Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I regret something.

When I decided to take this job and move us back to California, I figured it would be notice too short for finding a house. I expected to move into an apartment, and I was okay with it. In time, I thought, my investor mother and brother would find a little house somewhere to buy and would rent it to us.

They had the same idea. In fast-forward. By the time I arrived, they had clinched the deal of the century on a home-- a condo-like thingy in a planned community which was evidently intended as a retirement community. It's next to a swamplike corridor they call "the green belt of Arroyo Grande"-- I suppose it's the big ditch in question-- and it is therefore duck-adjacent. It's perfect for us.

It's also perfect for the person who lives there now. She's being offered a month's free rent by her previous landlord to make up for the gravely unhappy-making surprise of being requested to move out as soon as possible, as well as $1000 by my family if she is willing to relocate within 30 days, rather than the 60 the law requires them to allow her.

I have my doubts that she'll be out even by the time 60 days roll by. Evidently, she has lived there for 7 years and is devastated that this sale has taken place. It's not like her landlord could warn her in advance; he didn't know he was going to sell it until my folks contacted him about it.

She has a lot in common with us. She's in her early 40s and just got her (advanced) degree. She rehabilitates wounded birds, which people throughout the community bring to her (fortunately, so do we, so if they bring them to us we will have some idea what to do-- maybe I will ask that someone tell her so, in case this information can answer a concern for her.) She has a big silly looking cat, who was gracing the windowsill when we went to ogle the property. I feel that she must be a kindred soul.

A bird person, a cat person, a lover of wildlife, a midlife academic. What stories could we tell each other? Might we go birding together? What did she study-- and how has the experience been for her? We could probably hang out.

And it is because of me that she is being evicted.


It's a done deal. And I want her to move out, impatiently, urgently, desperately. I want to dig in and start living the life I've chosen. But there is a cost. And if she was not this person who appeals to me in the abstract, she would still be somebody...

When I was a kid I won first prize at a science fair (ooh, be impressed) because my mom helped me design a project showing that water seeks its own level. A tube shaped in a J and a tube shaped in a U have something in common-- the water settles at the bottom and it's the same height on both sides of the tube. I guess I could have followed up on that and been a plumber... instead I did my Master's thesis on hydraulics and irrigation law.

Whatever I may think about "hydraulic" theories of social organization, I cannot help but think that hydrodynamics and society have something in common. Two things cannot coexist in the same space (unless, like Kool-Aid powder and water, they can combine to make another and slightly bigger thing... and depending on how molecular you want to get with all that, of course); one displaces the other. Conflicting economic systems. Duelling nationalisms (squeal like a pig, boy!) People who compete for a job, or, as in my case and the bird rescuer's, for a place to live.

I feel like a nasty person because I know what is happening. I think that most renters don't get the chance to find out what happened to previous renters, and don't feel this guilt, this sense of connection, this feeling of unworthiness.

I try to be responsible, humane, and compassionate. Responsible: I buy products that do the least harm possible to my fellow man, to animals, and to the environment. Humane: I do what I can for the less fortunate and those who cannot speak for themselves. Compassionate: I am nice to strangers, I try not to ruin people's days or lives, and I help wounded animals. And yet, here I go... getting recent graduate students and their flock of wounded birds evicted because I want a taste of the rich life.

So, yes, I guess I regret something. I regret discovering that I am, after all, a greedy bastard who displaces people just like myself, and I regret being that bastard. I don't know what to say; it's a done deal, and it's going to happen. Rip the Band-Aid off quickly.

Boy, I sure hope she finds a beautiful home where her birdies are welcome, and fast!

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