Monday, January 23, 2006

Attitude of Gratitude

Quick post, because I don't generally post over the weekends, and I start to feel a little off-kilter if I don't write something on Mondays:

Across the street from our apartment building sits a small Craftsman bungalow. Like many of the little classic California bungalows in our area, it was recently purchased and refurbished and put back on the market. Sweet William and I have watched the renovation of this house with great interest. The new owners, who obviously bought the property with the sole intention of flipping it in a hot real estate market, put a lot of time and money into the house. There was some serious digging in the front yard, along with what looked like the replacement/repair of old pipes. They repainted the exterior, put in an electric gate across the driveway, added a fence, and landscaped the yard. And this is just what we could see from the outside.

So it was with heady anticipation that we noted "Open House Sunday" on the For Sale sign in the front yard, and yesterday, with Viva conveniently slumber-partying over at her auntie's house, we jauntily made our way across the street to take a look inside.

Nice. Stone fireplace in the living room, beautiful dark hardwood floors throughout, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. Two not-so-large bedrooms, two decent-sized bathrooms with brand-new tile and spankin'-new fixtures. Small deck off the kitchen, leading to a small yard and a guest house in the back. Approximate size of the main house: 1,100 SF.

Guess how much the original list price was? $945,000. But wait! They just reduced it to $897,500! What a deal!

We walked back across the street, minds blown and resigned to renting for quite some time. This is not a mansion, my friends. It is a modest home in a mixed commercial-residential area. In terms of size, it is the perfect starter home. But who the hell can pay close to a million bucks for a starter home?

We are nothing if not practical. We sat down, complained about it, and concluded that the housing market is completely overpriced, that the owners are not going to get their asking price because the market is cooling, and that we will both be fine with renting a nice place with a yard, when we find one, because we can find one for less than half the amount that a mortgage like that would cost.

Still and all, though, we were a little depressed by this.

This morning, after I dropped Viva off at school and drove home to clean the cluttered box that is my apartment, I pulled up in the driveway of my "luxury" apartment building, hit the remote, and waited for the parking garage gate to open. Standing a few yards away with a shopping cart was an enterprising woman who comes to our building and goes through our garbage on a regular basis. Since our trash chute empties into a garbage room located inside the parking garage, she has to wait until somebody opens the garage so she can get access.

Some might call that trespassing.

I will admit that I was initially irritated to see her. She called out "thanks" to me as the gate swung open. I muttered to myself, "Thanks for what? Thanks for letting you go through the trash?!"

And then I realized what a ridiculous juxtaposition it was, not just that I was driving into my home in the sports sedan that my husband pays for, since I don't "have to" work, and feeling pissy at this person who doesn't have all the options I do, but also that the guys across the street think they can command nearly a million dollars for a house in a neighborhood whose cast of characters include the homeless, the transvestite and transgender prostitutes on the stroll, and the assortment of tweakers and club kids that occasionally wake us up at 4 AM.

One of the things I really admired about Sweet William when I first started getting to know him was his attitude. More specifically, I liked it that he believed himself to be blessed -- with his family, with his job, with the opportunities that had come his way in life -- and that he was genuinely grateful. He did not (and does not) ever take anything for granted. He is endlessly adaptable and always, always grateful for what he has.

I can't stand a Pollyanna, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't seem to me to be a bad thing to step back and reassess, when things seems to be going badly, what is going well. You can always find something to be grateful for.

And thus ends my sermon of the day.

Be well, and be grateful.


trebs said...

Wow! Your blog hit home with me today. We rent still in the San Gabriel Valley, and just looked at a 2100 sq foot townhome that abuts the I-10, has no back yard (what's there is concrete anyway), you can see directly into the neighbors' windows, and your 2nd story bedroom view is of Ikea and Hooters... price, you ask? $879,000. I about fell off the curb when I picked up the real estate flyer out front. Here's to those of us still renting, enjoying our modest places and hoping for a better market!

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Blech, I know, it is totally insane. Hang on, the housing bubble has to burst sometime!