June 26–30, 2004

Things I’ve learned from the transition to my new townhouse:

  1. Judging from the phone calls I overheard while waiting in line to buy packing materials, a surprising number of people contact their local U-Haul store and actually expect to get a moving truck or van for that day, as though the last weekend in June is a slow time of the year for moving.
  2. It’s amazing to discover how many clothes you own but have no intention of wearing again. My donation to a nearby Salvation Army thrift store contained no fewer than 90 items (!) and filled five garbage bags. It was almost embarrassing to drop off that amount of unwanted clothing.
  3. After you’ve removed the kitchen table and chairs from your dinette area, it’s very easy to bang your head into the chandelier — more than once.
  4. Using a rented Rug Doctor vacuum cleaner to shampoo your old apartment’s carpet will generate one of the most disgusting substances on earth: so-called “dirty water” that actually consists of white foam, large clumps of dust and hair, and gravel.
  5. It’s very strange to see your apartment completely empty after living there for so long. And even when you know that you’re moving into a bigger, nicer house, it’s still hard to turn your back on your old place and lock the door for the last time. Thanks for six great years, Goshen Terrace.

[ No. 101 ]

June 18, 2004

Well, it’s official — I’ve become a grown-up. I am now a homeowner.

This story began last winter, when I could no longer ignore two important facts: (1) mortgage rates were still near a 40-year low, but probably wouldn’t stay that way for much longer, and (2) I’d been renting the same apartment for over five years and had nothing to show for it.

After just a few weeks of visiting some local townhouses for sale, I realized that I was facing an extremely competitive real estate market. People were making offers on properties just hours after walking through them, and I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to compete in such a fierce environment. We’re talking about a six-figure purchase here — I thought I’d have at least one day to think about such a big decision, but I was wrong. This market waits for no one.

Along came a nondescript ad that my mom had found in the local paper. It was a for-sale-by-owner property in a great neighborhood, and the price seemed reasonable. At the open house on Apr. 25, I arrived at the very beginning of the two-hour session, and immediately liked what I saw — a second-floor townhouse with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spiral staircase leading up to a loft, a huge balcony with a beautiful view of the woods, a trail in the backyard that leads to Valley Forge National Park, and even a detached garage.

My mind started racing. This was the nicest place that I’d seen in four months of searching, and I was convinced that it wasn’t going to last a single day in this market. While some other visitors were milling around, I called my dad to have him come over and take a look at the place. He met me during the second hour of the open house, agreed that it was a great opportunity, and later accompanied me to the realtor’s house, where I signed the agreement for sale that very evening.

(The realtor later told me that she received two calls the next day from potential buyers who were willing to pay cash and buy the property outright, and she had to tell them that it was already under contract. But if I, too, had waited until the following day to make my offer, I wouldn’t have stood a chance against those people. As my dad often says: “He who hesitates is lost.”)

Since that fateful day, I’ve been consumed with a new hobby: preparing for home ownership. So far, I’ve negotiated the termination of my apartment lease, completed a home inspection, submitted a lengthy mortgage application (the “paper equivalent of a strip search,” as my friend Andy describes it), submitted the down payment, received the mortgage approval, obtained estimates for painting and carpeting, selected a moving company, applied for a condo insurance policy, and adjusted my tax allowances.


Fortunately, my settlement meeting was fairly anticlimactic: only a handful of documents required some minor adjustments, and I didn’t encounter any unpleasant surprises in terms of closing costs. By early afternoon, the townhouse was officially mine, and I stopped by the new place to take a few pictures to mark the occasion.

But wait — the fun isn’t over yet. By the end of this month, the new townhouse will be rid of its old wallpaper, provided with a fresh coat of paint and new berber carpeting, connected to all the necessary utilities, and filled with my furniture and other belongings.

Hey, no one said that buying a house was going to be easy. But after everything finally settles down, it’ll be worth the effort!

[ No. 100 ]

June 16, 2004

Shortly after the death of former President Ronald Reagan earlier this month, I began to hear news reports about legislators already attempting to replace Alexander Hamilton’s portrait with Reagan’s likeness on the $10 bill — and that’s only one of several similar proposals underway in Congress.

If you ask me, the face of American money is changing far too rapidly these days. I can understand the need to alter certain aspects of paper money in order to combat counterfeiters, but constantly revamping the design of our currency is neither necessary nor practical.

Within the last five years alone, the U.S. Mint has sponsored three coin redesign initiatives, including the 50 State Quarters program (which began in 1999 and will continue through 2008), a gold-colored dollar coin featuring Sacagawea in 2000 (even though the previous Susan B. Anthony version failed miserably), and a new pair of nickels that celebrate the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark expedition (neither of which merits a coin redesign).

There is some precedent to honoring a recently fallen president on our money, however — Franklin Roosevelt certainly deserved to be featured on the dime starting in 1946, the year following his death. Then again, John F. Kennedy replaced Benjamin Franklin on the half-dollar in 1964, and I doubt that JFK’s legacy can even compare to that of old Ben.

The idea of featuring Reagan on any greenback, which would represent the first personnel change on U.S. paper currency in 75 years, feels very premature. If Reagan is considered to be an important and successful president after a few decades of perspective, we can certainly revisit the issue then — assuming cash hasn’t been replaced by some digital medium by that time.

[ No. 99 ]

June 7, 2004

In an interesting interview with ESPN, Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had this to say about one of his players getting in trouble for illegally downloading music:

“What the hell do I know about downloading music? I can’t download a jar of peanut butter.”

My thoughts:

*     *     *     *     *

In other news, the rock band Creed broke up last week. They sold a lot of albums, but I never really cared for them — most of their songs contained the same sludgy guitar riffs, and they seemed to take themselves way too seriously. Even their cover art was lame.

When I read about Creed’s breakup online, I immediately e-mailed my friend Brian, who hates the band so much that he owns a black T-shirt that reads, CREED SUCKS. I suggested that his shirt might become a collector’s item someday, but Brian responded by saying that he’d simply have the shirt changed to the past tense: CREED SUCKED.

[ No. 98 ]