The Cross House
Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans — John Lennon
The powerful truth of this well-known quote has made itself evident to me many times. While I furiously make plans, life often saunters in from nowhere and bashes me in the head with its own agenda.
I really hate this.
Life did it again in 2014.
A few years previously my ever-expanding business (restoring vintage lighting) forced the issue of finding a suitable structure to house the business. I mean, how much longer could I tolerate hanging old lights en masse above my bed? No, a place which could properly house the business became critical.
So began The Great Real Estate Search. This being the modern age, Zillow became a daily companion.
My focus was specific. I was not too concerned with WHERE I relocated but was adamant about WHAT I would relocate to.
The what was: A mint 1950s Mid-Century Modern ranch, in untouched original condition. I also wanted a brick exterior. I swore that I would never again own a wood house. Just too much endless maintenance and I was (sigh) simply too old for all that.
In short, I was way too busy/too old to consider a house needing a lot of work. No no no no no way. No. NO!
My thought was that I would find the perfect Mid-Century jewel, do some minor updates and painting, and move in.
However, all that I looked at did not quite fit my requirements. This grew frustrating. I did not want a dining ell (as was popular in the 1950s) but a dining room. While having an attached bath to the master bedroom was a luxury in the 1950s, it did not, apparently, concern Lucy & Ricky that it was a tiny bath. In 2014 however, this did concern me. A one-car attached garage? Please. I am a two-car minimum kind of guy (what guy isn’t?). And so on.
Another huge issue became evident. I found no home large enough to house my personal life and business. Because of the very long/late hours I work it seemed vital to have my home/business located in the same structure. At 11:30PM, a very short commute from desk to bed is highly attractive.
But, no matter my plans — cue drum roll — a house which could not have been more diametrically opposed to my ideal sorta kinda somewhat fell into my lap in the spring of 2013. Over a period of several weeks I spent hours touring the house and talking with the owner.
Unexpectedly, mature reasoning — Hey! Where the hell did that come from? — managed to corral my desire and I walked away.
I suspect that the house was amused by my showy maturity and knew that it only but needed to bide its time.
In December, I found myself irresistibly yanked back by the gravitational enticements of the house.
Damn life. Damn house.
The house was IN NO WAY sensible. It was IN NO WAY a quick refresh and then a move in.
The house was:
- Huge. When I say huge you need to imagine a HUGE house. Then double this imagining. Then perhaps triple it. Yea, that’s it, about that size!
- Built in 1894. Geez. Was I mad?
- The exterior was — you guessed it — not prudent brick but (I am embarrassed to publicly admit this) all wood. Three stories of wood which requires repainting several times a decade. Three friggin’ stories!!!!! Of wood! God help me.
- And, most disturbing and altogether terrifying, the house needed a ton of work. However, a-ton-of-work can in no way truly convey the reality of just how much work was required. The projected expense and time required to even make the house livable (much less fully restored) was, yes, terrifying. Terrifying on a profound, shocking, alarming, lock-me-away level.
Of course I purchased it. Can you believe it?
Work started on March 1, 2014. Because I intend to die in 2049, at the age of ninety-two, the house just might, might, be fully restored before my departure date.
Oh, on March 2, 2014, I started playing the lottery weekly.
Qualifying Reasoning Alert #1:
There were several factors which offset the enormity of this titanic-scaled insanity. Really!
Most significantly, the house was the only property I looked at which could absorb both my personal and professional lives. Its huge scale was actually a positive rather than a deterrent.
Without a doubt however was THE factor: I was in love. A full-blown, crazy, insensible, lusty, driven-beyond-reason, ecstatic kind of love.
Well, how could carefully laid plans prevail against this?
So, yes, I purchased the madness. To date, I have not regretted this for an instant (caveat: I reserve the right to change this statement without notice). Indeed, I feel a level of — the only accurate word is glee — which I have not experienced for a long time.
Qualifying Reasoning Alert #2:
One thought pushed me over the edge of uncertainty.
Just before I signed a contract I wondered: When was the last time I did something crazy? I had not expected the thought; it just popped into my head.
When I was younger I did a lot a crazy things (no, I will not let you read my diary). In retrospect, many of these actions almost wrecked my life, but some, some, proved deeply nourishing. And, you know, even some of the disasters make me, today, smile when I think: I did what? I admit to a certain pride at the impressive, glittering foolishness of some of my actions.
In 2014 I was fifty-seven. As I have grown ever older I have also grown ever more cautious. This dynamic is not unique to me, but…should I, could I, would I be willing to, for perhaps one last time, joyfully jump off a cliff and toward…?
The last crazy thing I did was in 1996. Had eighteen years really now since passed? The thought stunned me. Eighteen years! Was I now frozen in a kind of old-age conservatism?
At fifty-seven was there enough boldness left in me to fuel THE craziest thing I had ever done?
The question stopped me cold.
The answer catapulted me off that cliff.
I have no sense. And, obviously, I am immune to a rational sensibility.
Funny though, since jumping — arms outstretched, a radiant smile blazing across my face — I feel many years younger.
Incaution may be a magic elixir.