Let’s say that I went to visit Modesto for a weekend, but I stayed for a year. To be truthful, I bought a house on a manufactured lake in a beautiful community with a Home Owners Association that is run by relatives of the Boys from Brazil. The enforcers, of course, didn’t conduct their tour of the grounds in Kübelsitzwagens; they rode American bicycles, made in China. Every Tuesday, they took notes as they pedaled by the houses that overlook a creek, border the lake, or encircle the park. The cyclists seem to have the eyes of eagles.
When it was brought to their attention by a pesky neighbor that I had placed a metal sculpture of a mermaid — fashioned by Madera artist José Guadeloupe Diaz Garcia — next to the lake in my backyard, they sprang into action. For months, we bickered. I claimed that the work of art enhanced the beauty of the lake; they pointed out that I had not received permission from the Architecture Committee to display the sculpture. Finally, I appeared before the Board, stated my case, and settled for a compromise. Since then, the sculpture has been resting in an area where only I can see it. An aesthetic tragedy because José’s work is truly remarkable.
During the first four months of my stay, I was “written up” a total of four times, and I received at least twice as many notices of infractions, one stating that my white garage door did not match the color of my house and the last informing me that there was a cobweb on one of my garage windows. Can you just imagine? I think the value of the neighborhood dropped by 15 percent.
Of course, there was probably a nicer way of taking care of the issue, but the Obergruppenführer preferred the Wehrmacht approach. Hit fast, hit hard, take no prisoners. So, around the end of 2019, I began saying my mea culpas to friends in Madera. I wanted to come home.
I put my search for just the right house in the capable hands of my friend and Realtor Teddi Peters at Premier Realty, but our house-hunting was interrupted by the advent of the coronavirus. It’s difficult to note the fine points of an abode when there is a string of garlic across the front door and a fine mist of hydroxychloroquine in the entry. Then, we sat idle for the initial lockdown.
During isolation nothing much happened, except that property values in the Central Valley unexplainably increased, as did sales of both new and existing housing. Perhaps more refugees from the Bay Area, forced out by a combination of lost income and a high cost of living, were seeking more affordable housing.
Restrictions finally let up just a bit, and we resumed our quest. As I expected, Teddi found just the right house for me, an existing three/two in a nice neighborhood, with room for my pool table. It needs to be painted and re-carpeted, and I’m working on that. I think there’s also an ideal spot for a koi pond, and I’ll speak with Butch from Pools by Ricketts about that on Tuesday.
Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It is a novel about an author who writes a book in which he paints a rather grim picture of his hometown. The work becomes a national success, but his celebrity is damped by menacing letters and even death threats from the town’s residents. Hence the title.
I haven’t received such letters and threats, at least so far. But, then again, I haven’t written a novel disparaging my adopted hometown. When I fist moved to Madera in the late 1990’s, I was greeted with smiles and open arms. And that’s what I’m experiencing as I attempt to return. It has been the friendliness and warmth of the people of Madera that I’ve missed, and the memory of those sentiments gives me cause to believe that I can come home again.
In last week’s column, I mistakenly stated that the Bakersfield Californian is owned by Media News Group. I’ve been informed that it has been owned by Sound News Media since June 30, 2019. The error was entirely my fault.
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Jim Glynn is a retired professor of sociology. He may be reached at email@example.com.