Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Our house is a very very very fine house..."

My apologies for the lack of posts this month, but the exigencies of life often get in the way of more desirable (and preferable) options. So, I thought a status report was in order....

This past weekend I returned from my third week-long trip (the two previous trips this year were in February) -- and what I hope will be my final trip -- to Southern California for the purpose of cleaning out my mother's house in preparation for its sale. Funnily enough, even though my father passed away in 1998, most of the required work at the house was for his "stuff," as evidenced by my March 4 blog post regarding the Lionstone Old West liquor decanters that he designed.

I signed with realtors The Lappin Team on February 1 for the sale of the house. Facebook users can search for "Lappin Team Real Estate" to learn more -- and if you have property in Southern Cal that you wish to sell, trust me, these are the folks you want to have promoting your house. I lucked out connecting with them: Archie Lappin went to high school years ago with the neighbors' son from across the street -- and when I asked the neighbors for a referral for real estate agents, The Lappin Team was on their list. In fact, the Lappins put together a YouTube vid of my mother's house as part of their promotional efforts. When I first watched the vid, and saw how Kelly Lappin had "staged" (her word) the various rooms in the house using her own décor, my reaction was like "Wow! That's the same house?"

So as I said, I signed with the realtors on February 1, but I wouldn't let them place the house on the multiple listings service until I had an opportunity (two weeks worth) to clean the place up as much as possible. The Lappins could show the house themselves -- in fact, they had an open house on Sunday, February 19 (I arrived at the house around 4:00 p.m. that day for a week-long stay; the open house had ended around 2:30) -- but I wanted to hold off opening the house to other realtors. The house was finally placed on the multi listing service on Sunday, February 26, and I signed the acceptance paperwork, which placed the house in a 30-day Escrow, on Wednesday, March 7. Amazingly, the house sold (with multiple offers) within ten days of being placed on the multi listing! And the buyers? A husband and wife; he grew up two doors down, graduating from the same high school as Archie and the neighbors' son (and me as well).

My wife Diane and I have our hands full managing our own house, but I have also had responsibility for managing my mother's house -- and her affairs -- since August of last year (she passed away in October), and with the added complication that I live nearly 400 miles away. But hopefully in two weeks, when Escrow closes on April 6, most of this will be behind me; all that will be left will be the disbursement of my mother's trust.

Within about a week and a half or so I hope to be able to announce some good news regarding the status of the Lionstone whisky bottles: one official hurdle remains (though I believe it's more of a formality), which should be resolved next Wednesday, April 4. Keeping fingers crossed....

In addition to these whisky bottles, my father had a history of other such creative endeavors. Back in the 1950s and early '60s, he was an amateur photographer (living in Pennsylvania at the time), with a penchant toward circuses, if you can believe that. This was long after the Ringling Brothers Circus fire (1944), so the only circuses still performing under the "big top" were smaller, family-owned circuses. He would sometimes visit as many as two different circuses in a single day across the state, photographing the shows and the performers themselves, often before or after the show, back in the trailer areas, which was typically off limits to the public -- but not my father. As a "thank you" for their posing for his pictures (slides, actually), he would gift them with a set of slides from his previous visit. To make a long story short, I found a box of slides from various circuses from the late '50s and early '60s: Cole Bros. circus, Hagen Bros. circus, and quite a few others. I contacted the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and shipped off the 500 or so slides last Thursday to the attention of archivist Peter Shrake. In addition, I found my father's old movie-making equipment: a Revere movie camera, circa 1955; two tripods, one brand new and still sealed in the original packing box; two title-making setups, both brand new and sealed in the original boxes; and a ton of title-making letters, in gold, silver, red, blue, and black. I packed up two huge boxes of this stuff, and shipped it to the photography teacher, Victoria Byers, at Silver Creek High School, where my daughter had attended. She always spoke highly of the class and the photography teacher, who has since retired, so I wanted to make this material donation to the school. Schools continue to need our support, particularly for the elective classes.

Upon cleaning out the kitchen cabinets, hall closets, and garage storage areas, we filled two trash bins (one regular trash, one recycled; but note that I had filled two dumpsters, each holding 80 cubic feet of trash, during my previous visit); we also filled the rental SUV from back to front with a Goodwill donation (this was my fourth, and final, trip to Goodwill since October). And the realtors promised me that they would find good homes for all the remaining furniture.

So, that was how my wife and I spent our spring vacation. And why I have been absent from this blog for most of the month.


  1. Oh, man! It's such a hard and wrenching task, and sounds like you had a ton of stuff to clear. Glad you lucked out with the realtor, though, and fingers crossed that sale goes through swimmingly :)

  2. Thanks for your kind words of support, Dario.

    On Saturday morn, at about 7:00 a.m., when I closed the front door and walked away from that house for (hopefully) the very last time, I was surprised that I got a bit choked up. There's a ton of angst associated with that house for me as that's where I lived during my high school years.

    - marty