Jun 28, 2011


I promised you tales of our adventures in Spain and I will not renege.  It turns out we chose a very exciting time to be in Spain.

We started in Barcelona on May 26, where protests against the government were in full swing.  We saw a sort of tent city in Placa Catalunya, with handmade signs protesting just about everything you can think of from government cutbacks to navel lint.  There were banners strung from every statue, water fountain, post and pole. Of course, the underlying causes of the protests are serious: Spain's overall unemployment rate is 21% and youth unemployment is over 43%.  And in Europe, where they really know how to protest,  sit-ins and marches took place in cities and towns all over Spain, and across the border in Portugal.

Early morning May 27, the police cleared the Barcelona encampment because (this is their stated reason) the next day Barcelona was playing in the final of the European Champions League.  The Champions League is sort of like the Super Bowl of European soccer, only much,  much bigger. It's maybe more like a mini World Cup, judging by what happened next.  Ai yi yi!  Barcelona won and the city went crazy.  Car horns were honked, cherry bombs were set off, team jerseys were worn, a hell of a lot of alcohol was consumed and general pandemonium ensued. I've never seen or heard anything like it.  We were in a restaurant when the game ended so, walking to dinner: normal; walking back from dinner: difficult. Streets blocked to motor traffic were immediately packed with revelers and we were funneled through a pedestrian police checkpoint where we were all made to open our purses (not Alan, of course).  By the way, that tent city was cleared at 7 a.m. on the 27th and reconstructed by noon the same day.  Busy little beavers, both the police and the protesters.

Please take note that we arrived in Barcelona on the evening of May 26 so the above were our first two days in Spain.  On the third day, when the victorious Barcelonians were still blowing noisemakers and attempting to sit up for one more round of vino de la tierra, I woke up very sick, wobbled to the bathroom and passed out on the floor. Ironic, isn't it?  What happened next must wait for the next blog entry so check back.

Jun 22, 2011

Ba Da Dah Dah Daaaah

Today's topic: real estate.  Having just sold one house and bought a new one, we have now been exposed to many different real estate strategies.  We learned that real estate agents price homes in one of two ways: a little low, to generate offers and engage buyers in the process, and a little high, in hopes of raising the eventual sale price.

We learned that if a home does not sell right out of the gate, it will start to look unappealing, like the last doughnut in a box full of crumbs and unstuck sprinkles, a doughnut that no one wants to be seen eating.   Psychology will take over: no one else wanted that doughnut, why should I want that doughnut?  And who ate all the chocolate covered doughnuts and the sugar glazed anyway?  And why is the only doughnut left the one with avocado green bathrooms and a neighbor out of Deliverance? Then the agent must figure out how to bring that stale doughnut back at a later date and make it look like a whole new pastry.  (Which is why restaurants invented bread pudding, by the way.  Today's dry bread is tomorrow's dessert, and no longer free, either.)

In the case of selling our own house, our agent really surprised us. He started by hosting an open house on a Sunday, while we were out of town.  Later that night we spoke by phone to find out how the event went and he told us lots of people came to the open house, lots and lots of people.  He said he felt like he was having a party at our house.  Come in, come in!  He told us that at  least one family wanted to make an offer that day.  Oh, we exclaimed, that's great, an offer!  Well,  I told them we're not taking offers until next week, he said.  Here, our heads cocked suddenly and we made the Scooby Doo "Rhooomph?" noise.  We're not taking offers?  Are you sure that's wise?

And of course he was right.  The following week we started taking offers and we sold the house in a few days. Then we went shopping for our own pastry, I mean house.

Jun 21, 2011

Where to Begin?

Oh my!  It's been seven weeks since my last blog entry!  How did life get away from me like that?  How did I neglect my bloggerly duties so egregiously?   And what have I been doing for seven weeks, you may well ask, with a little tinge of hurt and bitterness. Well, I got my nails done; I bought three new shirts and two new bras; read five books; went grocery shopping and made breakfast, lunch and dinner many, many times; picked up a couple of things at the drug store, dropped off my dry cleaning, picked up my dry cleaning...  Huh? What's that? Not the kind of thing you had in mind?  You do those things all the time, too, and you're not interested?  Well! (Picture Jack Benny.) Alright then, I'll tell you about my adventures.

Adventure number one is we sold our house.  No sooner had we hired our (wonderful) agent than he walked through every room of our house and told us what to clear out before we let strangers with money into our home.  Evidently we hadn't been living a photogenic life. He never said so out loud but I got the distinct impression we were more likely to be featured on Hoarders than in the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. So I rented a big storage unit and started boxing up our books and tchotchkes.  Luckily, and this is true, the big week of manual labor coincided with my treatment for a sinus infection.

Now, why would that be a lucky coincidence, you may rightly ask. The answer is that when two rounds of antibiotics and nasal spray didn't stop the pain, my allergist put me on steroids to reduce the swelling and thus the pressure and pain. And I am here to tell you that when you have a whole week of manual labor ahead of you, steroids are your friend.  Not only did they stop the pain, like turning off a faucet, they gave me boundless bouncy energy and optimism to spare.

I got more done in that week than I get done in whole months of my non-steroid life.  And this was not a heavy-duty dose of steroids; this was just a tiny sinus-targeted dose.  I can't imagine how much energy a Barry Bonds-size dose gives you.  My husband Alan kept saying, and I quote, "Man, it's like you're on steroids!"  Exactly.  The house was ready in a week.

Also in the last seven blogless weeks, our daughter Molly's college graduation and a family trip to Spain.    Many adventures on the trip to Spain so another blog soon.