Friday, September 10, 2004

A fax from my father

I was cleaning out an old file cabinet today and found this. It's a faxed letter from my dad, who died in 2000. He always liked to act a little more like a peer than like an authority figure, but that was just a front--an image he liked to maintain. In reality, when it came to helping out his kids, he was incredibly on target. His advice was valuable and always very real. I don't think I appreciated, at the time, how much he helped me deal with the problems and issues that came with growing up. He was a great dad.


To: Jamie, Small Computer Firm, Inc., Burnsville, Minnesota
Subject: Nerves
Date: April 26, 1996
Pages: 1, including this cover sheet

You are supposed to be nervous. Buying a house is buying into everything you ever wanted to rebel against. Please don't start visiting theme parks.
It looks very early-century Midwestern Urban. Some houses of that era were noted for nice attention to detailing in the finish work, with lots of real wood, others not so. What I would like to know is this: What was the kitchen doing that it needed rehabilitation?
A few things you might want to look into: Go down in the basement and poke a knife blade into possible dry-rot areas in the joists and sill plates. Check on wall insulation. Watch for signs of foundation instability. Make sure the electrical wire insulation is sound and up to modern codes. Buy a 2 or 3 dollar circuit tester which plugs into the outlet and tells you if the ground is good. Taste the water, and assure yourself the pressure level is sufficient. Any slow drains? Ask your insurance man how well rated that area's fire department is (& how far away the nearest hydrant is) and get an idea about insurance costs, which should be a reflection of the general neighborhood stability and safety. Does the kitchen have enough winter light/windows? Envision the two of you sitting inside in a blizzard. Think about shoveling out the drive. Think about local noise levels, and traffic speed & patterns.
Then buy the house or be patient.