Wednesday, March 23 2022

open house week 3

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Wednesday. How are you feeling today?

The scenery here in Madison Wisconsin is more of the same. Another cool, gloomy day. And after all the chaos of last week, I'm definitely not going to complain about some consistency.

We're even more back to normal than before, since Marissa and I moved Ducky's terrarium back upstairs. We wondered if Ducky would enjoy residing in the studio more than our bedroom, then she made her feelings clear. Yesterday Marissa switched on her noisy air compressor to use her air brush on a painting. The little machine hissed and rumbled on the cold cement floor. Marissa says she saw Ducky crawl out of her cave just to give her the stink eye.

We've already started thinking about how we're going to deal with the animals when moving out. Ducky will be easy - her terrerium is big, but aside from a few loose rocks and a waterbowl, there's nothing too fragile in her environment. Same for all the spiders. Luckily they're pretty durable too - I just might have to remove their water bowls before driving them anywhere, and also hope that none of them decide to flip over and molt during a bumpy drive.

What do we do about all the fish? We may just have to buy an extra tank or two, but those things are just useful to have around even when you're not moving. Marissa explained to me that for all the time she's spent battling algae outbreaks, weird underwater infections, and invasive diatoms, she probably could have benefited from having an extra tank for quarantine. Quarantine - we all know a little something about that, don't we?

I don't know much about fish, but I do know something about waking up in the morning. In my expert opinion, it's best to use coffee. Apply liberally until the symptoms of grogginess and confusion are mitigated.

Sip. That's the stuff.

Today I'm publishing the third and final reflection in our open house series. As we've already established, "open house week" is totally inaccurate for a number of reasons. Firstly, it wasn't a full week - more like an extended weekend. Secondly, it wasn't really an open house. Everyone who toured our house that weekend made a thirty minute appointment. These were also forwarded by email to me and Marissa, which made it even more exciting hearing our phones simultaneously buzz and chirp all weekend witch each new lead.

We last left off on the previous Saturday. We packed the family in the car to conduct a routine "vibe check" of Arlington Heights, and it didn't feel like a good fit. We swept Arlington Heights off the table, much like my unruly children swept their uneaten chunks of pizza off the table at Armand's pizzeria. We had one more day around Chicago to conduct some field research, so we set our sites on Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates.

We took the boys to a diner called Jo-Jo's. Even though we had never been there, the format felt all to familiar. It was decorated like a cool Chicago sports obsessed uncle's basement. Our waitress promptly topped off our coffee mugs each time we took a sip. They had Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes for kids, and at least ten different skillet and meat combinations to choose from. When we were done with our meal, we walked the handwritten bill to the front of a counter and handed it to an old lady with a hoarse smoker's voice. She offered Rodney a Dum-Dum sucker out of a glass jar. Have you ever eaten at a place like this? I can think of at least five different diners from my past that follow this format. It was a good start to house hunting - I already felt like I was home.

Marissa found an open house in the area. We drove North to a quiet, peaceful subdivision that rested at the border of Hoffman Estates and Inverness. Before turning further into the quaint neighborhood, we gently braked our car to let three kids glide by on scooters. We parked on the street next to another couple that was getting out to look at the house. After leaving our shoes at the door, we toured each room together.

It was a nice house, but we weren't considering it too seriously. It was a little out of our price range, and we didn't like the backyard.

Our next house tour took us back into Schaumburg. Like some kind of urban legend, the house rested smack dab in the middle of a forest preserve. As our car crept over the dirt road beside a trickling creek draped with leaves, it felt like we were entering the setting of a fairy tale.

Then we saw a castle - a literal castle made of brick, hidden behind a tall gate. An intimidating black security camera stared down at the path where we passed. We wouldn't be touring the castle, but it certainly set the stage for an interesting neighborhood. We passed a trailer home, an abandoned house, and then an ornate mansion with a statue spitting water into a fountain. Finally, we found the house for sale tucked further into the trees. The realtor met us at the door.

"So this is the place. The owner has some tenants renting it out right now, so excuse all the stuff," said the realtor, walking us into the kitchen.

"Is that really a castle?" I asked.

"People always want to know about the castle," she sighed. "Yeah, all these houses were built before this became a forest preserve, so there's not a lot of regulation. You can pretty much build whatever you want here."

The realtor took us into the basement. There were so many cardboard boxes stacked up, that we could barely tell which room we were in. I had a feeling the house would have been a bad decision, but Marissa's house quality senses were in top form. Like a house hunting version of The Predator, she quietly pointed out the numerous red flags.

"Look - see how just this paint is fresh? They painted over mold," she whispered. "Ah yep, there's mold. They missed that bit," she said after walking a little further. "You can tell this whole place is sinking."

"This house is weird," Rodney blurted out. Rodney turned a closet door knob. A piece of painted wood trim popped off the wall and hit him on the head. The realtor blushed, kneeling down to Rodney's level while kicking the wood aside.

"That house was weird," said Rodney on the drive back. "But not the lady. The lady was beautiful."

That's what I got today. Have a great Wednesday everyone.