I had a good day at work yesterday, and a nice chat with my father last night. the family home to which we moved when I was 15 is one of those very old homes, so that it has a little historical interest. It even has a name. Sadly, the name is not anything like "Whispering Pines" or "Round the Gate", but instead it's the somewhat more prosaic name of the three families that have lived there since it was built in 1857, the "Ellliot-Meek-Nunnally Home".
Like a lot of those older homes in small towns, it looks rather more fancy than it actually is in real life. I remember when we bought it, in 1975, from the last Ms. Elliot. It cost only a bit more than a song, as older homes in small towns are apt to do. It required substantial renovation, including, but not limited to, having big trucks come and tie huge cables to the walls, to literally pull the home together.
My father and his wife have spent the last few months giving the home quite a new renovation. It looks rather more like a 19th Century home than it did during my 1970s teen years.
I like my old home town, one of the numerous places, actually, I am willing to call a "home town". I like, for instance, that its Spring Festival is a Daffodil Festival. I am of the view that all festivals should be Daffodil Festivals, although I am willing to listen to those who prefer marigolds, bonsai or kites. I also like, though, that the September festival is called the Tate Barn Sale, although its literal title these days is the Camden BPW Barn Sale.
Camden's one claim to recent musical fame is a fellow named Danny Tate, who wrote some hit songs for people with Beverly Hillbilly character names, like Rick Springfield. I actually bought a Danny Tate album recently, out of home town loyalty, and thought it a very good listen, which surprises me, because radio-ready pop is not always my favorite genre. When I sent the artist an e mail, though, I got no reply. I have gotten rather spoiled by my associations with ambient folks, who, with a very few very-large-fan-base exceptions, are so delighted to hear from one of their twelve fans that they are remarkably interactive. This underscores my basic suspicion that we are all intended to be famous, but only among twelve people.
I am not sure if Danny Tate is the same Tate family that they named the barn sale after, although I think he is part of that family. I went to high school with his sister, whom I did not know well but liked, because she was a genuinely good person.
Like a lot of genuinely good people in high school, I think she had to confront how to be good without seeming to be too nice, but I find, over time, that almost everyone works over this issue, and, fortunately, those who cannot often find fulfilling employment as organizers of church banquets in which one cannot eat chicken with one's fingers.
I suppose homes were on my mind since someone on the myspace service pointed out Zillow, an on-line home value estimation site, which includes satellite pictures from above of the home in question. Camden, Arkansas is not listed among the towns for which such home listings are available. My current home is listed, though, with a really cool satellite photo, and an estimate reflecting mild (and perhaps inflated) appreciation.
Our home in La Crescenta, California, which we sold for an embarrasingly high figure, has doubled in value in the nearly six years since we left. Its value now is so starkly disturbing for what was, after all, a 1600 square foot foothlll bungalow, that I for the first time ever came to doubt the sanity of living in California. We paid an embarrassing sum for it, we sold for a disquietingly higher sum, and now it is worth an absurd sum. At the other end, my first home of my own, ever, in Mesquite, Texas has appreciated to a pleasing but modest sum in the time since I sold it in the 1990s. I lost more money on this home than on any other financial investment in my life. I managed to buy right before the savings and loan crisis, and silly government regulations which encouraged making home loans to people who couldn't make their house payments, resulted in nearly my whole neighborhood being foreclosed. I worked a lot in Los Angeles in those days, and I'll never forget the weekend when I came home from a business trip,and noticed for the first time that HUD owned most of my neighborhood. Sadly HUD sold cheaply, resulting in my loss of some untold if not unmangeable thousands of dollars in the long run, on what had been an inexpensive, under 80,000 dollar home when I bought it.
The things we do in the name of not losing face over a home. When it turned out I was actually quite a good law student, I mapped out my personal plan to achieve a life's goal. I would practice law for two years, and then go get an LLM, the law graduate degree, and teach law. But I bought a home after a year of law practice, and then never wished to risk losing 10,000 dollars on selling in a down market to fulfill my dream.
It's funny, in hindsight, how home became my anchor and my albatross. But it was sure fun riding my 10-speed in the country lanes near Mesquite, Texas.
I don't believe a lot of things about the subconcious which other people believe, but it is fun to see how I indirectly used a "fear" of a monetary loss on a cherished home as a crutch to choose not to take a particular risk. The subconscious is a rather comic thing, like realizing, with a "it's immoral to feel like a deer in the headlights when one is not in the headlights" feeling, that one has been filtered out from a number of livejournal posts in a friend's journal, or, for that matter, in one's own journal. I don't regret the choice often, but I do wonder at the space in my life in which a career in academia "should be". Perhaps I would write a weblog with fewer typographic errors if I had a degree from Harvard, after all. I'd be so brave, like the cowardly lion, if only people called me professor.
I grew up from age 5 to age 15 in a converted railroad boarding house, whose best feature was an electric water fountain. There were Greek classical columns, but they were made of cheap, hollow metal. When you banged them, they gave out the most resonant ring. That ring was home, in a way. That hollow, musical resonant thud sounded like home.