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Perspectives from a new Vallejo resident-to-be


Confessions of a Macroneurotic


Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious -- Rumi

By Carol Pearlman



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I did it! On April 9th 2014 I bought the condo. It was touch & go for a while: first, should-I-shouldn’t-I?, then can-I-dare-I?, then, dealing with a reverse-mortgage-short-sale that I didn’t understand, and 5,000 pages of Home-Owners’-Association-Rules-And-Regulations that were even more incomprehensible. But, in the end the bank accepted my offer, I forked over the dough, signed everything, and I’m happy to report I’m now a Vallejo homeowner, and like it or not, I’m here and HELLO!


I chose the compact little condo with a patio over the spacious hillside dream house with the big yard because of its location and the price was right, and, after all, at my stage of the game, it’s better for me. Let’s face it, my knees don’t bend like they used to… And, I still want to travel, pack my bags, lock my door & go to Italy for a couple of months without worrying about an unguarded home with possible dry rot that needs constant care.

My new home is not perfect, neither architecturally interesting nor particularly gracious. The kitchen is small, there’s an inside flight of stairs I could frankly live without, and I hear a lot of traffic noise from the street in front. As one astute friend observed, “the place looks like a cheap hotel,” but I can see its potential, and it’s got a view of the river, a fireplace, and 2 ½ bathrooms. I’ll fix it up. With a bit of creativity and a bundle of cash it could turn out ok.


I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into when I made the offer, but it wasn’t until I sat down with a good friend, an experienced builder/designer/ decorator, and we started making lists of what I need in order to renovate the place the way I want, that I began to understand the true & deep, almost spiritual significance of home ownership. It came to me in a blinding flash: home ownership is an exercise for masochists with money to burn. It’s a mandate to Buy, Buy, Buy, Buy, Buy, Buy.

Home ownership, as I see it, is the backbone of America; it’s the realization of the American Dream (of the disappearing middle class); it’s what keeps the economy going and growing (or brings it down); it’s why this country is the greatest place in the world to do business, (and ((currently)) be a general contractor). Home ownership obliges you to become a consumer with unending and often unforeseen needs and desires. It’s like a black hole. For the first time in my life I’m thinking about refrigerator doors, washer capacity, & the merits of self-cleaning ovens. I’m running around looking in places I’ve never before entered: big box stores, flooring & tile stores, closet design & plumbing supply emporiums, and the shining be-all-end-all mecca of home owners across the land: Home Depot. 

More, more, more…. I need all the appliances (which is best?) I’m ripping up carpeting and tiles and putting down laminate. (I hope that’s a good decision.) I’m tearing down partitions, scraping popcorn off ceilings, expanding space, painting everything – and these are just the first items on my list. I need things and I need help. Not only will I do my part to stimulate the economy I will become a job creator.

I keep telling myself I’m having fun. I am, actually, sort of, in a stressful kind of way. This is what I’ve saved for all my life. I’m a home owner now, after all, and it’s a good thing. My snarky friend says I’m throwing pearls to swine, but I believe I've made a good investment,  I’m transforming a small, dinky place into a wonderful light-filled home on the river where I can be near my darling grandchildren, and finish out my old age in style. The way I see it, it’s now or never.


Together with my brilliant, talented, designer/decorator friend whose taste is impeccable, I made my renovation plans and asked around about contractors & workers to do the job. I thought myself lucky when a builder friend loaned me his demo man who promised to dig out tiles, rip up carpeting, scrape ceilings, break into dry wall and other such noisy undertakings in a day and a half, over the weekend, at a price I couldn’t refuse.


Do I need to tell you what happened next? Sneaking out to do other jobs, disappearing for hours, not answering his phone, leaving early, fixing his truck, and telling me his back hurts. Three days later we’re about half done, and there a big mess that needs to be hauled away.


At least I learned my lesson at the outset & won’t do that again. I’m going to hire a proper contractor from A to Z, with references & a bona fide business here in town. Ok. That was a fast weekend seminar in what not to do in home renovation. I got it. It was worth the price.

NEWS FLASH: The consignment store in Berkeley where I purchased wonderful book cases, a beautiful bamboo desk , and the most extraordinary Egyptian Revival chair, which they kindly agreed to hold delivery on until my condo was ready, burned down last night. According to early reports, it happened in the middle of the night; no one was hurt, but at this point I don’t have great hope that my beautiful, albeit second (or third) hand furniture survived.


Remember the Christmas party with the singing neighbors who welcomed me to the place where I thought I’d buy a home when I first arrived in Vallejo? How I’ve longed to be among those gentle folk and become part of that community! So, imagine my surprise when the day before I received the deed title papers, or whatever you call them, to my condo, I bumped into my future next-door neighbor who invited me to a party in her home the following Saturday. Of course I went, bearing a bottle of Bordeaux, and while I discovered they didn’t sing, they did sit around and talk and laugh, wined & dined, and enjoyed each other’s company. Everyone told me how much they loved living in that community, how they all knew and looked after each other, and winked when they told me that our group of units were the “best” in the complex, and with the “best” people. They welcomed me warmly, and looked forward to my becoming part of the community. It’s the fulfillment of what I’ve longed for a long time, and what I missed so much in Los Angeles. They also told me that they gave neighborhood parties from time to time, and got together to celebrate the 4th. of July, and other holidays. It wouldn’t surprise me if they sing at Christmas time as well.

BREAKING NEWS: The Berkeley consignment shop escaped the fire, my furniture has survived.