Ten years ago, I moved to Hays County from Cincinnati, buying a house in Leisurewoods, which was close enough to Austin for my purposes of launching an exciting, new life.
I found the process of buying a house irritating, but a friend assured me at the time that buying a house is nothing next to the pain of selling a house.
Having launched The Mercury with Brad Rollins a month ago, it occurred to me that our purposes would be much better served if I lived in San Marcos, for a variety of reasons. Among them are my own inclinations as a human being. I’m a city boy, through and through. I like bouncing out of my front door onto a city street, then walking a few blocks to arrive somewhere. If I can’t have the city, the country is good, too. It’s the in-between stuff that bothers me.
Rather than constantly preach to Buda and Kyle about the new urbanism, which is really just another name for the old urbanism, it makes more sense to move to San Marcos, where the old urbanism is alive and well. So, I’m making the move.
But that means selling my house, which brings me back to the old friend’s observation. Selling a house is an extra special kind of hell, and I’m not even on the market, yet. Prepping the house for the market is agony unlike any other, as those who’ve already done it well know. One is overwhelmed by painting walls, fixing minor problems that aren’t a day-to-day bother, cleaning up, gathering ten years worth of flotsam and jetsam to have it hauled away, and making all the arrangements.
I like to let nature take its course with the lawn, which isn’t like a golf course. I don’t need a spotless driveway, but a buyer will. To me, this is a beautiful, comfy house with a bit of woodsy, lived-in appeal. But a buyer will want curb appeal. So, I make little changes to convert it from mine to someone else’s.
On top of the tedium involved in much of the labor, I feel pangs of bittersweetness. The more I work around the house, the more I love and appreciate it. Everything I touch brings up a memory of places where I’ve worked, ideas I’ve had, people who have been in and out of my life. This house is an album, which I erase a little at a time with every wall I paint and every item I pack. One almost feels as if he’s sawing off one of his own limbs.
And beyond all that, what a great house, modest and calming, yet eloquent and provocative in its hip, dignified way. It even has a swimming pool in its huge back yard. Everywhere one looks, he sees natural angles, colors, shapes and textures working together to such pleasing effect. It’s truly beautiful without a drop of ostentation. The design came to some architect in a dream of compact, humble genius. I’ve all but tranced out just sitting in the living room contemplating the walls, ceilings and hall entries.
If I could just pick up this house and drop it into San Marcos somewhere, I would. I’ll be leaving spaces that have made me comfortable just by their timelessness. But it’s someone else’s turn, now, and I comfort myself to think this will make a great home for whoever lives here. Everyone has problems, but this house is not one of them.
When you leave a rental, you just pack up, clean up and move. You might like your rental, but not with the same affection. Leaving a house you’ve owned for ten years isn’t so simple. It’s not a tragedy, people do it all the time and it’s just part of life. But it is an ordeal. All you can do is put your head down and smash through the process, try to keep emotions from distracting you and keep your purposes in mind. It doesn’t even feel like real life. It’s sad and exciting at the same time.
I look forward to living in San Marcos, which, old-timers tell me, is quite like Austin 30 years ago, except about half as big. The town has always been a bit of an alluring mystery to me, and I want to know it better. I like hearing traffic hum when I wake up to a sense of place, a little night life in the street always gives the day more body and texture, and I love not having to drive to every single destination. In other towns where I’ve lived, I always enjoyed having a university at my fingertips, because the university is the only place in any town where the world is as big as it really is. And it will be great for The Mercury, because time is of the essence in the news business, especially on the Internet, where there’s a deadline every minute.
But getting there is a whole lot less than half the fun.