Friday, May 21, 2010


It's a good thing they let me have a column in this newspaper. I'm going to need it to retrace my steps this week.

See, a funny thing happened to me over the past seven days. I started the week as Shane Brown, Normal Guy -- safe, happy, and complacent in my non-changing life of non-change. By Friday, I was Shane Brown -- HOME-OWNER. Never in all my years did I think I would type that sentence, but I just did.

I guess I'm speaking too soon. I suppose I don't "own" my house until I "close" on my house (see, I'm picking up the lingo already.) But I got the loan, made an offer, and some dude who lives states away took me up on it. And now, barring some kind of radon and/or plumbing catastrophe (keep your fingers crossed, the inspection is next week,) it's mine. I am now officially and indisputably a Rock Islander. Gulp.

I just need to figure out exactly HOW this happened.

I've been a renter my entire adult life, and it's been pretty much the same apartment. When something breaks, I can pick up a phone and some dude just shows up and magically fixes it. I guess I can still have a dude show up and fix my house, but the magic wears off once he asks for a credit card number. I've lived my life in blissful ignorance of how to perform even the simplest of home repairs, and I'm pretty much cool with that. I've got more important issues to deal with, like video games.

I react poorly to change. Change is bad. There's safety in the familiar, and I like my life to be perpetually wrapped around me like a security blanket. If the world were Shane-perfect, none of my friends would move, start/stop dating anyone, or change jobs. In fact, in my perfect world, I'm still in college, just without tests or classes to attend (not unlike my actual college experience.)

But I suppose sometimes logic needs to outweigh the warm fuzzies of complacency. I've lived here for just shy of 19 years now, but it's no real secret that my apartment complex has seen its best days. The neighborhood has pretty much gone to pot (both figuratively AND literally, based on the current stench in the hallway.) And while I'm the last person to want to change my life, there are occasional tell-tale signs that point towards necessary action.

Like when you've run out of room to put your stuff. Or maybe if your next door neighbor pleads guilty to raping a minor while your other neighbor gets evicted for harboring a fugitive murder suspect. These are what folks in the know refer to as "red flags." And lately, the only flag that HASN'T been red is the Black Flag I had to buy the day I came home to a cockroach in the kitchen sink, waving with its antennae like, "Yo, do me a solid and pass me some crumbs!" Moving might not be such a bad thing.

No one was a bigger proponent of the concept than my girlfriend. I guess she just doesn't like apartments. Or maybe it was when her car got broken into while it was in my lot. All I know is that, immediately following my admission that I was considering a move, she started leaving subtle hints around the apartment to keep me on-task. Like finding 10 different house listings pulled up on my laptop every day. Subtle.

A few weeks ago, we toured a a super-cute place for a reasonable price, but when I went to show the listing to a friend a few days later, I discovered the house had already sold. "Meh," I said, "Dashed hopes. See, I'm better off on the couch."

But that was before I got the phone call at work the other day.

"Umm, honey?" said Amy sheepishly. "I think I just found the perfect house."

I got off work and headed to the property. As I stepped out, I realized what I was about to face: a conspiratorial girl gaggle. There stood Amy, one of her best friends, and that friend's mother -- all giddy with house fever. Behind them stood a realtor, who might as well have had dollar signs for eyes at this point. I was in deep.

The house that they were in love with I was certainly not. It was a neat ol' house for sure, but the focus here is on the word OL'. This house was crusty. The kind of house that groans when you walk across its floors. The kind of house you would NOT want to say "BEETLEJUICE BEETLEJUICE BEETLEJUICE" in. The kind of house that needed both fixing and upping, and I am NOT the man for that job. My basic rule of thumb: Any home that has already celebrated its centennial is NOT the home for Shane. I needed backup, and stat.

So I called MY friends over, and told them to be level-headed and realistic about the state of the place. One of my friends took this to mean "come over and act like a party-pooping Bob Vila," which might have worked, were he not another apartment lifer like me. Still, I was grateful for his incessant pointing out of every crack in the foundation and damp spot in the basement. In the end, the boys won out. Well, at least THIS boy did. I passed on the house. The husband of Amy's friend? Not so lucky. They put an offer on the house the next day.

Speaking of the next day, the realtor from the day before called and wanted to show us some other properties. What the heck, I thought, couldn't hurt. We'd never find anything in our price range better than the house we'd just passed on, Amy would be happy that I was being pro-active, and I'd be home early enough to get in some video games before bed.

Sure enough, the first house he took us to looked like a good stiff wind could bring the sucker down. And here's a handy hint to those of you selling homes: If you're having an open house, perhaps you should remove the pile of assorted vertebrae bones from your front porch first (though I did greatly enjoy their interior design options - the empty beer bottles full of cigarette butts was a bold choice.)

The second house was equally as off-putting, with a 100-degree upstairs and The World's Creepiest Basement, complete with a mural of faceless children playing ping-pong, presumably drawn by Freddy Krueger. Then we rolled up to the third house and I walked in. And in one blink of an eye, I knew I'd be making an offer that night.

It's pretty much my dream home. New construction, vaulted ceilings, lofted bedroom, spiral staircase, open floor plan, modern as heck, and squeaks into my budget by the slimmest of margins. It's as if they built the house knowing I would one day come for it. And come for it I have.

This of course means that the pending inspection will find the place rife with radon, termites, and faulty wiring. Keep your fingers crossed for me, Quad Cities. If nothing else, I might have just found unlimited column fodder for the next 30 years worth of house payments. Gulp.

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