The People in Your Neighborhood

2nd May 2008

Right before I got pregnant, we decided we wanted to own a home. We tentatively put bids on a couple of San Francisco fixer uppers. The first one was a unit in an empty six-unit building, and we offered asking price.

We waited anxiously while the owner ignored us for a week, and then he countered $30,000 above asking. We asked our agent, “Were there other offers?” He said no. We asked our agent, “Where does this guy live?” And then we drove over and punched him in the teeth.

Next, we fell hard for the top floor of a Victorian with hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, window seats, and wish-granting fairies who lived in the dumbwaiter. It was a tenancy in common, which means you share a mortgage with total strangers. I kid you not. In many cases, you may not even meet the people with whom you will share the house and a mortgage before you put in a bid.

If your bid is approved, you take out life insurance on each other in case something happens to one of you. Later, they hire someone to kill you so they can afford to own the whole building. Anyway, we wrote a heartfelt letter about raising our children there, bid a ludicrous amount over asking, and came in seventh out of thirteen bidders. I still feel bewildered.

It was around this time that we happened across a perfect little cabin in the wine country, and decided we could afford the modest mortgage and still pay rent on our apartment in the city. We bought a vacaaaation home. I say this with a long cigarette holder perched between my fingers as I bathe in organic cream.

The nearby town used to be a resort destination in the 1920s and ’30s, and in some ways, it still has that feel — like a big summer camp for grown ups, except most people living there are locals now. And the locals, they make life a lot more fun.

Once, on a morning walk with Hank, we noticed one of our neighbors had stuck a decaying boar’s head on a post in the driveway, Lord of the Flies style. Presumably to warn the other boars? Perhaps so they can dance around it at night chanting? I’ve been meaning to ask. Maybe I’ll take some muffins over.

Recently, we saw these excellent flyers posted everywhere:

In case you can’t make that out, it goes a little something like this:

For information
Leading to the
Beatdown of
whoever tryed to
steal my G.M.C. Truck
in between 11:00 PM 5-9
And 7:30 AM 5-10-08
Call (number painstakingly obscured in Photoshop)
I will find you!

Of course, this happened last month, not seven days from now, but shut up. You knew what he meant.

I’ve decided Information Leading to a Beatdown is the highest classification of information. The essence of news you can use: News you can use to assault someone.

In short, we finally found a place to call home. And if you touch our car, you know what to expect.

28 thoughts on “The People in Your Neighborhood

  1. Moose

    I’m quite convinced you need to be an actual millionaire to own a house in San Francisco. You need to make above 50k just to afford a refrigerator box on Market.

    I just moved into a new neighborhood and walked out my door one morning to find a man washing off my stoop with a hose. He waved and said cheerfully, “Someone peed on your stoop. I’m washing it off for you!”

    It’s heart-melting, in a San Francisco-specific kind of way.

    (Your vacation home sounds lovely – even if Beat Down classes are necessary. Do they offer those at Yoga Tree, I wonder?)

  2. MayB

    I am going to start asking everyone I know for information leading to a beatdown on someone. It’s going to be awesome.

  3. J. Bo

    I love that flyer SO MUCH!

    Also, Maggie, I really, REALLY need to know where you got that gorgeous glass bird Heather posted yesterday. My impossible-to-buy-for honey has a thing for ravens, and I think he needs to have one of those if it is at all possible.

  4. J. Bo

    P.S. Today’s photo of Hank with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background is BREATHTAKINGLY beautiful. Honestly, that child is so gorgeous it almost hurts to look at him… and YOU should open a photography studio specializing in the color RED, ’cause you’re a master of the hue.

  5. laura

    can i do a shameless plug?
    well, before i do, let me say, I love your website and you and whenever I read your little snippets I feel just a little bit lighter and more refined.

    BUT! If you are ever in Guerneville on Main Street, my father has just opened up his new jewelry store their, David Allen Designs. For all his personal mishaps (i.e. less than stellar father to me) he makes up in his AMAZING talent. the man is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft. so check it out! (not my fault if he rambles on about politics, he is crazy. and please ignore all his so proud of his daughter talk, as i rarely get to hear said to ME. HIS DAUGHTER.)

  6. solaana

    I would have stolen that flyer, framed it, and then given it to Hank on his 13th birthday.

  7. dana wyzard

    Oh crap. So you’re the one who moved in down the street. I’ll have you know, that was my favorite boar and some s.o.b. ran over him while trying to steal my truck. AND STOP OBSCURING MY PHONE NUMBER!

  8. patricia

    But, but, what’s the reward for the information? Also, I am not the culprit but this poster scares me enough that I want to confess to a crime I never committed. Powerful.

  9. Deirdre

    You know, my husband’s been after me, suggesting that we buy a vacation home. An idea I’ve flatly rejected because we don’t own an actual home (we rent). But the more I think about it, the more it kind of makes sense. Vacation homes tend to be in areas that still appreciate in value, despite the market.

    Glad you made such a ballsy move.

  10. Lisa's Chaos

    Sounds like my kinda place!

    I gotta ask, as crazy as this will sound I just gotta ask. Are you expecting again?

    You see, my daughter was expecting my first grandson Feb 18, 2007 and he was born the 24th. She just announced she is expecting again and I think it would so weird if Hank is getting a baby brother or sister too. . .

  11. Sophia

    I think I know where you’re talking about (redwoods? river?) and I lived in the area from ages 9-11, which is the perfect time to be a local because it is indeed like summer camp all the time (including a near-permanent case of poison ivy). Being a local *teenager*, however, is not such a good idea, which is when my mother moved us back again. I’d love to have a vacation place there now, since I have all those lovely memories from childhood.

  12. Meg

    My boyfriend is currently giggling over that sign in the other corner of the room. Wait. He just got to the part about “information you can use to assault someone” and seems to be emailing out gobs of Hastings students who are studying for finals. You just made some law students days better, that’s for sure.

  13. lisa

    When I think about the fact that we sold our house in Walnut Creek for a bazillion dollars only to lose it all in this sinking market, I want to cry. I miss the Bay Area with all my heart. I don’t however, miss the outrageous real estate and bidding wars and Jesus God RENTAL RESUMES.

    That sign made me laugh like a fool. Well spotted =)

  14. Hippo Brigade

    Ha! Welcome to the neighborhood. Currently in my very suburban, orange county neighborhood there are signs up for a lost snake. I just hope I’m not the one who finds it. Makes me all eiby-jeeby just thinking about it.

  15. Exschutz

    I’m trying to reconcile the image of a vacaaaation home where you smoke cigarettes in a cream bath and then go outside to find a boar’s head and beatdown sign. Sounds like a horror movie to me!

  16. Auntie Yolanda

    Interesting that you have now come full circle…your Uncle Tommy might have posted that flyer, if someone tampered with his truck.

  17. Kiala

    Well, now I wish I had some information because I would very much like to say that I contributed to a beatdown.

    Er, what are we talking about?

  18. Doug L.

    As far as I can tell, the boar’s head thing is the Lake County equivalent of a rickroll. A dozen years ago while camping at Bogg’s Mountain, we had one appear on our picnic table overnight. In our case it was not decaying — or at least not far gone, yet. Creepy.

  19. Liz

    My husband is the atty for the tenant in common assoc. and I still don’t have any idea what the hell it is!!!

    Love the sign! Ya just don’t hear “beatdown” enough in daily life.

  20. lisa

    i’m confused, cause 5/9 and 5/10/08 have still yet to come. make sure you get out there this weekend and film that beatdown so we can all see it

  21. Lori

    I did the same thing when I couldn’t afford a home in San Francisco back in 2000: I bought a house in Truckee and kept my apartment in SF for a while (until I moved in with my future husband in Mountain View). I loved that house in Truckee. I loved my wacky neighbors. I loved the actual mountain views. God, how I miss that house. I sold it shortly before we moved to Philadelphia in 2003, and I pine for it constantly.

  22. Lucky Candice

    I’m having a bad day. One of those, no-good, lousy, kids are crying all day days and I just wanted to read a few blogs before going to bed. Luckily I came upon yours and got a laugh! From this post obviously. Thanks for the laugh!

    LC (lucky candice)

    P.S. I used to blog but quit – too much work.

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