Archive for the literally happened Category

What Happened This Week

Posted in literally happened on August 1, 2010 by samsondoggie

John lost a tooth. John asked the tooth fairy for a silver dollar. The tooth fairy responded in a letter, “Dear John: a paper dollar will have to do. Perhaps next time.”

Tierra dropped out. Her voucher was reduced from three beds, then to two, and ultimately to one. You have to love the Durham Housing Authority. Enter Felithea, Will and Hannah.

I should have just parked and went to church, but then Clik and Clak opened up the line for one more caller, and it was Christo Jackson.  I am pretty certain that it was that Christo, with that voice. I imagine he was wearing that blue sport coat and folding those gold-rimmed reading glasses into his thick-thumbed hands. “I have an ’86 VW Golf,” he said, “and it will only start if I tap on the fuel pump with a hammer.” Gee, Christo, why not get a new car, then? Why not pick up an almost brand new ’93 Accord?

I still can’t sleep. In the last five days, I have probably slept for about 25 hours. Yet, I can’t fall asleep. During the day, I can’t stay awake.

Susie and I had two dates. On Wednesday, we went to the Federal for sandwiches and a beer. On Saturday, we went to a birthday party held at a friend’s house down the street.

Melinda left. Melinda went back to Platte Cove to be with her family. Her dad, Joel, has a broken arm. Melinda may be sent to Australia in the near future. It is hard to know for sure. She could remain in New York, or she could even go to England or to Pennsylvania.

We fixed the roof. James put on the last round of asphalt himself. I wanted metal. We got metal. We put metal roofing above our kitchen, and above the front porch. The metal didn’t work. John saw it, and he said, “Gee, that is a funny color.” Well said. When burgundy on the brochure is orange on the roof, it is time to think Continue reading


My Beautiful Idea

Posted in literally happened on June 5, 2010 by samsondoggie

Last fall, I bought a three bedroom brick ranch about a mile from our home. I bought this home, which had been sold by the children of the previous owner at a substantial discount, as an investment. Real estate is part of the American dream, and in the last decade, being a real estate landlord has been a new iteration of that old story.

My decision to follow that path was not a sudden idea. I remember searching for property more than five years ago, in the spring of 2004. I thought it about carefully. I decided that houses were too expensive. It was a shrewd estimation.  Still, the idea that I had made a good decision stayed with me. I had a sense of having been right. It gave me some confidence when I surveyed homes in Durham last fall. Prices were low, homes were plentiful, and borrowing money couldn’t have been much cheaper. Even by a conservative analysis, my home in Northern Durham was going to have a substantial cash flow. Before taxes, I expected a return on my investment of about 17 percent.

Rehabbing the home was easy. It had been the home of an older lady, and it needed to be updated to reflect new taste. I tore down a wall to expand the kitchen. I put in an island. I replaced a lot of things – commodes, cabinets, vanities, sink, and the sidewalk. I purchased a new stove, as well as an older washer and dryer.

And, less than two weeks after we finished, I had a lease agreement with an ideal tenant. A 54-year old woman, without kids, with a job as a housekeeper and a son with a big job in Seattle.  It wasn’t just that. I felt comfortable with her because her story made sense. I could understand her motive for moving. She was paying $800 to live in a small house,  in an area that is full of crime.  Sure, she had bad credit and not much income, but her son was on board. I asked him to co-sign, and he did.  She put down $500 to hold the place.

Except, her son changed his mind. I guess he came to the same conclusion that I did – it was a fine time to buy. I was actually at the home, shoveling the snow off of the driveway, when her daughter-in-law called.

“I’m sure you can understand,” she said, “that it just makes more sense to buy.”

She was calling because she wanted her $500 back.

So, I had the February mortgage covered, but I still needed a tenant. It costs money to have an empty place. The heat has to stay on, and so do the lights.  It is not absolutely essential to have water, but then again, its not convenient to go without.

Continue reading

Then and Now

Posted in literally happened on June 3, 2010 by samsondoggie

I found this picture of Durham, made during the 1930s.  It is a picture of a lunch counter. I believe that it served the tobacco market.

Durham Lunch Counter, 1930s

Durham Lunch Counter, 1930s

Durham Then and Now

Posted in literally happened on May 26, 2010 by samsondoggie

I like old pictures of Durham. It is fun to see how much this city has changed. Once, it was the market town for tobacco farmers, and not much else.

This is a tobacco warehouse, viewed from the intersection of Gregson and Peabody Streets. This is now part of Brightleaf.

This is a bridge on what is now the American Tobacco Trail. I think this is the one that goes over Fayetteville Street.

Big Storm

Posted in literally happened on May 11, 2009 by samsondoggie

Birds always know when a storm is coming.

I am standing in the door in the front of our home.  Above, the sky is dark.  The wind gusts, then pauses.  The branches on my oak trees bend.

Rosie looks through the screen door.  There is fear in her eyes.

I am worried, too.  One oak is leaning toward my house. Another is dying. Ivy surrounds its five foot circumference.  Even a tree can only last through one century at best.

Relief.  My leaning tree is not moving. My dying tree stands still.

I think of my neighbor, who waits for the right moment to ask me to cut my tree.  I hear a branch crack.  In her yard.

Tooth Fairy

Posted in literally happened with tags on March 7, 2009 by samsondoggie

John lost one of his teeth yesterday.  It is on the bottom row, in the front.  “A chopper, not a masher.”

The tooth fairy arrived in the middle of the night.  While he was sleeping.

John is going to start his third season of baseball next week.  I am the coach again.  We have an assistant, known as Brian, who played second based in college.  He works in sports nutrition.  This should be interesting.

All the Colors

Posted in literally happened with tags , , , on February 22, 2009 by samsondoggie

This is the story of how my new shed became pink. It is not a short story. It really happened.

Let me start by saying that I like pink about as much as the next dad.  Precisely…not too much.  I mean, for most things, like basketball jerseys or cars or ties or slips, pink is out.  But then sometimes, pink is in, like in basketball, and then there’s not much else to say.

We had to get a new shed to store all of the gear that used to be in the entry room on the back side of our house.  We had all sorts of things in there.  Motor oil, catcher’s equipment, a set of hand weights, a bunch of half-used cans of Benjamin Moore sateen interior paint, Samson’s kibbles, two or three bicycles and big wheels, and whatever other stuff was not in the car or the house.

We got a lot of stuff.  Most of it was in that room

Then we redid our kitchen, and that slab of concrete became the foundation for our new sun-filled eating area. This was better.  Except, now we had no place to put our stuff. I have a shed, already, but it’s full of grass seed, lawnmowers, screwdrivers, and various semi-lethal insecticides. Also, several mixes of gasoline.  So, not the place for children to store their things.

We bought a new shed.  It is a nice shed.  It is 12 feet long and 9 feet tall.  It is about 8 feet wide. It has a shelf running along one side, and two in the rear.  It holds all of that stuff.  Now it holds more stuff, including my worm farm.

If you paint it, they give you a free warranty.  I had a vision for it, a color scheme rooted in the multiple-shaded bungalows that adorn our neighborhood. Something that matches with the magnolia tree right next to it. I was imagining a sandy hue, with a rust red for the door and perhaps a un-saturated yellow for the molding.

But a four-year old had a different idea.  At least, that was what I found out when Susie called and gave Rosie the phone.

“Pink,” she said, in a perfect dead pan. “And purple.”

That was all she said.

I played it dumb.  Easy job.  “Pink and purple for what, Rosie?  For pajamas? For cotton-candy?”

“Daddy, paint the shed pink and purple.  I want it pink and purple.”


Well, time passed.  I put on some light primer.  I guess that gave me plenty of options. But there was no resolution.

More time passed.  I asked Rosie again.  Her response was simple, direct, maybe somewhat monotone:

“Pink and purple.”

That was it.  But, I don’t mind a delay.  We took two years to redo our kitchen.  Time did not erase anyone’s initial stance.

The new color of my shed.

The new color of my shed.

Except that I found that my eyes were wandering.  Like any middle age guy, my eye was wandering to real estate that I don’t own. And it came in a variety of subtle hues.  None were pink and purple, although at least a few did include some periwinkles or grape shade.

This weekend the crew went to Salisbury. It was too cold to go on a long ride. And there was the shed. I thought some more, and I thought about the sun-bleached homes along the coast, in Charleston and the Cape, or in Portugal.  A lot of them have pink, albeit a very washed out pink that is powered by its contrast against an ivory pure white.

So, I went to Home Depot and bought some victorian pearl, satin enamel exterior. It was fast.

I did it. I painted my shed pink.  No runs, no drips, no errors.  The molding still needs to be done, and so does the door, but there is no turning back now.

The next day, we take separate cars back from church.  Susie got there well before me.  She parked in the back.  As I understand it, Rosie and John got out to examine the shed. Again, its a light color, and the primer is somewhat greyish, so there is not a lot of “pop” in the pink yet.

“Its not pink,” says John, “its white!”

Rosie is looking at the shed, but not quite.  She swivels her neck to look, but holds back.  Could it really be pink?  How did that happen.

I arrive a few minutes later.  Rosie is now standing on the concrete court, near the back door.  She seems, well, muted.  I am expecting an exultation, a sound of joy. In my mind, there is a scene where she runs across the court, arms open, saying “thanks! It is pink! You are the best daddy, ever.”

But again, reality doesn’t square.  She pivots on one foot and does some sort of half-pleit. Hmm.

“So, Rosie,” I implore, all sense of moment having been lost, “any reaction on that shed?”

“Where is the purple?” she says.

“Er, its coming.”

So, I guess I have some mixed reactions on the state of my shed.  As much as anything, I realize that I am hopelessly ready to be manipulated by the opportunity to witness the joy of a child.  Its a powerful force.  Love rules.

At dinner, Rosie has more to say.

“If Hannah sees the shed,” she says, “she won’t like it.  But if it is pink and purple, she will love it.  I sure hope she loves it.  Pink and purple are her favorite.”

“Rosie,” I respond.  “Are not pink and purple your favorite, too?”

“No,” she says.  “I like all the colors in the world.”  She giggles.  Then, she stands up in her chair, puts her hands on her rosy cheeks, and makes a smile with gritted teeth.  “I like every color the same.”

“Daddy,” she adds, “can you go downstairs and get us a trash bag?”

I am a little down now.  John reaches over and puts his arm around my shoulder.  He pushes his lips together, nods, and says nothing.  His eyes communicate sympathy.

“Rosie, hmmph.   I painted the shed pink.  You get the trash bag.”

Susie points out that its really just basic Mars and Venus.  Painting the shed is one point.  Reading a story is one point.  Letting her have a chip on the way out the door, oh, that’s one point.  I remember Mars and Venus.  The frustrating thing about Venutians is that they don’t let you bank any points.

Nonetheless, she gives me a very tight hug at bed time.

“Thanks for painting the shed pink,” she says.

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