Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quite contrary: May 1, 2005

I did tend to whine about the gentrification of our once-ratty old neighborhood, but that was before I realized the considerable upsides to cashing in and moving on. Now we could not afford to move back into the old 'hood even if we wanted to.

Good thing we don't want to.

A mild rant against encroaching improvement
    I have a wicked contrary streak.

    If a lot of people are doing something, I want to do something else. I dislike trends. They make me want to run in the other direction.

    For example, I hate those furry boots everyone was wearing for a while, simply because everyone was wearing them. And I used to like my yellow LiveStrong bracelet, but then suddenly they were on every wrist everywhere and now mine is in a drawer.

    I’m curmudgeonly before my time, I guess. I can’t help it. I don’t know why I feel this way. I’m just contrary.

    Which puts me in an awkward position.

    I used to live in a cheap, slightly sketchy, part of town. It was dumpy and ratty and, in 1996, had houses my husband and I could afford.

    So our cars got broken into regularly while we slept, but we were close to work and didn’t have anything of value in our cars, anyway. We just started leaving them unlocked so thieves wouldn’t damage them finding out we own nothing good. (You’d think the condition of the cars would have tipped them off, but thieves aren’t the brightest bunch, I guess.)     

    And, OK, I did get sort of beaten up in my front yard one Halloween night by a guy hopped up on meth and Wild Turkey, but I’m pretty sure that was a fluke. Unlike the car break-ins, it’s only happened once.

    And there were some good signs. Some houses near ours got bought and renovated and resold at a profit. That was OK.

    A nice couple bought the house behind ours and replaced the gravel yard with a lawn, hung up a hammock. Who could argue with that?

    Our property taxes went up in 2001, but not too much. That’s life. That was OK.

    But then, while I wasn’t paying attention, the slow creep of improvement turned into galloping trendiness.

    There are enormous condos going up all over every bare patch of land north of the river. Two houses on my block sold in the last year for more than $200,000. None of my househunting friends can afford to live anywhere near me.

    My husband’s one-mile commute to work is now a series of frustrating detours around the traffic and construction projects that have snarled every corner of our little universe. My new neighbors have cars that cost more than we make in a year. They have regular lawn service and good haircuts.

    And my property tax assessment went up a lot this year. A LOT.

    I called the number that you call to complain that your assessment went up too much. The man was nice. He said houses in my neighborhood are just so valuable now that the rates had to be adjusted accordingly.

    "But I didn’t buy my house to sell it," I said. "I bought it to live in it. And I bought it because it was CHEAP!"

    The nice man said, "You sound young. You can probably afford a little increase."

    "I AM young," I wailed. "I am so young that I am at home with my two small children making no money while my laid-off husband is out making half what he used to. I’m just living it up over here in my giddy youth!"

    I pouted to my husband one evening, "I want to move."

    He frowned. We have spent the last eight and-a-half years renovating our house a room at a time. We added on to make space for the new baby. My husband built our kitchen cabinets in his basement woodshop. The hostas under the big tree out front are just starting to look really good.

    "Well," he said. "Let’s start looking."

    Man, I love that guy.

    So we’re looking. Maybe we’ll move, maybe we won’t. Maybe I’ll just cancel the cell phone to squeeze a few more dollars out of our budget for our new, bigger mortgage payment. Maybe I’ll get used to good haircuts and nice cars and lawn services that run their obnoxious leaf blowers all over the place.

    Or maybe I’ll find the perfect house at the perfect price and cash in on my suddenly expensive neighborhood.

    Either way, trendiness has found me, and now I have to decide whether I can live with it.     

    At least our cars aren’t getting broken into anymore.

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