Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween is my least favorite Holiday

Easter, Mother’s Day, Groundhog Day, any of the special days, for me, are preferable to Halloween. I am always glad when October is over and they stop playing all the slasher movies on TV and the theaters. I’ve never cared for horror stories, books or movies, which is mainly why I don’t like this holiday. There are some exceptions:

1) The Birds
2) The first two Alien movies
3) The Shining

But all the rest, the monster, gore and slasher movies, you can shitcan for all I care. I’ve never understood why people enjoy them. But then, I suppose that’s why there is chocolate as well as vanilla. People have different tastes.

The only good thing about his day is seeing the very creative costumes people come up with. That I like, not for myself, as I’ve seldom liked going in costume, but I’ve seen others get incredibly creative, which is always fun.

So starting tomorrow, hopefully we will all have had our fill of ghosts and goblins and monsters and Freddy Crueger, and we’ll all settle into looking forward to Thanksgiving with more wholesome movie selections.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Feeling Grateful this Weekend

Herman and I are leaving our house in the hands of our Realtor today while we go to a lunchon with some new friends in Northern California. The day is sunny and warm, indian summer is still upon us, and I'm feeling grateful.

We are having our fourth Sunday Open House today, and we're hopeful that we find a buyer so we can complete our purchase of a house in Palm Springs. Still, I keep looking around this wonderful home that I've lived in for the past thirty years and I can help feeling grateful for the time I've spent here. Life is good, and has been that way for some time.

The future is wide open, but I'm taken time now to love this present moment. Something I should do more often, I'm thinking.

Hope everyone reading this is also in a great space today. My best wishes go out to you all.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing Tip #32 - Building Readership

I belong to several online writing groups where topics about writing/publishing are bantered around endlessly. Most of it is both entertaining and interesting. Yesterday a writer posted his frustrations about not being able to grow his readership. He explained that he writes in a variety of genres—contemporary romance, historical, steampunk, paranormal, etc.—and his readers who like one genre drop him like a stone when they read another genre by him that they don’t like. He posed the question whether he should focus on one or two genres while he builds his readership.

He received an avalanche of advice—everything from narrowing his focus, to publishing many more books faster, to writing a series where the same characters are featured in several novels. I didn’t offer my $0.02 because I’ve not done that great a job of expanding my readership. But the question has been percolating in the back of my head so I thought I would blog about it as a way to clarify my thoughts.

It seemed to me he is focused on the wrong issue. His focus is on how to get more readers. It seems to me his focus should be on writing high quality stories, something that will knock the socks off readers, regardless of what genre it follows.

Admittedly, you can gather what I know about readers into a thimble and you’d still have plenty of room for other things, but I think what readers (at least this reader) enjoys most is: a great hook, fascinating character development, impeccable prose, a captivating plot, and an unexpected yet satisfying ending. Easy peasy, right? (grin)

My point is, in my view most readers don’t care if it’s contemporary vs. historical vs. paranormal. What they crave is a gripping, emotional story with quality writing. They want their emotional buttons pushed, and they want to enjoy the prose while that’s happening. If you can deliver that every time, in my humble opinion, then your readers will not only stick by you, they will clamor for more and tell their friends in the process.

My advice: write the stories you feel compelled to write, but focus on quality. If it takes you three years to deliver a quality product, then take three years. One of my favorite writers, Alex Jeffers, has only written three or four books in the last ten years, and each one is impeccable. I don’t care what genre he writes in, I will read anything he publishes because I know it will be great work. He never releases anything until it is entirely thought out and polished to a dazzling sheen. I have no idea if he has a large following, but I do know that all of the readers I’ve talked to who know him are as devoted as I am to his work.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that my stories are in the same league as Alex Jeffers and Felice Picano and others of that caliber. What I’m saying is my focus is on improving my craft so that one day, hopefully, I will publish the kind of superior stories of those writers I so admire.

Build a quality mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door, or so the saying goes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Simple Treasure Excerpt

This story started as a screenplay that has yet to find a producer. I’ve turned it into a novella, and I think the story is stronger in prose format. Simple Treasure was released in all ebook formats on Aug. 31st of this year at Dreamspinner Press.

Here’s what Victor Banis had to say about Simple Treasures: “I just finished reading this - what a thrill I got from it. This is the 
mega-talented Alan Chin at the peak of his form, one of those miraculous
occasions when he surpasses mere writing and enters the realm of art. If
 your spirit is hungry, here is manna.”

Buy Link:


Newly released from a mental institution, Simple’s first job is caring for Emmett, a crusty drunkard dying of cancer on a ranch in Utah. Simple’s first fragile friendship is with Emmett’s grandson Jude, a gay youth in Gothic drag who gets nothing but grief from his grandfather. In an attempt to help both men, Simple, a Shoshone Indian, decides to perform a ceremony that will save Emmett by transferring his spirit into the body of a falcon.

Working to capture a falcon will bring Emmett and Jude closer as Jude and Simple’s growing love for each other blossoms, but all is not well. When the ranch, Jude’s future, and Simple’s happiness are threatened, more than Emmett’s spirit faces a bleak future.


In the faint flush of predawn, a Kenworth sixteen-wheeler topped a ridge, forty miles east of Saint George, Utah. With only a half load to hinder it, the rig barreled along the interstate at twenty miles an hour over the speed limit. The driver hoped to make Las Vegas in time for breakfast. The truck rumbled on, unrelenting.

Simple rode shotgun, staring at a dusting of lights that looked like a pocketful of stars cast across a vast and lonely mesa. The iridescent specks reminded him of flickering candles at a funeral, although he had no memory of ever attending one, and he wondered if that metaphor was some ominous sign of what lay waiting for him in Saint George.

He had stayed awake all night, too excited to sleep. His eyes burned, and his mouth felt parched. He wanted a drink, but his water bottle was stashed deep in the backpack that rested on the floorboard, between his feet. Outside, the crowns of cottonwoods, tinged pink with the coming dawn, appeared to be pasted upon a gunmetal-gray landscape. With his peripheral vision, he saw the rearview mirror reflect beams of pale orange light that now chased him across the mesa.

The driver, Dale McNally, a high-school dropout with rough manners and rougher speech, couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. His eyelids drifted toward his cheeks at about the same rate as the Kenworth swerved off the highway. When the right front tire gouged into the skim of gravel on the highway shoulder, Simple grabbed McNally’s thigh and shook it. McNally’s eyes popped open, blinked. He eased the rig back onto the blacktop.

McNally had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, showing the thick, ropy muscles of his forearms. He wore a cowboy hat with a rattlesnake-skin band. The dashboard's lights cast an eerie glimmer across his face, and a thatch of dark hair spread out below his hat, covering his ears and hanging over his frayed collar.

“Christ sakes,” McNally barked, “I picked you up so’s you could keep me awake. Help me out here, boy.”

That happened often. Simple was twenty-five years old—a stoic ranch-hand life had made him look closer to thirty—but even men his own age, like McNally, called him boy, son, or kid.

“How?” Simple asked, suspiciously.

“I didn’t mean that. You made yourself perfectly clear about that.”

Simple relaxed.

“Talk to me. Do somersaults on the hood if you have to; just keep me awake.”

Simple cracked his passenger window an inch, enough for a frosty breeze to whistle through the cab. He stared out the windshield, silent as a stone, trying to think of something to say.

“Someone should invent an electrical device for drivers to wear under their hats,” Simple said, “to zap their balls whenever they get drowsy. It could trigger from the change in blood pressure at the temples when the eyelids start to fall.”

Dale snarled, “Don’t be talkin’ about my balls if you ain’t goin’ to do anything ’bout ’em.”

Simple changed the subject, babbling on about the city lights mirroring the stars on the horizon. The hypnotic cadence of his voice made McNally yawn, a mouth-stretched-wide-open yawn, that pulled his eyes off the road for a dangerously long time. His eyelids became heavy again, drifted to half-mast, then closed altogether. His head leaned forward, and the Kenworth wandered into the oncoming lane.

Headlights from a tour bus illuminated the cab like a prolonged flash of lightning. The light triggered a memory in Simple’s head. Blinding light, someone grabs a handful of Simple’s hair and yanks his head back while four men wearing white scrubs hold his arms and legs. He fights with all his will, but they overpower him. A voice bellows in his head, “Get his pants down.” Clothes are ripped away. The orderly holding his hair positions himself between Simple’s naked legs. Simple hears the echo of harsh laughter.

Simple shook the image from his head. He grabbed McNally’s thigh again and barked, not really a word, but rather a harsh warning.

McNally’s eyes flew open and he jerked the wheel to the right. The Kenworth swerved back into its lane, and McNally struggled to keep it from careening out of control. “I’m telling you, boy, you got to help me. Talk to me.”

“Tell you what?”

“Tell me what an Indian boy like you is runnin’ from.”

“I ain’t running from; I’m running to.” One of Simple’s clearest childhood memories was constantly sneaking away from home with a library book under his arm. He felt the need to read alone, so that his family and the other kids wouldn’t tease him. Reading was not what boys did on the reservation. But he did. He had a favorite hideaway, in the cool shade of cottonwoods near the creek, where he would read the days away in the company of Twain, Hemingway, London, and Melville. But late in the afternoons, he would hear a door slam, and his mother’s voice calling the family to dinner. Then he would run, lickety-split, back to the house. All too often, by the time Simple had rushed to the kitchen, his grandfather was slathering the last ear of corn with butter, saying, “Too late, bookworm.” Simple would stare forlornly at the empty serving dish. Although Simple had few memories left, he suspected that he had been running all his life, that he was still running, as fast as possible, trying to claim that last ear of sweet corn.

“Shit,” Dale spat. “Even a knuckle scraper like me can see that you’re fresh out of prison. All your clothes still have the K-Mart tags.”

Simple lifted his arm and saw a price tag dangling from his cuff. He ripped it away and searched for a place to trash it.

Dale said, “Toss it out the window.”

Simple stuffed the tag in his shirt pocket. “I don’t remember much, only that they had me locked up. Not prison, some kind of clinic, but I have a job waiting for me in Saint George—” Simple pulled a sheet of paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and read by the light of the dashboard, “—working for Lance Bishop.”

“Why do they call you Simple?”

“My grandfather named me that to always remind me that a warrior’s life is filled with simple treasures.”

“Could be worse,” Dale scoffed. “Be thankful he didn’t name you after Buttface Canyon, Nevada.”

“Sing me a song,” Simple said. “That will keep you awake.”

“I only know hymns, from when my mama took me to church.”

“Works for me.”

Nodding, McNally cleared his throat and bellowed, “‘Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me’.”

Dale’s whiskey-tenor voice soared over the engine’s growl. The tune was uncomplicated, with trilling and mournful notes, resembling both music and a sorrowful cry. It reminded Simple of a Shoshone death chant that his grandfather sang the day Simple’s parents died. He loved the way the long, flowing vowels tumbled from McNally’s lips, like a river meandering through a forest. Simple heard each tone and also the slices of silence separating the notes. It sounded stark and sometimes discordant, yet staggeringly beautiful.

In the gritty bedroom of a rundown trailer house, an alarm clock buzzed. Jude Elder’s head swiveled on a pillow, his body folded into a fetal position. He came awake and looked around the room, confused. He cleared his congested throat and banged the alarm off.

He flipped on a bedside lamp, squinted. Rings adorned his lower lip, nose, eyebrow, and a half-dozen crawled up one ear. His mascara was ghoulishly smudged. He rolled off the bed, stepped over a pile of laundry, and staggered to the doorway. As he opened the door, light from the hallway lamp revealed dozens of angry red scars crisscrossing Jude’s torso and belly.

His head hurt too much to think. He focused all his attention on not falling over.

He tottered to the shower and turned on the water. As steam rose, he stepped in, grabbed his dick, and began to masturbate—eyes closed, mouth ajar. Soon his hips bucked and his mouth twisted into a look of quasi-sexual pain. He opened his eyes and they rolled back. He groaned.

Moments later, with both his hands covering his face, he began to sob.

He lifted a razor blade from the soap dish and sliced two lines across his chest. Blood trickled over his pasty torso as tears streamed down his cheeks.

A few minutes later, Jude ambled down the hallway into his choky little kitchen. He had wrapped a towel around his waist, bandages covering his fresh wounds. He opened the refrigerator and snatched a Budweiser longneck, twisting the cap off and downing half. He seized a prescription bottle and shook the few remaining pills into his palm, knocking them back and washing them down with more beer. He tossed the two empty bottles into a sink filled with dirty dishes.

Jude grabbed another Bud from the fridge and cracked it open.

In the bedroom, Jude sifted through the pile of soiled clothes. He stepped into a pair of boxer shorts, his only pair of jeans, socks, and cowboy boots. He lifted a white shirt from the pile, sniffed the underarms, and tossed it aside. He picked up another, sniffed, tossed it. The third and last he didn’t bother to sniff. He laced his arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up.

He jerked a roach from an ashtray beside the bed, fired it up, inhaled, and downed more beer. He took another hit, then strolled back to the bathroom to reapply his eye makeup. In the mirror, he only looked at his eyes as he painted his mask. He couldn’t bear to see the rest of his face or the scars at the base of his neck.

On his way to the front door, Jude lifted a ring of keys off a plate on the kitchen table, then he stopped in front of a mynah bird chained to a perch beside the door. He snatched a food carton and shoveled seeds into the bird’s bowl.

“Loser! Loser!” the bird cawed.

“Now you sound like my dad, shithead,” Jude said.


Other work by Alan Chin
Novels: Island Song, The Lonely War, Match Maker, Butterfly’s Child
Screenplays: Daddy’s Money, Simple Treasures, Flying Solo ( articles)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: August Farewell by David G. Hallman

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
Pages: 167

In August of 2009, Bill Conklin was diagnosed with stage-four, pancreatic cancer. Only sixteen days later, Bill died. Bill’s partner of thirty-three years, David Hallman, narrates this sixteen-day journey interspersed with vignettes drawn from their rich and varied life together.

For the most part Bill was unconscious during his last weeks, so this memoir is more of David Hallman’s experience of caring for and letting go of his lover after a long and beautiful relationship. This book started as a personal account for David, as he wanted to document the details of those last weeks together before his memory began to fade, and much of it does seem like a personal diary.

I found the book well written with good pacing except for one issue. It is written in present tense. The author states up front that all these events happened in 2009, and then voices his story as if it were happening as he tells it. I found this very jarring, something that bothered me from first page to last.

One thing I found fascinating is that, one week after Bill’s diagnoses, he was bedridden, in much pain, couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, didn’t even have the strength to suck water through a straw, yet they continued to keep him alive for as long as possible—another nine days of pain. If he were a horse, they would have mercifully shot him. Why, in this day and age, can’t we find the compassion for humans that we have already found for animals?

This is not a pleasant story. It is told with poignancy, humor, affection, and a good deal of tears. But be aware, I found this to be a depressing read. A bright spot is that the author delves into their life together: their commitment to environmental justice, love of the arts, love of traveling, and their deeply felt Christian beliefs.

This is a tale of letting go, a journey through the past to gain the strength to endure the separation. This is not a book I can recommend to all readers. Perhaps to readers who have made similar journeys, or people preparing for their own loss.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reading John Cheever

I’ve recently been trying to buy a house in Palm Springs, so I’ve been on the road what seems most of the time between San Francisco and PS. It is a nine-hour drive along some of the most boring farmland in Central California. The good news is that Herman and I have found the perfect house for us. We’ve put in an offer and it has been accepted. Now all we have to do is sell our home in Northern California, which has been on the market for three weeks. (No takers yet)

I’ve not been getting a lot of writing done on those long drives. This last trip I took along a collection of John Cheever short stories. I confess I knew zilch about Cheever before I began to read his elegant prose. But after the first story, I fell in love with this writer. He writes rather dark, poignant stories about upper-class families, who always seem to fall from grace. His copyrights range from 1946 to 1972. I’ve read six of his stories so far—loving each one—and there is not a happy ending in sight. He deals with real human dramas, that leave the reader hanging a bit, because that is the way life is.

One of his stories, The Swimmer, was made into a movie some decades ago and stared Burt Lancaster. I had a bit of a crush on Bert so that movie has always haunted me, and reading it today has rekindled that feeling. It’s a brilliant story of a man who uncovers his past by swimming in all his former neighbors swimming pools on his way to what he thinks is his home.

I’ve always loved short stories, but in the hands of a master like Cheever, I am reduced to worship. The short story, to me, is the hardest medium to write. One has to totally capture a turning point in a characters life, with little backstory and the mere hint of what the future holds. To do it well takes brilliance.

It’s sad and also funny for me. When I read authors I admire, like Alex Jeffers and Victor Banis, I realize how far I still need to travel down this literary path before I’ll consider myself an accomplished writer. But when I read writers like Cheever and Steinbeck and Capote and so many others, I begin to think that I don’t have enough time left in my life to travel that far.

But as Homer points out in The Odyssey, it is not the destination but the journey. So I trod on.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: Bob the Book by David Pratt

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Pages: 184

Bob is a book about pre-nineties gay porn, complete with many hot pictures. He is delivered to a Greenwich Village bookstore, where he goes on sale beside another book, Moishe, whose title is Beneath the Tallis: The Hidden Lives of Gay and Bisexual Orthodox Jewish Men. Bob and Moishe fall in love, but are separated by an unlikely buyer.

As Bob journeys through sales tables, used book bins, different owners, and lecture halls, he meets a variety of other books and people, but he’s always hunting for Moishe.

Bob finds himself in a peculiar position; both he and his owner are searching for love. Both seem to find something, but it’s not ideal for either of them. Can Bob, being at the mercy of people, somehow find fulfillment? Can his owner find the same contentment? All I can say is, it’s not easy being a book in love.

This is one of the most delightful stores I’ve read all year, and the fact that it is a debut novel only adds to the pleasure. On the surface it seems like a whimsical love story, both for Bob and his human owner, as well as several other book couples. But under that simplicity, there are some important life lessons to be examined. There is much Zen-like wisdom woven into this enchanting tale, lessons on taking one’s self too seriously, and of striving for things that are not important, just to name a few.

The pace and tone never drags. This story carries the reader along with many funny twists regarding the literature industry. Of course it’s not at all believable, but it is an extremely well constructed love story, both for the books and human characters.

What amazed me most was in the examining these books’ personalities. By giving them human characteristics, the reader clearly sees where humans spin their wheels dealing with unimportant life issues.

Readers who are familiar with the publishing industry will especially appreciate this novel, but all readers can enjoy this wonderfully smart and touching book. Because the main characters are books, it transcends every boundary of gender and sexual orientation, making it an entertaining read for men and women, boys and girls, gay and straight. That’s its genius.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Launch Party and Triple Author Reading.

Tuesday, October 25th at 7:30pm
Location: Books Inc. at 2275 Market Street in San Francisco

Book Launch party for Rob Rosen's new book, Southern Fried. With guest authors from the neighborhood, Alan Chin reading Butterfly's Child and Simple Treasures, and Mark Abramson reading Wedding Season as well as from his soon to be released new book.

If you’re in the SF Bay Area, come out to the Castro and join the fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day

Today (October 11th) is National Coming Out Day. I’ve been out of the closet for the past thirty-five years. But I still remember the painful fallout that occurred when my family and some friends failed to understand and support me. Thankfully that is no longer an issue with me, but I know many young (and not so young) people today are faced with the same discrimination I felt, or they are firmly locked in their closets fearing that discrimination.

To these people and others, I continue the fight to support equal rights for every man, woman and child, regardless of race, sex, religion, or sexuality. I fight bigotry in my writing, in my actions, and in my attitude towards others.

I am no saint. I am nobody special. I am no better or worse than any other person. I simply see the truth that we are all equal. We are all human. We all have our differences, our fears, our joys and our contributions to the whole. We all have the right to live a life free of discrimination for who we are. We all have the right to share our life with the person(s) that we choose to love.

Voltaire said: “We should be tolerant of everything except intolerance.”

But my favorite quote on this subject comes from Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: Butterfly Dreaming by Dave Lara & Bud Gundy

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: CreateSpace (Nov. 14th, 2010)
Pages: 334

Banat Frantz is a Jewish boy growing toward manhood in Germany when Adolf Hitler comes to power. At an early age, Banat already feels the animosity directed toward his family. He experiences shame and fear, but doesn’t understand what it is that makes him different from those who hate. His upper-class family is stripped of almost everything before fleeing to Holland, where they think they have escaped Hitler’s grasp. But within a few years the Nazis invade Holland and they are made prisoners and shipped to work camps.

Banat grows into puberty while living in a concentration camp, and what he discovers is that his growing lust is directed at other boys, not girls. By now he knows to hide his feelings of being different than others. But when he meets Dovid, (yes, Dovid with an ‘o’), he falls in love. What starts as an adolescent crush deepens into a consuming love that will sustain Banat through the horrors that await him.

Soon the family is split up, and Banat and his father are shipped to a different camp. Over time they are shipped to several work camps, all the time moving closer to Auschwitz. Banat and Dovid are separated as well. By cunning and trickery, Banat does manage to survive the end of the war, and he goes about trying to track down his splintered family and bring them together again. There are joys and tragedies to be endured, and then the search for Dovid begins. Can Dovid have survived as well? Can the lovers reunite?

This is not an easy story to read, due to the shocking way the Jewish characters are treated by other Europeans. The horrors described both before and in the concentration camps is heartbreaking. But there are joys as well. Even in these brutal conditions and knowing what awaits them, they find love and tenderness, not just with Banat and Dovid, but other characters as well. This story is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, and also of the power of love.

Banat is a perfect character, exhibiting both qualities and faults, as he comes of age and maturity within the most brutal conditions. He must fight for survival, yet with his being gay, he can’t confide in his own family. With death and anguish a constant, he must somehow explore the depths of love, need and joy. And he does so with virtue and morality.

But this story goes far beyond the concentration camps. Once the war is over, Banat must continue to strive in order to reunite his family. This brings both joy and sadness, and in the end grows bitter because he finally comes out to his family. Banat turns away from his parents and continues his search for Dovid. He becomes involved with the emerging gay scene in Paris, and begins to explore his sexuality. But the despair of not finding Dovid eventually drives him across the Atlantic, hoping for a new life in America, and a chance to forget. He finds that new life, but in a most unexpected and beautiful way.

This story is a fascinating inner journey from adolescence to manhood, from innocence to love. As I said, it is a hard story to read, but well worth the time and emotional turmoil. WWII history buffs will especially appreciate this tale, but this is a story everyone can appreciate and grow from.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Smack Dab open mic guest co-host Wonder Dave

Smack Dab open mic
hosted by Larry-bob Roberts and Kirk Read

Wayne Hoffman joins us as featured performer.

Wednesday, October 19, 8pm, open mic signup starts at 7:30 At Magnet, your neighborhood queer health center, 4122 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood.

Smack Dab is all ages, all genders, all the time.

If you'd like to perform at the open mic, please bring five minutes of whatever you want to share. Musicians, one song. Prose writers: that's about two and a half double spaced pages of prose. We’re the friendliest open mic you’ll find but we pay attention to time so that nobody accumulates further open mic-related PTSD.

Presented by Army of Lovers, a project of the Queer Cultural Center with support from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Foundation, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Horizons Foundation, TheatreBayArea and the California Arts Council

Featured performer bio:
Wayne Hoffman’s cultural reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, Village Voice, The Nation, Tablet magazine, The Forward, and The Advocate.
He's the author of Hard and the new book Sweet Like Sugar, which is about a young man wrestling with his faith, a man of faith wrestling with his youth. An unexpected friendship lies at the center of Sweet Like Sugar (Kensington Books), Wayne's new novel about fate, identity, and getting past our personal prejudices. But it’s also about Kurt Cobain, class stratification in the DC suburbs, Space Mountain, the Book of Esther, the war in Iraq, Israeli dance, Jewish summer camp, Barack Obama, Miami's bar scene, the Holocaust, interfaith relationships, immigrant communities in Jersey City, Will & Grace, crystal meth, kashrut, Sammy Davis Jr., and much more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Buying a New House

Today, for the first time in over thirty years, I made an offer on a house. Herman and I found a sweet little home in central Palm Springs that is a perfect living space for us. We love everything about it. We've been back four times to check it out, and with each viewing, we loved it more. So today we scrawled out signatures on a offer. We bid 75K less than the owners were asking, so there is no guarantee they will accept. However, our agent is very optimistic.

So if all goes well, Herman and I could be in a new home and a new city for the holidays.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Taking More Than You Need

I’m visiting some friends today, who happen to live in a three-story house on seven acres of land in the mountains east of Bakersfield. I visit here several times a year, and every time I do they put me to work. Today I pulled weeds and stacked three cords of firewood. On the inside, I scrubbed the kitchen down--sinks, walls, counters, and appliances.

Why all the work? As I said, these guys live in a gigantic house on seven acres. Pile on top of that the fact that they both work fulltime jobs, and you begin to understand that they never have enough time to keep their place up. There is always a ton of things that needs doing. Normally, they need to hire help to get things done, which is not cheap.

So whenever I’m here I try to help out. I don’t mind. I like to help in any way I can. I feel sorry when I see their garden go to pot, or their house fill with dog hair.

But each time I come down to work, I can’t help thinking that these guys have bitten off more than they can chew. The result seems to be that they are constantly working their weekends away to stay abreast of the upkeep, and there is a constant flow of their money into hired help when they fall short. At times it seems to me that this place is a prison for them, keeping them pinned here doing hard labor and keeping them behind the eight-ball financially.

Before they moved here, they rented a two-bedroom condo in town with a yard just big enough for one dog. Honestly, I think they were much happier then. They had lots of free time and plenty of cash for those weekend getaways.

To me this is a lesson in not taking too much. The more you have, the more time, money and energy it takes to care for it. This week I will be house hunting for a home for my husband and I, a place we hope to grow old in, perhaps the last place we’ll ever live. And our guiding principle will be "do not go after more house than we need." We want quality, but we also want to downsize. We’re looking for something easy to maintain as we age, only large enough to be comfortable.

The older I get, the more I realize the old adage 'less is more' can be very true.