It was a difficult year, so let us gloss over it with meaningless charts and graphs regarding unimportant aspects of my life.
In the generic term, i mean, by ‘house’ we actually mean tiny basement apartment in Boston. We’re so used to life around here that it’s in many ways, more than we could ever have hoped for for a first home. It’s two blocks from a major crossroads of a central part of the city, beautiful, scenic, and bustling. And while this comes with the obvious compromise of being in a basement, it has outdoor space that makes it not feel like a dungeon. And it was somehow so much easier than we thought it would be.
i mean, it was the first time we put down an offer. We figured we’d lose, handily. We figured we’d get trounced, but at least we’d get our initial mistake-making process out of the way, confident that we would make more than our share. And we were right about both things. We came in second on our offer, but the runaway winner was also enough of a runaway asshole that the seller picked us.
And headlong did we dive into the process of unearthing piles of paperwork and hastily shopping for a mortgage, all the while warning the broker, the loan officers, the lawyers that we were going to ask them a really dumb question and never once letting them down. The thing is, it all went off without a hitch. Sure, there were lots of sleepless nights wondering about what we’d missed, since surely in our haste we’d have to have fucked something up. The most difficult thing was really just making sure our little pile of money was in the right place (and documenting in triplicate our efforts to move it to that place).
It was a two-month-long process, really, but in the end, a half-dozen entities that could have screwed us, in ways we would never know about until it was too late, didn’t.
And then we had keys.
So many keys, it turned out; like eight of them. Later, we learned that we really only needed four of them, and that the color code on them was wholly incorrect, so we’d best make our own.
And we had an empty apartment. For over a month. A fairly dirty one, but we owned it, and all the possibilities therein. Possibilities of expensive problems, possibility of comfy nights of drinking beer under lights outside. i immediately binged on Asana tasks for fixing things, the girl immediately rolled her eyes at what a fucking nerd i am.
It’s an obvious difference over renting, the option of simply fixing it, changing it, redoing it if you don’t like it, and better still when you can get so much satisfaction out of simple changes. A new shower head here, a slow-closing toilet seat there, my ongoing war with beige electrical fixtures. $5 or $10 at a time, you can see it slowly go from that musty, flawed basement, to the sort of place you want to live. And grander plans, of course, fall by the wayside. Probably should have checked the ceiling fixture before buying a fan. Replacing the nasty (brand new) carpet with flooring was more expensive than we’d thought. Assorted forays into actually making something with wood have yet to occur (i’m more of an aluminum kind of guy). But the option is there.
And of course, the flip side is, you own all the flaws. You wash your hands one day, two months after buying the place and notice that the bathroom vanity is made from hideous, cheap wood, because you’ve noticed that it was only partially (cheaply) painted white. Or that multiple light sockets emit foul buzzing noises. Or that the fasteners in some electrical boxes are badly rusted. The idea of how much work you have to put in both for yourself and for your hypothetical future self trying to sell it sets in. And that’s before pipes burst in the middle of the night and air conditioners crap out in the middle of a late summer heat wave.
And all along, you’re not paying rent, you’re building up, slowly, the percentage of the place you actually own (even though, to borrow the tired phrase, you’re still setting fire to the money you pay in interest). But it’s something. And it sure seems like a better bet than the relentless bipolarity of our 401(k)s.
More than that, though, it’s nice to be able to look on my hometown from a distance, and think that a short distance away from the tallest building is a little patch of it that’s ours. And it becomes more so every day. Unless something happens on Tuesday and we have to move to France.
It’s been five months since i’ve written anything here. In that time, the major thing we did was that we bought a house. Which is a pretty plausible reason for not writing blog posts for nobody to read, but It’s not as simple as that, of course. This being 2016, the worst year for basically everybody that anybody can remember, there were no fewer than a dozen shitty things that happened in that last five months, from multiple instances of serious bodily harm (we’re ok now), to multiple instances of surprise multi-thousand-dollar terribleness, to the myriad little insults that by themselves just ruin your day, but en masse kinda make you feel a little beleaguered. So i haven’t written much, because it’d just have been complaining.
So, while trying to steer clear of complaining, let’s talk about new experiences.
i got hit in the face playing soccer and had to have surgery on my jaw.
we acquired a teenage roommate.
And like so many others, i took on a third job battling our incoming fascist government.
Maybe some of these i will talk about at length. Maybe some of them i wrote a lot about and i didn’t publish yet until i edit it.
Before you ask, no, i don’t entirely understand why i enjoy doing this so much. It takes some effort at the end of the year, but it’s fun to see how a few seconds a day writing trivialities down becomes somewhere between an interesting story and the most mundane of Xbox achievements. It’s worth it, though, when i learn new things about myself. Or about how often the girl tags me on Facebook.
Sometimes it results in pretty pictures we drew with our feet. Yes, there’s a dick somewhere in there.
Sometimes it reminds me of how bad i was at certain things this year.
Sometimes it makes me feel like maybe my defense could’ve been worse, mostly.
It almost always makes me want to have more vacation days.
Baseball and soccer come back soon.
As always, looking back on what you just did is a good way to reflect on what you want to do. Have a good 2016, everybody. i’ll be here drinking beer, eating McDonald’s and bicycling more. It’ll turn out fine.
I feel like i should take the above as a compliment. More than a few people have said this to me in the past few months. It’s not like me to think about such things, not the least bit, but it’s happened enough times and is at such odds with how I’ve been feeling that it’s a fine opportunity to navel-gaze.
It should go without saying that i pride myself on a certain sense of immaturity, combined with a stubborn tendency towards cheerfully taking whatever on, prepared or no.
But it’s funny that right when i find myself surrounded with interns, coworkers, and teammates who are near half my age is the same time i’m given cause to question whether or not there’s an end to my ability to just do all the things.
Maybe i can’t get away with drinking beer and eating an appalling diet and just counting on exercise to offset it.
Maybe that’s the reason that i’m now just able to play a good enough centerback long enough to finally get beaten for the goal that costs us the game. Not fast enough or quick enough to deal with the 23-year-olds on the other team, even if the ones on my team have left it to me.
Maybe that’s why i’ve run the last three long races i’ve run like shit and finished far behind or slowed down my favorite wife.
Why my knee and heel hurt for the first six months of the year and i’ve gotten sick much more than is typical.
Or maybe it’s why i take a few minutes longer to get up and get ready in the morning, and am tired at midnight.
Why i don’t convince myself to ride my bike out to work more.
It’s nice that people still see me as i like to think of myself, but that doesn’t do me any good if that’s suddenly not how i see myself anymore.
My dislike of my birthday has nothing to do with my actual age, but turning 39 has really been the first one that coincided with feeling different.
i hate it. i refuse to act my age and i’m not about to let my body start making that decision for me, goddammit.
i hate it and i reject it with as much vigor as is available.
Most of us wake up in the middle of the night. My favorite is waking up in the waning parts of it, with the sun threatening and maybe 52 minutes sitting in between me and my alarm. It goes without saying that i might spend a couple of those minutes pretending that i don’t need to go to the bathroom, but we all know it’s a doomed effort.
Except now as soon as my head pops up, so does another:
Thing is, i’d never had a pet growing up, so this sort of daily madness is new to me, what with our last year of living with our temporary (-to permanent?) cat. She curls up where my feet belong in bed. She sits between me and my computer until she gets a piece of my burrito. She has to be able to stare at me in the shower else there will be meowing. She turns our bedroom light on in the middle of the night if certain demands are not met. Kind of an asshole, really. On the other hand, she rolls around and bats at shoelaces, she purrs, and she meows excitedly when we near the door. Sometimes, when i walk away when she’s not done with me, she scampers after me and taps me a couple times on the leg and looks up, as if to say please? Guess we’ll let her stay.
Here’s to my beloved little smart car. Who had to retire a bit earlier than we’d planned, the repeated pummeling of Boston’s matchless collection of potholes finally too much for his totally nonexistent suspension. Thousands of dollars away from a plausible shot at an inspection sticker, we had to part ways. While i handled it better than the loss of my dear old minivan, it wasn’t anywhere near as easy as selling my Neon to a friend (who, years later, reported it was totaled saving his sister’s life in an accident in 2012—a great car).
Maybe i didn’t take as much crap for my little car as i did for insisting on using a janky mid-1990’s Mac at an engineering school, but if i’m honest with myself, it was a similarly iconoclastic, impractical, downright foolish decision in any objective sense. i really can’t honestly recommend them to anyone in the northeast—the maintenance is brutally expensive and you’re going to break too many things. Even if i didn’t spend huge amounts on maintenance, it sure felt like something was always broken. Something underneath the car, mostly.
So why did i love the little guy so much? Only a few of you got to drive him, and fewer still enjoyed it (ahem, @swimman79), but when you’re really truly used to it, it’s really like there’s nothing between you and the road. For better and for worse, obviously. But he goes right where you put him, squeezes into ludicrous parking spots, and once you get good at it, you can use all 70hp well enough to dodge Storrow traffic invincibly and beat almost anything off the line. It just felt good to drive. Comfy warm seats on a cold day, 360˚ of sunshine on a nice day, and a nice ledge for the girl to put her feet up on on the passenger side.
Cars are deeply personal because as Americans, we spend a lot of time in them. Good times, shouting along to Underworld after a tight shutout, bad times, sitting in traffic while preoccupied with something i designed that doesn’t work right.
The little man was there the whole time, and i will miss him so.
Big shoes to fill, new car, whom i will also name Car (but probably use a lot of other names, too). Big, little shoes.