Medium-busy Realtor and the Rat

On being a medium-busy Realtor, and on finding enormous rats or something!

I haven’t been among the busiest realtors who have been bringing in enormous sales commissions. And I haven’t been among the slowest house sales and purchase real estate agents either. Generally I find myself in the middle of all that somewhere. 

Somehow my life eventually evolved into being “a realtor” for over 30 years. One of the best things, it seems to me, about being a medium busy realtor with medium sales volume has been doing the work. Giving people a service.  And while doing that work I often got to know the people I worked for pretty well.

People who are receiving their agent’s services are usually receiving a lot of person-to-person contact. Person to agent contact in the normal work pattern across many weeks, usually. 

There are other agents, the “top producers” who are too busy for that. The busiest realtors have “teams” to cover a lot of the customer service needs and tasks. Team members, from what I have seen, skip around from customer to customer. 

Top producers are far less likely, I guess, to become eaten by giant rats or some carnivore than am I. So I’ll get to my rat part of this story soon. 

At my level, I got exposed to more of the banal paper work of the business and maybe a bit more of the adventure as well. There are some adventures I don’t wish on any agent or their customers.

 The individual mid-range agent usually has focus on his or her tasks with the same customer from beginning to end of the service cycle.

In a case like this I’d say that one of the best things is working through the myriad of challenges to be met and addressed along the path to selling  or buying a home.  

That’s what is needed to get the job done. A not-so-busy realtor can have a full day any day. Rats excluded. There will be a lot of paying attention to seeing that things stay in order. Keeping sometimes challenging requirements in order to accomplish the desired result. Be it a purchase of a house or the sale of a house. Its about having and holding on to a reasonable plan and getting the job done.

What I have described as “not-so-busy” realtors are really the common variety of agents. Like me. This was me anyway. Up until I stepped into what I call “semi-retirement.” We medium busy realtors, or at least the better part of this group, get the “people person” part of it, anyway.  We want to know who we are dealing with. We’re providing customer service in the traditional way. Earning trust and getting to know our customers. Celebrating with them when the job is done. And keeping in touch.

And we get all the challenges that come along with the work too. Dealing with people offers a lot of nuances. Some would be better forgotten. Some are treasured memories and a few can be a bit astounding.

Like the day I saw the “teeth in the screen” that I still remember vividly. Teeth and little tiny claws. Or nor so tiny. And heard the scraping if those claws on the back of a wood panel inches from me and a child I was holding. 

The Teeth and Claws on the Screen

There was a certain house that popped up as a “New Listing” on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) one morning. The features of the house had a view of the bay and was near the freeway for a convenient commute. Perfect for the commute to San Francisco, it seemed. 

Anyway, it sounded like just what my clients, Daisy and Tom, wanted to know about. I emailed them some info. They said that they were excited and wanted to see it right away.

So, I informed the listing agent that we would visit it in the afternoon. She, the listing agent, responded that there was a BO (Broker’s Open) planned for the next day but we could go ahead today if we wanted. 

Daisy and Tom would meet me at the house and would, as expected, bringing along eleven-month old Jeremy. 

Jeremy had seen a lot of houses with us recently. He even seemed to know me by now. I would sometimes carry him as we walked through houses. That can be one of the perks for “people persons”, agents like me. Jeremy seemed to like my beard.

This particular ranch style house was built on a hillside with the rear side windows and yard providing a broad view of the bay and distant hills. The upstairs bedrooms, all 3, provided the same view too. I had noticed that Daisy and Tom hadn’t seemed impressed with the house’s front and its entry. True, it wasn’t much. I held my thoughts on that. 

The slope provided the house construction with a useful downstairs family room opportunity, a laundry area and a storage room with access to the yard.  There was a crawl space that was concealed by paneling. The paneling covered the house’s foundation and dirt and building framework. The panelling had occasional simple doorways to make access easy.

As we walked down to the basement Tom noticed one of the little doors along the stairway, built into the panelling. He opened it to find a camera security system. Before I had a chance to caution him about taking care not to effect it, it wasn’t our house, he had already pushed some buttons. A small video screen had lit up to display live pictures of the driveway, then the side yard, then the front yard, the rear yard and then the kitchen and the basement area and also a darkened space with dirt and wood framing. That was the basement view, where we were entering now. I took that to be the crawl space under the house. The space just behind the panel and cabinet door we were standing at.

Daisy took a look at the rotating images. Tom seemed comfortable with what he saw and proceeded into the basement. I was holding Jeremy and protecting my glasses, which Jeremy was learning to reach out to touch with increasing interest. Daisy and Tom moved into the basement laundry area.

I stayed checking out the security videos. The rotation of the screens came around again to the dark crawl space but the image that I saw had changed. Something was different. The house framing and foundation wasn’t visible this time. But it’s walls and dirt soon returned to the screen. A gray field had passed across the screen. What had just passed before the camera? I didn’t know. 

The image had passed showing movement and turning of an object. Something had moved. It had passed the camera view. It had filled the screen. Close to the lens I supposed. I waited for the cycling of the images to return to the crawl space camera. Soon I saw two eyes and then a paw with claws. Cat like I thought. Long claws passed quickly into darkness. 

Daisy and Tom had proceeded into the basement while I watched to procession of screens. I heard Daisy ask “What’s in here? Can you open this Tom?,” she said.

‘Let’s see,” said Tom. “Just a lot of dirt is all I can see.”

“Hey you guys,” I called to them. “Be careful.”

“We’re going into the yard,” called Daisy. 

Once again I saw the image of the crawl space come around and this time I saw eyes and a nose sweep across the screen. Then I heard the screech of a cat, a big cat. Like a hiss. Then a tremendous scuffle sounded. So quickly it started, an angry screech was startling and then it all stopped. 

Daisy and Tom came back to us in the stairway quickly. “We’re done John. No need to go further.”

“Let’s go,” I said. Tom, close that basement door please. 

“Too much highway noise John,” they both said in the same breath. 

The cat screeched again. Daisy and Tom were taking Jeremy from me and didn’t seem to notice. I heard it again. It wasn’t just me was it? There really was some form of big rat or cat or dog or marmot or something in there wasn’t there? Some kind of “critter?”  Something I’d not want at a Broker’s Open. That’s for sure.” 

Locking up to leave I had a little trouble operating the front door key and the lock box. My attention and my nerves were way off. 

“Did you,” I said to them both, “close up that door to the crawl space just now?”

“I’m pretty sure that I did,” said Tom. 

We left without my mentioning what I had ringing in my mind. 

I called the agent after I returned to the office. Left her a message. She called back. “OK, this is what I saw,” I told the agent my experience and suspicions. “I don’t even know what I saw. I would get that key out of your lockbox. Make sure things are safe before any more people go in,” I told her. “ Don’t go alone. Be careful.”

Stella Blue

Have you ever loved a particular song? Loved it for a long time? But after hearing it over and over, never been sure what it is about. What the words say?
And one day, you finally heard the words and got their meaning? Maybe you figured out that the words, the lyrics, were important, full of ideas you had missed for a long time. Or you heard them and they meant nothing to you? Just something that went along with the music, which you loved.

Songs like these, with lyrical content that you like or don’t, still will be favorite songs that you have heard on the radio, on disc or in live concert. Enjoyable or more. Now that you know what the song is about, or not about, it’s still probably OK to you.
And songs from so many eras and genres work this way, I have to say. It’s true, I am certain. Can’t prove it but I am certain. That’s because I love music. Music in many styles. And so many vocals are important to me.
Some of these vocals just sound good. Some are great combinations of words and music. Some are poetry set to music. Wonderfully meaningful.
So I know that your taste in music is different from mine. That our taste ran on the same stream is very unlikely.
And what music is great to you may not appeal to me. My loss, your gain. That’s fair and I’m happy with that.
Take a dramatic song I like called Send in the Clowns. It’s so slow and heart wrenching. So true to life and full of its pathos. Frank Sinatra has a fine version. Judy Collins, Barbara Streisand and Cecilé McLoren Salvant do great versions. These versions range from the ‘60s to 2018. Great work lasts.

But back to the lyrics of songs. And this listener.
The truth is that I often don’t have a good idea of what the singer in a performance is singing. And I still may love the song. And some songs have been meaningful over a long time to me have stayed that way.

So in the last couple of years I’ve made a habit of checking out the lyrics to music I like. I can look on the web for the song’s lyrics and I can use Apple Music very often to get the words quickly.
Recently Bob Dylan released a new album with a 16 minute and 55 second song on it. I listened and by the time the song was over playing I had forgotten the first half of what I had heard. Or more. But Dylan deserves to be checked out with respect. And some of his songs are amazingly meaningful and impactful.
So, Murder Most Foul is the song’s name and it has so many images in it which I can relate to. So I’m glad I read the lyrics. As a matter of fact, this is a song I really don’t think is important unless the listener really hears the words to the song. And pays attention to the lyrics.
I’m working at being mindful of the lyrics to songs in the music that I listen to.
So, the other day I checked out the Grateful Dead song Stella Blue. That’s a song I have “loved” since around 1975. You’d think that I knew what it was all about. But I have never known much of what the lyrics were there to tell me.
What happens is the band starts playing Stella Blue and its a powerful sound. Bobby Weir singing and Jerry Garcia right up there with him on his guitar. The impact of The Grateful Dead band, the band that played better live that almost any other “rock band” I believe, took hold of the live audience.

OK, make a comment below. It’s just me and I went to a lot of Dead shows. It’s music man, we all have our favs.

And Stella Blue isn’t a screamer. It’s one of the Dead’s slow to very slow songs. It drags you into a mood, a tear in the eye song. The music and the dramatic riffs and interplayed exchanges between the musicians.
One minute the song and the musicians take you ascending into the cosmos of twisted spirit and anxiousness and then carries the listeners down to the deepest hell of remorse smothered with drums from Billy and Mickey . A rebirth of meaning will follow the Beethoven like pounding that will be happening from the speakers of the stage-left keyboard. Sure the final semblance of order to the musical story is resolved. But finished off in a diminishing way to leave the fate told in the story in a song to time and mystery and in a dream. It is created satisfying for the audience which which has been wrung out emotionally and now will crave more in the segue to follow immediately.

One line in Stella Blue I always remembered goes like this.

“I’ve stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel. Can’t win for trying.” Some lines are worth a lot. This is one of those. But the story behind this line? Or any other line in the song?

But from beginning to end the point of the song isn’t really apparent, even if you cheat and look up the lyrics as I did. At least as far as I am concerned they aren’t. Yet I love it. (The lyrics to Stella Blue are at the bottom here.)

The story told in the lyrics isn’t of romance or adventure or of a vision or about a place. It’s more about disappointment and its close to despair I suppose. The words in the lyrics are not rousing for the most part, except in it where a guitarist says his rusty guitar strings will shine, one more time. There is hope there.
But mostly the song lyrics lament “dreams… of melted years… can’t win for trying… In a life there’s nothing you can hold for very long… it seems all this life was just a dream”
(sing slowly)… Stella Blue
And more of a similar nature “A broken angel… there’s just a song… broken dreams (again!)… every lonely street… nothing comes for free… seems like all this life was just a dream…”
(sing slowly)… Stella Blue

And there is no telling who or what Stella Blue is or represents. Except when listening to the band play it and the words, the singing of “Stella Blue.” Here it is accompanied by the twisting and pulling of the guitar strings into a crying tone. The tale is lifted, suspended until it is taken to new depths in an electric lament. In a kind of slow wail. And the point of the song is clear. It’s when the point of the song tares into your heart. And then the audience is brought to silence. The hearing of the music has taught the story that gives the audience an understanding. A lesson that the lyrics don’t explain but that the musicians and the instruments do.

These lyrics are a skeleton to the notes covering them, I believe. Necessary and invisible from view.
So, what my thinking is. Taking the time to find the words to old favorite song lyrics will be a bit of an adventure.

Click link below for a 1990 performance of Stella Blue

Stella Blue
All the years combine
they melt into a dream
A broken angel sings
from a guitar
In the end there’s just a song
comes crying like the wind
through all the broken dreams
and vanished years

Stella Blue

When all the cards are down
there’s nothing left to see
There’s just the pavement left
and broken dreams
In the end there’s still that song
comes crying like the wind
down every lonely street
that’s ever been

Stella Blue

I’ve stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can’t win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just
one more time
Gonna make em shine

It all rolls into one
and nothing comes for free
There’s nothing you can hold
for very long
And when you hear that song
come crying like the wind
it seems like all this life
was just a dream
Stella Blue


There is nothing “normal” about what is going on all around us these days. And in this time, you know it.

For starters I’ll mention Covid-19 and also the current breakdown of our representative democracy. l’ll leave the mention of a few other minor inconveniences for later. 

These are thoughts on traveling in the Covid-19 world.

On a recent Saturday we were having dinner at a lakeside restaurant. It was warm, and still sunny. Saturday was going well. We had planned our visit to the lake, Lake Tahoe, even before the virus hit. Wouldn’t want to cancel now. We needed this trip.

Entry into the dockside hotel and it’s restaurant required that a mask be worn.  We were fine with that. 

Folks getting off their boats at the dock were masking up too. Everyone complied with it apparently. It’s the law. 

But when people were seated in the outdoor restaurant dining area masks were allowed to come off.  Except for those masks worn by the wait staff. 

 At the restaurant we were seated just lakeside from a party of some 30 adults. They mostly were wearing their sun dresses or sporty shirts and shorts and were mingling from table to table. Things were busy, social. They were most often than not tattooed up the arms and onto their shoulders and some were tattooed down their legs onto their flip-flopped feet.

We noticed this nearby vibrant energy as we were seated. We adjusted ourselves to our table. The view of the many fancy boats and the lake view was delightful. Our menus eventually came to us. 

During our meal we noted again the large group. Two tables were being shared. The people there were passing one little blue blanket-wrapped package to each neighboring person in their party.  Everyone got a turn holding, admiring and then passing the tiny bundle. It was passed all along and around the two long banquet style tables.

 A little hand could be seen above the folded blanket that each person, each unmasked person, looked down into.  Up close and personal. 

I don’t know if the baby had its eyes open yet. It must have been just weeks old according to its hand size. The hand wasn’t yet an open hand. Finger movement comes with the months. Too soon for that.

This was a “new baby,” new to the world and its viruses. In the loving arms of its new friends and family. Before passing the package along each diner had their chance to  view the cuteness they saw before them.  And to announce to their fellows their pleasure at the precious site before them. It was being passed, in turn, the little swathed package. Passed from person to person. 

Unmasked smiles were the style of the day. In between the oohs and ahhs and adoring shrieks of the supporters, happy hugging added to the merriment. 

The restaurant wait staff served the meals while the exclamations rang out.  Couldn’t we all celebrate such a happy event? The arrival of the next generation? The son or daughter of our happy friends? The beginning of a new life?

It all looked so normal and special to me and my family as we ate our meal at the neighboring table.

But we were off to a disturbing start on our Lake Tahoe trip.

We took a trip. We drove off into the new abnormality! Which is already all around us. And it was around us at our dinner meal. And it wasn’t our task to tell those around us that we and they were being unwise. So, it’s an unwise, dangerous and unhealthy world at The Lake. It’s unhealthy and poisonous 

At first we saw a lovely sight. We saw nothing but joyousness that seemed appropriate to us as we marveled at the size of such a ”gift.” The gift was being passed along to marvelous shouts of celebration and cheers. 

But looking and turning from our table, an unease very slowly crept into our feelings.  What world is this? Our new world, at this time. Its different. And life, including new life, is at stake when faces and their mouths breath on each other. Into the the air of another person, new to the world or old to the world. It’s different now. We aren’t used to this.

How can we deny ourselves this sharing?

Can I expect to travel into the new normal going anywhere, lake or valley or even in our own backyard? My visions of the future in the  days and years of Covid-19 to come are clouded in my vision. And I have seen abnormal behavior almost everywhere I’ve traveled up to now.  And I haven’t traveled very far.  

Inside my reasonably safe and healthy home we have our habits to fend off the virus. Things have gotten formulaic and slightly ordinary. Outside is, well, out of control. If my understanding of the killer viral agent Covid-19 is on point, even the most treasured behaviors of mankind must be trimmed and even abandoned. What we love to do has to be set aside. This year, probably next year and quite probably for a long time.

At the dinner table the unmasked friends of a new life were excused from protecting the baby which they came to hold. They could celebrate while any unseen virus might be shared amongst all of those friends at the gathering. 

We can’t travel far enough. We can’t vacation and mindfully breathe easily in these times.  Without ignoring the next table sometimes.

One For Hank Hedland

Write like you are writing to a friend. I’m writing to Hank Hedland.

Hank Hedland,
The accompanying mind dribble is sent to you without vindictive intentions. I have nothing but good purposes mixed with a needy desperation to find a destination for this writing. I need to pass it to someone before I put it away forever. Like a pink elephant gift.

As a member of To Live And Write In Alameda I’ve been trying to get into the habit of writing and one prompt in this regard has been the written advice of the sadly recently departed Tom Wolfe. His tip to fledgling writers was along this line. “Write as if you you are writing to a friend,” he said, as I recall. “Why me?”, you may ask Mr. Hedland. Here is what I wrote. It touches on your and Tom’s podcast Talk About The 80s content, a little bit. So that’s why.
Oh, and I don’t know what Mr. Wolfe would advise me about my run-on sentences. And I don’t really know if heavy metal bands are an 80s thing. Which, if they aren’t, could be a bit awkward for my reasoning.


My bedroom window opens up to a view of my neighbor’s backyard. In that yard is the beginning of the construction of a little cottage. It was begun with the laying of a cement foundation. That is how they start.

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My Grandma, My Nanny and Me

Grandma & Nanny, and me, a brief history v4.1

My grandmother’s hairpiece was in the shape of a “bun” that so many gray haired senior ladies had on the top of their head in those days. When I was a kid it looked kinda funny to me. As I got older I came to realize that the “bun” was a kind of wig that she wore. 

I’ve noticed that this hairstyle seems to have come back into fashion in recent years. Today it looks good. Really. Take it from me. The adult me. Even guys have one sometimes.

Back then, to me – the child, it looked kinda like a doorknob sticking out of the top of her head.

And the adult me and the history buff in me now wonders what I missed knowing about my grandparents in those days. Back in the early “Bun Days.”

So, I’m looking back to my grandma’s days. Stuff that was going on in my family in those days has me curious. There is so little that I really know. But now I’ve run out of time to learn very much about those days and, of course, I’m out of grandparents to ask.

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Satisfaction on a Sunday Morning

In an email one Nick Weaver asked me if I would like to write a review of his product, my newly purchased eero system wifi extender. He asked me in an email yesterday. So I don’t mind. It seems to work fine. I suspect that Nick, “Co-founder and CEO,” is hoping that I would write a good review.

And he can be pretty fairly comfortable asking because I had answered his earlier email questionnaire a week ago. My response was conveniently abridged in 5 easy button selections. And all my selections were all positive. I checked all with the 5 button indicating “Very Satisfied” buttons in all cases I pressed SEND.

Yep, I’m a pretty satisfied customer. Somehow I keep forgetting the product name though. Is it aaro or is it eero? Are business running out of name choices? When it grows up will it use a capital letter? Is this a “branding” issue Nick? No biggie.

Bet Nick doesn’t send any followup requests to the guys who are unsatisfied in even one of 5 categories found in the customer opinion email. So I am pretty much a sure thing. Let’s see if he is satisfied by this.

Really, getting good reviews is tuff as we all know it is easier to want to complain about something you bought than send a nice message for positive results.

I think it’s something like 8 times more likely that a complaint will be sent than a good review on a product purchase. Somehow has figured out a way to defeat this human trait, apparently.

Then again, maybe Nick has only satisfied customers. Wouldn’t that be nice.

You know Kick gave me the chance to start the day in a positive way and I’m pretty sure I didn’t kick a cat at any time that morning. Thanks Nick.
The start of my Review for Amazon, to which Nick provided a convenient link:

So here you go Nick. My Amazon Review of eero system:

This aaro system has been working out just fine at home since I installed it. I only needed to call tech support on a Sunday morning and a very nice person answered and guided me until I realized that I had forgotten to select my new WiFi network. Tip: always makeup a new name for the new network that eero makes. Could be confusing later, otherwise.
The old WiFi network was weaker and wouldn’t range into the back bedroom well. Checking email in bed was “such a problem!” So, after being reminded, I clicked on the WiFi symbol at the top of the screen to select my newly setup network. Of course I had named it differently. It was the step that I had forgotten and it was a cinch, after it was pointed out. Thanks Sunday morning guy.

aaro info (advertising) suggests that you buy the 3 unit system (called an eero and two eero Beacons) to reach around all corners in a 1,500 sq. ft. house or office. At over $300 thats a lot of money spent for buying a lot of invisible waves that might be here or might be there, or not. But the aero app shows great power everywhere so now I don’t have to get out of bed. And bonus, I can even download to my laptop while it’s in my back yard. I need a hammock.

MY REVIEW, it’s working fine. Satisfied customer.

Meeting Howard Cosell

First trip to the New York Subway System
Stamford Train Platform

It was my first visit ever to a New York Subway platform, I walked up a stairway from the metro parking lot to purchase my ticket. The “platform” I climbed to was actually in Stamford Connecticut but I understood it would take us to the New York subway. That would be about 40 miles away.

I was with my cousin Richard who was a local Stamford teenager just graduated from high school. I was about 10 years older than Richard.

My visit to Stamford Connecticut was just beginning after my first night “crashing” at my uncle’s house there. My VW bus had been my sleeping place for most of the nights between the San Francisco Bay Area and Stamford. I drove to my aunt and uncle’s home in Stamford the afternoon before Richard’s and my New York tour.

I was excited to be about to be shown New York City by Richard. It would be fun to get to know him better along the way. And it would probably be far better than getting a different tour from his parents, my aunt and uncle, for sure.

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