My “Spidey sense” says something is about to happen. I paced the hallway outside the brokers office door. I heard some raised voices and then a loud crash.
Master Ed. A Tai Chi master lived and taught Tia Chi in a Baltimore row house. It was a peaceful sanctum with hardwood floors, exposed brick and mature bonsai plants. Master Ed was huge. He looked like an Irish Catholic sumo wrestler. It was amazing to see how powerful and graceful he was.
So, I was his student. From the start I arrived without wearing my right arm prosthesis thinking my right hook would not be useful in learning Tia Chi. I learned to feel my center of gravity and to feel the weight of my extremities as they moved through the motions of “The Cat.” Master Ed asked me to wear my hook to the next session.
When I arrived wearing my prosthesis Master Ed ask me to remove it. I did, and Master Ed took it and then held it up to his arm so that my right arm prosthesis was parallel down the length of his right arm. He began to move through “The Cat” feeling the weight of the hook at the end of the arm. As he spun on his own axis the inertia forced the mass of the hook outward. He felt the arm shudder as the elbow joint stopped the range the arm would bend. He spun again and used that force to impact the hook on some padded bars used in sparring. He smiled.
Master Ed asked me to put the arm back on. Then he and I went to “push hands” a two-person exercise where each pushed the hands of the other testing and deflecting the weight and balance of the opponent. Master Ed showed me how I could throw the mass of the stainless-steel hook. He showed me how to turn in any direction throwing the mass of the metal unit while keeping a calm center of balance.
After most classes Master Ed would walk us down to a corner neighborhood bar. We got to be regulars there all decked out in our black Tia Chi uniforms. We were a bunch of guys lined up at the bar drinking Heinekens dressed in black Gi’s. Even though it was a rough area at night in 1970’s Baltimore somehow we never had a problem.
26 years later I am in my real estate office when a couple comes in. They are not my clients. They seem disturbed and ask for their agent. I watched them closely as their agent lead them into the managing brokers office and the door closed. My “Spidey sense” says something is about to happen. I paced the hallway outside the brokers office door. I heard some raised voices and then a loud crash.
I pushed open the door to see the agent had been slammed against the plate window and had blood coming down her face. My broker was reeling back in her chair and looming over her was a very large sumo wrestler of a woman who had grabbed a long gold pen from its stand on the brokers desk. The women’s arm was raised in the air using the gold pen as a dagger, her back to me. With a calmness and no fear, I swung the mass of my stainless-steel hook and caught the neck of the women knocking her off balance. She tripped backward towards me. I deflected her weight. As her husband came towards me, he eyed my hook. Hookie! he yelled. I served in Viet Nam! You people can’t treat us this way Hookie!
By that time others were in the room and the man and his wife backed out of the room. The receptionist had called the police and they quickly escorted the couple into two separate police cars. I don’t need to explain why the couple was there. Nothing they did could be justified. The woman would spend some time in prison. I spent some time thinking about my time in Baltimore with Ed, the Irish Catholic Sumo Tia Chi Master.
“What keeps the earth spinning?” I ask. ” I don’t know” she says and goes to look it up. She returns to say it’s Angular Momentum.
I open my eyes to see my wife standing next to me. She opens the blinds and I ask “Are we wobbling back the other way?” It’s the first morning after the Winter Solstice. “It’s not perceptible yet” she says. “What keeps the earth spinning?” I ask. ” I don’t know” she says and goes to look it up. She returns to say it’s Angular Momentum. It started a long time ago. There is almost no resistance to slow it down so it continues. “What are we doing today?” I ask. “Let’s clean the house and then celebrate the natural world” she says. We will go for a walk on the salt marsh trails and sand dunes at First Landing State Park. It’s almost Christmas with its promise of hope and love. I am not feeling it. Crude discourse from all quarters offends my sense of being respectful and reasonable. Every religion rightfully claims persecution and they are correct. They are persecuted by every other religion. Even the Buddhist (The Buddhist!) are committing genocide against the Muslims in Myanmar. So we take our walk and celebrate Angular Momentum. Peace on Earth.
The guy who sat next to me was a black guy. Very friendly. Very inner city looking. His dress was over sized baggy hip/hop. I was your typical white guy, beige chinos, blue shirt and blazer. No tie. Very hip. Not much hop.
I always thought I was savvy. I was going to use my many years in real estate to my benefit. Each city holds tax auctions where they sell off property that have unpaid property taxes where the owners never paid up. I got on the published list and then went about determining the value of each property on the list. There were about a hundred properties in Chesapeake, Virginia. I did my due diligence. Researching the multiple listing system and the city tax records and then driving around to each property to get a look at them. I had my target list of the top dollar I would bid for each property. I was ready.
I sit down front in the conference center as the room filled up with about 200 people. Man, I thought. I armed with the best data you could have on these properties. The guy who sat next to me was a black guy. Very friendly. Very inner city looking. His dress was over sized baggy hip/hop. I was your typical white guy, beige chinos, blue shirt and blazer. No tie. Very hip. Not much hop.
I ask him if he had been to these before. He said yeah, he had bought a lot of them. He asked me what I did, and I told him I was a Realtor. He told me he got his GED and then worked for a fence company installing chain link fences around industrial sites. But said he works for himself now buying property and renting it out.
The auction begins. The properties I wanted were all single-family homes. They came up for bid and each one was bid higher than what I felt they were worth. So, I sat on my hands. The guy next to me didn’t bid on any of those properties. In fact, he didn’t pay any attention to those. But he came alive when a series of properties that in my research I had scratched as not worth anything came up for bid.
These properties were mostly very small parcels on busy streets. To small to build on. Some with no utilities running to them. Most of them didn’t have a building on them or maybe an abandoned garage. The guy next to me bid $300 for one. And got it. No other bidders. And $700 for another and got it. No other bidders. And so on.
With the auction over I turned to him and said, “I researched these properties and scratched them. What are you doing with these things?” Big grin. He said “I put chain link fences around them. And then I call the power company and the gas company and the cable company and the city utility department. I ask them if they need a place to store their construction stuff in this area. I got dozens of these all over the place. They pay me $2000 or $3000 a month to store their pipes and wheels of fiber cable. No utilities. No roofs to fix or appliances to replace.
I watched him get into his brand-new BMW as I slinked away in my savvy beige chinos.
It’s that secret squirrel handshake that musicians develop performing together. In this case it’s a language of two.
What is a Genius? Would you recognize genius? Do you know a genius? There is no scientifically recognized definition of genius. But if you are paying attention you will find genius everywhere. I spot creative productivity in many corners. It’s a form of genius.
I was watching and listening to a music group called Mercy Creek. They are Jim and Cheryl. I have seen them many times in many different venues. They play what they call Aggressive Folk Rock. Earthy, Edgy Music with many CD titles of their music under their belts. Cheryl plays the heck out of a guitar and other string instruments. She is the singer of their band of two. Jim plays drums. That’s an understatement. Jim PLAYS percussion! He is mesmerizing to watch and hear. Both communicate on stage with each other, but you need to watch and listen to see it. It’s that secret squirrel handshake that musicians develop performing together. In this case it’s a language of two.
But where some genius’s show talent only in one area Jim and Cheryl show it across another skill set. Once I picked up on it fascinated me. During the breaks between music sets Jim and Cheryl visit with the folks who came to see them. And they are very present. They are genuinely interested in the lives of those that come to see them. They remember the last conversation you had with them even though they have played in 20 different places since seeing you and talked with hundreds of fans of their music. Very alive. Very present and in the moment. You matter.
Jim and Cheryl have created a world where they play their own music in small venues traveling a circuit with-in a hundred miles from where they live. They are living and thriving from the creative productivity in their heads. They are Genii.
Our signs were a mix from slogans we had seen over the years. Like “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” That was from the opponents of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. (Maybe this one should have been recycled for the 2016 campaign.)
It was 1968. The world was protesting. Martin Luther King led the civil rights march on Washington and changed the world. The anti-war protest at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago cost the Democrats the White House. There was Flower Power and The Black Panthers.
And there was the injustice of the Riverside Estates Civic Association cut to Halloween Trick or Treat hours!
My three sisters and I had learned a lot by tagging along with our parents. My mom was way ahead of her time in the 1960’s. She was a campaign manager to elect the Justice of the Peace in Fairfax County. She worked on congressional and senator campaigns. In 1968 she had us kids stuffing envelopes at Democratic Party National Headquarters in Washington when Hubert Humphrey ran against Richard Nixon. Nixon wouldn’t debate Humphrey on T.V. so my mom came up with the idea to dress someone as Nixon in a chicken suit. She alerted the T.V. stations and the newspapers and we went over to Republican Headquarters with our chicken Nixon and had him lay an egg. It was a paper Mache balloon with the face of Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s running mate on it. That was great fun and an education for us kids.
What we learned was we could fight the power. This Civic Association rule limiting Trick or Treat time to 7 p.m. would not stand! We organized our friends who were more than happy to join the cause. We made protest signs. The plan was to hold a protest march at the entrance to the neighborhood right when the adults were getting home from work. Then we would march to the home of the civic association president.
Our signs were a mix from slogans we had seen over the years. Like “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” That was from the opponents of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. (Maybe this one should have been recycled for the 2016 campaign.) Other signs said “Fight the Power.” And “Learn Baby! Learn!” Each sign had the tag line DOWN WITH THE CIVIC ASS! We were kids running this revolution. But we didn’t know the correct way to abbreviate the word association.
So we marched to the home of the civic association president each with a sign that read DOWN WITH THE CIVIC ASS! We brought truth to power. We fought the man. And we won! Trick or Treat hours were extended to 9:30 p.m. Viva La revolution!
It was the 1980’s and I was dating a girl who lived with her parents on the North End of Virginia Beach. Their home was like the Kennedy compound. It was more than one home surrounded by a brick garden wall. I never quite knew where I stood with her parents. They spoke with a sophisticated southern drawl and were very protective of their close multi generational family. Outsiders were regarded with some muted amusement.
I said my hellos to the mother Mary and picked up my girlfriend also named Mary and went out for the summer evening. We returned late and everyone had gone to bed. Mary and I went swimming in the pool. I wear a right-arm prosthesis and remove it to go swimming. I stashed my arm under Mary’s bed. We didn’t swim long as I had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to make a meeting.
Shaking off the morning fog with a shave and shower I towel off and reach to put on my prosthesis. In a literal sense pulling myself together. Crap! I left my arm under Mary’s bed! It was 6:30 and I couldn’t wait. I called Mary’s house.
“Hello?” said the voice. “Mary!” I said. “I left my arm under your bed.” There was a dead pause. Then a southern drawl from Mary’s mother. “You must want young Mary.” Young Mary comes on the line and she tells me to hit the intercom button outside and she will let me in.
I speed over there and push the intercom button and hear “Hello?” I still can’t tell the difference between Mary’s mother and Mary’s voice. I say “It’s me and I am unarmed.”
The muted amusement had worn off and we didn’t last much longer.
I tell the sales lady behind the counter I want to buy the left glove and show her my hook on my right hand. (I have a nice smile)
Here is a winter story. In 1965 I was 10 years old and spent a quarter to ride the bus from the Mount Vernon Estate to the J.C. Penney’s store in Alexandria, VA to buy some leather gloves. I spy a nice pair of gloves in the glass case. I tell the sales lady behind the counter I want to buy the left glove and show her my hook on my right hand. (I have a nice smile) She says they are sold as a pair. I explain I don’t have a use for the other glove as I am a right arm amputee. (Smiling again maybe batting my eyelashes a bit) She calls someone and then a well-dressed man appears at the railing that overlooks the store at the second level. He is the store manager. He comes down and I explain I only have use for one glove. He looks at me over the sales counter. I smile back. He reaches for the gloves and separates them. Sell him one glove he says to the sales lady. I never tried that again and have ended up with a box of all kinds of gloves for the right hand just waiting to run into someone missing their left hand. I finally at age 60 ran into a left hand amputee and gave him a lifetime supply of gloves.
She looked down at her hands and realized she had my right arm prosthesis that was sitting across the push bar in her hands.
The elevator door opened and more office workers filled the already crowded lobby of the Bank of America building in Norfolk, Virginia. It was Friday. The weekend called to each worker pressing for the doors. I stood by one of the exit doors reluctant to push the bar to open the door because it was pouring down rain outside. A woman came up next to me. She was in a hurry. She didn’t look at me and starred straight out into the rain. She was going for it. She reached for the push bar and leaned her body into the door. Only the door did not unlock. She repeated her motion only this time with more effort and still the door did not open. She looked down at her hands and realized she had my right arm prosthesis that was sitting across the push bar in her hands. We locked eyes for the first time. “I’m so sorry” she said. “It’s okay” I reply. “I make a better wall.”
My stepfather was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and was a story teller. Shortly after he married my mom he was rear-ended while sitting at a traffic light. His back was broken and effectively made my mom the chief bread winner for our house hold of four to five teenagers depending on which one of us was boomeranging out and back. John became head chef and chief consoler. His shrimp jambalayas’ and etouffees’ was our household staple.
My family was always in a rush so we sometimes cut him short when he launched into a story. One night we had finished our meal at a restaurant and we are all ready to go when my stepfather starts like he always does. “That reminds me of a story….It’s about a woodpile” he goes on as we say “Not now John, we are ready to go!” “Alright” he says, “You are never going to hear the story about the woodpile” as we all roll our eyes.
For years after that we would tease and prod John “Tell us the story about the woodpile.” “Nope” he would reply. “You are never going to hear it” he would say stubbornly. John became very ill with a pulmonary diagnosis. He was in and out of the ICU many times. Always surviving what we thought was the end. I visited him at Virginia Beach General’s ICU. He was laboring to breathe thru a tube inserted in his throat. I cleared his throat hole with the suction as I was shown. His eyes were glazed but he was awake. I tried one more time, “Tell me the story about the woodpile John.” His lips curled into a slight smile. He shook his head. “No” he mouthed.
The next day I was on my way to show property to a client when my mom called. She said she was at the ICU and I should come there. We gathered around and John labored heavily to breathe. Fighting it. My mom held John’s hand and said quietly, “John…it’s okay..you can go now.” John heaved one last heavy breath and died.
I don’t remember what we were all in such a rush to do back at the restaurant but I sure could go for a story about a woodpile right now.
All you had to do to get a mortgage was breathe on a mirror. If they saw your breath then you could get a loan.
There is a back story to every real estate sale. Marriage and a first house start a new chapter. A second house with kids adds to that chapter. Parents move to assisted living or pass on and something needs to be done with their house. Job losses or job promotions and business success’s open new doors literally. Empty nesters strive for a new life style. Changes in health require new digs. And then there is just crazy.
This is a story about crazy. I got a call from a woman who said she was referred to me. She said she was a navy nurse and was stationed aboard a navy ship. She said she was calling from outside the country but said she wanted to buy a specific condo along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach. She had rented that condo so she knew it well. If it was still available when she got back into port she wanted to see it. We made an appointment for a month later on a Saturday. I pretty much wrote this off but sure enough I got a call from her on Friday. The property was still available and vacant. The buyer was attractive and very charming. We looked it over and wrote an offer after I got her approved for a loan.
The closing date was set two months down the road. We did the walk thru and then I got a call from the buyer’s lender. He said they just did a final verification of the buyer’s bank account and found the funds to close had been withdrawn. We were closing the morning. I called the buyer and she assured me she would have the certified funds to close.
This would never fly in today’s mortgage environment. But this was back when the mortgage application process was minimal to say the least. All you had to do to get a mortgage was breathe on a mirror. If they saw your breath then you could get a loan.
So we closed. Around nine at night I get a call from the City of Virginia Beach jail. A man from the jail says my buyer wants me to come bail her out of jail. What are the charges? I ask. Assault and Bigamy.
It turns out this navy nurse was married to two men. She would tell one of her husbands she had to go to sea and then lived with the other husband. She had borrowed the first down payment from husband number one but then spent it. She borrowed the second down payment from husband number two. But this nurse was not done. She got a boyfriend so she wanted a place of her own. Apparently all three got wind of her plans and a brawl ensued at the condo that afternoon. I didn’t bail her out of jail.
A cherry on top of this story. The nurse never made a payment and a year later the property went into foreclosure. It was listed with my company and I sold it again.