My responsibility as a writer is to assure people taking a chance in life is the only way to live, and so … I throw the dice.
Big spenders, rich or poor, are learning like me, that spending more than you have, like the US Government, follows you until your legs break over the debt line. I used to spend everything, before the check even arrived. Now, I am stimulated by resisting my fav delicacies, the extra beauty clutter, the wrapped $6.00 soaps, luxury bath salts and body creams, and the RLauren sales. I love to walk into a shop and leave with the one essential item. As I’ve moved into a 300 square foot no-kitchen casita and rented out the house, there’s no room for new stuff. I live with art, music, a few books, and a bulky 32″ television. There is a mini frig that suits two bottles, three condiments, pre-washed lettuce, and sliced cold cuts. Love the condensible lifestyle–so far.
I’m better as a writer than I am a person. Though my syntax is follies;
with backward sentences and too many metaphors. The writing isn’t usually
selfish or timid. In a crowd I need applause before I feel accepted. One on one
my behavior swings from suspicion to doubt and it takes more than a few pages
to break the boundary. I don’t why I thought it would be different now; I’ve always been a loner.
Silent Sunday, before the raucous of Cinco de Mayo in Santa Fe. Awakening to the thread of emotion after watching
“The Only Thrill” a movie made in 1997 with Shepard and Keaton. Shepard says,” NO! Things don’t just work out,
you have to make it happen.”
I do remember what they gave me. THE MEN always bring something you didn’t have before. LOVE THEM
My father was a gambler all his life. When he turned thirteen he gambled his way from Winnipeg, Canada to the United States. Dad shielded his addiction expertly, and his partnership with Benjamin, “Bugsy” Siegel. Gambling was his business.
He always kept two hundred crisp dollars bills in his gold money clip, and beneath the hundreds, he kept several twenties, tens and then one dollar bills. In his dresser drawer, I noticed the unwrapped rolls of coins, and this intrigued me because the arrangement of coins was so perfect. When I asked him why he kept the coins, he said, ‘I’ll do the questioning, you just listen.’ Dad was happiest when he was flush because he out-tipped his associates, picked up the dinner tabs, and astounded people with hotel welcome baskets. I’ve been told the baskets clipped the overhead fan. I’d seen him broke and bundled up in cash; but he always behaved with dignity, regardless of his finances.
He advised me on the facts of life; without any softening; don’t trust anyone: don’t wear your heart on your sleeve: play it cool and don’t draw attention to yourself: and most important of all, your word is all you have so never ever trade a secret for your own gain. His financial lesson was compact: don’t bother saving, you might not live to spend it: when you’re flush, spread the sunshine: pay your taxes: and never borrow less than a thousand dollars.
When he died in 1983, I was twenty-nine years old and had a savings account of twelve hundred dollars. I left Los Angeles with my cash, moved to Del Mar, CA and got a job working continuously until forty. Then, the tossing began; resigning from a career, going into hiding, and researching my family criminal history. Since then I’ve been tip toeing from low to high.
After I got the FBI files I learned Dad had a sister living in Winnipeg.(I didn’t know my father even had a sister)Shortly after the discovery, I was notified my Aunt Gertie died and left me a hundred and seventy five thousand dollars. I sprinted down the beach in Del Mar erupting in abandonment of frugal spending, and bounced checks, because back then I thought I was set for life.
I took the money, my FBI files and went on a writing road trip with Rudy, the best friend I’d made since high school, and the man that put food in my mouth while I was reading 10,000 pages about my father. We went searching for a multiplex to renovate, so I’d have an income, and found the Victorian house of my dreams; it actually looked like my childhood doll-house.
Rudy and I founded Follies House in Ballston Spa, New York and converted the 1885 Victorian into furnished apartments, and kept one for our self. That was in 2000. I can remember the elated sensation of buying furniture because it was so cool, and spreading the sunshine with the hearty upstate New York cracker jacks we met at fresh vegetable stands, the barbecue take out, Saratoga Springs racetrack, and the village restaurant crowds bolstering the sound barrier of laughter.
Hundreds of dusty antique stores later, that were packed so tight with furnishings you had to inch around one foot at a time, we finished Follies House and trudged through three winters before returning to Del Mar in 2004.
I’ve been on the edge of a cut-throat embankment of dry writing finances; every serious writer goes through, since. Hanging on, but with not much integrity. It takes discipline to present comfort to the world when you’re actually hungry.
January 2012. Rudy returned from San Diego where he serves one client remodeling office suites. He sleeps in one of the suites because he doesn’t have enough money to rent.
We stopped paying B of A on our Gallery Home in Santa Fe, NM in September 2011 when the payment jumped from $3500 to $6500. We bought the house in 2007 with a distorted loan, trick reversals of interest, and inflated equity to refinance over and over. B of A doesn’t offer payment plans; all or nothing.
In February Rudy decided to submit an application for a loan modification. I read about the thousands of families uprooted due to foreclosure. Living desperately, and in shock from the displacement of a planned community on hill in Phoenix, Chicago, Las Vegas, Burbank, to moving in with parents, homeless shelters, and some even living in their cars. The ratio was like one in five families was in default on their mortgages.
Over the next nine months I watched Rudy at the dining room table; papers scattered on a twelve foot table, with calculator, tax returns, and copies of every financial statement, deposit slip, check, and lease clipped together in piles.
“Didn’t you just submit that last week?” I asked
“I’ve submitted this every two weeks for the last eight months! You don’t even know. And I won’t tell you because you’ll say I’m wasting my time.”
“No, it’s not that. I’m afraid they won’t approve us. Then what?”
“Don’t think like that. Okay. Trust me. I’ve got the hang of this thing. They want me to give up. It’s a game.”
My contribution was minimal, but it wore bitterness into my daily routine and my behavior was abominably scouring, irritable, and self destructive. During Thanksgiving of 2012, Rudy was re-submitting all the documentation because he was suddenly assigned a new Representative.
“This guy knows what he’s doing. We’ll have the approval, or not, by the end of the year.” He assured me.
The trail of papers spread into the kitchen and into his room. I kept his bedroom door shut, as if the barrier would separate me from the uncertainty. Then at night, when all the unwanted clutter pours out, and the post its reappear in a surrealistic collage over my head, I heard my father scolding me for overspending, for being in a dream world.
A week later I opened the door to a registered letter; State of New Mexico, Notice of Foreclosure. Panic does rise, then rage, and most loathsome of all, fear. After shouting to no one, and a cocktail, I called Rudy and told him about the letter. I read the notice but it was evasive, sort of a threat but it could be resolved with proof of the loan package.
Being business partners and best friends is a tight rope, you go over the edge a little too far, and then you have to climb all the way up to even get the other person to answer the phone. B of A was our conversation and our constant companion. We didn’t even bother to ask each other, how are you?
Rudy found an attorney and she started packaging up the documents for The State of New Mexico. In the last stretch of a year of false promises from B of A, Rudy called and said we’ll have an answer Tuesday… Then Thursday… Then Wednesday. I believed in Rudy, I’d seen him triumph over refinancing and loan approval over our twenty years of frenzy buying historic properties. Just weeks before Christmas, Rudy called from San Diego, and said our loan was in underwriting.
“How long does that take?”
“He said we’ll have it in a week.”
“How long really?”
“Just pray. Okay.”
Praying for a loan modification seemed mercenary, so I prayed for Rudy. His attitude was locked down tight; he was not giving up. I was the weak one, just hearing the word mortgage stirred me up. I’m not a believer in the universe bringing me profits, maybe I should have been. Instead I joined Match.com to find a man who made over $150,000, abashed at my desperation but I thought I’d be evicted from the house and have to live somewhere. All my savings was gone gone gone.
One of the match men who wrote to me sounded interesting; he was an architect, with a passion for concerts and theater, and socializing. I winked back and we set up a date for a drink.
A few days before the date, Rudy called. I waited for him to say something, but it was just silence on the phone.
“Rudy, are you there?” His voice was muffled and it sounded like he was in traffic.
“Say it again, I can’t hear you.”
“B of A transferred the loan package to a new service… YOU KNOW what that means? It means I have to start all fucking over! Can you believe it? Everything! All over again. Silence followed. Then I heard the choking repressed sound of his breakdown, and following heartrending clipped cries of anguish.
“We’ll sell it.” I said.
“We can’t sell it, there’s no equity!”
“There’s no way we can pay $6,500.”
“It’s not $6500 anymore! It’s $7200. They added the back interest. I don’t know what to do, I’ll call you later.” He hung up. The next day he didn’t call, and I resisted calling because my body breaks out in a red rash when I’m pushed to the edge. I was there.
The thought of canceling the date pressed on me until an hour before. I shook it off and when I arrived he was already seated in the bar, having a cocktail. Match didn’t look like his photograph, nor was he an architect, or sociable. Match was a construction contractor, who’d lost his business, lived on a ranch forty-five minutes from town, and never went out. ‘I love the isolation. I always find projects to do.’ I ordered a drink, and then I noticed he was chewing gum with his cocktail. It sort of garbled his voice, and the restaurant was filling up so, so I could barely hear him. I dropped off after the part about not having any business.
“If you know of anyone… here’s my card.’ He caught my disapproving surprise, and I passed on the second drink. I straightened up and excused myself. The date soured me so I drove fast, blaring rap music to deafen my thoughts. The lights on the porch were left on so I could see the two policemen pacing the floorboards, pointing flashlights, as if there was someone hiding under the furniture.
“Mam, is Robert Funk here?”
“No. Why? What’s wrong?”
“The front door was unlocked, so we searched the house.” Then they asked for my ID.
“Do you know where Robert is?” The heavy-set Policeman asked. I was looking at his bulging shot-gun, and Billy club.
“No.” I lied.
“What’s this about?”
“We got a call from Bank of America. Robert threatened to end his life in a branch in San Diego. We traced him to this house. He lives here correct?”
“Yes, but say it again, he said what?”
“Mam, we take threats very seriously. He said, he wanted to end it all.” I couldn’t move or respond, panic glazed over me.
“What’s in the back room that’s locked?”
One of the officers asked that I let him in. He searched the room with a flashlight, under the bed, the shower, the closet. He took down my phone number, and gave me his card.
“If you hear from Robert, you may want to warn him the San Diego Police are looking for him.”
I thanked them, went inside, and called Rudy.
He sounded like a fugitive, guarded, like he was hiding. The cops at the house didn’t surprise him, the concern in my voice didn’t illicit any reaction. It was like talking to a zombie on Percocet. Coaxing brought nothing.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” He hung up. The next day the same two Policemen returned.
“Just checking up. Mam, we take threats very seriously.” I thanked them and gave them a bag of Christmas Cookies. When Rudy called again, he said he was in a parking lot hiding, because he didn’t want to go to the mental ward for a physiatric examination.
“I know they’re looking for me. I don’t give a fuck. I’m going into that branch… and.”
“Rudy! Listen to me all right. I should have jumped on this months ago.Hang on one more day. I’m calling the President of B of A.”
“I don’t doubt you will.”
“No, I mean like now. I’ll call you back.”
TO BE CONTINUED
IMAGINE, if you were in Boston
On the day of the flare
and it fired your daughter
and you dived in the dare
and heaven opens
the souls are not lost
they are moments to bare
BOSTON, is the angel
that brought the fire to lair.