Blogpourri: Scattered Thoughts about Buying a Home from Overseas, Professional Golf, Bike Rides, a Recently Departed Novelist, And Books We Read Over and Over

We just bought a house in the United States. Or, I think we did. We put in an offer, and the seller accepted it. The lender approved it and we mailed them a big old down payment. Susan flew across the Atlantic for the inspection, then flew back two days later. We sent the loan broker and underwriters about 25,000 different financial documents – and they keep requesting more.

Other than the inspection, this was all done overseas, through the magic of computers and smartphones. We toured homes in real time via Whatsapp, courtesy of our realtor in New Jersey. We visited countless real estate sites, city review sites, and school review sites to learn more about particular communities, and then used Google maps and Google Earth to investigate neighborhoods. Well, Susan did. She did most of the heavy lifting on all this.

But I’ll just use the universal “we” for blog purposes….

We used online tools to check out potential neighbors, mainly to see what surprises they might have in store. One potential neighbor seemed to work on his motorcycle a lot, right there in the front yard. We had visions of loud motorcycle revving right next door. We looked elsewhere.

When we were ready to make an offer, we downloaded documents to send along, and the real estate folks forwarded documents for us to e-sign (I love e-signing. You press a computer key – it’s signed!). We made a couple of previous offers on other homes that fell through, mainly because the final purchase price was hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the list price.

The offer we finally won happened about three weeks ago. It seems like three years. We love the home and the area, or at least the idea of the home and area. It is near a cool town with nice amenities, the schools are very good (and safe), the neighborhood is charming (and safe), it’s not a far commute from Manhattan. We’re looking forward to being there.

We’re also looking forward to finishing the monumental mindf**k you have to go through to buy a house in 2023, digitally or otherwise.

We knew there would be some pain involved, having been down this road before. This is the third house we’ve bought in the last 15 years. We still own the other two and rent them out (we got lucky, bought them during the down market, and decided to keep them as investments and/or safe havens should our finances ever take an unexpected tumble).

But nothing can prepare you for buying a home in the current market, where there are more buyers than homes, competition is fierce, prices are near record highs, and lending standards border on the insane. Even after we were approved for a mortgage, we’ve spent the last few weeks providing every conceivable financial document on God’s green earth. When we finished providing three things they asked for six more.

And it’s for the most random, seemingly insignificant shit, too. A line item on a tax return for a $248 fee we paid to our rental management company two years ago. An outdated and long-irrelevant “mortgagee” mention on a home insurance policy. The teeniest tiniest teeniest deduction on a paycheck. PayPay transfers. PayPal transfers!

And here’s the thing – we have excellent credit scores. We’ve been very careful with money through the years. We usually buy much cheaper homes than we can afford. We pay cash for automobiles. We pay off our credit cards in full every month to avoid interest charges. We don’t splurge on anything but travel and the occasional fancy night out, and even then we hunt the best deals. We avoid piling up consumer debt and put whatever money we can toward savings.

We’ve done what you’re told to do – and yet the underwriters of our new mortgage loan act like we just strolled out of a casino at 4 in the morning smelling of gin and desperation, asking passersby to spare a fiver for one more go at the blackjack table.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog about the most hated professions. I can’t believe loan officer wasn’t on there….

I can’t imagine what it’s like for moderate credit risks. And those with low credit scores? I doubt they can even get financing for a dollhouse right now, let alone a real one.

Anyway, it appears we have finally scaled the final Document Mountain and are ready to close the deal. So: Yay!

Thought No. 2

If you’re a golf fan (or even if you’re not), you might have heard about Michael Block, the 46-year-old club pro from southern California who took this past weekend’s PGA Championship by storm. He came out of nowhere to finish tied for 15th, right there among the greats of the game, thereby qualifying for next year’s PGA Championship.

And he did it in grand fashion, too, During Sunday’s final round he knocked in a hole-in-one on No. 15 by driving the ball straight into the hole – no bounces, no rolling on the green, a slam dunk. He needed to make par on No. 18 – the last hole of the tournament – to finish tied for 15th. That looked all but impossible after he sprayed his second shot into a crowd gathered around the green. But then he made an impossible up and down to make par and finish in the top 15.

Plus, Block is just charming as hell – a regular guy who genuinely seemed to be having the time of his life. He yukked it up with the media and the other players, he smiled and laughed, he wasn’t afraid to admit that it was like living a fairytale, he wore his happiness on his sleeve and choked up when he found out how much money he earned for the week (about $288,000, which I believe represents about 90% of his career tour winnings – all in a single week).

Block came into the PGA Championship ranked No. 3,580 in the world. He earns his living charging $120-$150 per lesson at a public golf course. He’s a very good player, but there are a bunch of very good players out there. You have to be more than very good – consistently, every week – to be successful on the PGA tour.

Block put it all together four rounds in a row (and moved up to a world ranking of 577 when it was over). As he put it, “This week I brought my game with me for four rounds.” It was a joyful thing to see, this middle-aged club pro having his moment in the sun, finally living a dream he’s probably had since he was a kid. It gives hope to us all.

And it got me to thinking: In what other sport is this kind of thing even possible? The 3,580th best player in the world competing successfully against the best players on the biggest stage four days in a row?

I’m a tennis fan, and there is simply no way this kind of thing could happen in tennis. Every so often you’ll see a player ranked outside the top 100 make a run in a major championship, advancing to the round of 16 or quarterfinals before being blitzed by a Top 10 player. But that’s rare. And really – there is a huge difference between being ranked No. 3,580 in the world and being ranked No. 133.

Could the 3,580th best soccer player in the world play a key role in helping their country make a run to the World Cup semifinals? No, I say.

Could the 3,580th best basketball player play a key role in helping their team win the NBA championship? Nae, say I.

The 3,580th best baseball player could not be a successful hitter or pitcher four games in a row in the World Series (most of the 1,000 players in the majors can barely pull that off).

You get the point.

But in golf, you might just have a shot – if you play consistently well.

I’ve watched friends of mine shoot below par during very good rounds. In high school I caddied for a friend who shot 71 (one below par) to win a big junior tournament. It was a regulation course, though maybe not terribly difficult by the standards of the PGA. But a regulation course, nonetheless.

On that day, my 16-year-old friend would have outscored some of the pros.

Thought No. 3

Today I took my first longish bike ride in three months, since I fractured my left knee in a bicycle accident in late February. I figured I pedaled about 10 miles or so, for more than an hour (you don’t go too fast with city cycling). It was a beautiful spring day, all blue skies and warm sun.

My original intention was to do a quick 30-minute ride, which has been the pattern since I’ve been back on the bike rehabbing my knee. But today? The blue skies and sunshine talked me into riding further and further.

This required that I ignore the house chores and professional work that usually crowd my mind on weekdays. I usually have an inner clock ticking inside my head, telling me I need to have this done by that time and that done by this time. But today I shut the clock off.

We really need to do this every so often, right? Turn off the inner clock, not stress about the chores, stop worrying about deadlines and commitments, and enjoy the day right there in front of you. It’s a very liberating feeling, riding where you want, when you want, taking the time to soak in the sights and sounds and smells.

Thought No. 4

One of my favorite novels of all time is “Money: A Suicide Note” by Martin Amis, the famed British author who passed away of esophageal cancer last week at the age of 73.

“Money,” published in 1984, is a gut-busting hilarious dark comedy whose protagonist (John Self) is one of the most memorable fictional characters I’ve come across. He gets hustled and hoodwinked on multiple fronts but is too egotistical and dim to recognize it until he finally collapses into a nervous mess. I still crack up thinking about how he issues a final and desperate, “Oh, f**k off!” during a recurring argument with a female love interest.

I’ve also read a few other Amis books: “London Fields” (excellent), “Success” (good), and “The Information” (less so). He was one of those stupidly gifted writers who could make you double over with laughter even as you cringed at the comi-tragic themes. He probably got a genetic leg up by being the son of famed author Kingsley Amis (“Lucky Jim”), but Martin eventually earned his place on the literary leaderboard.

I’ve probably read “Money” three times. I even brought my copy over here to London in case I might want to read it again, because it’s that kind of novel.

Do you have novels like that – ones you come back to time and again because they are so engaging, funny, or just fun?

Because you asked (okay – you didn’t), here’s my list of five novels I have probably read the most:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson. Okay, it’s not technically a “novel” because it recounts a real-life experience Thompson had covering an auto race in Sin City. But you get the feeling Dr. Gonzo embellished much of the story, so let’s call it a non-fiction novel. I’ve probably read this book seven or eight times over the years because A) it’s brilliant; and B) it’s short.

Catch-22, Joseph Heller: I know I’ve read this at least three times. It’s an Important Novel that also manages to be funny and entertaining.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole: I guess I’ve read this three or four times. It never fails to make me laugh out loud for minutes at a time.

Freaky Deaky, Elmore Leonard: I’ve read just about all the crime books Leonard ever wrote, and just about all of them are excellent. Some of his other books probably rank higher with most fans –“Get Shorty,” “Rum Punch,” “Maximum Bob” – but “Freaky Deaky” is my personal favorite. I’ve probably read it three or four times.

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler: The crime noir master’s first and maybe best novel, featuring the ever-cynical private eye Philip Marlowe. It’s short enough to breeze through and intoxicating in its depiction of 1930s Los Angeles and the broken, conniving folks who lived there. The plot makes no sense, but who cares? It was later turned into a movie starring Bogie and Bacall.

Postscript: This was supposed to be a short blog because I began it with zero ideas, and questioned why I would want to write about anything at all. Then I started toying around with the computer keys and they took over….

Note: The collage didn’t come out exactly the way I wanted, but then it was created using Google photos, so whaddya gonna do? Susan took the amazing bike photo (in Amsterdam, maybe?). The other images were gifted to me by the Little Angel Who Lives in the Internet.


  1. Congratulations! And may the remaining admin processes be swift and easy. Our purchase process was probably easy compared to what you guys are going through. BUt hey, once it’s all over, you (hopefully) never have to deal with such mountains again 🙂

    The market there is the opposite of here. We’re going through a torrid economic climate (which our government seems to be causing, rather than mitigating), and our property market is in a trough. We’re struggling to sell our old place for a decent price, so we hope things will pick up by year-end…unless our potential new agent – with his foreign buyers and ‘semigration’ prospects – can actually be successful.

    I can’t say I come back to novels much. Just sticking to reading something is a challenge now, even though I’ve found a novel which is fairly interesting (“Arcadia” by Iain Pears…a sort of fantasy/sci-fi novel that weaves together three stories in one…in 600 pages). But the library return date is as much motivation as I need, so maybe I’ll finally complete it. I have a shocking record when it comes to finishing books in my adult life. Starting is easy…finishing is near-impossible most of the time. Except when it comes to autobiographies….mostly sports people’s.

    Anyway. Enjoy the bike rides and hopefully better weather in your last few months before departure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Yacoob. We’re looking forward to everything finally being signed, sealed and delivered. The process of finalizing all the loan details has been an exercise in slow torture. We never had anything even close to this experience on our previous two home purchases.

      Sorry about the market for your house. When we moved out of our first house nine years ago the market was down as well, and we were looking at selling it for a loss. So we decided to keep it and rent it out, and that has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We not only earn income from it — but the home value has more than doubled in the years since. I don’t know if that’s an option on your end, but maybe something to consider.

      I reread certain novels just for the pure pleasuring of reading good writing and entertaining stories, although it does help my own writing as well. Like you, I also like sports bios. I’ve read quite a few of those.

      Thanks again for your comments and sharing your POV on these things!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Congrats on being in the Golden State! You’re gonna love it. BTW, I got your email and replied. Hope everything else (outside of the furniture) is going well!


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