I have just moved into a big comfortable house. It doesn’t belong to me, but I will be living in and generally taking care of it until June. I have the whole place to myself. Not surprisingly, living here kind of makes me want a house.
I spent the last four years living in apartments in Wicker Park. Before that I lived in dorms apartments and one shared house in Evanston. The longest I have lived in one place since starting college is two years (and it kinda got old in the second year). I have essentially been a nomad for a third of my life. The idea of a “permanent address” seems quaint and unrealistic.
However, living here makes me realize how wonderful it would be to have a sense of permanence, a warm, stout place where you can store the things you buy, without worrying about how you are going to move them when the lease is up. A place where you can make an improvement or buy an appliance and enjoy it for years if not decades. My space, my home, look what I have built/earned. Me man, me have house.
Of course it’s not all deck sitting and sunset juleps. I mowed the lawn today, which was a minor tribulation for a longtime apartment-dweller like me. The first time the mower ran out of gasoline I filled the tank too high, and had to figure out how to get the gas back into the can. I didn’t realize what the clutch lever did until I was at least 2/3 done with the job. When I was done my hands were all scratched up from battling with shrubs and bushes and I was already dong anxious calculations on whether to bring the little gas can out on my next shopping trip.
But for the most part it’s good. I have space for all my projects, more than enough storage, a two car garage and extra bedrooms. Would I be able to get something this nice? Absolutely not, unless something wonderfully weird and unexpected happened. But I could probably get something adequate if I rejoined the 9 to 5 (or began a fruitful march along a new career path) and was willing to move somewhere a little less urbane than Ann Arbor or Chicago. It’s tempting to start poking around the fringes of the market, the foreclosures and houses of friends of friends.
One thing that isn’t tempting to me, however is a condominium. Many of my friends and acquaintances are buying units, but count me out. I want land, privacy, the freedom to make noise, to sit outside on natural grass, to count the stars, to love, to dream.
It used to be a truism that a house was a foolproof investment. With home values always rising, you could not go wrong. That’s no longer true, so the stakes are a little higher. I have to decide what I am searching for. Do I want to live where my friends are (Chicago, Ann Arbor)? Where the opportunities are (cities)? Somewhere remote and hermetic where I can build my dream Brewdio on my own terms? Will I get married and want to “settle down” to some degree? Who knows?
Despite all the taxes, regulations, dues, neighborly drama, maintenance, heating costs and other hassles, having a good home is so essential. The vast majority of people need to live somewhere, so having a good home is a legitimate pursuit. As Bjӧrk once said “If travel is searching / and home what’s been found / I’m not stopping / I’m going hunting”. I am always boggled when anarchists talk with a straight face about abolishing property. Where would we put all of the stuff we don’t own?