I recently purchased a beach house. I've been saying this a lot lately — telling everyone I know and everyone I used to know on this island where I grew up. I'm hoping it sounds fancy. Like, "I'd had my eye on this adorable little cottage for the longest time and finally I thought I'm just gonna grab it! "or "I had a country house and a city house, so I needed a beach house" or maybe, "I heard they don't actually let you buy oceans — so I had to buy something near the ocean."
What really happened is that I had been homeless for almost a year and couldn't think of anywhere else to go but home. For me, being homeless isn't as dire as it sounds. As a musician, I often pack up my belongings and put them in storage before a tour to avoid paying rent on an empty apartment, but at times like these I've always underestimated the effect of placelessness on a psyche. It's lonely going from city to city, not belonging anywhere, especially knowing that you really don't belong anywhere.
So home beckoned. A wacky, little island in New England that I remembered mistily. I mean my memories were misty, but they were also memories of mist. A foggy world, but romantic in that. I realized that the clanging buoys and hermit crabs of my childhood were things my kids didn't have and suddenly, they seemed awfully important. I decided to give them salt water and lots of it.
So I bought the second cheapest house on the island, the first was an intriguing piece of real estate in someone's back yard that was without indoor plumbing. That one was a genuinely inexpensive property, but it lacked the fourth wall that would classify it as a building. It also didn't have closets.
The house I did buy is pretty funny, too. It's full of spiders and, for some reason, hooks. All different sizes and kinds of hooks. My four-year-old says witches and pirates used to live here — the witches left the spiders, the pirates left the hooks. Maybe they did, I don't really care; everything about our beach house makes us happy, no matter who used to live here. Turns out, compared to homelessness, a house is really, really good. We coo over its idiosyncrasies, treating this tiny little building (technically, it is a building, it has a fourth wall and everything) like a child with low self esteem. We are our house's spin doctors, spinning every feature up into the air and into the realm of fantasy. Rotting parts of it are "rustic", drop ceilings are "kitschy" and anything misshapen is evidence of architectural significance.
"Check out this scratched and bruised linoleum, so authentic. Like a church basement floor. I like churches and basements, don't you?"
"You know, the size of this place really captures the essence of smallness. The bathroom is chamber pot-close. So convenient!"
"Sure is a heck of a lot of dirt out there in the yard, kids! I read an article about dirt once; apparently it's good for planting things in."
The house itself can't know what hit it. It must think we're the nicest people in the world, when really we're just grateful. We're especially grateful for the things this beach house doesn't have: no driftwood, no shell decoupage, no nautical ropes used as railings or anchors as lawn ornaments. When you walk in the door, you don't smell the must of a thousand wet bathing suits, ghosts of summers past.
It's also located in an actual neighborhood, full of human people, not preps on spring break or drunks on vacation, and so lacks the retail detritus that serves those people: obscene t-shirts, clam cakes and eight dollar beers. There are no googly-eyed walnut shell poodles or day-glo bikinis. If I suddenly need any of these things, I don't know what I'll do because they aren't here. This quiet part of the island isn't popular enough to have any crap.