Friday, November 23, 2007

Nothing New Really

still being a bizzy bee, with day job and freelance by moonlight occupying every moment. i’m hoping to wrap up this damn book i’m editing in the next few weeks. i can see the finish line and am inching steadily toward it like a marathon runner, though i worry my knees will buckle at the last mile. i’m already tired as fuck, cranky as hell. i want it to end already so i can get some sleep. soon, soon, young grasshopper.

thanksgiving was very nice. i’m sure i can do better than “nice,” but that’s all i got. we had it at my sister’s house this year and had too much food on the table, as jews tend to have, with my sister making ham, my ma making pork chops and me making my world-famous zucchini lasagna. add to that about a million side dishes and you have a feast for an army, though we were just seven.

since we were once poor immigrants, we can’t bear to watch good food go to waste, so we proceeded to stuff ourselves to the brim until we were all sitting around the table groaning, hands on our bellies and our pants unbuttoned. then we collapsed on the couch, popped in some dreadful mandy moore romantic comedy for the kids and drifted into fantasyland until dessert magically appeared on the table. then we ate some dessert. and by “we,” i mean i.

this year, i opted out of the standard what i’m thankful for on thanksgiving post because i’ve done it countless times before and guess what? nothing’s changed. i’m still most thankful for all the living beings around me who fill up my heart with light and make me strive to be a better human being, blah, blah, etc. so thanks, skanks!

i do wish to give a special shout-out to the latest living being that’s enriched my life for the better — my indomitable, inexhaustible puppy Pinko, who’s taught me that i can offer unconditional love to a creature that gets on my every last nerve and drives me bat-shit insane most of the time before turning on the cute and making it all better at just the right moment. but i guess that’s parenthood for you.

beyond that, i’m trying to get myself together for 2008, which means setting some realistic goals, half of which i really really hope i will keep. they include eating less and exercising more (hahahahahahaha!!) and, of course, buying a house. they also include blogging more and banging johnny depp.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: Open House, Downtown LA

my mortgage broker forwarded me an email she received from the city a few weeks ago that said the city would have the money i need to fund my home purchase in another two or three months. recall that the very generous and wealthy city of Los Angeles is helping me secure my mortgage through a first-time homeowners fund set aside especially for low-income peeps like myself. mortgage broker also said that she faxed in a reservation for me, which should secure my cut of the pie.

i’ve decided to look upon this unexpected delay as divine intervention from the real estate gods who know that home prices will continue to fall. by how much, who the hell knows? i read estimates each day in the paper that predict anywhere from a 15% to a 60% drop. and honestly, i don’t know whom to believe. i don’t even believe my own estimate of a 30% drop, because i don’t own a crystal ball, and my tarot cards don’t count.

however things go, my goal has never been to flip a house or time the market to my advantage. sure, i don’t want to buy real estate that depreciates, but if it’s a short-term loss that’s eventually regained, i could live with that — and in that. already, as i check the MLS, so many more places have entered the realm of my search criteria, with their headlines of “REDUCED!! REDUCED!!” this is quite awesome, as it’s expanded my concept of what i can afford.

still, i can’t afford much. without getting into the dollars and cents of it, my budget might allow me to buy a nice house in compton, but that would run counter to Dave’s advice of “buy the worst house on the best block.” i’m already priced out of the areas i really want to live in, like Silver Lake, which already had its influx of aging hipsters who were tired of hollywood move in and gentrify. the next wave went farther east, into Eagle Rock, which i’m also priced out of. so hello, Highland Park.

there’s also the downtown area, which i was considering until i attended the grand opening of a popular loft complex in the fashion district. i went with my girl, Dee, who’s also toying with the idea of the big buy, for the promise of a live band, free food and a chance to win an iPhone in a raffle. turns out the band was a DJ, the food was all fried, and neither of us won the iPhone. we probably looked like a pair of picky power dykes as we sauntered from one showcase loft to the next, opening closet doors and asking the ushers stationed around the complex, “um, excuse me, is this laminate cus it sure doesn’t look like real wood?” (it was laminate.)

if location is everything in real estate, these lofts proved it. some of them had the most breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, which i stood and stared at for a long minute. it struck me that these tall buildings, one of which i work in, looked more beautiful than a pack of trees. i began imagining that view at night or during the rain, and how inspiring it could be. it overwhelmed me with love for Los Angeles and got me thinking that i should call the u-haul to schedule the move-in.

then i’d walk into a different loft and find a view of the parking lot behind the complex, which was breathtaking in a different way. though the lot was guarded, i could see the junkies surrounding the perimeter, one of whom accosted me for change when i stepped out of the building, and said with slurred speech and out-stretched hand, “iss not fer drugs.”

that got me thinking i should cancel the u-haul and keep my hands in my pockets. as far as it’s come, downtown LA still has a ways to go. it’s always been a place to avoid at night, good only for warehouse parties where you can drink past 2am and buy drugs. trees are rare, and the ‘bark park’ promised by the complex offered just a patch of astroturf for the residents’ dogs to do their doodies on.

maybe i could have done it ten years ago when i was fearless and dogless, but today, loft living downtown just doesn’t suit me. it’s too urban, remote and uncomfortable. it’s not dog-friendly, and there’s no supermarket nearby. plus, parking is nonexistent, which means none of my friends would visit. i hear enough complaints now, living in West Hollywood, about the ‘parking situation.’ in Los Angeles, there is always a parking situation and in downtown, it’s a catastrophe.

i know downtown has nicer lofts in nicer, safer neighborhoods, but i’m already priced out of those. though if i did have money to burn, i would totally get a loft as a weekend retreat, which i would turn into a studio space where i could write the great american novel while gazing at the skyline.

at night, i’d invite my arty neighbors over to drink red wine and talk about postmodernism. i’d smear brie on my crackers without a care about the calories, because in this fantasy i’m ravishing and effortlessly thin. we’d play LCD Soundsystem records, on vinyl, to drown out the noise of the urban bustle outside and think nothing of the sirens and helicopters that circled around us. we’d be cool like dat and make funny jokes — haha that one about Nietzsche! good one, Pierre!

the next morning, i’d drive back to my real home, which would have a paved driveway not filled with panhandlers. then on weekends, i’d take the jet to my beach house in Maui. better yet, i’d just teleport there because jet fuel is bad for the environment nowadays and i’ve gone green.

but i’ll save all that for another day. today, i’ll focus on finding the worst house on the best block.