Friday, February 15, 2008

Change Is A Foot

Or, two even.

Sometimes much greater distances.

Simple steps, though, that add up to many feet.

Miles even.

I helped our neighbors, The P.'s, move out of their diminutive-on-the-outside looking abode this week. Its right behind our house. Same color. Same style. Same builder. Different folks inside.

Looks can be deceiving; nothing is diminutive when it comes to moving peoples' lives. Babies, boxes, books, beds, bikes, beer-making kits, barking dog, plus myriad minutiae and a multitude of memories. Lots and lots of memories to carry away. The heaviest things to lift and then to watch move away with a jack-o-lantern colored UHaul in tow.

They're off to the great city of Chicago (imagine if New York City had an affair with Boston and birthed a pleasant land of in-betweens - only with lesser legendary baseball offspring ... may those black socks rest in tattered pieces "Shoeless Joe") to begin new lives.

New lines of work.

New turning points.

Goodbye, Austin, for some.

For others, like ourselves, change is a new neighborhood. A new piece of property in the same city. Ownership and all of its powerful symbolism: "No, we don't rent. We own." Any questions? So, put that in your peace-pipe and smoke it.

There's a certain arrogance you can't deny when you enter the rich kingdom of property ownership. No longer down with the serfs.


The American Dream now one large multi-scoop ice-cream soda with two colorful straws dipped into each end.

Now ... start sucking.

It's not all bad.

It's something called an investment, right? It ensures you have something to turn around and sell to make even more money later on down the road.

Remember when property was for living in, though? Growing up in? Calling it a home? Is this notion really that so far removed from current reality? I rather enjoyed growing up in our modest Indian Village abode. Three bedroom, two bath, Cape-style home. The house never was sold for profit ... until AFTER the divorce.

"The times they are a-changin' ", as a far superior muse once observed.

But we adapt.

Regardless of the missteps and the painful downfalls that may result when an entire nation decides to self-induce-amnesia while speeding along the Capitalist fast-track. Some of us don't survive it, but most go on to change the rules, adapt s'more and redraw the schematics of falling down and getting back up all over again. So we can inevitably repeat the process ad infinitum only perhaps more creatively next time...

(Right now? Witness the many Fallen trying to get back up.)

Not us, though.

No strong ARMs to wrestle, no double-real-estate-agents to drag to criminal court, no sub-titles nor 'left or right' liens to contend with. Everything checks out. Just a house. Plain and simple. Needs paint. Needs minor repairs. Needs warm bodies to adjust its temperament. Once those things are in place we begin the...

We begin the what exactly?

The waiting game? The actual "living" that everybody talks about but never truly knows when they've actually arrived there? The having-it-all aspiration? That American Dream-thing again?

But, the "what" exactly I know not? Admittedly, I'm quite perplexed behind all of the property ownership hullabaloo at times.

Sure, now we can FIX the property up. We can add the additions, grow the gardens, and paint the painterly color schemes without answering to anyone but ourselves, the professionals and the Home Despots of the world.

Ahhh, the sweet smell of ... cash flow!

True this is what we were all inculcated with when we were 'growing up'. We weren't "adults" until these basics were acquired, right? Prince & Princess Charming's entitlement? Glorious regal castles? Two carriage stables? And the impish garbled burblings of many tiny serfs' feet yet to come that eventually may inherit the joint...?

Unless they decide to sell it. And move to tonier castles in bigger kingdoms, of course.

Ah, America. Dog! Fetch me my slippers!

I am not really property ownership averse - although, I once claimed Socialism as my political point of view many awkward and naive twenty-something-ago years past (Billy Bragg have you married and passed the torch-song to a younger squire yet?) - but I do have my issues I suppose.

No doubt I am settling into the notion of ownership in the real (estate) sense. I can't wait to set the cannons up on the parapets, wave the coat-of-arms banner and have the unalienable right to shoot the god-awful snot out of any bastard trespassing on my gulldarn land (sniiiiiiiiiiif! Puh-chaw!).

But, I won't easily forget the walks through Nagog Pond Woods when I was a kid with fellow naifs Steve, Tim and Chris either.

Nor will I forgive certain lack of foresight.

Swimming, unmolested, by any site-lines to civilization's encroaching progress. Forest trees, pine-needle bed footpaths, reservoir clean water, the acrobatics of birds, and the challenge of watching many mysteries unfold.

Feeling far away from the human numbers. Tucked away in the comfortable silence of country woods! Truly free. Or, a reasonable facsimile thereof.

A special spot carved out of sand and smooth, black-lichened rocks.

A rope swing.

A shouting contest, "How many is a duck!" belly-flops and hysterical laughter.

Soaking wet, white trunks and a tender, nubile beauty tanning herself on a flat, sun-baked stone, giggling, "Your underwear! It's blue!"

"I know! I like blue! Do you?"

Bronze skin gives way to roses and cherry-red blush.

Quietly now, like the shushing breeze on that rippled water, "I like blue..."

A swim to the island half way across the lake. The black, slithering serpent that swam right towards us as we crossed, head and tongue bobbing and flickering ferociously as it deviled its way on the waters surface.

Then seeing it, rather suddenly and surreptitiously ... submerge. Six feet away from our splashing swimmers set. Sliding under our bellies. Scaled-skin fanning at our legs and toes. Sparing us the shock-inducing nip as we invaded its secret waters...

"Holy, shit! Did you see that!? Did you see that!?! It's right underneath us! Swim! Faster! SWIM!!!"

Then one summer...

The first Castle appeared.

Too close to our Spot.

Too close to our Rope.

Too close to our Island.

Too close to our serpentine swimming stretch.

Too close!

Just too damned close.

A fence and a sign followed.

A complete stranger's Verboten pushing itself mercilessly into our previously respected boundaries. Telling us that the path we took every summer to get down to the Pond was no longer an option.

MAnifest DestiNy EnSueS.

The Pond was no longer a private swimming hole to young men and women, nor to their fancies and flirtations.

It was instead:

"Gorgeous lake front views at competitive rates!" the elite and uncaring.

A marketing scheme. A dreadfully branded and off-limits picture-window-view estate for four, maybe five, people at most.

Perhaps a yapping rat-terrier, or some spoiled Pomeranian, "appreciated" those trappings, too...

The rest of us ... us peasants?

"Let them eat Lake!"

We watched one of the many things magical and inspiring about being youthful, full of whimsy, and spirited dissolve away in just under the course of a year.

Change was afoot elsewhere, too, in our little home town.

Growing up fast indeed.

Real fast!

More than a foot at a time as those oh-we'll-put-better-zoning-rules- in-place-next-year town hall promises fell into thousands of uncontrolled, unconscionably developed acres.

The Minute Man Historical Trail devolved into "Minute Mansion Heights".

Pacy's Egg Farm & Sweets begat "Pacy's Luxury Condos & Suites".

The Acton Drive-In Movie theatre became ... ugh ... Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Job opportunities, you bet, but at what cost ultimately? (ed. - DEC has since declared Chapter 11 and said building has been unoccupied for the last ten years... now a delightful spot for graffiti adverts!)

And, naturally, Nagog Pond followed suit and became what you'd already guessed ... a memory.


I will raise a glass to our new home here in Austin, Texas.

I will revel in its powerful meaning, its commanding rank, and its elitist, all-important symbolism.

But I will also pray that it never stood to bury the memories of anyone's most important years.

1 comment:

bethany said...

I totally relate. There's the identity crisis like you're just doing what you're supposed to do (and at what expense and what expectations) and all the oddities of what you hoped felt permanent feeling as impermanent as an apartment.

I always dreamed I'd own a place and transform it with wacky murals, mosaic the garden, all this fun stuff and I am constantly paralyzed by the "what if we decide to move?" problem. Will it change the value or how easily it sells? Will I lose all that work and art? Will the new people just destroy it? I should just go forth and create as I see fit but I actually feel more stuck by the ownership than by a rental unit.

And for the practical stuff, really, what is more boring than working on your house? I never understood that switch that seemed to go in people where they talked about home repair exclusively for years. I know it's a challenge and I like hands on stuff and am happy to do it (if I had any help anyway...coz I need time to do Other stuff too) but the seeming cult membership of it is weird.