|My house, just as I found it. The bad news was that Winter was coming|
You know, I’ve been talking about this sewer line fix for three weeks or so. One of the reasons I found the whole thing so durn interesting is because the exploration and repair of one problem solved a zillion other problems I’d been turning over in my mind. This busted sewer pipe really was the key to life, the universe, and everything — at least everything to do with my house.
My house cost less than $25,000 when I bought it. I wasn’t expecting a rose garden. As it turned out, I got a lupin garden, but that’s a story for another day. There was a lot wrong with my house, and I knew it. I even knew that the sewer wasn’t likely to be first rate. There was a patch on the concrete floor around the sewer pipe. There’s always a reason why the floor has been patched around a sewer line. All the reasons are bad reasons.
I needed a house six years ago or so after catching the poverty. It was my own fault. I foolishly went to the early-bird special at the Honest Work Buffet, but Wall Street had gotten there before me and sneezed on the warming tray with the regular economy in it. Lyme Disease didn’t help any, either, although I still find ticks less loathsome than politicians.
I believe that a house is the chassis of a competent family. We were broke but it was important to keep us together in a house where we would have some control over our affairs. I looked for a house that was as cheap as the chrome on a Kia, but didn’t have anything wrong with it that I couldn’t understand or fix myself. Our house fit the bill. It had been abandoned, and the bank wanted to get rid of it, badly.
The house was owned by a local bank that held the note from the prior owners, a real rarity back when the real estate leverage world was desolating the landscape. People kept predicting that housing would fall an additional X percent, and then they’d buy. They didn’t realize that the big banks holding the leveraged debt had no interest in the real real estate. The financial institutions were being made whole by logrolling the government. The houses were abstractions to them, and only the paper was real. The local banker had his tit in the wringer over our house. I could reason with him. Either I could live in it, or he could. No one in their right mind would want to live in my house.
I didn’t want an abstract house. I wanted one with real problems. Mission Accomplished. I tried in vain to make real estate agents understand that I wanted to buy a house nobody else wanted. They kept trying to show me houses that looked like Home Depot had exploded inside them. The current owners wanted me to pay for the privilege of ripping out all the silly stuff they had inexpertly selected and installed. What I really wanted was a neglected house. Neglect is easier to handle than active malice. That applies to real estate and elections, now that I think of it.
Our house had been neglected, that’s for sure. There was a hole in the back roof that I could stick my head through. The wiring was still partly knob and tube. It takes a long time to foreclose on a house, even if it’s abandoned, so all the pipes had frozen and burst while the bank went through all the legal steps to foreclose on an empty house. When we bought our home, it was essentially a poorly constructed shell of a house, not a dwelling.
That’s exactly what I wanted. I’ve stood in the middle of plenty of poorly constructed house shells. I’m certain some were poorly constructed, because I constructed ’em. A half-built house holds no terrors for me. It was a fully-built house that looked like a Kardashian picked everything out and cost a bunch of spondulicks that I had to avoid. I didn’t want to pay for someone else’s ceiling fans.
I didn’t. I bought this house for about five grand more than a plot of land costs around here. It’s funny, but the price of land never seems to change, no matter how much a house costs here. That’s because you can plop a trailer on a house lot in these parts, and no one will bat an eye. My big Victorian house had to compete on price with a house that gets built by a tow truck. The dirt underneath it had no opinion.
So, the roof had big holes, and the plumbing was totally gonzo. Anything might happen when you turned on a light switch, except light. There was no heating appliance in the house that functioned. Heating matters in western Maine. The back of the house was in danger of collapsing. The foundation underneath it was completely gone, and the weird props that had been installed to hold it up were only good at collecting cobwebs, which were the only things actually holding up the building, I think.
These all sound like separate problems. I thought any one of them could be handled by a successful convenience store robbery and some elbow grease. I was wrong. I’ve been banging on this house for nigh on six years now, and until this whole sewer line debacle, I had no idea that there was a central theme to these problems.
I have an unusual disposition. Some people call that being a jerk. I don’t like not understanding things. I notice things. Noticing things isn’t encouraged much anymore. See: Twitter. I must admit, however, that it was almost worth the very real fear of being unable to fix the sewer to finally figure out that there was a central theme to my house’s problems. For the first time since I bought it, my house made sense. I had come up with the Unified Field Theory of Neglect. I understood everything that had gone wrong for the last 75 years or so. It wasn’t a disconnected series of problems. The sewer line had wrecked my roof, and everything in between.
[to be continued]