Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marriage, John Robert's silly question, and Bristol Palin's Vagina

So, last week was one for the books.  I know, y'all are happy for everyone.  We can now discard "Same Sex Marriage" and just call it what it is, "Marriage".  I am all for making things simple.  Me and Martha Stewart - and I can't wait for her book on how to throw a reception for two guys or two girls - are on the same wave length.  Just like twin sisters, except I am the younger of the two of us by a couple decades.

Anyhow, I am happy, except Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who wrote in his dissent:

“The court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”

Immediately thereafter, he asked the silliest rhetorical question, ever: “Just who do we think we are?

To which I answer in the common sense fashion possible: We are AMERICANS, you meathead.

And Americans seldom do the easiest things to do, but we chart our own course and we are no one's second fiddle.  Given the chance to have our own King, or elect a leader we said no to the former and yes to the later.  No one had done that before in modern world.

Well, I guess if Justice Roberts had been there, we would have had a King (or at least an Emperor or some such), because that's what the Franks, the Holy Roman Empire and the French had.

I really want to sit down and have a drink with Roberts so we can discuss this.  Because it really was a stupid move on his part.

I have no qualms about honoring other cultures, and weaving the best from them into this great land of ours. But my mother's ancestors did not fight in the American Revolution against the most powerful army of its day and beat the shit out of the British so we could define our social structure according to Kalahari Bushmen.  Oh, hell no.

And did my father's parents leave "The Old Country" and come to America because it was just like the Han Chinese culture?  Seriously?  No, they came here because it was a beacon of freedom for all people, even for Europe's favorite punching bag: the Jews.  They could have to China, but they Cleveland was a smarter way to go.

Heck, how great are we?  We make up with our sworn enemies.  I love the United Kingdom, and the Queen's handbag collection.  English skally boys?  Amusing tricks, I say.  Bangers and mash?  Get enough Guinness in me and anything is possible.

Nor did we do so to honor the Han Chinese, or God forbid the Aztecs.  Hell, had we followed the Aztec model we would still be part of the United Kingdom because we would have just stood by while the British did whatever they wanted to do.

And the Carthaginians?  They were wiped from the face of the earth when they tried to spank down the Romans with elephants for God's sake.

So I don't know who or what John Roberts thinks he is, but the rest of us know that none of us are equal until all of us are equal.

Let me leave you with my favorite moment, which came from the "Chat" section of the Louisville, Kentucky newspaper's coverage of Bristol Palin's latest plight, her SECOND pregnancy without benefit of marriage.  Why do I read the "chat section and message boards"?   Because you never know what the great unwashed will say.  So I give you THIS:


Now that is an opinion I can get behind.  No qualms or fussy rhetorical questions.  Just good old common sense.  Now, chew on that, John Roberts.

So, y'all have a blessed day, y'hear?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Kabuki Theater of Real Estate

We have the Seller, the Buyer and the Agent.  Their roles are set and cannot be broken, lest "things" go awry. 

If you have ever bought a house, in the traditional sense, in the United States, you know that it is not a matter of looking up house, visiting, asking the seller what the prices is, taking out your credit card and buying said house.

No, buying a house is a more white knuckle transaction that involves going to showings, touring through your hosts home, judging their sense of color and decorations, talking about this funny scent or that ugly light and then fuming that the home of your dreams is most likely beyond your purse.

When you do find "the" house, then you enter into a formal ceremony that can last 24 hours or up to two months while the offer is issued on a presented contract, and is either refused with a huff, or silence, haggled over, or - it you are lucky - accepted, but with conditions.

This is a first act of The Kabuki Theater of Real Estate.

In this theater, each person has a role to play.  You have the seller who wants to get rid of said house at the highest price, you have the buyer who want to buy said house at the lowest possible price, and the real estate agent who just worries that something will get in the way of his or her commission.  In certain cases, there may be TWO agents.

After accepting the offer, certain things must happen.  Like Kabuki Theater, there are rules, and if the rules are broken, and tradition is left to wither, unspeakable things can happen.

Chief among these protocols is the tradition that the buyer and seller do not interact directly while the house is "in contract".  Not only that, but if they have to interact, the "action" is always indirect, and through the respective real estate agent - He (or She) is the gatekeeper of communication.  Messages go up, and then they are transmitted back down.  But the agent controls the conversation.   If there are two agents, then they converse with each other, but the seller agent NEVER contacts the buyers agent for any reason, except when the buyer's agent has lost interest in the deal because its almost done.  

This is where we find ourselves.

Today was the Chimney inspection of the "new" old house.  Imagine my surprise when I went to said house to meet our agent and the inspector to find the owners at the house that they were not supposed to be at.   Just like a home showing, the property owner is not supposed to be there - its part of the veil of smoke and mirrors - when there is an inspection going on because if there is an issue, it could become an issue.

The owners were there.  With a plate of fudge brownies.

This cannot be.  Why?  BECAUSE!

In ancient Greek theater the action never takes place on the stage.  No the action takes place OFF stage, then the actors talk what allegedly about it on stage, after the chorus recounts the action.  But there is NO action on stage.  Oedipus does not seduce his mother on the stage.  They do not try and conceive a child.  Their infertility is discussed, but everyone keeps their clothes on because that is what tradition calls for.  Damnit.

However, there was Audrey sticking her head in the fireplace and looking up it with a flashlight saying "This is so silly to pay someone to do what I am doing for free..." and Doug holding out a platter inviting me and Realtor Bob to partake in some Fudgy Goodness.  "They're extra chewy," he promised.

Leaving with the chimney inspector we were talking on the sidewalk - after all I am paying his bill - and here comes Audrey, dressed in red plaids, and face covered in soot (looking like the opening act of a minstrel show) asking "well, are we going to be able to sell this house?"

Realtor Bob, who is adorkable, stumbled over the words found his footing and defty regained control over the situation.  "I'll send a copy to your agent," Audrey looked perplexed.  Remember, she hasn't bought a house since 1965.

Anyway, the chimney passed.  Next up is the home inspection.  Realtor Bob contacted the selling agent and suggested that the Doug and Audrey go out while the inspection is going on.

However, in the great tradition of Kabuki, who knows how this next act will play out.

Anyhow, a moving date has been selected and the Moving company chosen.  So we are going forward, even if forward means taking an unconventional and absurdist path.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sometimes, it isn't all about the bump out

I know that many of you have been wondering "What has Cookie been up to?"

WELL...the husband and have been in quite a tizzy wondering what is to become of us and this house we bought when we moved to Baltimore.  Simply put, it doesn't work for us.  Oh, it oozes charm, no doubt.  But for how we live, it doesn't work for us.

So last year, in an attempt to make the house work for us, we removed the nasty old sliding glass doors on our side porch and replaced them with French Doors.  We also removed the sliding "drive through window" that a previous owner installed, with French casements. We decided that this would be our new back door once we built the deck off the back of the house.

This past February were in the backyard while the dogs romped in the snow around our feet and I said, "Maybe instead of building the deck first, we should talk to an architect about getting the kitchen fixed."  Because the kitchen really needed a total make over.  Seriously.  It's tiny and it is cramped and it didn't work for us.

So we started interviewing architects:

- The first arrived with a silk scarf around his neck and reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright, in a bad way - the way in which the architect creates his vision and owners are left to adapt to his design, and not the other way.  Strike one.  Then he knew nothing about houses designed by the Small Homes Bureau of the American Institute of Architecture.  Strike two.  Then he kicked at our dog Kevin.  Strike three, and he was out.

- The second man seemed like a better fit, assured us that we could get what we wanted, but then proceeded to tell us what we wanted.

- The third architect came in and had us picture this, that and everything else.  We liked him.  When we got his bid, we couldn't afford him.

- The fourth firm we liked very much and we decided to hire them, but postponed the contract signing from after our California trip.

Just before we left for California, I found another house that was perfect for us.  Bigger - much bigger.  In Baltimore County.  But the husband didn't like that it was in a "Village" community, and I had to agree that the village was a tight fit compared to Wide Open Spaces where we live in Baltimore city.  I mean we are literally down the road from a County and Hunt Club, and I happen to like wide yards and leafy vistas.

Our plan for this house involved tearing down the kitchen and rebuilding it, and adding a bedroom above it.  Then we would have added in a bath and a half.  The laundry room would get moved from the basement to the second floor.  The hot water radiator system would get pulled and would be replaced with a all-season forced air system.  Price tag?  $150,000 to $200,000.

We could create the house of our dreams.  It is within reach.  Really.  Nothing hard about it.

Still, we weren't motivated to sign the papers with the architects.  Every day we talked about it, but moving forward with it just wasn't something that we felt was a priority.

A week ago last Saturday we were at the neighborhood progressive dinner and the neighborhood grandparents, Doug and Audrey came up to us and told us they were moving into assisted living.  Now in the eighties, Audrey is a little unstable on her feet and the stairs at their house around the block from our house are too much for her to navigate.

"You should buy our home," said Audrey.  And Audrey has been saying this for two years to us.

I explained we would love to, but that it was too expensive for our budget.   Audrey invited us to the open house the next day, said she would make us a good deal, winked and went on her way.

One the way home from grocery store, I said to the husband "So, you just want to run through their house and see what a house at the top of our budget looks like?

So we did.   It was much bigger than our house, with more land, more features, and FOUR bathrooms.  Now we have ONE bathroom in the house that does work for us.  They have FOUR freaking bathrooms.   More than two people can in their kitchen - by like 20.   And in the basement?  Not one pipe dangling from the ceiling.  Central air?  Sure.   And a DISHWASHER.

We thanked the realtor, left, got home, looked around and I looked at the husband and he looked at me and we both said "Let's call Bob," who is our neighborhood realtor, "and ask him what he thinks.
And Bob came over.

And we talked with Bob.

And Bob said "Look, you can do all the things you want to do to your house and because of the street you are on, I can't guarantee you can get your money out of it.   If you were on Doug and Audrey's street, you could."

And Bob was right.  Because their street isn't a main drag.

(And Bob has a sweet body.  Did I mention that?  Is it evil to objectify your real estate agent?  Discuss.)

And then we put in a low ball offer on Doug and Audrey's house.

And Doug and Audrey saw it was from us and agreed to the deal.

And it was that simple.

And that is the story of how we decided that it is better to move than bump out, and cheaper, too.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Snatch This Pebble From My Hand

So Cookie finds himself, and The Husband, in Los Angeles this week on a vacation/research trip that is equal parts both.  The husband humors Cookie's genealogy obsession, and Cookie in turn honors the Husband's desire to walk around gardens, famous and otherwise.  Together, we are a very easy going pair.

So Today, Cookie will trudge through the Huntington Library and Gardens, because the husband gave eight hours of effort towards Cookie's research on Wednesday.  It's a fair trade.

Yesterday, we were guests of the Los Angeles Public Library pouring over a private collection.  The visit was arranged months ago.

This leads me to mention an odd thing about the LA Public Library, Central Division.  They have a rare books and manuscript division.   But you wouldn't know it if you asked the librarians there.

My first visit to the department came in 1990s, about five years after the big fire.   I wanted to access the department because it held several one of a kind items I needed to look at for a project I was working on.  The man I was directed to, "Tom" actually refused to acknowledge that the items were in the collection.  "There is nothing in the collection that are not already in the authors published works.  I persisted - I wanted to see his notes, because as we all know, the notes hold the key to the methodology.

When I arrived at the library for the visit back then, I arrived, and I asked for directions to the rare book and manuscript division.

"I can't tell you where it is."

I explained that I had an appointment.  The person asked to see my ID and left the desk, made a call, came back and said, please wait here.  A man came and I was escorted to the department.  Score one for Cookie.

In 2012, we made the trip here again, and on a visit to the library, I asked again, preface it by saying "I don't have an appointment, and I know that one is needed, but isn't the rare books division around here?"

You would have thought that I had just asked to see Satan.  Her eyes got large as saucers and she defensively said "I can't tell you that."

Excuse me?

"You can't go there."  I explained I had no such intention.   I again asked if the division was nearby, and again I got a "You can't go there."  I again explained that I just wanted to get my bearings.  "I can't tell you."

And in 2013, we played this game AGAIN.

"I can't tell you that information."

This time I came prepared: "It's on the Third Floor of the Goodhue Building, isn't it?"

She was stunned.  Shocked, even!  "I can't confirm that."

Seriously?  Even though its on your web site, you can't confirm it.  Really?

At least in Kung Fu, the kid got a pebble for his trouble.