Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How I Got Here

I’m in the papasan chair on my back patio. Incense mixes with the scent of oleanders to tickle my nose, and low music hums a background for the bugs serenading the almost-full moon over my left shoulder. The sun exited the stage long ago to party with the other side of the globe for awhile, and the breeze has dropped along with the temp. It may sound like a big ol’ cliché, but it’s very peaceful. Okay, oleanders don’t really smell much, but it sounded good, right? And the rest is all true. ☺

I was trying to read a book, but my mind would not stay still. All these phrases and words fill my head that have nothing to do with the story and I feel the need to write, so I’ve grabbed the laptop and here we are. Finally. I know it’s about time, but Time? Pssshhhhh. What a concept.

In my last post, our hero (::Ego’s hand shoots up::) was waiting to hear about which of two places I would call home. I mentioned that I ended up in Bonsall, but it was interesting how all that came down.

On Friday the 13th of June I was pretty far down in the dumps about San Diego. It was not what I expected, and I was not finding any places to live that met my criteria and my snobby tastes, and that were in my price range. The situation was bleak.

Mom and I decided to hunt in Escondido that day. After driving by a couple “no way” properties and playing phone tag with a condo owner, we happened upon a house on East 10th Street in Old Escondido. It was almost 5:00, but we called the realtor’s number on the sign anyway. The girl was about to leave for the day, so she gave us the lock box code and said to call on Monday if we liked it. I wasn’t sure I could wait that long and the rent was way above what I could even consider, but we went in anyway.

I fell in love with the house. I thought surely this was the place I was meant to be in for a couple reasons. First, the address was 221 and 21 has been my lucky number for a very long time. Second, there were dragonflies. (For those reading here for the first time, dragonflies have been one of my totems for about 12 years.)

The house was built in the 30s and had a couple very charming features, one of which was an old-fashioned doorbell that looked like windchimes hanging in a recessed niche in the wall. Under the doorbell, the owner had left a decorative row of hooks like you’d put keys on, and the hooks were all dragonflies. I actually have a very similar key rack already. I took this as a sign.

Further exploration showed the house had 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths. It also already had the 2” wood slat blinds I was picturing in my new place. The front and back were beautifully landscaped (if a bit dry from neglect), and there was an orange tree and an apricot tree in the backyard, just off the HUGE redwood deck. I was already picturing the BBQs and parties on that deck!

I grabbed my camera and took all kinds of pictures so I could concentrate on manifesting our living there. It was WAY above what I could afford tho. (Jenn: I still have to send you the pic of the dark raspberry faux finish walls in the kitchen – I knew you would get such a kick out of them!)

Mom convinced me to call the realtor and offer a deal since the house had been standing empty for a month. I tried, but it went right to voice mail, which was already full so I couldn’t even leave a message. I was disappointed, but finding something I liked that well gave me hope, and I was in desperate need of that!

Since The House was so far above my price range, I had to continue looking just in case. That night I reluctantly got on craigslist again and started making a list of places to view the next day. My attitude deteriorated quickly when most of the ads showed I would have a hard time affording anything decent in the areas I objected to the least.

I came across one ad though for a condo in Bonsall. I thought, “Where the hell is Bonsall?” As I wrote the information on my tablet, I had the same prickly feeling I got when I read the ad for the first apartment we moved to in Midland Park.

I let thinking cloud over my intuition though because I was so set on the Escondido house, and I scoffed at the idea of knowing where I was going to live before I even saw it. Nevertheless, I emailed the ad, wrote down the phone number, and starred it on my paper because at 1440 square feet, at least it would be a LOT of space.

The next morning we decided to view Bonsall first as it was the farthest property out. I tried calling the number in the ad, only to be told the lady was away until the afternoon. We decided to go check it out from outside anyway in case it wasn’t worth pursuing based on the neighborhood. Getting there seemed to take forever and I was already saying to myself, “There’s no way I’m living this far out with gas prices how they are.”

We found the street, but couldn’t tell which unit was the one from the ad. There were several for sale, and a couple for rent, but none of the phone numbers matched up. Still, it was a nicer area than I anticipated so it was not counted out. We moved on, looking at several more places in the surrounding towns.

We finally connected with Kathy, the property owner, later that evening and agreed to drive out to Bonsall again to view the condo Monday morning. She sounded like a really nice lady on the phone and again my intuition prickled, but the brain was on override for the Escondido house.

The second drive to Bonsall didn’t seem as far because we knew where we were going this time, even though we came in from a different direction. The beauty of the area was not lost on me as we passed a golf course and drove along a palm tree-lined road right out of the movies.

When I walked in the door I was pleasantly reminded of just how much space 1440 SF is. The master bedroom had TWO closets (read: I don’t have to sell half my wardrobe!), the floor was all tile (except the bedrooms), and the two full baths right off each bedroom were definitely appealing, not to mention all the storage space I’d have in the garage. It didn’t have a washer/dryer or even a refrigerator yet, but Kathy assured us all those appliances were coming. They were shooting for a July 1 move in date, but I needed it before then.

I explained my hurry with the movers on their way, wanting to deliver in the next couple days. (Not to mention Wilbur’s recent escape reminded me I was on borrowed time for getting those brats back in their regular cages.) Kathy was super accommodating and said if I could get all my information to her, she would process my application immediately, and if I didn’t mind living without appliances for a few days she didn’t mind me moving in early. We got along famously, which is always valuable in a landlord-tenant relationship. I was still hoping that Escondido house would come through, but somewhere deep down I already knew where this was headed.

The next day Mom and I had to switch hotels because I was out of free nights for the first place. We went through the process of sneaking all the animals out of the first hotel and into the second. “On edge” didn’t begin to cover the mood I was in, but it went smoothly.

I was just beginning to relax when the movers called saying they wanted to deliver that day. I still didn’t have an address. I also still had not resolved the bullshit they pulled by loading all my stuff on the truck in Jersey, THEN telling me the price would be almost twice what they quoted. When I objected, they offered to unload the truck back into the house – at 11pm on the night before I’m supposed to drive cross country. Like that was even an option.

They know they have you by the balls once your stuff is on the truck – I’ve read about this scam - but I thought since they had “Not to exceed” on the estimate that they would honor that. Ha. Guess not. What was I supposed to do? I signed the paper (the “new” contract with the “new” price), but I signed under duress (and that’s exactly what I’ll tell the judge when I see them in court).

I brought that up with the owner of the company, who was the one calling to find out where to deliver. We argued, he hung up on me, and I wondered if it would be months and a court verdict before I saw my stuff again. Nothing like a little drama to raise the blood pressure.

After hanging up, I decided I wasn’t going to let this ruin the roll I was on. I gathered all the information Kathy needed and sent it to her. Then I crossed my fingers and called Cheryl, the owner of the Escondido house.

Cheryl wasn’t thrilled about the lower rent I was proposing since they apparently bought when the market was high and had a big mortgage. She said my offer didn’t cover her expenses, but asked me to send my information anyway and she would take a look at it and decide. She and her husband live in Virginia; he is military and was transferred there unexpectedly, leaving them with the vacant California residence.

I know I don’t look good on paper because of past financial mistakes and a low credit score thanks to unemployment a couple years ago. I tried to really impress upon her what a great tenant I am, but it’s harder to do over the phone than in person. I was much more successful at that with Kathy. When Cheryl and I finished talking, I finally admitted to myself that I knew where I was going to end up, and I just had to accept it. Bonsall seemed kinda far out, but it wasn’t the end of the world. And hey, “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space” anyway.

Kathy called me shortly thereafter and said even though her property manager advised her against renting to me based on my crappy credit (and who could blame them?), she was going with her gut because she liked me, so I could have the condo, and the truck could deliver the next day. I was enormously grateful, but not surprised.

What surprised me was the tidal wave of relief at hearing those words. It was like that first gasping intake of air as you break above the water when you’ve been held under too long. I guess being homeless is more of a weight to carry than I anticipated. At least with six animals riding along, and an angry trucking company on your ass it is.

Almost immediately after I hung up from Kathy, Cheryl called back and turned me down. I wasn’t surprised about that either. She said she had received another offer for the full rent they were asking, so they had to go with that person.

I knew it wasn’t true and I confirmed that a few weeks later. I was in Escondido shopping and went by the house out of curiosity. It was still empty with the sign out front. It seemed sad so I tried to fill it with good energy. I felt bad for it because it’s a super cute place and it deserves an awesome person to love and care for it. I hope the good energy will attract the perfect person. I can’t say I have regrets tho because I know Bonsall is right where I belong. How do I know? I’m here.

So that’s how I ended up on the patio behind the oleanders, listening to the crickets and typing away on my Mac.

More tomorrow...