The Face of Foreclosure

The lawyer sits across from us, trying his best to look concerned and caring, but clearly he is in a hurry. He has a waiting room full of people just like us and, he tells us, a month’s backlog.

We are there to file for bankruptcy and, while he respects the paperwork we’ve brought along, to facilitate things he’s prepared a packet that we should fill out at home and return along with his fee. He asks us about the two properties we have just lost in foreclosure: one we were supposed to sell to offset the cost of the other which, up until two days ago, we’d lived in.

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Dr. Pepper Wishes, Tuna Fish Dreams

I don’t know if you’ve caught on yet, but it may have occurred to anyone who reads my posts on a regular basis that I’m not living the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous here in the mountains of Virginia.
In fact, one might say I’m not even living the Lifestyle of the Moderately Wealthy and Vaguely Familiar; but I’m not poor and faceless either.
You might say I live the Lifestyle of the cheap Thrifty and Anonymous. And if there is one thing we T and A’s can sniff out in an instant, it’s pretension. And we love doing it too.
Oh, sure. We get our jollies reading about the Hollywood crowd, but that has long since transcended pretension into downright trashiness. But this is to be expected since the combined disparity between brain surface areas and annual incomes in Southern California is a number not yet assigned a name by physicists. Where else would a memo be issued limiting the length of one’s limo. . . to 38 feet? And, as I guessed, it’s Hollywood that started the trend of what I thought impossible: a Hummer limo is even tackier than the original street vehicle.
So we view Hollywood as a little glass bubble of concentrated self-importance and roll our eyes. But oh, the subtlety of eastern pomposity where, on a hot summer night from Boston to Miami, you can hear the pitter-patter of names being dropped.
But pretension isn’t just a regional phenomenon. The art world capitalizes on it, as I’ve already explored. And certainly just about every industry and pastime has its share of snobs (as a purebred dog owner I can assure you this is true).
And then there are those rare, but amusing, cases where regional superciliousness meets industry conceit, as in this New York Times piece. Writer Zarah Crawford, acting as a “critical shopper,” decided to slum it to find out why fashion designer Vera Wang would lower herself to create a line for a store like Kohl’s.
Let me tell you something about Kohl’s around here and, I imagine, in most communities. We go to Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor to browse the clearance rack, and we may even buy off the clearance rack for, say, a wedding. But when our sons need black pants that evening for a school concert he’s known about for four weeks but neglected to tell us until 3 o’clock the day of the event, we go to Kohl’s. Kohl’s is our high-end store because we are people who have kids to put through a $20,000+ a year college. So rather than spending almost $100 on a blouse that has to be dry cleaned and will be out of style by next year, we spend $25 on a classic that will be serviceable until Finster finally gets his degree.
I assume Crawford’s reference to “the occasional matron in a tracksuit” is a way to highlight just how incredulous is the pairing of an “A-list celebrity” (am I the only one who cringes at that phrase?) like Wang with a “value-oriented” store like Kohl’s; a store that has these very un-chic people “shuffling” around. Why, they might even be. . . God help us. . . unattractive.
But, showing true condescension democratization, Crawford bravely deigns to purchase some clothes if only, I guess, to be able to tell the story at her next cocktail party about how it is actually possible to shop for clothing in Brooklyn.
People are pretty down-to-earth around here in the Shenandoah Valley. But, as in probably any community, we have our share of people with more money than sense. Every now and then some celebrity or other, impressed with our lovely landscape and rural rusticity, decides to set up housekeeping in one of the slowly dwindling high-acre farms. They stay for a year or two, attend a few community functions acting all folksy and earthy, until it occurs to them that damn, this really is the country, and in the spring you don’t so much smell the honeysuckle as smell the biosolids the real farmers spray on the fields; and the only regular socializing is Tupperware parties and having a beer down at the Moose. They soon move on, back over the mountain, and buy one of the faux-farms that entertain D.C. Sunday drivers looking for country atmosphere, only with reliable plumbing and trash pickup service.
I humbly submit that even I am not immune to a certain amount of pretension, as my son reminded me recently when I placed a little dish with sea salt on the dinner table along with the usual salt shaker, which he immediately reached for.
“Why don’t you use the sea salt?” I asked.
“I don’t use bourgeois salt. I use the salt of the people,” he snarled, then added politely, “Can I have $50 for gas?”

Computer Illiterate

It’s no secret that I’m not exactly the most techno-savvy person on the planet. I was pretty good with all this stuff up until the time I became a mom. With each pregnancy I think a little of the computer-literate portion of my brain dribbled out of my ear.
Or maybe it’s a matter of having to pick and choose to what you give your attention. Hmmm. . . big, thick tech book or toddler flinging cat onto cook top? By the time the Heirs set the cat free, it was 1998 and I was left behind in the dust.
Not to worry, though. I have two teenage sons who are more than willing to condescendingly help me out whenever I have no choice but to add some new gizmo to a gizmo I already don’t know how to use.
I first realized this could be a problem when cell phones came into common use. I prayed this wouldn’t happen, since answering a telephone is right up there with an IRS audit in my list of Activities to Avoid. I held off getting one until Dirtman and I went into business for ourselves, at which point I was forced to be available at all times so he could call me up to answer that burning question: “Where you at?”
I started out with a pretty basic model that I held on to until you could no longer read the numbers. My new phone supposedly takes pictures and videos and has some other random activities I have no need for. But the only skill I’ve learned since getting it is text messaging. I figured it out while waiting for Heir 2 to finish his cheeseburger at McDonalds. He was across the table and his phone rang with my message: “Hi.”
“That was the first time you’ve ever done that, isn’t it?” he guessed, probably because I was giggling like an idiot at my Big Accomplishment.
“I figured that out by myself!” I proclaimed.
“Great, Mom,” he sneered. “Now you’re only one decade behind everyone else.”
A few minutes later my phone rang and the screen alerted me to an incoming text message. I stared at it.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” Heir 2 said, his own cell phone in hand.
Still staring I had to admit, “I don’t know how to get an incoming message.”
He grabbed my phone out of my hand, pushed some buttons then held up the screen: “Heir 2 says: ‘UR lame, Mom’.”
I am equally inept when it comes to downloading and using attachments on my computer, so I’m usually dependent on one or both of my sons arranging icons to give me easier access. Usually this means they stand over me and have the kind of discussion I didn’t think I’d hear until I was carted off to the old age home with only a fifth of my brain functioning – say, at age 112.
“Put the Microsoft Word icon on the Start menu. That way she won’t miss it.”
“No! You know if she doesn’t see it on the desktop, she’ll think the whole program has disappeared.”
“All she has to do is click ‘Start.’ Any moron can see. . .”
“Ya know, I’m sitting right here,” I remind them.
I console myself with the fact that, as clueless as I am, I don’t come close to Dirtman in being a techno-dud. Dirtman has yet to figure out how to work the television satellite while it’s hooked up to the DVR. I thought he’d developed a sudden fascination with Redd Foxx, until I realized that, when frustrated with all the remotes, he starts pushing random buttons until something happens and he can’t watch anything, at which point he gives up and goes to bed. While doing this, he inadvertently programmed the DVR to record every episode of Sanford and Son.
Recently Heir 2 talked me into buying myself an iPod. That way, he said, I could listen to my music “without making the rest of us suffer.” Obviously this device was packaged for teenage boys because there wasn’t a single instruction in the box, on the box or on the device itself, which is how all iPods come, Heir 2 explained. Just a blank screen and a circle with some lines and arrows.
“It’s obvious what you need to do,” he laughed. “Just look at it. Any moron can see. . .”
He stopped, thought a bit, then took the iPod from me.
“Never mind. I’ll do it for you.”

Dysfunctional Food Storage

Known commonly throughout the family as “Poor, Poor Angelina” because she was divorced and had to work at something other than childbearing and housework, the married sisters were under obligation to send her food on a regular basis since being a working girl somehow rendered her unable to turn on a stove. My grandmother, who didn’t really live anywhere but just showed up at her daughters’ houses and stayed for a few months, called my mother a few weeks later to scold her for forgetting to feed Poor, Poor Angelina, to which my mother replied she would have been happy to feed Poor, Poor Angelina if she had a ricotta container to send the food in. But, since Angelina had not returned the container, my mother assumed, she said, Angelina had plenty of food around to store in it.

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