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Hobo homeowner 

Home purchase fuels fear of homelessness

Lary has offered to let me live in his truck, but it doesn't even have a front seat -- just a lawn chair perched on the bare metal frame -- so I declined. "If I have to I'll move into that decayed crypt you call your home," I tell him instead, "and I plan to use up all your faggy hair care products while I'm there, too."

Lary, whose clothes are always covered with a Rorschach pattern of stains, nevertheless maintains a meticulous supply of salon-quality hair conditioner in his bathroom, which has proven to be a perk whenever I've had occasion to crash at his place in the past decade. These occasions are usually due to my intermittent bouts of homelessness over the years, and Lary is certain I'm due for another, and I'm worried he's right. You see, Chris and I just bought a house, and considering the level of poverty at which a home-buying event traditionally leaves you, nothing makes you feel more in danger of becoming homeless than buying a house.

Or at least I think Chris and I bought a house last Friday, I'm not sure. I mean, we showed up at closing and everything, with every cent sucked out of our lives and into a cashier's check for the down payment, and this check was taken from us and all, and papers were signed, and keys were exchanged and backs were clapped and documents were filed and I was penniless and felt ready to vomit when it was all done. That part is clear.

What isn't so clear is the actual address of the house we bought. The closing documents don't all agree on that, and I would think the actual address would be an important detail. But what do I know? I'm just the person with the money, and at closing my job was to hand that money out to everyone like a retarded kid who took his father's wallet to the playground.

Later, when I called the attorney's office to point out that the property's address had been misprinted on most of the documents in the closing package, she offered to rerecord the tax information, "if that's what you want." In all, everyone who walked out of the closing office with any money in their pocket is pretty certain the address gaffe is no big deal.

Me? I can't sleep. First of all, I'm really, really poor now. So it's not like I can afford another place when the city forecloses on this one. Not that we won't have paid our taxes, mind you, it's just that we'll have paid them toward a phantom address and not the actual real one for which we hold a key right now. I realize the post-closing person said she'd rerecord that stuff, and she probably will as soon as she has a moment between taking money from people, but I have a sinking feeling that the only person who ranks lower than a homebuyer is a former homebuyer who has already forked over their check. Think of a college coed who balls a frat boy at a keg party and later still wants him to notice to her, that is the level of success I felt I was having.

"What's that sound," the post-closing agent probably asked herself when I told her it might be nice if the deed and stuff reflected the correct address as well, "am I hearing voices from the dead planet of people who have already paid?"

Lary is hardly any comfort. He has the same aversion to bureaucracy that I have, the same certainty that the government fucks everything up bad enough even when all the forms are filled out correctly. So Lary believes I'll accidentally end up in some sewage-pipe of a prison somewhere, or at the very least on his doorstep again, this time with my toddler in tow. I myself don't relish the prospect of childproofing the place known as Lary's House of Sharp Edges and Open Flame, but at least those salon products can serve to extinguish an inferno if need be. "Really, the truck is very comfortable," he keeps trying to persuade me, "and I'll let you use my garden hose to wash your hair."

Lary himself didn't pay taxes for years before a conscientious ex-girlfriend convinced him to turn himself in before the government found out and had him assassinated. After that an IRS auditor paid him a visit to inventory all his possessions for seizure in case an auction was in order. But the auditor made one tour around the abandoned warehouse Lary calls home, complete with insect larvae, rusty auto-body skeletons and a tribe of alley cats living on the carport, and quickly discerned that Lary was indigent. "Give us a hundred bucks and we'll call it even," said the auditor, or something like that.

"Easiest escape I ever made," Lary likes to brag. I, on the other hand, believe he still owes a debt to society. He should do community service or something. Yes, that's it, he should house a homeless family. "Now, before I get there, you know that scaffolding you have behind your couch that holds up the roof?" I tell him. "That has got to go."

Hollis Gillespie's commentaries can be heard on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program. To catch her latest commentaries, go to www.hollisgillespie.com.

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