The Empty House Cupcake Dream

March 9, 2009 § 4 Comments

I was reading in the New York Times Magazine about abandoned houses in Cleveland. Not a place I’ve ever wanted to live, even in a mansion, but the article was long and I kept seeing the empty houses—single family, unpretentious, a few bedrooms—seeing them in the hundreds and thousands and thinking: They’re empty. Why can’t people live in them before the pipes are ripped from the walls and the boiler stolen? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

I don’t know where I’m going to live six months from now. Here in New York or in Florida or both, going back and forth like the child of a particularly odd divorce. I’ve talked about this with both husband and boyfriend; we all have decisions to make, not knowing what the future holds; jealousy and possessiveness are still in play but security looms larger.

Philip has often said plaintively, “Why can’t we all just live together?”

“Because Christine hates me,” I would reply. “And Charles hates you.”

Now Charles has his own girlfriend, whom I will call Cynthia, and he won’t be able to afford me if he loses his job. Yesterday, he said, “I’m starting to agree with Philip. Maybe we should live together.” Meanwhile Philip dreamed that William Shatner was running for Governor, and he wanted to be his campaign manager. I want to be getting a snack in my mother’s beachfront kitchen in New Hampshire in 1974 while she and my teenage brother watch Star Trek reruns on TV.

The Times article mentioned houses being sold on ebay and craigslist for prices like $2,000. Now if it turns out that the house you bought for $2,000 has been stripped of its innards, condemned by the city and comes with a large back-tax bill, your deal is slightly less awesome than what you can find on my ebay site (beautiful jewelry, guaranteed-your-money-back free of mold, mice, vandalism and zombie banks).

But my interest was piqued and I went on line, looking at houses in South Florida. Houses that cost $8,500, or $24,000, or $55,000. Tiny houses and very small houses and smallish houses that resemble road dividers. The tiny and very small ones are often cute, painted fuschia or tangerine, with front porches, bushes, and white trim. Dollhouses. Surely I can buy several, string them together like Christmas lights?

Ten minutes later I was reading an article on Huffingtonpost.com about the amazing deals that can be had now on designer clothes, electronics and so forth. They might as well have been talking about discount plastic dog vomit. I couldn’t imagine buying anything more indulgent than dessert.

Houses like cupcakes, and the rose-tinted old days. That’s what I dream about.

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§ 4 Responses to The Empty House Cupcake Dream

  • Gina says:

    I wonder if I would truly rather die, when push came to shove, than live in an abandoned house in Cleveland. Probably, even if it were a nice house in Cleveland. (Too cold in winter.) But what about a cupcake house in Florida? But for my outrageous pride might it not be revelatory, open new chambers and antechambers in my mind, new neural pathways? Shopping at the Piggly Wiggly or Bob’s Big Boy with food stamps and a calculator, raiding restaurant dumpsters at night—-would the instinct to survive clobber pride? Damn these crazy instincts.

    Thanks for the funny, thought-provoking post. I read ’em all, and love ’em all!

  • Margaret Diehl says:

    I wanted to quote your “pretty houses” poem, but I couldn’t find it.

  • Gina says:

    “If they look empty or neglected,
    can’t I just move in?”

  • Margaret Diehl says:

    Well, since Florida takes your fancy (and Florida N. of Charles on the coast is wilder and more human) has quite a number of foreclosed places. But squatting still requires the wile and agility of youth. It’s hard when you wake up and your legs are stiff, and you try to think of why and end up remembering Victorian novelists: gout,etc. When I was in Florida Charles wanted me to pose in various ways up trees and behind branches and I did it, but I felt like a Hollywood stunt worker. As in, I could break a leg here. Just so you know.

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