Hurley house closing - Tuesday October 15 2002

setting: Saugerties, New York

This morning bright and early, Gretchen and I continued our convoy from Katie's house in Saugerties to the house in Hurley, where we had our pre-closing walk-through (as if, at this point in the process, we'd find something that would make us refuse the deal). After we'd walked around in the mostly-empty house and made the appropriate final walk-through grunts, Larry our realtor helped us unload Gretchen's car into the garage. After parking my truck, I rode into Kingston with Gretchen in her now-empty car.
The closing was held around a large table in the offices of our Kingston attorney. Strewn upon the desk were several calculators and collections of cheap black pens. The calculators were a contemporary iMac-influenced design featuring fancy translucent flip-top over the screen that, when released, slowly rolled back to form a little stand. Printed on this flip top was the name of a tile company. It's a shrewd move to be a building parts supplier who distributes branded calculators to the tables upon which real estate closings transpire. If one isn't preoccupied with mental calculations about checking account balances (as we were), one is surely thinking about the decorative horrors that will have to be changed forthwith.

According to Larry, this had been the most rapid closing he'd ever seen. The actual ceremony of document signing took place at a leisurely almost light-hearted pace, with occasional chatty banter breaking out between us and the people selling us the house. We'd somehow managed to maintain a cordial, non-confrontational relationship throughout the transaction. Somewhere towards the end, Mike (the realtor who was selling us his house) handed me a ceremonial key to the front door. It was a very man-of-the-household to man-of-the-household thing to do, 100 years of feminism be damned.
Immediately after the closing, Gretchen went to Ulster Publishing to see if perhaps they had any openings for a copy editor. Unknowingly, I just happened to be parking outside of Ulster Publishing a half hour later (having investigated getting her car inspected) when Gretchen walked out. She was talking to an Ulster Publishing graphic designer who is, it turned out, our neighbor in Hurley! The world of Kingston is much smaller than I'd thought. For some reason, I'd thought of Kingston as a biggish city of maybe 100,000 people. It certainly looks like a city of that scale. But in these depressed times, less people live in Kingston than in, say, Staunton, Virginia. Of course, there was a time when Kingston was far more prosperous and contained many more people. Indeed, at one time it was even the capitol of New York State.
There's a local Woodstock-based bakery chain that Gretchen loves called Bread Alone, and they recently opened a store in the porticoed-sidewalk-storefront area of downtown Kingston. It was here that Gretchen and I had our post-closing celebratory lunch. As we sat eating, I saw three well-dressed middle-aged white men walk by and, as I was just then engaged in a monologue about large multi-national corporations owning the world, I decided to declare those three random white men to be the troika pulling the strings on the entire System.
Next on the agenda was the supplies with which to correct the many superficial problems of our new house's interior. At Lowes we both applied for a Lowes credit card but were mysteriously turned down, even though we'd lied and said we made $70,000 per year (in reality, we're both still more or less unemployed). We nonetheless bought a new gas range (to replace an electric one) as well as an armload of tools and wallpaper removing supplies.

As we were going through our stuff and figuring out what to put where, one of the teenage kids of the former occupants came to have one last look at the house where he'd spent the last nine years. It was sort of creepy to have this random, semi-antisocial fifteen year old stalking around the house, not really saying anything as we tried to go about our business making his house ours. He took a few pictures and I also saw him in the garage staring in adolescent awe at some of my paintings.
Katie came out to visit us at our new house in the late afternoon, going with Gretchen and Sally into the woods to explore the four acres of land that come with the house. Most of this land is wooded, a continuation of the unbroken forest in the core of Catskill State Park. Trails beginning on our property continue into this park, allowing for incredible hikes.
While Gretchen, Sally and Katie were off in the woods, I was making another run to Lowes to get additional wallpaper removing supplies. When I returned, I was fiddling with my truck doing something (I don't remember what) when suddenly a deafening siren issued from under the hood, complete with flashing lights. Unbeknownst to me, I'd bought a truck with a built-in alarm system! I had no idea how to shut it off - the former owner hadn't told me anything about this unforeseen scenario. It was an incredibly embarrassing situation, since here it was, our first day at our new house, and already we were penetrating the still with the most annoying big-city noise of all. I could imagine our neighbors standing at their windows sighing, "Ah, city slickers!" They had no idea that a car alarm was the antithesis of everything I am about. First impressions are everything.
Katie and Gretchen had been so far back into the woods that they hadn't even heard my alarm. When they emerged, they were blown away by what they'd seen. Only a few hundred feet into the forest there is a deep gorge with a babbling brook running at the bottom of it. It was a feature that hadn't even been mentioned in the marketing of the property!

As a celebratory dinner, we three dined at the Hurley Mountain Inn, only about two and a half miles away. It's a big unpretentiously tacky dining room, featuring waitresses who look exactly like preserved copies of the cheerleaders I knew back at Riverheads High School, circa 1985. They had it all, the stiffening effects of repeated spritzing of Sun-InTM into their hair, the same pasty results of lavish overuse of foundation. Back when I was in high school, I had no other measure of beauty and I actually remember thinking that look was hot. For the record (and I mentioned this at the table tonight), those cheerleaders who looked that way never let me anywhere near them.

Katie headed her own way home to Saugerties while Gretchen and I launched immediately into the back breaking work of making the house suitable for its new owners. Gretchen focused on obliterating folksy wallpaper from the hallway, using a variety of chemicals. Meanwhile my first task was ripping down a wall between two bedrooms down in the finished basement. The large room that will result will be Gretchen's office: a tranquil sunny place for writing and artsy-crafty projects.
I started with a large hole in the dry wall and then expanded it using a jigsaw I'd bought today. After that, I put down my tools and relied on my bare hands. It's amazing how flimsy a modern gypsum wall actually is. It takes relatively little strength to pull the panels off and snap them asunder. Perhaps, of course, I'm a little stronger than I think; Gretchen tried pulling out the drywall and found it considerably harder than I did.
After the drywall was gone from both sides, I knocked out each stud using a regular claw hammer. At one point the claws slipped free of a nail I was pulling and the side of my right hand flew directly across a flat-headed drywall nail, tearing away a narrow inch-long sliver of skin along with a separate smaller triangle a half inch away. The resulting wound looked like an exclamation mark. I stared at it in shock and amazement immediately after it happened, marveling at the fact that almost no blood flowed from such a nasty flaying. Lacking any bandages, I used a paper towel and piece of tape to protect my new injury as I continued working. Since I was doing so much work with such a sudden burst of purpose and zeal, I managed to wound myself several more times tonight, though nowhere near as seriously.
Since there were two different electrical circuits and sets of phone lines in the wall I was destroying, I had to turn off the circuits and pulled the wires all the way back to the walls that I wasn't destroying.

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