Word of the week!

May 28, 2009

The Germans are incredibly good at creating words for all sorts of situations. Schadenfreude is the only word I know that accurately sums up the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. If you need examples, there is a great song in the musical Avenue Q where Gary Coleman sings about waitresses and frat boys in various situations. Some words are just fun to say. Krankenschwester, literally ‘sick sister’ is far more exciting to say instead of  ‘nurse.’

However, my favorite German word of the moment is torschlusspanik, or “The panic that strikes because of the closing if the gates, or the closing down of possibilities.” Sure, this term has been used literally to talk about boarder crossing and fleeing of states, but I think it has a much more apropos meaning for quarterlifers. We talk about the paradox of choice and how we as a generation avoid shutting doors. Maybe we are more afraid of closing gates. The fear that happens when one path is closed and we are channeled towards another is torschlsspanik. While we may not be able to quell the fear brought on by these choices, we do have a name for it. And with a name that is so much fun to say, maybe that fear is just a little less scary.

Welcome to the civil rights movement of our generation

May 21, 2009

In November of this past year, Californian’s decided to repeal their law that allowed same sex couples to marry. Since then, there have been huge demonstrations on both sides and a fiery legal battle surrounding the outcome.  The California Supreme Court heard arguments on March 5th, 2009 and a decision is made no later than 90 days after the arguments. June 5th is that 90th day. There is speculation that the ruling will come down next week.

This is big.

It’s not just a monumental court ruling or something that affects the lives of over 18,000 couples in California. This is our turning point. As the child of Baby Boomers, I was raised on good old-fashioned hippy notions of equality and acceptance. My mom still has the bracelet she wore supporting the Equal Rights Amendment and my dad follows Amy Goodman like a groupie. The result is my liberal ideology of everyone being accepted for who they want to be.

It’s hard to remember that civil rights are ongoing. It’s hard to remember that just because we have a new foe to fight, we can’t forget the old ones. And, it’s particularly hard to remember even in the face of oppression that things do get better.

This is not a call to action. I would like to think that everyone wants to be involved and fight alongside their friends for equality. But realistically, I know that won’t happen. This is a call to be aware. Our twenties is when we take that time to discover who we are and what we stand for. Now is the time when we start letting the world know who we are going to be when we are in charge. When so much in the world is changing, I want to make sure that I support change I can be proud of.

Foreclosure Rocks!

May 15, 2009

So it finally happened. After more than a year of not making a single mortgage payment for our condo, my wife, Jana, and I foreclosed. Sure, I tried saving it at first. When selling the condo straight out didn’t work I opted for a short sale, when the short sale didn’t work I tried for a deed in lieu, and when that failed I tried burning it to the ground, eventually… I just let it run its course. I know what you’re thinking, “That’s retarded, why would anyone want a foreclosure.” Let me explain, at the time my wife and I were newlyweds. We were more or less convinced to purchase the condo by our parents. Apparently, it’s the next logical step after marriage — get married, buy a home, settle down, have kids, focus on your career and waste away in suburbia. It’s funny how you have these grand plans as a new couple — sailing around the world, living in a hut in Costa Rica, joining the Peace Corps. Let me tell you, purchasing a house will end those dreams REAL quick.

Jana and I bought the condo at the height of real estate costs, I’m talking literally months before the crash. This was about 3 and a half years ago. With the help of our parents, and practically selling everything I owned (including my Gameboy DS), we purchased the 2 bedroom condo for $130,000. We literally had 1 day to “pick” our home. So, we drove around Orlando on a Saturday afternoon with our family, looking for a place to buy. Jana and I looked at 3 condos, most of which were in the ghetto. We settled on the one we thought was “least” in the ghetto. Turns out we were wrong. The previous residents sawed holes in the walls to “mount” their big ass speakers. I wish I could describe how awful it looked. Lucky for us, that was the least of our troubles.

After a few months of living there we had several issues. Our neighbors were literally an abusive single mother on one side, and a drug dealer on the other. Throughout the day we heard the mother screaming at her kids and throwing stuff against the walls, we prayed it wasn’t the kids themselves. During the night our condo was often frequented by addicts who had our condo mixed up with the drug dealer next door. I didn’t like Jana walking around the neighborhood at night at all. There were often fights in the parking lot, and I was consistently approached by crack heads wanting to borrow my phone and scream at their baby’s mama for an hour wasting my minutes. We were living the dream!

Six months passed and enough was enough. We couldn’t handle living in that hell hole any longer. It was time to sell. Unfortunately for us, the Orlando real estate market was crashing harder than the coke fiends next door. We started out trying to make a little bit of profit. Which is the whole freaking idea of purchasing a home rather than renting in the first place! I’m just a little bitter. With no bites, we kept dropping the price. Eventually, we just wanted to break even, but that wasn’t working out so hot either. Finally, we purchased one-way tickets to Hawaii 6 months in advance and gave ourselves an ultimatum. Hopefully we sell within 6 months, if not, “Oh well, we tried.”

For those months we refused to purchase anything for the condo. Instead, we focused on getting rid of stuff. Selling furniture on craigslist, donating extra clothes to the homeless, dropping stuff off at Goodwill, and just throwing away excess goods. By the end of the 6 months, our condo was stripped down to the bone. As it turned out, we had an interested buyer. The buyer was willing to purchase our condo for about 5 thousand less than what we owed. We figured we would eat the 5 grand and count our losses. We were lucky to have anyone interested at this point. The buyer signed the contract and we packed our car with luggage. It was a week before the inspection and Central Florida received a heavy dose of severe thunderstorms and flooding. So much rain that a portion of our ceiling caved in. It was damage due to leakage from the exterior, the condo associations problem, not ours. We attempted to have it repaired by the Home Owners Association as quickly as possible. After all, that was what we paid them $300 a month for. They were extremely uncooperative. One thing led to another, the inspection failed, and our buyer backed out. Oh happy day. By this time we were already traveling across the country before flying out to Hawaii from California. I think we were actually on the road in Oklahoma at the time. We were presented with 2 options; drive back to an empty condo in the ghetto of Orlando, or continue our adventure to Hawaii. I like to think we chose the better option.

It turns out the condos in our community are currently selling for $40,000. That’s $90,000 less than what we paid. We could buy 3 of those condos now for less than the price of what we paid for one. Had we sold our condo, we would still owe more than double the amount of the selling price. Foreclosure was by far, the best option. I gladly accept 7 years of bad credit over paying $90,000 on a condo I don’t even own. I guess some lessons you learn the hard way. Mine and Jana’s venture in to the world of real estate and purchasing a home was one of those lessons. Next time, we will shop for a house a little longer than 1 afternoon, and we’ll really make sure it’s a wise decision and a great location. We don’t plan on making the same mistake twice.

We continued making payments on the condo for our first few months in Hawaii, until tax season rolled around. Since Jana and I had both worked contract jobs the previous year we owed Uncle Sam a lot of money, and our soul. We stopped paying our mortgage to afford taxes. Unfortunately we had to continue paying the monthly (and worthless) $300 HOA fee. After more than a year of no payments our condo finally foreclosed last month. It was truly a happy day. In fact, it rocked!

Living Arrangements

May 15, 2009

So you are getting kicked out of the dorm or the communal apartment. Perhaps your girlfriend is graduating before your slacking ass and there will be no more playing house, as she has a job in another state.

Well, it is probably a sure bet you can say hasta to her or him or whatever…but you are going to need a place to shack up for at least the summer before you either face reality of more school or entering the employed world.

Depending on your furniture, kitchen possessions, bedding, video game system and the size of your plasma…you still need to get priorities straight. Food, water and shelter. If you are in your twenties and in and out of college you should have the groceries and H2O thing taken care of by now. If not…you are not reading this and are dead from starvation. But, death by exposure is not something the typical quarterlifer puts up with. Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with the summer lull until new roomies, new dorm room, new apartment or new girl/boyfriend can provide you with all the things you need between four walls and under one roof.

Two words: College Dumpster. Come May in college area apartment dumpsters there are more goodies than any street bum could ever want. Just recently I took a casual scooter ride around my campus. On one drive by of several apartment complexes, I spied four televisions, twenty-two microwaves, a few computers, a laptop, fine China dishes, grills, chairs, beds, couches, etc. You can totally score here. The Ritchie Rich students, those moving back home with Mom and Dad, or students who just don’t think they want the popcorn stained micro anymore, dump these items by the score. One coed’s trash is another’s salvation.

Even after you have your full. Pawn shops take all sorts of crap. Blenders, monitor screens, old televisions, etc. Hell, collect it all and have a yard sale with stuff that is not even yours. Cold hard cash my friend. And how else to better celebrate your new bedroom suite than a using that cold cash for a cold keg at a graduation party?!

Who is afraid of the big bad Swine Flu?

May 12, 2009

Come on. Really? Now don’t get me wrong, sickness, death and harm to anyone is not something to laugh about, but we need to all get perspective on this whole pig thing. Are our greatest biological fiends out there really farm animals? I would have hoped mutated Komodo dragons with laser eyes which have turned us into zombies would have been a better way to go. But, I don’t write the stories. Chicken Bird flu? Mad Cow Disease? Now Swine? So Chicken Little, Elsie, Porky Pig and Winnie the Pooh’s Piglet are the big bad monsters out there in the darkness? Come on…no T-Rexs?

First be calm. You are not going to get it and the odds of you dying from it are so whacked. 30,000 people die by regular style winter flu every year in the US. That should be enough to motivate you to get your flu shot, wash your hands, use a tissue to blow your nose, but not seal your home in plastic wrap. Here are some other odds to think about from the National Safety Council.

Odds of dying of swine flu in the USA?
1 in 281 million!

Odds you will blow something off with fireworks this July?
1 in 18.5 million!

Odds you will choke on some summer fresh fruit?
1 in 800…Better chew your food!

Odds you will be burned by “ignition of underwear or nightwear?”
1 in 8.2 million. And I am not sure I want to know what is going on in that bedroom…

Odds you will be legally executed in your lifetime?
1 in 54 million. Santa sees you when you are sleeping and he knows when you’re awake.

Odds you will be crushed by a reptile?
None…no one has. Bitten yes! Crushed nope…just has not happened. And who would have thunk? I would have figured some New Orleans spring break partiers or Southern swamp hicks would surely have had some run in with a gator body slamming them in a no bar holds cage croc wrestling fest.

Happy Mother’s Day

May 9, 2009

I was wished a Happy Mother’s Day today. Working in retail, I run into many people every day from all walks of life. It never surprises me what people will say. Happy Mother’s Day was not something I expected.

I recognize that we all have mothers, and the salutation was not completely asinine. However, this is the first year that I have noticed the public recognition that I am of the age to have children. I have friends with children- children old enough to be in elementary school. But, for me, the thought that I could be a mother is absurd.

I know I’m approaching 30, which doesn’t fill me with dread as Cosmo says it should. But I fall into a group of quarterlifers who aren’t ready (or, in my case, don’t want) to start a family. It unsettled me a little to be thought of as a mother, but I think this is just the next social pressure to be faced. I’ll take it in stride and feel proud that I can go home to my babies, who happen to walk on four legs.

3 Useful Quotes I Often Forget

May 7, 2009

I’ll be honest, sometimes I’ll read a good quote, even several times; and just go right on living without appying the wisdom.  Here are a few of my favroite most-forgotten quotes:

  • “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~Will Rogers
  • “Successful people strive no matter what they feel by applying their will to overcome apathy, doubt or fear.” ~Dan Millman
  • “Insist on yourself. Never imitate.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson