Top-ish Lists: You Thought The Last One Was Weird …


Okay, I think these lists are becoming a bit of a hit.  Mostly because of the sarcastic comments.  One in particular from Greg Walker who decided to point out how weird my music choices seemed to be.  The only thought that came through my head when I saw that was “those ain’t even the weird ones”.  So then … the next list has to be the weird songs I like.

Even weird songs need rules, so here there come:

  • The song hast to be weird to me, and still likable by me.  I don’t care what you think, it’s about me.
  • Points off for being too mainstream.
  • Points on for being happy funny goofy.
  • Bonus Point on for being way out there.
  • All songs have to be Rated PG-13 at worst.  Maybe with adult situations, but not one that gets some naughty tag for language or content (sorry Tenacious D).
  • One song per artist.

So here we go … in order of ‘None of your business what order it is in’ here is:

The Top-6ish Weird Song Playlist:

1) Poxy Boggards – I Wear No Pants

These guys are the true victims of the “One Song per Artist” rule, because there is a long list of weird stuff they do.  So I had to go with the most recognized song that, while I still don’t consider mainstream, was actually used in a Superbowl Ad.  “I Wear No Pants” is a song about … well … a wardrobe decision and one’s need to tell you about it.  It literally is guys singing “I wear no pants” in three different languages.

2) Barenaked Ladies – Another Postcard

My favorite Canadian band makes a list again, because like any good Canadian they don’t take themselves completely seriously.  Nearly every album is good for a song or two that is really out there.  These guys thrown a lot of weird songs over the years, like the mainstream hits “If I had $1,000,000” and “One Week” (the ‘Chickity China, the Chinese Chicken’ song) or “Pinch Me” that makes you say Underwear.  But in their later years, they almost went mainstream with one song whose title sounds normal enough: “Another Postcard”.  It tells the story of a guy who gets postcards randomly without any hint of the sender, and getting them from everywhere around the world.  The only thing is that every one has a chimpanzee on it.  Here’s a taste of the lyrics for you:

Some chimps in swimsuits; Some chimps in Jackboots
Some chimps in hard hats; Some chimps who love cats
I’ve got some shaved chimps; that’s chimps devoid of any hair
I’ve got depraved chimps dressed up in women’s underwear

3) Decemberists – Dracula’s Daughter / Valencia

Told you they would make everyone of my lists.  Decemberists in their live shows bring out a song that the lead singer calls ‘The Very Worst Song Ever Written’.  The whole song goes:  “Dracula’s Daughter.  Dracula’s Daughter.  Dracula’s Daughter’s got it bad.  If you think you had it bad, try having Dracula for a dad.”  But then they spring into Valencia with a bit of mash-up that makes the whole thing cool!

4) Andrew W.K. – Party Party Party

I know absolutely nothing about Andrew W.K. or where this song or group or whatever comes from.  All I know is that they got this song onto the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie soundtrack and slipped into a couple of episodes.  It has every element of power metal music, and runs out there at a thousand miles an hour.  But it is short lived … like really short lived.  The lyrics in this 2 minute song only take up about 45 seconds.  But in that time, the word “Party” is said 27 times!  That’s nearly one “Party” every two seconds.  And there is a discussion how hearty you must be to party that much, a guy named Marty, and (if you can follow the rhyming theme here) the result of digestive gas build-up.

5) Ween – I’m Dancing in the Show Tonight

You have to hear it to believe it — follow this link:  Ever have a song that charges you up before something important?   This is the song that does it for me.  I’m serious.  One listen to this, and I don’t take myself too serious, don’t stress my life too much, and just go in there and perform.

6) Weird Al Yankovic – Yoda

How can I do this without adding the OG of Weird.  The problem is that I consider 90% of what he puts out to be mainstream, or at least the good stuff like “Amish Paradise” or “Eat It” or “Like a Surgeon”.  But I had to go with something.   So, I thought back when I saw him in concert sometime back in 1986 when the only song he sang I didn’t know was in the encore … a parody of The Kinks song “Lola”, about a the Star Wars guru.


So there you have it – weirdness.  Hope you are happy.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Queen – Fat Bottom Girls — Got to give a shout out to probably the best mainstream weird song.  The four part harmony describing what makes the world go round is an old classic.
  • Sex Bob-Omb – Garbage Truck — The band that’s the center of the movie “Scott Pilgram vs. The World”; the song is about taking a girl for a date on his sweet sweet ride.
  • PDQ Bach – (Anything really) — this is a parody composer (putting the phony into symphony) who uses everything from garden hoses to helium balloons to oboes to make music sound funny
  • Glen Hansard – Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy — From the movie “Once”, out of context it is okay.  But you got to love that song title right?
  • Ben Folds – Rock This B**** — Language lost this one, but the story goes that Ben Folds was doing a concert when he got a request to up the energy by the guy yelling “Rock this … ” something.  He responded by improving a sad, soft, song, using that exact phrase as the center point.  If you really want a treat, catch the video of Ben doing a concert with the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra, where the full group improved their way to a version of this.

Officially Official Contract


I have a home!  Officially!

Officially, I have a purchase agreement for a home.  The contract was signed yesterday and I am officially in escrow.  Close is tentatively set for June 30th, but could also be July 6th.  Inspection tentatively next week.  But the officialism of the situation is that a home is under contract and I am officially on the way to owning it.

What’s with all the “Official” business you may ask?  Well, the one thing about most of the work up to now is that all of it was painfully “unofficial”.  But that of course means I have a story to tell.

It all started just nearly six weeks ago.  Shortly after the moment that “Stuff Just Got Real” in my house hunt (see Stuff Just Got Real).  In fact, that blog post I even mentioned I was touring homes that night – well, the winner was one of those homes.  While on the tour, I met the home owner, chatted with him for a while, and got to know both the property & the neighborhood.  The seller had no interest in selling it to an investment group, and wanted it to go to someone who would not only live there, but love living there.  It wasn’t a perfect situation, but I always knew I wouldn’t find a perfect situation.  So the following day, I contacted the leasing agent and requested she submit an offer on my behalf.

The house is in Pasadena, and is a single family bungalow with a detached garage, a well kept front yard, and big back yard for a patio and places for the dog to run.  Until we come up with a more creative name — I’m just calling it “Lincoln Ave” since … well … it’s on Lincoln Ave.  It’s also somewhere between Big and Huge for me.  Three (3) Beds, two (2) baths, 1,403 sq feet, and nearly 8,000 sq foot lot.  It’s bigger than my Alaskan house, nearly as big as my first house in Kansas.  This doesn’t even count the ‘detached garage’ which in SoCal means ‘an extra room that you can use for storage or a man cave since no one really needs a garage around here’.  The house is located in one of those boarder-line parts of town.  On a major street that is a mix of commercial, industrial, and residential; it’s been targeted by the city as an area of economic growth with the expectation of building up condos, shops, and restaurants over the next 15 to 25 years.  It’s also less than a mile as the crow flies to the Rose Bowl, a short distance to Pasadena’s Old Town district, and a ten minute drive to work.  I got it at a little above my price range, but between the taxes being a little lower in that area and the upside of the long term, it was an easy decision to make.

What wasn’t easy was the process to get there.  As I mentioned, I made the offer through the listing agent – taking the chance that someone with the opportunity to get commission for the buy and the sell would work on my behalf.  In all honesty, I wouldn’t have gotten the house if I didn’t use the listing agent – but it wasn’t exactly well managed.  To be fair, real estate is this agent’s second job and asking her to make this a priority when her first job is tax preparation (I called her on April 14th by the way) to make the offer.  For the next week I pushed to have the offer get to the seller, and pushed for an answer.  I knew the property was under priced, and it was marketed incorrectly (basically it had sat under the radar for three months giving the appearance that it was on the market well before it really was — so people thought there were problems).  My main fear was losing it because the bidding became competitive.  Finally after a week, the agent called me to tell me that she shared my offer … and a second offer came in (exactly my fear).  At that point, I had no choice but to walk away.

Then another property came along, I fought for that for two weeks, and lost.  When that was done, I noticed this property was still on the market, so I followed up.  The details came in that there was a fundamental issue with the other offer.

The seller was selling the house with the intent to move to Palm Springs for work.  His relocation didn’t have to happen until he sold his house in Pasadena.  That being said, he had a son in high school & a wife teaching school.  Of course, once he sold the Pasadena house, he still had to find a place to live in Palm Springs.  Fundamentally, he was in no rush.  The other buyer … was.  They needed to be in the home by mid-June.  Their price beat mine, by a lot, but the timing gave the seller fits.

So, I decided to improve my offer.  Raise the price a little, but still where I can afford it, and include a real kicker.  Since I didn’t have to be out of my rental until the end of August – I would rent the house back to the seller through the end of July.  With that – we had a deal.

Two weeks ago, I received word we had an ‘unofficial’ agreement.  Not wanting to mess around, I requested an offer be sent to them immediately to get pen on paper.  It turns out with this agent “immediate” meant, two weeks later.  This after kicking back the offer just to get the fundamental information filled in correctly or not left blank.  Then a very slow last few days was waiting for the agent to get the seller to sign.  But as of last night, a signed purchase agreement hit my e-mail inbox, and I could officially begin the work towards closing.

JPL Explored


Been a little quiet on the updates recently because:
A) I’ve been waiting eagerly for news that really is Blog worthy, but can’t yet
B) I’ve been busy, so quit bugging me
C) Meh … whatever …  I don’t know … stuff

But it would be bad if I passed up a chance to describe an event that rolled past last weekend.  JPL (aka Jet Propulsion Lab aka the NASA center aka the place that signs my paychecks) held an open house called “Explore JPL” this past weekend.  It wasn’t completely a true open house – you had to get tickets, free tickets mind you, but you could only enter with your ticket at your allotted time; and tickets ‘sold out’ within 15 minutes of becoming available a couple of months ago.  It’s not that they have a short short list of people allowed in – the event still hosted approximately 22,000 people over the two days, it’s just historically that would be 30,000 showing up whenever they want and creating some real issues with crowds, wait times, and a lack of fried foods to feed everyone.

All kidding aside, this is really an astounding event.  JPL basically opens its doors to show off the things we do and how we do it.  They roll the rovers around, they show off new parts of their robotics, they let people see assembly areas, they tour the mission control, they get to hear about new explorations — all of that.  The event is worked by hundreds of volunteers … and yep, I was one of them.

All day Saturday, I stood dutifully by a booth prepared by our environmental affairs group and whenever someone came up to our table I said: “You are probably looking for the Satellite Assembly Facility – take those stairs down, then take a left, you can’t miss it.”  Sunday was more about electrocuting small children.

What made the event great for me was just watching, meeting, and talking to the people who came for the event.  Like I said, it wasn’t easy getting tickets, so these people weren’t just out with something to do on a weekend, these people were true fans.  There were great t-shirts and hats, there were a small minority of cosplayers (that’s people in costume for you squares out there), there were people geeking out at the smallest of things — like the Science building, that became a selfie stop just so people can have a picture next to the word “Science”.   Talking to the other volunteers, the whole event was energizing for us – a reminder that we are doing really cool things.  It was a tiring, long weekend, but it was also energizing and thrilling.

So, if you were ever interested in seeing JPL and seeing all that we do here – Explore JPL is the event you want to keep an eye out to attend.  Just be ready to work to get those tickets.

Top-Ish List: Gut Punched at the Carnival


When I first envisioned these “Top-Ish” lists, the obvious one for me was to put together a list of my favorite songs.  So I tried to pick 5.  That became 10 with 8 honorable mentions.  That became closer to 20.  And the number keeps growing.  So, ultimately I needed to break it up, but now some of those are blowing up.  So I just said, screw it – I am going to pick a topic and if I get it wrong so what, who’s going to notice, the three of you who actually read this?

So for starters, I thought of those songs that I love because they tell me a story.  If you know me, you know I like a good story – and sometimes song writers will do that same thing on their own.  They create in a short period of time a full plot, with characters, moods, and themes.  They start, they finish, and give us the whole nugget all in one(-ish) package.  While it was never my intention, all of these songs are gut punches in some way.  Some of it was subtlety sad, some of it was downright horrific.  Honestly, pain is what makes a good story, and in the time given in a sing offering – pain makes for a good short story.

To get my meaning of what constitutes a story song, let me give you the rules and maybe that will help:

  • The song(ish) must tell a complete story.  Beginning, plot, ending.  Ending is key here, we can’t be left without a known direction.  This is not about leaving you with an impression, this is about telling a story.  Songs like Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” didn’t make this list because while it establishes a direction it really is more events in a location.
  • The story has to be clear, and while it can be left to interpretation it can’t be completely left to interpretation.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is a good example – because let’s face it, that song is a little bats**t crazy.
  • This list is about standard rock, pop, or what have you.  So music from the stage, screen, or opera does not count.  We can leave that to a later list.
  • The story has to be a nice packaged size.  Not a rock opera or full album.  Ideally it has to be one song; but I wanted to shoehorn in a specific item on this list so consider it ‘packaged’.  That’s your ‘-ish’ part of your list, since it isn’t a list of songs, its a list of song(ish).
  • One entry per artist.
  • I reserve the right to reuse these songs(ish) in a future list.  Just because I can.  It’s my rules.
  • These are my favorites, not yours.  You don’t like them make your own blog.
  • I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.  Because moods change.


So here we go … in order of ‘None of your business what order it is in’ here is:

The Top-6ish Favorite Storytelling Songs, That Just Happen to be Sad and Pathetic:

1) Crane Wife Parts 1, 2, 3 — The Decemberists


Let me get this out of the way right now.  The Decemberists are going to show up a lot in these song lists.  This entry is the ‘shoehorn’ mentioned in the rules too.  This isn’t one song, it is three, in three parts.  Live they play all three at once, and to me that is the best way to hear it (the transition from 2 to 3 gave me goosebumps the first time I heard them together); however, on the original album (also titled Crane Wife) 1 & 2 were together but 3 was separate … ironically, the album started with 3, and nearly ended with 1&2.

Crane Wife retells a Japanese folk story.  A lonely hermit finds an injured crane, mends it and heals it until it is able to fly away.  Shortly after a woman arrives on his doorstep.  In time they marry and try to make a life, however they were very poor.  She says she can spin cloth but only if she is left alone to do so; and as she does he finds the cloth is of such high quality that it can make them wealthy.  He pressures her to spin more, but she grows weak and tired.  Soon blood stains show on the cloth.  Worried of what she is becoming he finally enters the room where she spins, only to find that instead of her, it is the crane he had healed.  She uses her own feathers to spin the cloth, and the work has caused her wound to open.  But since he now knows her secret, she must leave him  and he is left alone with the guilt that he drove the crane and wife away.

What makes this song so good is that the music shifts with changes in mood, capturing the spirit through the eyes of the man.  You get his loneliness.  You get his happiness when he is married.  You get his shame when he drives her away.  Yet it’s non-traditional approach.  Like, yeah, you get his shame, but it is music that would traditionally feel uplifting – and it gives the effect of a guy screaming to the heavens pleading for the bird to forgive him.  Pieced together, it’s one of the best songs you can find, and well worth the shoehorning.

2) Tunnel of Love – Dire Straights

Okay, Dire Straights will likely show up  more than a few times to.  Tunnel of Love was on the Making Movies album Dire Straights put out in their pre-top 40 years.  Officially, you have to do a little interpreting to get the ending of this but it’s just a great song.  The narrator is a young fellow who loves the carnival – for the lights, for the sounds, for the games, for the rides; but most of all as a place to pick-up women.  The ultimate goal is of course, getting that girl to take a ride with him on the Tunnel of Love.  In this song, he is trying for a girl who is enticed by the carnival as much as he, but she could play the game as good as he could and stays aloof.  For most of this song, there is that youthful excitement of the game of flirting.  Until the last verse tells you how the story change.

She took off her silver locket, said remember me by this.
She put a hand in my pocket.  I got a keepsake and a kiss.
And through the roaring dust and diesel, I stood and watched her walk away
I could have caught up with her easy enough, but something just made me stay

After that, the song repeats the chorus, but what was once approached as the excitement of the midway began to feel like the passage of time.  As that ends, the song turns soft, and quiet.  It is a repeated line, originally given as a pick-up line, now with truth, sadness, and loss – and the first notes after that last line is the most forlorn guitar rift ever.  This girl who he chased after one day at the carnival never came back; and he chases her again but only in memory.  He’s just left with the big wheel turning.

3) Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens

Since it seems to be the theme – I can guarantee you that this is not the last time you will see this song on any list.   Sufjan Stevens is a eclectic indy musician who had a couple of ground breaking albums in the middle ’00s that were generally themed after states.  None had a greater impact, and few songs ever had this great of impact, as Casimir Pulaski Day from the ‘Come On Feel the Illinoise’ album.  The title only receives a passing reference to a holiday they used to celebrate in Chicago, and by passing I mean there is one even that is mentioned to have happened on ‘a holiday’.  The real basis for this story is established in the first line:

Goldenrod and a 4-H stone are the things I brought you when I found out you had cancer of the bone

This song follows a boy on the cusp of his awkward years when a girl he likes loses a battle with cancer.  This story, in just 3 minutes, is deep, emotional, and powerful.  The feel of it is soft, light, and airy as if there is hope even when there isn’t.  The lyrics are absolutely masterful – because it tells you things about characters just in the way the phrases are written.  No better example is a lyric that went:

And the complications you could do without, When I kissed you on the mouth

It says these two had their lives complicated by a kiss on the mouth.  There is an age when a ‘mouth kiss’ is absolutely huge and life changing.  So much that this girl, who is going to bone cancer, found a boy kissing her on the mouth to be a problem.

The song also is a song about trying to find meaning in faith.  These kids almost have a naive approach to their beliefs, like trying to become faith healers during a bible study.  This ends up to be the real gutting part of this story.  While it appears it be about a girl who passes away too young, it is mostly about how such an experience could effect the boy.  We leave him at that point of grief of anger, and his only place to send that anger is at his faith.  Your left with the heartbreak of his pain, and the hope that he will ever love the way he loved that girl.

All in 3 minutes.

Literally, first deep listen to this, I was in the car and had to pull over to have a good cry.

4) Has Thou Considered the Tetrapods – Mountain Goats

Okay, lets face it, the first three on this list is growing levels of gut punches.  I could go the other direction, but let’s take it one more level but with a story that, thank goodness, I can not personally identify with directly.  The songwriter for the Mountain Goats wrote an entire album called Sunset Tree regarding his abusive step-father when he was growing up.  Some of the songs deal with the way this step-father battered his mother or the constant stress dealing with an alcoholic in the house.  One of the toughest songs is this one.  The title references the evolutionary creatures Tetrapods, which are considered to be the first animals that had legs and crawled out of the oceans.  The reference to make sense later, I promise.

The story is direct and blunt.  A teenager coming home in the afternoon, finding his step-father passed out and drunk.  He knows he has to keep quiet or “There will be hell to pay”.  So he heads to his room, puts on his earphones, and listens to his stereo.  He’s deep into his “Dream Chamber” listening to the music and somehow makes enough noise to wake the step-father.  What happens next is brutal and hard to hear.  It isn’t graphic, but it points to how desperate the fear is when your ‘caregiver’ attacks you with the fury that could leave you dead.  Yet as it hits his peak he finishes the song with the thought that keeps him going:

Held under these smothering waves by your strong and thick-veined hand
But one of these days, I’m going to wriggle up on dry land

5) Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel – Barenaked Ladies

Hey, look at that, another group that will probably be on a few of these lists.  It’s also a pretty direct song too.  This song ended the Maroon album, best known for ‘Pinch Me’, the song that tricks you into saying ‘underwear’.  The irony is that BNL is really good at being subtle with their lyrics, or putting some extra meaning – so when you see a specific title like “Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel” you would think it is about someone who just forgot to do something.  Instead, it is a song about a guy who fell asleep while driving his car.  From a storytelling standpoint, this is as direct of a story as it can get.  There are only two non-narrative lines in the whole song, the first early on where he establishes the title with where we think they are still going to be subtle throughout:

As usual I’m almost on time, you’re the last thing that’s on my mind.
Wish I could tell you the way that I feel, but tonight is the night I fell asleep at the wheel.

(Hint, remember that second part of that first line for later)

After that, it gets blunt.  He just didn’t fall asleep, he wrecked the car, and bad.  He eases in with lines about the feelings of the crash, like the tumbling of the sky or the sound of impact.  Then about the traffic around him slowing down, looking at the after effect.  Then things start getting serious as fire trucks arrive and the jaws of life are used. There is a growing panic to the lines, suggesting that this is so bad that people are shocked anyone was inside the car still.  The bridge of the song comes and he says directly with the growing line that ends with:

I guess it’s over now because I’ve never seen so much … blood.

Following that bridge, the outcome is clear and morbid.  He’s not telling the story anymore from inside the car.  He is telling it while floating above, looking down on himself.  There is a peace to the music as if he is beginning the path to the afterlife, but before he goes he has one last line to leave a warm spot:

I can see my face slump with a grin
And you…
you’re the last thing on my mind

In all the blunt, direct language, the song ends with this little bit of subtly that gives you a beautiful finish.  This person, this “you” he is singing to.  She was the last thing on his mind when he died.  And that in all the pain, all the blood, all the horror of the crash … it made his face smile.  A strong, powerful, eternal goodbye.

6) Beeswing – Richard Thompson

Let’s end on a happy sad.  Known for stuff nothing like this, Richard Thompson’s Beeswing is a sweet nearly folky song from his Mirror Blue album.  It tells the story from the narrator’s point of view of woman he was with for a while.  They were more vagrants or travelers during the summer of love, going where they can find work to get by.  They do the best they can until the break-up and go their separate ways.  What makes this song so memorable for me is that it is as much about the loving a woman for reasons that will remind you she will never love you in the same way.   The chorus, in it’s most typical form, sums this up beautifully:

She was a rare thing Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child, She was running wild,
she said ‘As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay’
And I wouldn’t want her any other way

The last verse tells how they let hard drinking lead to petty arguments and their break-up.  He had hints of what she might have ended up at, thoughts maybe she let her life become hard only by refusing the chains of life.  Still that refrain ends as it did through, but now with longing for what had past.

She was a rare thing, Fine as a beeswing
And I miss her more than ever words could say
If I could just taste
all of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today
Then I wouldn’t want her any other way

This maybe not as deep or subtle or descriptive as the others on this list.  But if you ever loved a wild child – ever loved something so fragile as a beeswing – ever had to work so hard for the price of love — and then spend a day missing any of that wildness, then this song is one that you can embrace.

Honorable Mentions:

  • America – Simon & Garfunkle — Sooooo close.  If we could figure out where those hitchhikers ended up or were heading to then this was the winner.
  • Bat Out Of Hell – Meatloaf — This probably should have been there, but I got tired of writing and had errands to run.  Sorry Meat.
  • Death Valley Queen – Flogging Molly – Again, an ending would have put it here
  • Fred Jones, Part 2 – Ben Folds – Sad song about a guy getting fired from a job.  But you had to tie into ‘Cigarette’ (the unoffical part 1); and that is really loose from a story – if only one sentence long song.
  • Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen — Can a brother get an ending?  Does Wendy hop in that back seat or not?
  • Fisherman’s Blues – The Waterboys – This is more about getting a beginning but great visuals
  • Humble Me – Norah Jones — ENDING!!!  Come On!   This had all the depression the rest of them did, just needed to find out if the guy came and helped her.
  • Solisbury Hill – Peter Gabriel — Okay, this is a full story, but you need to know the meaning behind the story as told by Peter to know it.  And then it loses a little bit of it’s luster.
  • One Sunday Morning – Wilco – If I ever had the patience to do a deep listen to this twelve minutes of a gillion short verses I would probably like it.

Okay … enough with the gut punches.  Enjoy your weekend y’all and thanks for putting up with me.

A Return “Home” (Quotation Marks Required)


I spent the first part of this week in Boston.  Well, Boston area to be specific, so not quite Boston.  Regardless, the weight of this return should have loomed heavy over me.  Boston was, of course, my home.  In fact, I still owned property there no more than three months ago.  So, to make my first return since packing up the pup in the car and leaving town should have struck me pretty hard.

It did, but not how you would think.  But let me get to that later.

My trip this week ended up to be not really returning in part because I didn’t really get to where I normally were.  I lived just south of downtown (Dorchester for you detail picky people), and when I got out it was mostly around the downtown area, South Boston, or near Fenway.  My work this week was in Bedford, which is Northwest of the city; and I stayed in Twekbury, which is further north of Bedford.  I arrived way late on Monday, left way early on Wednesday, and was too tired in between to put up with Boston traffic to visit anywhere.  So, I could have been anywhere this week and not really been anywhere.  Then again, I could have been avoiding Boston.

The thing is, Boston never really became a home to me.  I’d joke that when I would call it home, I would use quotation marks.  More often, the joke was: “I have the most expensive storage unit in Boston.  It’s the size of a condo, it has all my stuff, but no one lives there.”  Understand, I firmly believe Boston is a great city and would be a great place to live there if you lived there … but I really didn’t live there.  My travel schedule was so demanding that I never really was there long enough to feel comfortable.  In a city where it takes time to meet people and grow friendships, I literally knew only a couple of people (mostly people from before I moved there, or people who hung out at the Packer bar).  It’s not that I didn’t give Boston a chance, I was just there so little it didn’t give me a chance.  In all fairness, part of the bitterness of Boston is also my own doing – when  I was there, I found myself doing things that weren’t the best for me and walked some lines I should never have walked.  In the end, living there left a stamp on my person that won’t wash off very quickly.

Still, I was surprised I wasn’t interested in the nostalgia of my return.  I thought maybe that it was too soon for that desire.  Winter only finished a few weeks ago, and I practically left as it started.  Not much had changed but not much should have.  So as I was boarding the plane on Wednesday morning to make the return trip to LAX I typed up a quick post on Facebook.  It ended with:

…  happy to be flying home.

When I checked back on it later something hit me.  Yeah, I was happy to be heading home, it was short by tiring trip.  But then I noticed how I wrote that last word.  Home.

No quotation marks.

So yeah, this trip struck me hard.  Just not how I thought it would.

House Hunting: The Struggle is Real


Historically speaking, when I make a post like I am going to make today, things change that nullify the post completely, usually in an ironic way … sometimes in a humorous … typically in a pathetic way.  In all honesty, that is exactly why I am writing it today.

Nearly half the time I spend outside of work I spend looking for a house.  During the week I usually spend a bit every day looking at what listings came up in the last 24 hours.  Many times during the week, I am on the phone with an agent or lender working on terms for an offer.  Then I usually spend Saturday and/or Sunday going to open houses, and since starting to do so I have walked through nearly a hundred homes.  Almost five months since I arrived in California, three months since I started looking for a house to purchase, and about a month since ‘stuff just got real’ …

I am still sitting with a blank slate.

So, for you people stickler for facts, officially speaking, I’ve only placed an offer on one house.  I went at asking and got beat out by someone who went at 10% over asking paying cash.  I actually expected to lose that, but you don’t hit a home run until you start swinging for the fences.  Since then two other properties fell into categories where they were worth the extra effort to go after it.

Mostly I am looking in the Pasadena area, but if you ask me at different times I give you different answers.  The main reason for that is the Pasadena market is absolutely insane.  This is the first house I would be buying in my life, and before now I have never had to compete on an offer (re-negotiate yes, but not compete).  That’s both buying and selling.  Heck, I only went at asking once, and then we expected the guy to replace a roof.  Out here, asking is like an opening bid on an auction – it’s the minimum they will accept.  Then the battle begins.  If that’s not enough, the inventory on the market is thin, and prices are high accordingly.  Those houses that need a lot of fixing up are jumped on by investors willing to pay cash.  Those houses that are move-in ready are battled for between owner-occupiers, investors looking for rental property, or the now hot Vacation-Rental properties.  My agent in Alaska told me there that if a house is on the market for more than 45 days there is something wrong with it.  Here if it on the market for 7 days, there is either something MASSIVELY wrong with it (like the previous owner hasn’t removed the dead bodies, or the neighbor Rob Schneider) or they are collecting the twenty some offers to compete against each other.

Still, I’ve had my shots.

Earlier this week I lost out on one of those properties.  A great house with a fantastic yard and a garage that was converted into a man cave.  It was two miles from JPL, a couple minutes from Old Town Pasadena, and offered up views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  I worked with the listing agent to come up with the offer that would win the property; using his inside track to know what the other offers look like, and even get help from him to reduce his commission.  Yet after hours of scrubbing my available cash, my current budget, future budget, and back-up if I get strapped, the offer I could make fell short of what it would take to get the house.  After an emotional back and forth with that agent and the lender to see if we can squeeze blood from on onion, the statement became: “We are close, but not close enough”.  Unlike the rest, this was me walking away from a deal.  My decision.  Yet still defeating.

That being said, I have another property I am on the tick for.  Good size house in a decent location for getting around, though not the greatest neighborhood currently.  It would be an investment for the future, however, because it is in an area in Pasadena that is plotted to be the next great ‘Gentrified’ part of town.  This property has been a topic for a while.  I’ve been in conversations with the agent and indirectly with the seller for nearly a month.  While money is a topic for both sides of the discussion, it seems the sellers decisions are more based on situations and people.  He’s passed on cash offers and the like, wanting this place to go to someone who will love it like his family did.  Yet he is also patient.  This house has been on the market a long time not because there is anything wrong, just that he isn’t ready to give it up.  There is a competing offer which has me beat on price, but they want him out in 30 days, and I since I don’t have to be out of my rental until August or September – offering the opportunity to lease the place back to them may be the inside edge.  I’ve given my best offer to their agent for review, and while it’s not a documented offer, it’s there.

Still, the rest of it continues.  Today I am looking at seven properties.  One in the foothill community of Tujanga.  Three in Pasadena.  Three in an area that just popped on my radar this week, the Mt. Washington community of Los Angeles.  I’d like to say I will have more news and better news to come, but for now it is what it is.

The Ironic Return


Irony can be a real jerk sometimes, and it seems Irony likes messing with my work travel since joining JPL.  My first trip for work was to go back to a Nadcap meeting back in February (see Nadcap – The Gravitation Hairball), and not only that to go to my crazy ex-girlfriend of vacation spots, New Orleans.  Yet, that is just a meeting.  My job is an auditor, not a meeting attender.  So as much as going back to my old career nemesis for a first trip is kinda not too ironic.  What would be ironic is if I would go on my first audit to some place familiar to me … like … maybe … I don’t know … possibly, Boston, where I lived the last two years.

Guess where I am going on my first audit?


That’s right, the place I moved away from nearly five months ago will be my first major audit trip.  The place I battled to get free of.  The place I was ready to put behind me like a chapter that needed to be closed.  That’s exactly where I am going to.

If you can’t tell, I’m not exactly excited about it.  I mean, it is finally getting to be good weather out there and I wouldn’t mind stopping by some of the places I haunted while living that way, but if absence makes the heart grow fonder – my heart hasn’t grown all that fond.

Regardless, I am not there for long.  I get in Monday, do my audit Tuesday, fly back to California Wednesday.  I’m visiting a place north of town, staying in a hotel up that way, and there isn’t that much time to slip in much to do.  So don’t expect some grand story of the great return.  The return is really nothing more than ironic.