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HOME Bubble

May 23, 2021


If you are older than 40, you remember the first seven years of this century. For many reasons, not the least of which was greed, the peak buying years of the Baby Boom Generation perverted the basic human need to have a home we love into a fevered housing boom, then a worldwide economic crash in 2008. In the previous 30 years there had been about three other housing bubbles, and their inevitable bursting to housing busts.

But the 2008 housing bust lasted a decade in Connecticut. Low or no growth in prices, slow construction activity, and a depressed reality that the extreme cost of Connecticut homes had topped out, perhaps forever, made for chastened expectations. Then another bust, Covid-19, ended any number of home renovations, sales, building. It was only natural that mandatory sequestration stopped many things people do every day, including thinking about our homes – new or renewed.

But a funny thing happened, we were all force fed our homes as our one place of working, learning, eating, working out, even connecting (now through our computers). Collectively many of us found that we loved our homes, but they can be improved upon. So as soon as the bonds of lock-down were loosened, a rush to revise where we live began.

The mortgage rates are still low, the houses that are up for sale (AKA “inventory”) is low – the lowest since 1963 according to the website “Meanwhile in Markets”), personal savings are up after a year of no where to spend income, and, “Voila!” a housing bubble. This means prices of everything related to homes, construction, home prices, even fixtures are exploding, and often, impossible to obtain right now.

Three Real Estate and Architecture Mavens join HOME PAGE to give us all a snap shot of where we are in a crazy moment of our hone-based lives.Leigh Whiteman Is a real estate broker and leader of The Whiteman Team at William Raveis Real Estate. She has been selling real estate up and down the Connecticut Shoreline since 1988 and has helped her clients Todd Gould has lived on the Connecticut shore his entire life. He has been a broker/manager/owner for 27 years, from a family that has been involved in Real Estate for generations, and lives the market. Martin Pedersen helped create The Common Edge Collaborative , and was Executive Editor at Metropolitan Home for 20 years, seeing many (many) Booms and Busts.

Occupation Preoccupation

May 15, 2021

I have no hobbies.

Oh, today I will plant perhaps a dozen begonias, 3 bleeding hearts, and assorted other summer plants. But this beautiful Saturday morning I will spend 3 hours driving to and spending time with strangers to look at a potential deck site for a couple. We have, as always, over 50 active projects in my architecture office, and I have 6 employees. Over 30 years.

But this morning I look at a deck job.


Many older architects with work would think that this is a “better” job for someone under 65. But no. They ask, I answer. I want. I see a huge project in my hometown, which is nothing I could design, and want to be the architect. We have 3 large, prominent, good works being done, all started pro bono years before COVID, now in full fee and construction. But I wince at the fourth, a casualty of “better dealing” the architect choice when I was seen as less useful – dismissed with gratitude.

Why don’t I have gratitude, and just go on?

Why do I live in the gifts that I have been given, did not earn, and still feel entitled to everything I do not have?

Perversely, my aspiration is not for fame, it is for usefulness. Having a wonderful family, health, and mostly enough money, I might be OK with simply taking weekends off. Or a vacation. But that satisfaction has never been there, unless in the guise of exhaustion.

If I can do no more, then I have done enough.

When I have been ill, there was no frustration, because I could do no more than I could do. When I lose a job, but maxed out trying to get it, so be it. But when a place is offered, or a place is made without an offer, I leap to aspiration.

I wish I knew why I am spending the morning looking at a deck job.

Ship of Fools

April 23, 2021

It was a Saturday in the fall of 1965. I was 10, without friends, at home, as usual. My father was sorting stamps and coins for his collection upstairs, my mother was ironing, brother working at a per store, and a year ago, my sister had driven her VW Bug to California.

It was like any other Saturday.

I was on no sports team (we did not do sports), not in the Boy Scouts (my brother had done that), had no instrument to practice (piano was 3 months, at 6), no homework. The Saturday cartoon shows were over. So like other Saturdays I asked my mother if I could go to the movies.

“Sure.” She handed me a dollar (it would be the 1pm matinee).

As on many other Saturdays I walked to downtown Dobbs Ferry. Along the crazy busy Rt. 9/Broadway, then across to Cedar Street, then to the little movie house. A 15 minute walk to spend two hours away from whatever home was.

I had no idea what the movie was, it did not matter. But it did.

The movie was the dark, complicated, violent, sexually active “Ship of Fools”. There was no movie rating system in 1965, no parental interest in where I was going or what I was seeing, so I just took my ticket and was, well, aghast.

I really did not know what sex was. But this was sex, clothed. I had no idea that there was rape, or even hard violence. But protracted scenes revealed them to me. It was disturbing. It was the world outside of my Mad Men Suburban family in mid-denial mid-sixties – in my face for two hours.

The walk home was long, slow, silent.

What is this, where women are beaten and beat back, and men push themselves in their faces and on their bodies? At home, I was there when the yelling happened every night, booze was a ritual, my siblings were absent. I was there on that ship. But this ship was complicated.

And painful to watch. But I watched it. And understood little except how much anger and pain there was.

It was a long walk home.

“How was the movie?” Asked my mother.

“Fine.” I went to my room.

Instant Time

April 17, 2021

Yesterday and early hour seemed like a day. It was quite wonderful.

Other times hours are instantaneous, but worse, sometimes memory becomes present tense.

Time has to be perceived to be recorded in our minds. That perception can be as murky as insomnia, where a minute lasts an hour, or 4 hours becomes a minute, or some trigger makes 60 years cease to exist.

A smell makes a locker room from 40 years ago return. Bells bring Buffalo to Connecticut. Instant mashed potatoes makes Thanksgiving 1966 any day I eat them.

Music does the same thing. A song by The Who makes me the Captain if the Football Team again. But the triggers are not always positive.

A song that was never a favorite came over our speakers one night, “My Name Is Luka” by Suzanne Vega. It is in the words of an 8 or 9 year old abused child. Not a great hit, but heard in our rotation, because we saw her sing live, once, a decade ago. Most probably just know that it is a snappy tune, well sung, nicely arranged. But what caused it to be written, what causes this to be written, is that memories are implanted more deeply the earlier they are plowed into the furrows of the brain.

If you hear something late at night

Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

I think it’s because I’m clumsy

I try not to talk too loud

Maybe it’s because I’m crazy

I try not to act too proud

The words were heard. Tears erupted to water those memories, as fresh as when they were made, that made the words mean more than melody.

I also hear 1966 whenever “Be Thou Still My Strength and Shield” is sung: the words, literally screamed off the hymnal – then and now. It was and is 1966 because a complicated, even cruel, childhood made whole parts of memory fear. Those years never left physical damage, or even discomfort, but nightly screaming and daily intoxication made the day-to-day fully terrorizing.

We are sometimes tender. Not most days now, but often in our tiny years. Vulnerability makes pain validate fear, and the scars of the fulfilled promise of pain can become fresh. Some simply do not go away. Some are brought alive instantly despite uncounted time whatever pain is relived.

This has been a year of Luka’s. Children are, this year, fully at home living with the broken in sequestration, and I am pretty sure that more will become broken in a place of no retreat.

Those days are not understood, because children have the understanding offered to them. I could pray then, it is harder now – because I am OK. But in my 6 year old brain I do not deserve that status. So when I pray now it is fleeting, caused by triggers of unmerited Grace, and I utter “Thanks, Sorry.”

The rituals and constructs of centuries of humanity confronting the reality of God found in the infinite moments of weakness, fear and pain have deep meaning to those who were part of the huge social engine of church. But now, a new generation simply does not go to church. Now a newer generation has been scarred by this last year of isolation and fear.

I know God is there, because I cannot deny Him, no matter how hard I try. I try by every achievement and triumph. But the failures of the past well up in a second of smell, eating or taste. Or happen in an email of rejection or the silence of failure. Those vulnerabilities, soon fully manifest in an old body and mind getting older, are the places fear is fulfilled.

That is where God is, too.


April 12, 2021

Slide to see 45 years time travel

HOME: Small?

April 12, 2021


The New (Old) Lure of The Small House:

A dozen years ago we had the McMansion Overdose that crashed the world economy in the Great Recession of 2008. Then we rode the pendulum swing to Love The Tiny House (until we had to actually think about how we live.) Now we have been force-fed the Stock House of the last 70 years of mass produced Suburban Homes in Covid Isolation.

Our culture inevitably rediscovers reality, despite our mood swings. The reality is that any home that grows to more than 3,000 square feet is a misfit for the classic American Dream Family. But home offices are now Normal so we work at home, all the time. People live longer, so generations combine. Children feel less need to detach, so they live at home with their parents longer, often for a decade after returning from college. Divorce is now the norm, so homes have alternating occupancies of singletons and blended families within their walls.

But we are having fewer children. But we are buying food and fungibles in bulk. We may need fewer cars. We may be creating our own energy. A Zoning Revolution is coming to suburbia where Accessory Dwelling Units are dropped onto existing single family home sites, and multiple, attached housing complexes are being proposed anywhere. everywhere throughout the country. Mixed signals have replaced The American Dream.

How Big Should A Home Be In The Change Time?

Great writers and architects Dale Mulfinger and Dennis Wedlick join Home Page with a great young architect Geoffrey Warner: Their experience and insight will give perspectives all of us in the COVID Cauldron may find useful. JOIN US!

Known Unknowns

April 4, 2021

Reuters now says that, for the first time, more than 50% of Americans do not belong to an organized religion of any kind. But a majority of us still believe that we are more than happy accidents, that there are things supernatural, not observed and not proven, that have made us.

These are known unknowns.

Twenty years ago, Donald Rumsfeld clarified things: there are things we know, things that are not known, and there are things that we know that we do not know: known unknowns. Some say that we have unknown knowns, but that beggars what understanding is.

No, there are known unknowns. Not just the future of an election, or what we might have for dinner, but full ignorance despite access to all data. We now know – after screaming effort – that 98% of what the universe is is unknown, we simply do not know what it is, even if we know it is something. About twenty years ago, science knew, completely, that 95% of our DNA was “junk”, leftovers from millions of years of evolution. Until we came to know, in the last five years, that we just did not know what was true and that pretty all our DNA has a purpose (as does our tonsils and maybe our appendix)

People die. They do not reanimate, despite “The Walking Dead”. Some are fully devoted to seeing the signs of life after death, because faith overcomes ignorance unless fear does. Known unknowns are the soul of faith and fear.

Today, this day, Easter, Christians fully rejoice in an anomaly. Resurrection. Never seen again, fully unfilmed, no evidence beyond the words of those there, transcribed a couple of generations after it happened. Atheists simply say that Christ is the projection of our fear of death. An easy out, a mulligan for our failure, a myth made justification for our lives.

The magazine Christianity Today notes that 30% of churches are ambiguous, if not in denial, as to whether the Resurrection ever happened. Easter can be seen as fraudulent as Jesus’ birthday being December 25 (it is probably in April). Some cannot see any possibility beyond what they can see. I get that.

But the Resurrection as an event is not a known known. There was no videotape, there are only words, of those who were there, then. The Greek and Roman Gods, and for me the Old Testament, are from a time so ancient that understanding them is more about where those words are in me.

But not Jesus. He was just us. Despite deniers, there is ample evidence that Jesus was a man, then. He was killed after saying things that people followed, or feared. But Resurrection as a fact is simply a fact because thousands, then millions, then billions have known the unknown of Christ, despite his absence.

Humans try beyond all understanding to understand, to project, to justify, to prove. Parents want their children to prove that they love them – and vice versa. Politics is the social reality of proving what is right before it can be known. There are known unknowns.

The reality of faith, of living the painful truth that you cannot make yourself, but that God made you (and everything else) is the essential known unknown. But something happened 2,000 years ago. If there was fraud, who did that fraud profit? If there was error, why do so many feel it, know faith, right now, despite the failures of religion? I think it is because the Resurrection is a known unknown.

Of course we are terrified of death, but it happens anyway, clearer this past year than any since World War 2. And it could well just be the flicking of a switch to room temperature for each of us. Sure. We have no choice in death. Jesus did not either.

But we can fully acknowledge our unknowns. The alternative is to invent why we are here, in a complexity that, now, has a growing list of known unknowns, where once we were in the verge of understanding why those guys made up the Resurrection. 98% of everything is, now, factually, not known.

I know that a bunch of know nothings, with no power, assets, or even numbers saw something 2,000 years ago. I know this happened because the last 2,000 years happened. Pretending that billions of us are simply stupid, deluded or duped, is completely self-serving. The reality of faith has an unknowable provenance beyond the distant facts that religion tries to reconcile with our lives. Faith is a known unknown.

Christianity has spent these 2,000 years trying to make the known unknown knowable. It is like trying to translate your language into a language you have never heard, but somehow you understand. That unknown language has just enough history to make the study, organization, intellectual constructions of it part of billions of lives.

God has made exquisite beauty because the known unknown of faith is exquisitely beautiful. It is Easter. It is the Resurrection. It is truth, a known known in my life. But where it comes from, why that beauty is beautiful is a known unknown. It just is. I know that, I believe.

Happy Easter. He Is Risen.

A Year In Lent Soon Done

March 31, 2021

Life is the same, life is different. There are tragedies, pains and joys, pretty much as there have always been. But the last calendar year started with a break in the world’s normal living that is not over. But there is now a horizon. Over the last 13 months I wrote 89 thoughts triggered, based, complemented and danced with Emily Dickinson. Some are good. All are short.

Maybe you have the time, for a while, to read…

Easter In August

March 29, 2021

40 of 40

Anecdotes are history. Sort of. In theory my grandfather played professional soccer in Brooklyn in 1903. No record, but there weren’t many of much, there, then.

We are approaching Easter. Historically true that 2,000 years ago, someone was sentenced to death, along with many others, for not much. He had hundreds of followers. After the death, there were fairly full oral histories, written down scores of years after the event, that described a Resurrection. Seen by hundreds, but fully recounted by at least four of those oral histories.

You could say that history is fact checked anecdotes. But what are facts? It is a full on fact, recounted everywhere, that thousands, soon millions knew that the Resurrection happened, that it changed everything, and those who believed it happened might die for believing it. Jesus was resurrected, and they were OK with dying for knowing it.

I cannot see a video of Christ after his death. But something happened.

I cannot find any evidence that in late August of 1945: the Point Judith Country Club In Narragansett, Rhode Island had an extraordinary event, either. But my parents said they were there. Two weeks after Victory in Japan Day, at the end of World War 2.

The country, the world, had come close to complete devastation. In five insanely desperate years, scores of millions died, and fully everyone’s life was changed, as were the lives of their successors and assigns.

Those who survived had a full pivot from fear, to the future. My father and mother were at the Point Judith Club that August, my father returned from the Navy after a couple of years on Air Craft Carriers. Word of a celebration at the Club spread. A party. Of course.

But when my parents entered the Ball Room, in the blazing late August heat, they were overwhelmed. The entire space was filled with Christmas in August. Trees, fake snow, lights, everything that was, really, fully, missing from the world for the last 5 years. It completely wrecked them. Life had left. Life was back. Resurrection.

We create ritual, the rituals do not make us. But those rituals, those anecdotes, are us. They are as factual in their creation as any victory in any battle or the building of any place. There was Christmas in August, 1945.

Will there be Easter in August, 2021?

There is a tiny whiff of a distant, hollow echo approaching us, now in 2021. Millions have died, too. It has been over a year of loss and fear. We may, in fact, know that there will be an end. Perhaps in August. It is not even AAA Baseball compared to the Major League realities of World War 2. But it is the closest we have come in my lifetime.

This Year In Lent will end. But not at this Year’s Easter. The fully vaccinated still wear masks. We cannot do much, for a while, but we can do more.

These 40 pieces end today, too. 40 plus the 49 that preceded them. These are anecdotes too. But Christ is no anecdote. The reality of Easter in no ritual, despite the rituals, now, for now, forsaken. There will be a couple of score of us, for the first time in two years, in a room to say and hear those rituals this year. A whiff of Easters Past.

We do not choose the times we live in, but we should listen and express what has been given to us. Emily Dickinson did that 150 years ago. I listen to her every morning, now, in these pieces. Her mystery has not clarified but my devotion to her thought was made possible by this Year In Lent.

Twas a long Parting — but the time

For Interview — had Come —

Before the Judgment Seat of God —

The last — and second time

These Fleshless Lovers met —

A Heaven in a Gaze —

A Heaven of Heavens — the Privilege

Of one another’s Eyes —

No Lifetime — on Them —

Appareled as the new

Unborn — except They had beheld —

Born infiniter — now —

Was Bridal — e’er like This?

A Paradise — the Host —

And Cherubim — and Seraphim —

The unobtrusive Guest —

Emily Dickinson

Will Masks Become Yarmulke’s?

March 28, 2021

39 of 40

I never saw a Moor–

I never saw the Sea–

Yet know I how the Heather looks

And what a Billow be.

I never spoke with God,

Nor visited in Heaven–

Yet certain am I of the spot

As if the Checks were given–

Emily Dickinson

Theology gives cover for the supernatural. Science gives cover for the unknowable. Culture mixes faith and fact into an outcome that reveals motivations. Soon the science of masks may become the religion of masks.

Masks are necessary. They may have always been a good idea. But I still eat ice cream even though it is a bad idea, and at some point I will stop wearing a mask even though it may be a good idea to wear one for the rest of my life. Doing what we should do has limited death this year. But soon, we will have done enough.

This is a time where unknowables begin to become known. Faith is beginning to have an outcome. We will be over this interlude of universal fear, this year. But we are yet in its tide, it’s just that the tide may be receding.

In more and more meetings, more and more people feel free to ask “Do you mind if I take my mask off?” It is also Passover, on the cusp of Easter, and religion, even in the Northeast, is lightly front and center. Well, off center. Still at center are the masks. I cannot be without one, though I am past two weeks past two shots that have rendered me 97% unlikely of infection and virtually death-free from COVID. But, it is said, I endanger others. Even if I do not, they do not know that I am inoculated. So I reflect my respect for their vulnerability in all ways by wearing a mask.

Hijabs, yarmulke’s, and any number of cultural traditions in what humans choose to wear are the outcomes of deep motivation to be with God in the world. The sacred reality of faith in some may be justified by religion, but faith is there in silence as well as bible study.

Science is there, too. We may not know what 97% of our universe is, let alone why, for now there are imponderable unknowables. But some have faith that the universe is knowable, we just do not know it yet. But faith is as real as the 3% we do know, it’s just uniquely personal in the plane of universal realities.

So some of us were yarmulkes, just on their own head, not yours. But you see it, you know it means something. Deeply important. Sacred.

Will masks mean that in a year?