Monthly Archives: January 2009

>They wouldn’t sell me my home… now

>They wouldn’t sell me my home now. I know this for a fact because I just got off the phone with the mortgage specialist who was recommended by my broker.
“Oh we don’t have mortgages like that any more,” she demurred.

I am a consultant who works in the arts, my husband is also a consult, but he works in sports. Meaning we both make money some times and have long dry spells. We also have no health insurance. We cobble together a very nice life that has been augmented by the fact that I tumbled into a neighborhood called TriBeCa back in the 70’s and bought, what my old, ornery Irish father called, “a dump.” Before he died, the neighbors downstairs, sold for nearly 3 million dollars prompting him to call the place,
“The 3 million dollar dump.”

I currently hold a mortgage on the dump at about ten percent of its value, but it is at nearly seven percent. My friend and broker said, “Oh let me have someone call you so you can refinance.”
OK, why not?

I had done that before to my advantage including garnering a hefty line-of-credit that allowed me to send my kids to college. So this loft, my dump, has taken care of me in a way that my wild, Irish father never could, and never imagined.

In fact before the mortgage specialist signed off with me, ending the conversation rather swiftly after I fessed up to being a consultant who had a pretty small earned income bottom line, she ventured, “Well you were lucky to buy your home, that won’t happen any more, as all mortgages now, require extreme income verification.”

I hung up with a whoosh of feeling.

My mortgage will change, for the worst in 2012 and it looks as if, unless I find a real job, one that can convince the new bankers of my value, I may not be able to own my own home in my dotage.

I know I was blessed to go to the party of home ownership when they were handling out tickets with abandon. But in fact my husband and I have never missed a payment or sent it in late, even with the vagaries of our employment and the wonder and stress of sending two very bright New York City public school educated kids to excellent private colleges. We still have a year and a half left for our son at Skidmore, but then in 2010 we are freed from tuition and I suppose we will need to focus on putting our home through its version of college.

We will continue to struggle to save the home I have lived in for over thirty years, the dump where my children were born and grew up. The same loft that got all dressed up to give us a major dancing fete for our wedding. It was the site of benefits, birthday parties, and endless orphan Thanksgivings.

Yesterday was a great day for hope, but today I feel deflated that I would not be able to purchase my home if I tried to do it now. It is a strange feeling, one akin to knowing that your mate wouldn’t date you, let alone marry you if he had to do it again. OK banish that thought.

The times they are a changing, again and again and again. I am going to try and stay ahead of the tsunami of financial woe and hold on to my nice, little dump of a loft.

>Obama Day in TriBeCa

>We considered going to Washington D.C. for the big day; my African American husband grew up in D.C. so we have places to stay and invites, but my husband wanted to be home. And home is TriBeCa. He wanted to be home to hear every word and cry and cry when he needed and wanted to. And so we watched and held hands and then, overcome, I had to go out for a walk.

The streets of downtown Manhattan, or my tiny corner of it, were filled with neighbors congratulating each other. The smiles of every person I encountered were street wide and folks were stopping and telling stories.

One woman, of Jewish heritage, told me about when she was an olive skinned, eight year old girl and she was turned away from a swimming pool in the south when she was visiting friends. She recalls how humiliating it was to have her bathing suit pulled up at the edges to prove she was white. “How did African Americans feel to have this happen again and again? And now today.” Her face was shining with hope.

Local school kids poured out at 3p.m. holding hands with caregivers or parents and they were all telling stories of the day’s speeches watched, and the stories of slavery taught and unknotted and repositioned by a new generation. The big kids, bounded out of Stuyvesant High School with visions of power re-configured in their over-achieving heads. All the talk on the street was Obama and the things we were seeing today.

A real estate agent friend stopped me, eyes brimmed over and reddened from a day’s celebrating, “ Go walk by my building on White Street and see the flag I hung out. I am so proud.”

This is not the normal rhythm of TriBeCa; patriotism is often defined in different stripes, not flags and faith, but in a pride that we follow a different drummer, and yet today once again, we are all proud to be Americans.

There is a jaunty clip clop to our steps and the joy spread over the faces of those who stepped out of Puffy’s Tavern after watching the speech was palpable. It is beyond the glow of good beer, or a pop or two at mid-day. NO this was real. The difference between fervor and faking it.

Obama was clear that we are in perilous times. We understand that down here, but we are also entitled to have a renaissance based on belief in the real American Dream not the watered down, badly polluted version we have been wincing at for eight years.

>Enough wallowing

>I decided enough wallowing and wailing and weeping.

After all, it is the Epiphany. Thousands of years ago, wise men in long dresses schlepped through the desert using a star and found their way to the manger where a baby named Jesus lay with his surprised mom and dad.

And so we took this day as an auspicious one, and the name Epiphany morphed over time to mean a great awakening, a happening that changes us. And it happens once a year. So I decided rather than leaving my blog and tossing it away, I would attempt rebirthing myself with a sense of wonder.

I have been working furiously for the past two days, not making money, but taking chances and doing multiple reach-outs. Some things will stick and now I feel as if I am out of the closet on stealing jewels and making amends, and am moving toward being valuable. I feel, after so many folks read the posting and took time to write to me, I feel they are right that we all have things we have done where are deeply ashamed and yet we attempt to incorporate it into the fabric of who we are and move forward.

So today I made the Epiphany cake, the same one my mother made for the nearly fifty years that I knew her and probably before that. In some cultures it is called a KING’S CAKE and my mom, an Italian who spent the first seven years of her married life in France, borrowed liberally from those two cultures to make a family tradition.

The cake looks like a crown; it is not a layer cake. It can be adorned with candied fruit to make the top of the crown more enticing. And here is a must: there has to be a prize or a coin hidden inside the cake. In New Orleans, it is a plastic baby, in our family it was a special coin. Whoever gets the prize will have especially good financial luck all year. My mother used to attempt to get my father to eat slice after slice so the family wouldn’t sink. My kids have a technique that they believe gives them an edge to finding the coin.

The cake our family makes is handed down from a good friend from the old Washington Heights neighborhood, Otta Maligold, and it is an old-fashioned Jewish sour cream coffee cake. My mother — the erstwhile anthropologist — loved the juxtaposition of a Christian holiday marked by Jewish pastry.

Here is the recipe; it is simple and delicious.

Epiphany Cake
A la Elizabeth Piccirilli and Otta Maligold

Pre heat oven to 350

¾ cup butter
1 ½ cup sugar (Reserve a small amount to dust the top of the cake and inside layer. Add cinnamon to this reserved sugar)
1 ½ cup sour cream
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons of both Baking Soda and Baking Powder
½ teaspoon salt
Cream butter and sugar WELL
Add Eggs and sour cream
Then add vanilla, salt, baking powder and soda then add flour little by little
Put one half of the batter in a ring pan, the more it resembles a crown the better.
Then sprinkle in half of the cinnamon sugar you saved.
Next layer the remaining batter. Do not STIR.

Cook for 40 to 60 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
Turn out onto a cake plate
Let cool, decorate with the remaining cinnamon sugar or candied fruit to make the crown

Keep eating until you get the PRIZE.

Now go out and make lots of money and share it with all those you love and those in need.

Be happy, be joyful, be generous and know that life is glorious.

And that is your Epiphany.