May in New England is always a welcomed change, especially when the days become noticeably longer and warmer with sultry mid-afternoons that hint of summer days to come. It is good to open the windows in the morning—the air fresh with the smell of green grass and dandelions.
After I get home from work, I change my shoes and head right back out the door. With the rain and warm temperatures we’ve had this past week, the drab browns of winter are all but gone as the trees have started to unfurl leaves of greens, yellows, and reds.
Unlike the end of fall when you begin to feel a certain sense of dread, late spring seems to bring promise of better days ahead. This past month has been a busy time at the apartment complex where I live. It seems no one so far has taken up on the landlord’s offer to sell them their own apartment, as is, for $109,000. In Building One, three people have moved out during the last couple of weeks. A few people, including myself, will be moving at the end of this month, and several more will be vacating in June and July. After conversion, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for my apartment to be bought for $150,000. At least it will have new kitchen cabinets, appliances, flooring, and bathroom fixtures.
I’ve managed to get a few boxes packed so far. I’ve also thrown quite a bit out. When I come across something I’ve forgotten about, I ask myself, “Do I need this?” If the answer is “No,” then I’ll either put it in a box with other items to be donated to the Salvation Army, or list it for sale, or put it in the trash bag and banish it from my life for good.
I’m too old to be squirreling, and so I’ve decided this is one move I’m going to make simple. I’m not taking anything with me that can be easily replaced when I get to where it is that I finally settle, which will be somewhere in Texas, either in Houston, or possibly Austin.
My son’s combination futon/bunk bed was sold for $40 this week. I could have possibly gotten more for it, but considering who I sold it to—and who he bought it for—made me feel pretty good.
I had placed an ad in Uncle Henry’s, the weekly swap it or sell it guide that’s distributed throughout Maine and New England. It may not be slick or colorful, but it sure is effective. A couple of days after my ad placed, my phone began to busy itself during the day recording messages from prospective buyers who expressed interest in the particular items I had listed.
One call in particular caught my attention. “Yes, this is David Ferrazza. I’m calling about the combination futon/bunk bed and the Canadian rocker you have for sale.”
David Ferrazza? I wasn’t sure why, but the name sounded very familiar. I called the number he had given. “Yeah, I know where that apartment complex is. I can be there in ten minutes.”
When I answered the door, I was more than certain I knew this individual from somewhere. I took him to the bedroom and showed him the futon/bunk bed. I had bought it for my son as a birthday present, but he didn’t get much use out of it before moving to Houston a year later. It’s quite a space saving design. Constructed of black, tubular steel, it has a single bed on top, coupled with a futon sofa bed on the bottom. After my son left home, our cat, Pebbles, took the bed over as his personal perch and lookout.
“I’ll take it,” David said. “My nephew’s turning 13, and I think he’ll like this for a present.” I went and got an Allen wrench from the utility drawer in the kitchen. After a good half hour of tearing it down, I helped Dave load it into the back of his truck. I then went and got the Canadian rocker that he said he’d take, along with a brand new coffee maker I bought recently but hadn’t used. After everything was loaded up, he paid me the amount I had asked for. “Say, hope you don’t mind me being familiar, but do I know you from somewhere?”
“Well, I would think so,” he said. “You were my eighth grade English teacher.”
I stood there looking at him. It had been sixteen years since I had taught at Crosby Jr. High, and trying to picture the man as the boy who had been in my class put a real hurtin’ on my memory. The name and resemblance was familiar, but the details weren’t. “I wasn’t your best student,” he said. “I was kind of a pain.”
It seems my memory is quite selective. If something is really good, or really bad, I don’t have any difficulty recalling specific details. I remember a few students who had made me feel like the navigator on the Titanic
, and I can recall almost every iceberg I had hit with them.
“You pass English that year?” I asked.
“Yeah, I did,” he said, chuckling.
“Well, if you passed, you couldn’t have been that terrible of a student.”
After catching up on the years, I thanked him for helping me get rid of a few items that made my move look less formidable. “Sorry I was a pain,” he said. He got in his truck and drove away.
When I went back into my apartment, I discovered I had a very distressed cat. It seems he was rather fond of the bed I had just sold, and he spent the next couple of hours pacing from one end of the apartment to the other, yowling. Pebbles had been my son’s cat, and when he took to the bunk bed, I thought it was because he liked being perched high up from the floor with a view that extended into the living room. But it seems he was also attached to the bed because he had associated it with my son. I set up another place for him on the desk next to my computer table. At first he didn’t take to it, but now when I sit down to my computer to write, he’ll settle in just fine.
Only a few more weeks left before I begin a new adventure. I don’t like the idea of leaving Belfast, but “affordability” has become a real issue with me. The sale of the apartment complex I live in has made me think long and hard about the sense of trying to live in an area that is beginning to exceed what I can reasonably pay in terms of rent or mortgage.
It used to be that only certain towns and cities on the coast of Maine were considered “gentrified.” If you had the money, and wanted to retire nicely, you could choose Kennebunkport, Boothbay, Camden, or Bar Harbor. Common folk who worked everyday jobs could live fairly well in places like Rockland, or Belfast.
However, even these places are becoming gentrified. For those of us who work regular jobs, our incomes are not keeping up with the increased costs of housing. It’s as if we’re being forced to pay Rolls Royce prices with a Chevy Malibu paycheck. Bring up the issue of “affordability," though, and the realtors and lenders will defend themselves with feigned chagrin by saying, “You’re being provided with the opportunity of owing your own home.” Never mind the fact, though, that you may have to pay over 40 percent of your net income for mortgage, property taxes, and insurance. In light of such apparent chicanery, I have to ask, what kind of opportunity is that?
Not a very viable one I’ve decided. Like so many places on the Maine coast, if you choose to live here in Belfast without the necessary means to do so, you may as well chuck your shoe to spite your foot. If you’re a long-time resident with a modest income, your ability to remain in your home is going to become even more difficult with continued increases in property values and taxes that can only be described as exorbitant and stifling.
I sit down at the table and look out the window. The air is filled with the sound of lawnmowers. It will not be easy to leave this place I so identify with—the rolling hills that meet the sea, the rocky shoreline, and the islands that dot the Penobscot Bay—but it will always be here for many visits to come.
Moving to Texas certainly will be a change, an entirely different culture and way of life, but then again, I just might find a bowl of chili, clear skies, wide-open spaces, and the promise of better days ahead to be a pretty fair trade-off, more so than I may have even imagined. George Strait, anybody?
S. L. CunninghamVillage Soup Citizen