The Reason For Full Disclosure

Out of all the things that make me really uncomfortable (spiders, tax forms, Hiddleswift), nothing induces as much squirming as the thought of navigating the complex landscape of real estate. I’m not really the detail-oriented type who can’t wait to purchase a house. It feels like a system set up to make me fail. I marvel at the intrepid homebuyers on HGTV. They aren’t afraid of anything. They just march into house after house, joyfully embracing discussions about open floor plans and masters on the main and common areas. I’m always baffled when the production-driven nitpicking starts. The doorways are too big or the floor is too shiny or the bathtub isn’t big enough to bathe the family llama. These places look great to me when they apparently are actual landfills filled with medical waste and the tears of interior decorators. Since I’m missing all the flaws that are painfully obvious to even the most novice HGTV homebuyers, I’m probably unqualified to successfully find a domicile in real life. Then, there is my fear that I would accidentally buy a haunted house. That is a real fear. It happened to those people in Amityville. I read all about it.

The Amityville Horror tells the Very True (cough, cough, ahem) story of the Lutz family, who purchased the most pig-haunted, hostile-fly-infested, demon-y house available in Amityville, Long Island, in December 1975. The house was the site of six horrific murders in November 1974,  only 13 months prior to the Lutz family moving in.  After enduring 28 days of torment at the hands of vengeful, disturbed ghosts, the Lutzes abandoned the house, leaving their possessions and fleeing in the middle of the night. They did not “move out” so much as escape. The book about their reported experience was published in 1977, was a sensational bestseller, and spawned a series of informative movies about how to live in a haunted house. The debate about whether or not the haunting was real, if the family actually experienced genuine ghost harassment, continues today. I have an entirely different theory, however. I might be alone here, but I am pretty sure The Amityville Horror isn’t about demons crossing back over to play with human emotions. It’s about real estate anxiety. A LOT of real estate anxiety.
Real Estate Agent: This room could be used as an office
Me: Nice
Real Estate Agent: Or to talk to the dead
Me: What?
Real Estate Agent: Nothing

I read the book at a very impressionable age, by which I mean when I was in fifth grade I stole it out of a stack of paperbacks that belonged to my parents. (The undeniable allure of the Forbidden Grown-Up Book Stack is also responsible for my reading The Godfather, but we’ll talk about that book and my propensity for petty book theft another day.) Even to my juvenile eyes, the book was pretty lurid. I comprehended that it was dumb to believe that a house was being haunted by an evil pig named Jodie, but I was very concerned about the possibility that my personal house might be targeted by red-eyed evil Jodie haunting pigs just because I’d read the book. How can you even tell if an evil pig is loitering in a potential home purchase? Or any home, for that matter? I’m fine with chihuahuas or urban chickens or komodo dragons, but I am drawing the line at unfriendly bacon with an agenda. Had my parents failed to do their research when buying the house we were in? I couldn’t ask them because no way was I going to confess that I’d pilfered a book from the forbidden zone. I was just going to have to be on permanent, hyperalert guard for disembodied voices telling us to “get out”.
Real Estate Agent: Look at this lovely open floor plan
Me: What does that mean exactly
Real Estate Agent: You can fit a lot of evil ghost pigs on this floor
Me: Ah

Everyone likes a bargain, and everyone wants to get the most house for the least money. But if the house you are buying is a crazy deal because people were recently murdered there, then maybe it’s not the best time to enter the housing market. Sadly, the Lutzes did not heed this advice. Sidebar question: does this advice seem unreasonable to anyone? From where I sit “don’t get the murder house” doesn’t seem controversial or even provocative, but apparently the only response to “Maybe get a different house than that recent crime scene one” is “HOW DARE YOU EVEN SUGGEST I NOT BUY THAT HOUSE” (throw money at real estate agent). It’s a homebuying shortcut that I am not willing to entertain.


This is a good start but I have some follow-up questions

The Amityville Horror is a worst case real estate scenario, second only perhaps to that vampire castle in Romania. The Lutzes were only trying to find a place to raise a newly blended family. Finding a place to live is hard, and finding a demon-free place that you think you might like is just an invitation for the universe to be a jerk by: 1. Make everything in your new place break, often simultaneously and 2. Make you hate everything in your place, often simultaneously, requiring expensive and endless renovations. Either way, you’re under attack by otherworldly forces trying to steal your soul. It’s enough to make staying in your parents’ basement look appealing forever.
Contractor: We’re here to tear up the floor
Me: (screams in terror)
Contractor: I get that a lot

The universe is a jerk when it comes to reading stolen books, too. About halfway through the chunky paperback of The Amityville Horror, I was reading about how the family was plagued by swarms of flies inside the house. The haunted drama created by the menacing Amityville fly gangs had me totally transfixed. I was therefore unprepared when I turned a page only to find that at some point an actual fly had become trapped in the book and entombed, completely flattened out like a creepy fly zombie bookmark. I threw that book across the room so fast it would have registered on a radar gun, grabbed my shoes, and fled my house for the sunny, safe outside. I get you, Lutzes. Bookreasons OUT.
Contractor: Question about interior paint
Me: Ok
Contractor: Should the color match the red of the blood dripping down the walls?
Me: YES. I love holistic design


Action Items
If you like haunted house novels that are actual fiction, I recommend Slade House by David Mitchell. It’s 100% fly free.





The Reason To Bring A Diva

Books are radioactive. They must be, because apparently I glow in the dark when I open one. There is something about sitting down with a book that makes me visible. From space. Look! You can’t miss me. I’m the one who went off by herself into a room, closed the door, and is trying to read. At least–that’s what I thought I was trying to do. To everyone in my vicinity that knows me, a book is a Bat Signal, frantically begging for rescue from reading the book that I purposely picked up to go read. Knowing I’m likely to be interrupted will often keep me from picking up the big books, the ones that are gonna need me to pay attention. When I really need the time and space to fall into a book, I have to find the perfect place to hide in plain sight. For this, I crave the company of strangers. And for that, I need an airport.


GAH just let me finish this chapter

I really love airports. I realize I am the president, founder, and only member of that club. I know everyone else hates them, because I can hear everyone articulating all their hate while I am standing next to them at the airport. People standing in the line for security complain about the line for security. People not in first class complain about not getting their first class upgrade. People getting their luggage searched because they packed a scimitar cushioned by fireworks complain about getting their luggage searched. I don’t understand these people. I love the energy and purpose in an airport, that sense of suspended animation that comes from being in a parallel world that’s part aggressively overpriced jewelry kiosks, part cutting-edge art exhibits, and part uninhibited daydrinking. But what I love most about airporting is the sustained reading time it affords. Of course, this only works when I am traveling solo.
You: what do you want for your birthday
Me: a roundtrip ticket to Newark
You: you want to go to Newark?
Me: no! I just want to fly there
Orville Wright: those bastards took my scimitar

Packing books for travel in a car is easy. Just fill up the trunk (and camper top) with every book you own and you’re done. Flying is tricky though, because you have limited packing space converging with an ever-present threat of delays. The thought of being stuck without anything to read is enough to make me rashy. This anxiety drove me to prepare for any flight with ridiculous overpacking of reading material, hauling one or two Main Books along with three or four objectively ranked Backup Books. (Then I’d buy a paperback when I got to the airport. Just in case I didn’t look obsessed enough.) I could barely fit my nonessential items like money and underwear in my bag. Musculoskeletally speaking, I wasn’t doing myself any favors. 
Doctor: you’re developing what we call Book Hump
Me: oh no
Doctor: yeah we usually only see it in successful, pretty people
Me: thanks?
Doctor: here’s some cream for your rash

Books have personalities. Some books don’t mind if you stop and start them a million times. They are the mellow morning deejays of your reading list, happy to let you grab a few words whenever you have the opportunity. That’s not what you want at the airport. You need a book that will boss you around from the second you crack the cover, demand you bring it a latte and some coconut water, and completely take over your entertainment schedule. In short, you need a diva. I figured this out one cross-country flight when I picked up my #3 Backup Book, In Cold Blood, instead of my #2 Main Book. In Cold Blood had been sitting around my bookshelf forever, but I’d been avoiding it because it had that “required reading” aura. Once I was buckled in and had paid close attention to the safety presentation, I idly flipped it open to the first page to prove to myself it wasn’t worth starting, and that was it. I was mesmerized. I could have been sitting next to the Rockettes doing their Christmas show on that plane and I would not have known it. Next thing I knew, I was on the last page and the plane was landing.
Me: aviation is miraculous
Wright Bros: you think we invented flying so you could read
Me: yes
Wright Bros: you are bad at epiphanies

Truman Capote knew a thing or two about divas. He was already a famous writer and literary personality when he published In Cold Blood in 1966. The book’s combination of curated journalism and fiction-style prose was a sensation and it’s considered a classic today. In Cold Blood documents the murder of the Clutter family in rural Western Kansas in 1959.  It opens with the last day of the Clutters’ lives and ends with the executions of their killers. The meticulously researched motivations and machinations of everyone involved with the crime give the book the gravity of truth while Truman Capote’s shifting narrations and ruthlessly apt descriptions lift the story into something larger. It examines the capriciousness of the American dream and the banality of evil, and it won’t tolerate being in the same stack as all those cheap paperbacks you brought, because it’s a STAR. I’m still mad I can’t read it again for the first time.

When I am at the airport by myself with a diva book, I don’t care how long anything takes. Truman Capote taught me the art of the long game. I’ll get there when I get there and I’ve got good company. Hell, if the book is really good, I want to sit at the gate. It’s sick. I KNOW. But for sure, it’s not such an obsession that I carry around a plane-shaped voodoo doll that I stick pins in to cause minor mechanical delays. HAHAHA! Because that would be crazy! Even if it does buy me an extra hour of uninterrupted reading time! Of course, pulling out a plane-shaped voodoo doll can cause some misunderstandings.
Orville: that woman over there is jabbing pins in a vibrator
Wilbur: maybe she’s mad at it
Orville: I don’t even want to know what it did
Wilbur: flying to Newark just gets weirder
Orville: how long you think before i get my scimitar back

Action Items
Truman Capote has a very diva cameo in the supremely silly movie Murder By Death.
I avoided The Sun Also Rises forever, too. I was also wrong about that.