Some are satin, some are steel, some are silk, and some are leather...

I'm a big Billy Joel fan. Huge actually. By that I mean that I know the lyrics to almost every song that he's written and, in the days of tapes, had every one (except Cold Spring Harbour) that he released. So, yeah, I love Billy Joel's stuff.

Well, today I've started thinking of the song "The Stranger." The album, which is also called The Stranger, shows a picture of Billy, lying on a bed gazing at a porcelin mask on the pillow next to him. The premise of the song is, well, perhaps I should just quote the master: "We all have a face that we hide away forever, then we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone; some are satin, some are steel, some are silk, and some are leather; they're the faces of the stranger, but we love to try them on." Yeah, Billy rules. Anyway, while the song laments about the hidden faces of a lover, that isn't the reason I'm thinking about it.

As I mentioned earlier, I've recently relocated. For a property owner, part of relocating is, well, selling your property or thinking of something else to do with it. I sold my house. And I made the biggest mistake in the process: I didn't meet my buyer, leaving it, instead, to my realtor to handle everything with her.

For most people, this may not be a big problem. I, however, have a pretty good ability to read people. Usually, when I meet someone, I can get a sense of one pretty important thing: whether they are putting up a front. However, because it is apparently industry practice, I trusted realtor's impressions of the buyer. Big. Mistake.

That's not to say my realtor isn't a nice person. She's fabulous. My biggest regret is that in my new city I can't have her look for a house for me here. But when conducting a large financial transaction, I think it's important to know whether the person you are dealing with is a normal, reasonable, cordial human being or an insane and deluded maniac trying to make it appear that they are a normal, reasonable, cordial human being. Here, my realtor thought the buyer was the former. The buyer was the latter. Needless to say, thanks to my buyer, this entire transaction has been a completly and totally miserable experience since I signed the contract.

Let me make this clear: I do not blame my realtor in any way for her assessment of my buyer. It's not her fault. Some people are good at seeing people who put up fronts and others aren't. Everyone's different and each of us have different strengths. That's what makes us individuals. And wouldn't life be boring if that weren't the case?

No, I don't blame my realtor. I blame myself. I absolutely should have met the prospective buyer before I signed the contract and, if I had (which I did later), I absolutely would have decided not to sell to this person. When I later had a conversation about the property with the buyer (who came to the property during her inspection), I couldn't stand her. I knew, almost immediately and for a number of reasons, that this was not the person to whom I wanted to sell this house I loved.

You have to understand, this house was my baby. It was the first home that I ever bought. The location was great, the neighborhood was plesant, and it was just a fun little house. Certainly, every house has its share of frustrations from time to time. Sometimes you have to replace an appliance, etc. But all in all, I loved this little house. So, I wanted to sell it to someone that I genuinely liked. That's not what happened.

I'm not going to bore you with all the tedious bullshit that accompanied the sales process, but needless to say, it sucked. Big. And so much of the reason it sucked was my incredibly horrible buyer. So you may think that the reason that I referenced the Stranger is the buyer: that this buyer because a face from under a mask that was unexpected. But my buyer isn't what made me think of "The Stranger." I am.

Now, let me be clear, it is not because of anything that happened in the sales transaction that I make this reference. Rather, it's because, after dealing with problem after problem with this buyer, I did something I rarely do. I lost my temper. And I lost it on my realtor.

While the details of how that happened are somewhat through, they aren't really for public consumption (as if the public actually reads this...), so I will only say this: I finally felt like I was getting screwed beyond the point that I could tolerate and laid into my realtor. Now, I don't do it often, but when I lose my temper, I mean really lose my temper, its ugly. Like really ugly. I become a verbal pit bull that will orally attack anything or anyone that comes within twenty yards of me. All forms of reason are pushed aside and I just become an vicously aggressive ass. So I pretty much had a Napoleanic tirade on the phone with her. And after I was done, this incredibly sweet woman could only mutter a soft, "Okay."

Yeah. I was a prick.

Ultimately, I called back (after cooling down) and apologized. And all was resolved. I'm still getting screwed, but I told her I know it isn't her fault.

So that little pit bull is my stranger, my mask of steel and leather that sits in the back of my closet, behind my sweaters and ties, that most people will never see. And no matter how rarely it happens, I hate showing that mask to someone who doesn't deserve to see it.


Are you sure this is really chocolate?

I know that I have done a poor job of blog maintenance over the past few weeks, but I have a decent excuse: I had no internet access. While some people may not see this as a significant problem, I'm compelled to believe that most of the people who will read this (or rather both of the people who will read this) will consider this akin to not being able to breathe for the past few weeks. Honestly, I think I fall somewhere closer to being able to breathe (after all, I did have a few really good books to finish) and being able to eat, but not being able to find a bathroom anywhere. I know how that sounds, but stick with me. For me, this little corner of the internet is where I get to have my little weekly (ok, maybe not weekly) catharsis. So when all that stuff gets stored up in whatever the intellectual analogy for a colon is, I feel, well, stuffed up. But now, after a very long few weeks and a little battle with the local cable internet monopoly (special thanks to the SCOTUS for that one), I'm cleared up my intellectual constipation and am back to spouting my usual mindless banter. Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is...

In case you're wondering what would happen if you didn't have the internet for a few weeks, although I checked my personal email messages with my cell phone, when I finally did get internet access, I had approximately 82 e-mail messages to run though (I have got to get off some of those lists) and weeks of blogging to catch up on, which resulted in about 2 very entertaining hours of reading (limited only by the fact that two of my favorite bloggers are apparently too busy lately to post).

Nevertheless, here are a few highlights from the past week of moving:

-made the 300-plus mile back and forth trip (for a total of 600+ from my old city to my new city), not once, not twice, but three times in the past three weeks. It was a great week for oil to top $67/barrel. Oh, how I long for a bio-diesel engine;

-spent time with my adopted little sister, L____, who explained, in all seriousness, that if she had not gone to law school, she would have been a doctor because she was always very good at Operation when she was a kid;

-was baptized by fire to the text messaging feature of my new Motorola Razr in an AIM forwarding conversation with Alecia (whose blog is definitely worth checking out);

-spent a week sleeping on the floor in my soon-to-be-sold house (oh please, oh please, oh please close) so I wouldn't have to spend my per diem on a hotel in the city I used to live in (and still own a house) for training for the job in the new city I now live in (follow that one? I'm not sure I did...);

-spent two days trapped in my soon-to-be-sold house because an indicator light on my car came on and led to me being raped by a mechanic when I had to have my brakes replaced;

-saw the immediate aftermath of two car accidents on the highway and thanked all that was holy that I had my brakes replaced;

-had dinner with my cousins L___ and A___ who insisted that we go for sushi and, only after sitting down and deciding what to order, informed me that L____ does not eat sushi;

-found a Squibnocket card with the following outstanding caption:
Hypothetical situation: I call you up and ask you out. Do you (A) laugh uncontrollably as you kindly inform me you would rather nude-wrestle a large peasant woman in front of your entire office while a cable television superstation broadcasts it to the entire free world? Or do you (B) say yes, wherein I come over to your place, dim the lights, and visit upon your body an apocalypse of love?
-had an awesome lunch with my adorable friend G___, as I introduced her to some of the best restaurants in the city I used to live in. G___ has the cutest Southern accent. I tell you, when you have that accent, I don't care if you read me a dictionary, just don't ever stop talking;

-allowed G___ to raid my refrigerator after lunch, during which she informed me that she was going to take my soy milk, pour it into her regular milk container, and not tell her boyfriend that it's not actually real milk. Considering the soy milk was vanilla flavored, not regular flavored, I'm somewhat curious to find out how successful this little plan turned out to be.

All in all, it was quite an interesting few weeks. Wish me luck in navigating through these cardboard boxes...


Jack of all trades, expert of one...

If there's one thing I'm an expert on it's moving. In order to stay ahead of the law (ok, maybe that's not the exact reason), I've lived in five states and in nine cities. While this certainly doesn't compare to the life of a career military brat, it definitely has gotten me used to packing up my bunch-o-crap and settling down somewhere new. However, this time I have a wrinkle that I've never dealt with before: a house.

As a child, I never dealt with selling or buying a house. I mean, seriously, I didn't even know if the houses I lived in before I was in seventh grade were owned by my parents or rentals. Then, once I hit college and made a number of moves after that, I always rented. Always. The beauty of renting is, of course, you can pick up and go whenever you want. That and if you have any problems you call the owner/apartment company and they fix it. They trot some guy in a little outfit with a name tag to your apartment at your convenience, cure the problem, and you go on about your merry way. Of course, the disadvantage is that you are basically throwing your money into some other guy's pocket.

Well, after I moved to this city a little less than two years ago, I was renting from an apartment company and one of my very good friends decided to get married. It was a mutual thing and all. It's not like she just decided to get married unilaterally. Only Dennis Rodman, Carrie Bradshaw, and Jennifer Lopez make that decision unilaterally. However, my friend had an awesome two bedroom/two bath condo about a mile from where I worked. Surprisingly enough, she actually had a difficult time selling the place. One day I said to her that, if I could afford it, I would buy the place from her. She said, "So, why don't you?" Within an hour, I was on the phone with a mortgage broker and we determined that not only would I be able to afford the place, but that I would actually be able to live there and be able to buy food. It was settled. I bought the house from her.

Of course, extracting myself from my lease was a different challenge. But that's a story, and quite an entertaining one, for another day.

So now, I must bid my cute little condo adieu. I must admit, I do love the place. I like the neighborhood. I like the proximity to downtown. And I like that it's mine. Most of the time.

However, the real estate gods hate me. No, not because I didn't make a profit on my house when I finally sold it (it was on the market for 10 days, but it felt like a lifetime-and yes, I did just fine), but because once I put the place on the market, I've had a litany of problems, ranging from large to small. And, of course, because I am a person of good conscience (and because this is a litigation crazy state), I have not only disclosed those problems, but fixed every one.

But that doesn't mean fixing things doesn't suck. Really suck.

First, about a month before I was going to sell my house, there was the fact that the air conditioner didn't seem to be producing cool air. Well, in the South, no air conditioning makes summer just slightly warmer than the steamiest part of hell. At the end of the day, that was a replaced air handler. Those are...well, they aren't cheap. They also take around 8 hours to install. Quite a combo. But then again, when the inside of a working oven is cooler than the status quo, I suck it up.

Then, the day after I decided to sell, which was a Saturday, I noticed a damp area in the corner of my second bedroom. I immediately notified the condo association, because, after all, they are responsible for the roof. They come out, look at the corner and say, "Oh, we've seen these before." My immediate thought is, "Well asshole, don't you think that would inspire you to invest in a proactive roof examination?" After chuckling about the leak, the guy tells me, "OK, we'll get the roofer out here on Monday."

Of course, Monday became Tuesday, Tuesday became Thursday, and Thursday became Friday. And, since this is a coastal Southern city, it rains in the summer. Well, that doesn't accurately describe it. Let's try that again. During the summer, sometime between two and six in the afternoon, a tempist of winds attack at gale force, the heavens open, and ungodly quantities of water are dumped onto the city. Yeah, that's a bit closer to the experience.

Now, knowing this, you'd think that someone who was aware of a roof leak would take some type of a step to protect additional water infiltration, right? Maybe put up a tarp or, geez, even a Ziploc baggie or something. No, not my condo association employees. They just decide that they'll deal with it when it's "sunny." Meanwhile, water continues to drip through the leak into my second bedroom. In case you're wondering, I'm restricted by the condo association rules from putting anything on the outside of my unit. Not to mention, my unit is on the second floor, so I'm not exactly able to get on the roof without the help of a fire truck. And I left mine in my office parking spot.

Finally, on Friday, the Keystone Kondo Association employees finally get the roofer out. He repairs the roof and, when I indicate that the condo association should pay for repairing any drywall damage and repainting my guest room because of the negligence of the employees to take any steps to avoid water infiltration, the response is "Oh, well, you're responsible for the inside of your unit." To make a very long story, much shorter, when a professional determined that the drywall was not damaged and that fighting over the $150 to repaint the condo with the condo board was just, well, not worth it. It's not often I back down from one of these types of fights and, more often than not, I win them. But honestly, I was just interested in getting out of Dodge. And at least the cost comes out of the taxable value of the house...I think. Damn, I need to get an accountant.

Just when I thought everything was set with the house and I was packing my boxes of move, the real estate gods once again reared their ugly heads. I have three ceiling fans in my house and each of them operates solely by remote control. In other words, the fan and the light are entirely operated by a remote control and have no switches, pullstrings, or any other device that makes them operate independently. So, today, I go to turn off the light on the fan in my bedroom and nothing happens. I press the light button and the little LED on the remote is lighting up, but the light isn't turning off on the fan.

So, I think, maybe there's something wrong with the remote. So, I turn off the fan. It shuts off. I turn on the fan. It turns on. I turn off the light. Nothing. Well, that's not true; light. Apparently, the wires are working, because the light is on.

After I have a few friends come over to help me out, I finally get someone on the phone from the fan company. The conversation went something like this:

"Hi, I'm having a problem with my ceiling fan. The fan only operates by remote control and the remote causes the fan to turn on and off, but the button on the remote control for the light doesn't turn the lights off. The lights are stuck in the on position."

"OK. Sounds like there's a problem with the receiver."

"Great. What's that?"

"The receiver is in the canopy. It's what the remote communicates with."

"In the canopy? You mean in the ceiling?"

"Yes. It's in the ceiling. What model is the fan?"

"Uh...it's silver with four lights..."

"No. What's the UPC number?"

"Is there a place where I should look for the UPC number?"

"Yes. There should be a sticker on the top of the fan."

"On the top?"


"Of a ceiling fan?"


"Well, that doesn't seem like a very logical place to put a sticker on a ceiling fan."

At this point, I explain to my friends that we need to look on top of the ceiling fan for a UPC number. Since there is no ladder around, in a scene that can only be seen to be believed, my friends stand on my bed and one of my friends gets on the other's shoulders to look for stickers above the ceiling fan's base. After they've called "no joy," I report my (well, their) findings to the guy from the fan company.

"Oh, well, that's too bad because we would have sent you out another receiver, but now you either need to track down the UPC number or go buy a universal remote."

Great. Another expense. Of couse, I'm just happy I didn't have to buy a new fan. But then again, I haven't installed the new receiver yet, so who knows.

I guess I'll just chalk it up to developing my expertise...