Saying Farewell

June 20, 1997. I thought I might write some words, toss some thoughts hither and yon about next year and Elfquest’s 20th anniversary and all that, but I’m plumb exhausted.

I just sold a house.

This is the place – referred to in this very issue – that Wendy and I bought back in 1983 in order to keep from tearing little strips of flesh from each other as we worked on Elfquest. Our “office away from home.” For years it served as her studio, while I ran an office out of the living-house. Then it became my office as Wendy moved her paints and brushes back into the primary domicile. Then it was home to more and more people as Warp Graphics grew. (Wendy, by this time, had found her own away-from-home studio space in town.

So on the market it went – and stayed for a year and a half. (Poughkeepsie, once upon a time, was reknowned as a hotbed of IBM activity. However, the fates and stock exchange have not been kind to the Itty Bitty Monopoly these last several years. As a result, the housing market in this part of the world has been what the experts term “soft.”) I could almost feel a sense of reproach coming from the little place when I’d let the lawn go too long without mowing, or when the gutters would get full of schmutz in the fall. “I served you long and well,” it seemed to say to me, “Now get your lazy butt over here and rake these leaves!”

Finally, an offer came in that was acceptable, and another ordeal began. Seems that when we bought the house nearly fifteen years ago, neither the town nor the banks nor anyone else felt it necessary to search out the title to see if there was anything awry. Poughkeepsie doesn’t act that way these days, and bureaucracy reigns. The town inspector turned up an outstanding building permit from 1971(!) for an enclosed back porch that had never been closed out – which means that the previous owners built the thing, but never got it inspected or approved. And of course, what might have passed muster decades ago surely wasn’t going to do so this time.

Thus began a two-month long process of finding a contractor, scheduling the contractor, making appointments with the building inspector at each step of the way, getting the inspection reports, finding out what was wrong this time, rescheduling the contractor, calling the real estate agent to please tell the buyers that it would only be a little while longer now, field the calls from the attorneys wanting to know what the hang-up was, getting another inspection…

Of course, this was going on right smack dab while I was at my busiest, traveling all over creation. It makes me tired just to read what I’ve written!

Finally – while I was away, naturally – agents and lawyers and friends (oh my!) reached the limits of their tolerance and pushed things through – with a battering ram, I suspect. I returned from my travels to the message that the closing would be 2:30 p.m. on Friday, June 20. About four hours ago.

I got to the attorney’s office on time. Everyone was there, introductions were made, and we sat down to it. I’d forgotten how many papers have to be signed in the course of a real estate closing, but the buyers had a lot more to do than I did – they had to write a great many checks as well. I felt for them.

Closings take, on average, an hour. This one was humming along beautifully, and we were done in forty-five minutes. Almost. There was just one tiny little bit of bureaucratese that needed attention – some amendment to some town law or other that required some sign-off on some flipping thing. And that part took another hour and a half, as we waited for people to make phone calls, for faxes to sail back and forth, and for most of us in the conference room to become severely bored. (You know a process is in trouble when people begin to take great fascination with staplers and ball-point pen mechanisms.)

Perversity got the better of me, and I opted to try to read some tiny bit of the nearly 1,000 books of New York State law that lined the walls… Crikey! When did we become such a detail-ridden society?! I was reminded, as I looked at the century-old engravings of previous presidents hanging here and there, that once upon a time, you bought or sold a house with a minimum of documentation, handwritten in fine calligraphy, on a single sheet of good paper.

When did the choking mist of minuscule detail come to obscure the landscape? One miserable little piece of paper we needed, and yet it held ten people hostage in a room for hours. I think a lot of people in positions of authority have way too much time on their hands…

At last it was done, though, and I could say good-bye to the place. Closure.

That is, as soon as I deal with the capital gain issue with the appropriate federal, state and local honchos, and take care of some related paperwork at my local bank, and of course answer the question of who gets what taxes when, and take care of all the people who did work on the house to make it all nice and presentable, and…

Shade and Sweet Water!

Richard Pini