The theme of this month’s Mirror is Real Estate, and once again we are talking about “flipping houses.”
Commercially, it can be very profitable, I understand. Not so emotionally. Psychologists have said moving is a very traumatic experience. I wouldn’t know. I have lived in the same townhouse for 44 years.
I am the polar opposite of this very issue. I am not going or moving anywhere. I have not counted the minutes, the hours, or the days, but 44 years is a long time to be in one place. Doesn’t matter. It’s mine, unique to me, and I have never needed anything more.
During my collegiate and early professional career, from 1967 to 1978, I moved 14 times in 11 years from New York to Florida: from Hempstead to Atlantic Beach to Point Lookout to Woodstock to Sugar Loaf to Albany to my maroon Ford Econoline van to Key West to Deerfield Beach to Coral Springs to tiny duplexes in Fort Lauderdale. Too much, too often.
After all that, I just wanted a special place I could forever call my own. I found it in a brand-new townhouse being built in Victoria Park in 1978, and I have never left. And I won’t. They will be carrying me out of here. Besides, I got “too much stuff.” It would take a year to pack, and I am lucky if I have six months. But don’t bet against me. I have spent my life bucking the tide.
I know I could have made money “flipping” this house years ago, but when you are essentially a single guy living alone with roommates here and there, you learn there is not much more you need in life than a true friend, a comfortable bed, a good pillow, and a dog by your side. A bigger house only brings you bigger problems and more trips to Home Depot.
Basically, my home is the equivalent of a straight college guy’s dorm room, eclectically filled with my college paperbacks, ’78 vinyl records, and decades of sports memorabilia. I already have too much of everything, except that each and every single thing here has a special memory. Of course, after my brain surgery last July, I have forgotten what half of them are. But they matter. They are the special memories and moments of my life.
Back in 1978, I collected Topps Baseball Cards, and many are still on shelves on the walls. Now, in 2021, I own stock in Amazon but it’s not the same thing. You pin pictures of baseball cards and your 1965 Mustang convertible on the wall, not your stock certificates.
I noticed I also have signed Billy Joel and Richard Nixon baseballs; in case you want to buy either on eBay. There is also a “Billy Beer” can and Joe Namath rookie card, but not too many Van Gogh’s. Really, ask John Castello, the realtor. My house is an average gay man’s nightmare. Too much “stuff.”
I think I have a few books still that the Hofstra University library is looking for, but guess what? The whole world is digitalizing so whether it’s my alma mater or the Stonewall Museum, no one wants my old books or magazines anymore. I saved them for years to give them away someday. That day has come, and now no one wants them. The world changes. Alvin Toffler saw it coming in “Future Shock.” I should have.
Today, it’s easier for me to order a new book on Amazon or Kindle than to risk climbing a 20-foot ladder to find my missing 50-year-old college paperback copy of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I really wanted to reread that over Thanksgiving. Forget about it, couldn’t find it anywhere. Never going to happen. A call to Alexa will have to do. I will have a new copy tomorrow.
Two months into chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer, I find that I get tired reading quickly. I am now saved by ordering audible books. Makes me feel sometimes like my mother is reading me a bedtime story. Unfortunately, I am not a child looking to the future. I am more like the Bohemians in Jonathan Larsen’s Tony Award-winning play “Rent” where the cast sings, “There is no future. There is no past. There is just this moment.”
If you grew up in New York City, you know not only the resilience of New Yorkers, but that the tiniest flower can blossom through a piece of hard concrete. So it is with all our lives. You don’t need waterfront property on the Intracoastal to find hope, happiness, and harmony in life. You can blossom from where you are planted.
I don’t care how many ornate lights you put around your front porch. When you enter your home, you better have someone or something to share and care for, or it’s all meaningless. The collections of books, memorabilia and photographs in my home are not just “pictures” on a cluttered wall. They mark where I have been, and who I have been with, from majestic beaches in Mykonos to Brooklyn’s working Navy Yard.
The photographs catalog treasured moments I have shared with my friends and family, from Mom’s 90th birthday at Tropical Acres to my then partner John cheering as the loan Marlins’ fan in the midst of a sea of San Francisco Giants jerseys during the 2003 major league baseball playoffs. They symbolize a journey of a life fully lived, friends once and still loved; countless memories forever shared. Definitely, though, too much money spent.
Flip this house for a profit? I don’t think so. Would not give it up for anything. It’s been a blessing, and remains so today, from the eight ceramic urns containing the ashes of my pets — labs and white German shepherds, like Ice, Lightning, Thunder, Woodstock, Daybreak, Dodger, Chocolate, and Hurricane, to the night I fell over Shadow, two years ago, in the hallway at night, and smashed my two front teeth.
Thanks to publishing the Express Gay News, SFGN and the Mirror over the past 20 years, I have been able to share part of this special journey with you. I am forever grateful as well for getting to showcase many of you individually and illuminate our community collectively.
Savor every moment every day you can. Around every corner, no matter how dark it seems, there is always an ice cream cone with sprinkles that has your name on it. Taste it all, my friends, when you can, where you can, how you can.
There's no place like home. Courtesy photo.