Coffee heat rising

Odd$ and End$

First crack out of the box this morning, it was off to the credit union at the (relatively) nearby West campus, there to hand-deliver 15 pages of paperwork.

Well over a month ago, M’Hijito and I had asked to negotiate a loan modification of the downtown house’s mortgage. They asked for evidence of every deep breath we’d taken within the prior 30 days, which after much thrashing around we scraped together into a big digital pile and e-mailed to them.

Well, this mound of debris reached the loan lady one day after the credit union outsourced its loan management. So now, instead of the six-day turnaround on a decision we had been promised, we were told there would be a one-week “blackout” on all information coming from this outfit, and that after that…they had no idea what would happen.

Weeks went by: nothing.

So I called Loan Lady the day before yesterday and asked her voicemail if I was correct in assuming that silence means “no deal,” since we would need to figure out how to pay the mortgage or decide whether we should take a walk, given last month’s munificent earned income of $161.

Within hours, comes a call from Higher-Up Loan Lady, who says that the credit union is “taking some loans back in-house,” among them ours, and would we please send the entire mound over again, only add written proof that I actually was canned and update several other documents, now gone stale. Translation: “we lost your documents.”

Of course, the fuck-you-very-much announcement on ASU letterhead was not in digital form. The new printer/scanner refused to scan it. So that made it impossible to e-mail the new pile of junk, which took a good half-day in the collecting and updating. The new printer/scanner doesn’t have a FAX, and even the old printer/scanner/FAX machine would not talk to Cox’s modem and so would not have sent a FAX anyway. She suggested I either mail it (about $2.00 worth of postage) or take it to the credit union and get them to FAX it.

I chose the latter. This ensured that someone there actually saw to it that the documents went through, and they gave me the printout of confirmation showing the stuff reached Higher-Up Loan Lady. The cost of the gas to drive over there—about $2.53—was probably as much as or more than the cost of postage, but at least it ensured that the pile of paper didn’t disappear again.

Despite the annoying waste of time and gasoline, this junket did allow me to take advantage of a serendipitous occurrence of the Money Happens phenomenon.

A few weeks ago, a client gave me a $25 gift card to Fry’s grocery stores, a nice little under-the-table lagniappe. I never shop at Fry’s, because the two stores in my general vicinity are located in pretty threatening neighborhoods. After the manager of the restaurant in the Fry’s shopping center at 19th and Glendale was murdered by thieves, I quit going there. On the way to ASU West, though, I passed a store in a working-class neighborhood that looked pretty safe, and so decided to spend the money there.

Not bad. For $20 I nabbed milk and eggs with which to make some excellent biscuits for breakfast, a small stoneware bowl of the sort I’ve been needing for a while, a bag of chunk hardwood charcoal, and some produce. The pork, much needed for Cassie, was ten cents a pound higher than Safeway’s, so I passed on that. But I did find a pair of kitchen tongs with handles, not those chopsticks on a spring that are currently popular. Real tongs have have turned into a hard-to-to-find item, as I discovered when my ancient pair wore out.

Yesterday I had a meeting that took place after I finished teaching in the middle of the afternoon. Because I couldn’t afford to have lunch out even if there were something available on the campus that I’d want to eat, by the time I stumbled in the door I was dead starved. It was evening by the time I’d fed myself and the dog taken the dog for the required doggy-walk and added more acid to the pool. Then I had to wrestle with the mountain of paperwork (above). After that was ready to go, I

was sooo tired I sat down to relax by working on a pencil drawing I started yesterday. The next time I lifted my head, it was quarter to eight and I was an hour late to choir practice.

Started to climb into the car to race down to the Cult Headquarters, but with the garage door open and the engine on, I realized I  just couldn’t do it. So went back in the house and missed practice. Now I’ll be in the doghouse again. Oh well.

My beleaguered former RA, who lives just a few blocks from me, was burgled last Sunday. They stole all her jewelry—most of it sentimental gifts from her mother with little monetary value—and her husband’s laptop. {sigh} This neighborhood is under siege from the cockroaches who inhabit the tenements across 19th Avenue. Burglaries are as common as falling leaves around here. I’m almost inclined to go back up to the pound and see if that fake “bloodhound” is still there. Whatever he was, he was no bloodhound. Neither did he appear to have any pit bull in him. But he was big enough to mean business, or at least to look like he might.

I don’t know. I can’t afford another dog. Just feeding me and little 25-pound Cassie is a challenge. On the other hand, I can’t afford to be burglarized, either.

Speaking of the neighborhood, when I got home late yesterday afternoon a carpet cleaning crew was over at Biker Boob and Bobbie McGee’s house, overseen by a hulking bruiser of a man swaggering around in a wife-beater. Turns out said bruiser was a great big, charming gay guy who is a Realtor. He strolled over to introduce himself and say Boob and Bobbie are history and he’s putting the house on the market. He’s asking $239,000, substantially less per square foot than the $285,000 our local Real Estate Empress is trying to get for the same model two blocks to the north and west. He said the place is in pretty bad shape and needs a lot of fix-up.

Not surprising.

As sweet as Queer John was, at one point he had five men living in there with him. (QJ was the original renter, an affable little guy but pretty nuts.) After QJ was chased down in a dramatic pursuit through the neighborhood and hauled off by a team of five cruisersful of cops, he was replaced by Biker Boob and his lady, Bobbie McGee, a raunchy cowgirl given to dumping car trunkloads full of mystery garbage in the big trash bin behind my house and Sally’s. We figured if whatever she was stuffing in there (neither of us cared to tear open the bags to see what it was) couldn’t go into the bin behind her house, it probably wasn’t supposed to go into the city garbage bins at all.

According to Zillow, $239,900 is what the present owner, who lives in upstate New York, paid for that house in 2004. He must figure the market has recovered enough to unload an ill-advised investment. Let’s hope he’s right!

While fooling with the Excel files yesterday by way of cranking the new reports the CU wanted, I made an interesting little discovery.

In January, I only spent $1,698. Multiply that by 12 and you get an estimated 2010 expenditure of $20,376. Optimistic, to be sure—summer power bills will raise that by about $200 a month, adding approximately $800 to the projected total: $21,176.

But if you include the tiny drawdown I’m taking from ASU’s 403(b) plan so as to qualify for the state’s sick leave payment (the net is only $385 a month), you come up with this net income:

“Pension” net: $385 x 12 = $4,620
Social Security net: $1,000 x 12 = $12,000
Net teaching income: $14,400 – 25% = $10,800

$4,620 + $12,000 + $10,800 = $27,420, projected net income

$27,420 – $21,176 = $6,244 positive cash flow for 2010

That’s a far cry from the $1,400 year-end balance I estimated by manually adding up all my projected costs, month by month, and subtracting them, month by month, from projected income (and, during the summer, nonincome).

So far I haven’t been able to account for the difference. I think I’ve included all predictable costs. The $1,698 January expenditure includes the $314 I had to cough up for COBRA, significantly more than either COBRA or Medicare will cost after this. The only thing I can imagine is that my month-by-month estimates of what the community college will pay must be wrong. But they couldn’t possibly be wrong by $4800…that doesn’t make sense.

Time will tell. If the shorthand calculation turns out to be correct, maybe I won’t have to teach three-and-three!