that even Esmeralda couldn’t hear.

DENIED – that Suzy Orman word I fear the most – my only fear in life. I thought I was approved. Now denied!?! Immediately, I called the trailer park sales office – I mean mobile home community showroom – and told them about the letter.

They laughed.

I was fine because my financing was through a local bank not this Mobile Home Finance Corporation. What happened was we went to them first because they used to have great terms and rates, but somehow in the last few months, mobile homes began to follow the same rules as stick-built homes. One now needs 20 percent down. My offer was 10 percent down and a 15-year mortgage. They immediately sent my application to a local bank, and it was approved at 10 percent down for a 15-year mortgage. The Mobile Home Finance Corporation had to inform me that I was denied even though we withdrew my application.

By the way, I had received a letter from them two months ago telling me I was approved. I guess it's like those credit card offers – “you have already been approved.” Then you apply, and you get denied. Much like having someone tease you for a week about before your first date, then denying you sex when you actually go on the date. Not that this ever happened to me ... recently.

Fine or not, I really didn’t need to get a letter like that this late in the process, and I’ll never be able to replace the wine glasses that broke when I screamed. No, it wasn’t Memorex.

Now, if you are reading this because you are considering the move to a mobile home, you heard it here first that the rules have changed and ALL mortgages are being treated the same. Use your own bank or credit union as I did.

If you are one of those people paying a 30-year mortgage on an upside-down house, yes, you read the above correctly – 10 percent down and a 15-year mortgage. Also, my payments will be 25 percent of the national average for a house payment, and I get to live with like-minded people. Jealous?

In a week, I close, and the week after, I begin the move. I wonder if I will be the only person moving into a trailer park – I mean mobile home community – using professional movers and not a U-Haul?

After all, I may be moving into a single-wide, but I am still Jewish and Gay. These muscles are for show, not picking things up. Besides, I don’t want to break a nail – or a sweat. I can get anything done just by pointing a finger. "You, over there, move this." It also helps that I am a big tipper, too.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Imagine If You Will …

While I await approval from the park and the bank, so many things are running through my head due to issues, which are between my therapist and me – or as a friend of mine says, “That is an issue for my pharmacist and me to discuss.”

When you grow up in a home on the brink of foreclosure and are trained not to answer the phone – when Ma Bell has actually been paid, you tend to think you are always on the brink of disaster. My brother keeps asking when I am going to discuss living on Dresden Drive in Newport News, Virginia. My answer is that just about any financial decision I have made in my life is about Dresden Drive. Do I really want to dredge up all that childhood drek, too? Again, that is between my therapist and me.

However, to keep one of my few living relatives happy, here goes – and this is it. Our parents treated things and money as disposable. You have heard of disposable income, of course. For those who haven’t or those who have come of age during the last two decades, disposable income is the money you have for fun after you have paid all your bills, put gas in the car, bought groceries and put some aside for your retirement and your kids’ education. Believe it or not, there was a time you could do these things on a regular basis. As anyone my age – except me – can remember.

For my parents, you first spent your money on stuff or vacations you did not need, then you paid your bills, put gas in the car, bought groceries and put aside some for retirement and your kids’ education. Needless to say, those last two were never accomplished.

My father, may he rest in peace, ended up in “Section 8 Housing for the Elderly” because my parents never planned ahead. Ironically, this staunch conservative, anti-New Deal Republican used to expound on how Franklin Delano Roosevelt ruined this country. Of course, I would remind him that if it were not for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he would be living on the street with no home and no Social Security.

It is funny how one hates a program … until he needs it.

Now, when you grow up in a situation where your parents are constantly trying to keep up with the Jeffersons while living like the Bunkers, you can go in two different directions. You can continue the cycle, or in the case of yours truly, you can do a complete one-eighty.

I don’t try to impress anyone. I don’t care what anyone thinks about what I drive or where I live or what I wear. Those that have seen how I dress can attest to this. I dress like Charlie Brown. A blind man can go into my closet and get dressed without worrying about what matches what. All of my clothes look alike – oxford shirt and kakis. I had to dress down for work last week, and no one noticed.

I have already told you about where I’ve lived, and I drive an AMC Spirit. As Rose Nylund once said, “I am the battered consumer; I drive a Gremlin!” In Mexico, the AMC Spirit was the VAM Gremlin. Whenever I go to the car wash, the workers from Mexico always call me the man with the Rambler (I have one of those, too).

And most of all, I am awaiting approval to move into a trailer park for God’s sake! Point made.

My mother never heard me say, “Everyone else is doing it.” What she would say was, “Why can’t you be like everyone else?” I proudly march to my own beat, not even to that of a different drummer.

Now, has my oddness been a hindrance? You be the judge. I have been on a few dates where the guy came over to pick me up, took one look at the neighborhood and the apartment I lived in (especially in Mount Pleasant), and given me the look. You know the look. It is the one you get when you buy a new sofa, which requires an acquired tasted to appreciate, and when your friends see it, they say hesitantly, “Nice sofa,” then look at someone else in the room and either drop their jaws or roll their eyes. Has this bothered me? No. If you don’t like where I live, you have two options: either buy me a new house or don’t see me again.

No one ever bought me a house, and I am still single.

My late partner used to say when someone would worry about what others thought, “Are they paying my rent?” I still use that expression. Hopefully, I soon will say, “Are they paying my mortgage?”

One of my many goals for this blog is advice whether about buying a mobile home or life in general.

So here is a bit of wisdom: If you go through life worrying about what other people think about you, you will never be happy.

I am happy.

I do want to make one thing clear though. I am talking about worrying about what other people think about the material things you have, where you live, what you drive, what you wear, or even the job you have. If you like being a sanitation worker and it makes you happy, be a goddamn sanitation worker and go to work every morning with a smile on your face!

Here is an example: Every morning as I exit at Metro Center, there is a gentleman there whose job is to empty the recycling bins. Instead of just emptying the bins, he parks his master bin (I don’t know the technical term) near the recycling bins and collects everyone’s used papers by hand and says “good morning” and “thank you” with a smile on his face. Do you know how many people walk by him, throw their papers into the master bin and don’t say a word? I wonder if they are worried a colleague will see them say hello to a janitor. I walk right up to him, hand him my paper, and I say, “Good morning, how are you today? Thank you.”

Grandma, my paternal grandmother, once told me, “Never make fun of a person’s job. Anyone who does an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage deserves respect.” Good advice. Grandma worked retail until she was seventy-two. She also didn’t care what others thought and pretty much said what was on her mind all the time. I miss her.

I have always worked two jobs (and still do) because I am afraid I’ll end up homeless – again between my therapist and me. I waited on tables every weekend (and at times full time) until I was thirty-seven. I have worked retail, washed dishes, scooped ice cream, handed out towels in a gym (no jokes), mopped floors, cleaned houses (I tried to start my own maid business), and I even worked in a funeral home. I went to every one of those jobs with a smile on my face. And I still managed to put in at least eights hours of volunteer work a week and still do.

My parents were embarrassed that I was still waiting on tables on the weekends while managing a publishing unit full-time during the week. I wasn’t. I did an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

In spite of my work ethic, there will always be that voice in the back of my head telling me that I am only one paycheck away from sitting with Esmeralda on a blanket on 14th and H with a sign that says, “My dog and I are homeless, please help us. Will work for Milk Bones.”

I love Suzy Orman, and I especially love when she says, “Denied!” But I don’t dare write a letter to her show asking approval to buy anything because I fear she will tell me, “Denied!”

I know it is silly. I have two incomes, no debt and savings for retirement. Why am I so worried?

With all that said, however, I think I may have finally reached a point where for once I just might be a little concerned about what other people think.

Imagine if you will …

I don’t get approved by the park or the bank. Imagine after starting this blog, I have to shut it down because I can’t even manage to move into a trailer! Now that would be humiliating. Even I, the one who doesn’t give a shit, would have to change his identity and move to an undisclosed location.

I can see all those pretentious queens right now: “Oh her! She’s the one who was turned away by a trailer park. Stay clear of that one.”

I wonder if people really do live under rocks because I would have to find one.

Stay tuned.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011


A continuation of ‘when did other people’s marital problems become mine’

In January 1997, I packed up Serena, my one-year-old toy parti-poodle, and everything that would fit in my 1992 Plymouth Colt – after having sold everything else – and moved to Washington, DC.  My friend Christian, whom I had known since the early 1980s, told me to stay with him until I found an apartment.

A funny story. In all the time I knew Christian, I always wanted to say something after he introduced himself, but the situation never materialized until we went to a Christmas party later the year I moved to DC. We walked in, and he introduced himself to the host, “Hi, I’m Christian.” Then I walked over and said, “Hi, I’m Jewish.” We laughed until we pee’d then we laughed at that.

But I digress …

Christian was renting an apartment in the Mount Pleasant neigborhood of DC, a garage-level, one-bedroom with a back patio we nicknamed the graveyard and no laundry hook-up but with a dishwasher and central air. This was during the height of “Coffee Talk” on SNL, so we were doing all the “The peanut is neither a pea nor a nut, discuss …” “A basketball is neither a basket nor a ball, discuss …” when I said, “Mount Pleasant is neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss …” and we laughed until we … you get the idea.

The “Mount Pleasant is neither a mount nor pleasant” line became a 12.5 year running joke because guess who moved out of that apartment and guess who stayed within a week of his arrival? Christian moved in with his drunk, pathological liar, sexually addicted … never mind, and I took over the apartment and stayed there 12.5 years (I keep telling you 12.5 years because I cannot believe I stayed there that long).

Where do I begin? I had to get a portable washing machine and wheel it to the sink all that time. I did not have a driveway or garage, so my car looked as if it had been in the demolition derby because of street parking and the non-English speaking alta cocker across the street who would move his car every hour and hit all the other cars. One morning, he parked in front of my car with his still in gear, and I couldn’t move my car because his kept rolling into it.

I couldn’t go out to the patio/graveyard because of the rats, and there was a crack in the foundation, so moisture was a problem. But as I stated in my previous blog, I’ll put up with anything.

If you knew the dump I grew up in, you would understand my tolerance. My next blog will be “Did You Hear about the Gay Jew Who Grew Up in a House in Hell and Lived to Tell about It?” Talk about a dump. The sad part is that when I was living at home in Newport News we were always under threat of foreclosure – as if any bank would want to be saddled with that crappy house. We also never were allowed to answer the phone because it might be a bill collector.

When I first moved out on my own, my phone rang in my new apartment, and I didn’t know what to do. I picked it up, and I just breathed. I think it was the first time someone phoned an obscene caller.

My father used to say we had to do $10,000 worth of repairs on the house before they would condemn it. Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitress. Don’t order the fish.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the neighbors.

The first two were a gay man and his straight woman roommate who wore spike heels along with their two barking dogs. The dogs never wore heels, nor did the gay guy who weighed in at 300 lbs. She weighed 300 lbs as well. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it gives you an idea how heavily they walked across the hardwood floors. 

They never fought, just made a lot of noise. She eventually moved out, and he would get twinks to watch his place and walk his dogs when he traveled. They would never show up, and the dogs would whine all day and night, so I ended up taking care of them again and again when he would go out of town. I kept suggesting kennels, but he kept hiring no-show twinks. He did eventually have two responsible house sitters – a woman and her young daughter, but they would scream and fight all the time when they stayed over. They also had a habit of dropping everything on the floor.

Six years later, he moved out, and the landlord said she found new tenants he recommended, a woman and her daughter. You guessed it. And they brought their small dog – their 90-pound small dog who barked more than the other two combined.

They would yell, scream, crash and bang. They dropped everything on the floor (didn’t I just say that?), and just when things couldn’t get worse, her estranged, drunk, self absorbed, loud British husband moved in. He had one of those deep British voices you could hear in the next county. Now all I heard was screaming, yelling, crashing, banging, cars banging into garage doors (they had use of the driveway and garage, which backed up to my bedroom closet), more screaming, hitting, yelling, and what I suspect was the occasional gun shot, and I put up with it until ….

One day, I lost it. I marched upstairs, knocked on their door and told them one more sound and I was calling the police. And I yelled, “Get F----g counseling!” She had the nerve to complain she could hear me laugh and sneeze. Really, laugh and sneeze!?! I think those two things are more tolerable than yelling, screaming, shooting, hitting …

They were so loud that all the neighbors on the street could hear them, and everyone asked me how I put up with it. As I said, for a low enough rent, I’ll tolerate anything.

Again, someone else’s marital problems became mine.

Then, the pompous queen next door rented out to a bunch of twenty year olds who threw a party every weekend. I complained because no one could get any sleep and called the pompous queen to have him talk to his tenants. They got mad at me for complaining and kept on throwing parties.

They complained about me, the quiet one. The one who never threw parties or yelled or for that matter shot someone. I don’t even own a stereo. I hate noise. I hate screaming and yelling. I don’t even like loud music. I grew up in a house full of screaming and yelling, and I don’t like to be around it. I often think of Anne Bancroft’s line in Torch Song Trilogy about how she grew up in a house full of screaming and yelling, so she never screamed and yelled … or something like that.

After the longest time at one address, and ironically the worst place I ever lived, I moved to Rockville. When I moved, my friends never said, “Where?” they said, “Thank God!” No one wanted to visit my apartment in Mount Pleasant because of all the noise … and the occasional shooting victim on the sidewalk. Seriously, the first night there in 1997, someone was shot out front. The last week I was there, someone was shot out front.

I forgot to tell you about the guy screwing a hooker on my patio one night. He parked his AMC Hornet out front, took her up to my patio and screwed her right there. I came home to find them mid-coitus. Did they stop? No. Did I stop them? No. The guy was driving an AMC Hornet, so I figured he must not get laid often (I drive an AMC Spirit), so I stepped over them and went inside. By the time I had opened the door again to walk Serena, they were gone.

So, I moved to Rockville Town Square, a multi-use development that allows dogs and has parking. Living in a multi-use development is like living in the middle of a goddam parade. Every weekend there is a festival or marathon or some other crap catering to unhappy couples and their rotten kids.
Serena lasted six months before she gave up and died at age fourteen. Four months later, I adopted an eight-year-old rescue Beagle, I have named Esmeralda, who is so frightened by all the noise outside that I have to walk her in one of the adjacent neighborhoods before she will go to the bathroom. I feel the same way.

Did I tell you there is a fire station next door? You guessed it. I cannot open the windows because every ten minutes the sirens go off.

And I managed to end up with fighting neighbors again. These two argue, hit, threaten and scream and yell and throw each other against the wall that abuts my bedroom. They are a combination of every couple I have had the pleasure of sharing walls with for more than a quarter century. This morning, the missus came home at 5:30 am, carrying her shoes and wearing last night’s dress. I am counting the minutes before she starts calling him racist names and begs him to hit her. “Go ahead, hit me.” I think she hits him, but he doesn’t hit her. He does choke her during sex. I know because I hear everything. I also heard her say she was going out and was surprised he wasn’t going to stop her. From what I hear every night, I am guessing he gave her cash to tip the go-go boys just for some peace and quiet.

And now you see why I am moving away to a quiet little town near a prison and a Walmart, into a small home that isn’t attached to anyone. And if I get sick of living there, I’ll just hitch it onto the back of my 1982 AMC Spirit and become a free Spirit. Pun intended.

Now, enough with the past. My future in home mobility, I mean Mobile Homedom, is soon to begin!

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