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View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: Slices Of Life From A Man Who Owns Two Homes
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September 12, 2008, 05:00 AM
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Old friends in Lodi and new acquaintances in Pittsburgh want to know the same thing: what`s it like for a pensioner living on a dramatically reduced income to own two houses?

For those inquiring minds to fully understand, I`ll have to supply important background details.

We bought our Pittsburgh home more than fourteen months ago with the intention to move shortly thereafter.

But my unexpected illness delayed our plans. Luckily, the former owner was building a new home. His schedule too was slowed so he needed to rent the house back, a lucky break for us.

Between the time the Pittsburgh house closed and we actually occupied it, the details regarding the several necessary repairs and upgrades that had been informally agreed to became lost in the shuffle. Who would be financially responsible for what got muddied up.

The long and short of it is that our mornings in Pittsburgh have been spent largely waiting for contractors to show up. Some unpleasant haggling about who gets the bill—the former owner or us— occasionally follows.

In addition to negotiating, we`re prisoners to the annoying eight-hour range of times (8-12 or 1-5) given by the phone, cable, gas and utility companies as to when they`ll be over to install, hook up or fix.

By the time 12-noon EDT rolls around, the phone starts ringing with updates on the progress—or lack of it—on the Lodi home renovations.

The painter is waiting on the carpet man. The tile installation can`t be completed until the plumber does his thing. The cabinets can`t be put in until the tile is laid…and on it goes.

Whether the reports are valid or not is anyone`s guess. Since I`m not in Lodi to oversee the projects, I`m at the mercy of second hand information.

So a dizzying string of non-stop calls delivering various degrees of bad news take up a good portion of my time.

People say: "Certainly not every day goes like that."

Of course, that`s true. Some days I go to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

My first attempt to get a Pennsylvania driver`s license was a nightmare. Although the DMV office had five workstations for, I assume, five agents, I cannot confirm to you that more than one at any single time was on the job.

From time to time, an individual emerged from behind a close door, walked to a desk, took a file and then disappeared never to be seen again.

Or, intermittently, an agent would re-enter the building from outside where he apparently was giving a road test and called out: "Number 6, who has number 6?"

Holding number 54 and clocking the progress at approximately one applicant per twenty minutes, I left after a couple of hours.

In retrospect, I may have missed an income opportunity. I certainly could have sold my precious number 54 to those poor saps coming in as I was going out.

Perseverance paid off. I`m licensed…but my car isn`t registered.

Somewhere in the trans-continental shuffle, I misplaced the title.

Now I`m dealing with two DMVs—California and Pennsylvania. When, several weeks after my request for a new title went unanswered, I called only to find out that state mail isn`t forwarded—and I never notified Sacramento of my address change.

Each day of delay in acclimating to Pittsburgh or day lost in the important Lodi summer selling season —that would be 50 and counting since my arrival—are gone forever.

I grossly miscalculated when I originally projected that I would be unpacked in Pittsburgh and the Lodi house on the market by the middle of August.

In summary, I anticipated glitches and headaches. But I may have underestimated their number and their intensity.

Still, people wonder what I do when I`m not locking horns with contractors or beating my head against the wall with DMV.

That`s easy: I write out checks!

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.