Location. Location. Location.  These are the three golden words in real estate.  And recently I have fallen in love with my new location–one of 17  or so I have had.

A friend of mine once called me a “multi-expressionist” because she said I seem determined to live so many lives in this lifetime.  This may be one reason why I move into a space, inhabit and experience it for awhile, and then something inside me says “Ok.  You’ve done that.  Time to move on.”

Another friend calls me a gypsy, but I swear I do not flash elderly men in tour groups while my harmonica playing companion reaches slyly into their pockets.

No, I just move around a lot.  And now, here I am.  There are several things that make this neighborhood unique.  Wide boulevards.  Palm trees lining the streets.  A purple painted Victorian sitting right next to a blue and gray bungalow.  A canyon.  An annual Halloween blow out that has become famous city wide.  One of my neighbors has a sign on his post that reads “41 days till Halloween.”  He used to work at Disney in the animatronics division and his moving dragon head delights and terrifies the children.  It even breathes smoke.   Next to him lives a man whose enviable job is touring resorts for a living, and writing up his reviews in magazines.  Next to him lives a crotchety old man who won’t replace the white worn canvas tent covering his car, no matter how much the neighbors plead.

Next to me on one side lives a waitress/opera singer.

On the other side is a military couple.  He surfs and she dog watches and gardens when they aren’t at work.  Across the way lives a retired pro golfer who has gone back to get a nursing degree due to an injury of some kind.   A few doors down is a neighbor who has a giant pet tortoise in their yard.  Also they have placed a sign with explanations of all the animals and plant life living in the canyon on their white picket fence.   I love seeing runners pause suddenly to stop and watch the tortoise.  I find it ironic and moving at the same time.

One street over a neighbor has a full wall painted in a mural of purple iris, with the sign at the bottom reading “An homage to Vincent.”  Up the block you will find chalk drawn flowers on the sidewalk and hear children giggling inside.  My neighbor two doors down hails from Australia.  I love to hear him call out “G’day!” when I walk by.  He and his wife do evening bike rides to the grocery store.  Did I mention that we have our very own bridge?  It leads right from a quiet side street straight to Trader Joe’s.

Perhaps one of the biggest coups we have is our very own Monarch butterfly breeding ground, developed by a man who also works full time as a masseuse and body builder.  His yard is covered with plumeria and all manner of flowers that keep butterflies herding through our neighborhood.  I, for one, take it for granted that I will have a monarch practically nibbling my nose every day as I walk past his house.  This neighbor also has paper lanterns, and a fire pit, and real logs to sit on at night as he and the neighbors drink wine.  When I moved in he offered me my very own marijuana plant as a housewarming gift.  I smiled and declined.

In short, this neighborhood is one realtors used to call “transitional.”  It is not an enclave of mini mansions like Mission Hills.   It is, in fact, the first neighborhood I moved into when I moved to San Diego.  I rented a tiny bungalow and used to walk these streets every day, getting to know the place like the real estate seminar gurus said you should.  And when I saw my first opportunity, I pounced, scraping together enough money to buy a little house I now walk by everyday with my dog.  That house sale led to another purchase here, then another.

And that is the house I am in now.

Realtors are not calling this neighborhood transitional anymore.  Last week a home sold here for $904,000.  It was on the market for exactly four days.

It used to be the neighborhood embarrassment–with blue tarp on the roof to cover the leaks, and constant notices from the city on the door.  The woman who owned it finally died, and the family wisely sold.  Someone from Canada bought it, brought it up to its former glory, and made a tidy profit from what I hear.  Bought it for $399,000.  Put maybe $200,000 into it.   Sold it for $904,000.  The remodel took sixty days. You can do the math.

I’d like to say I saw this “surge” coming more than twenty years ago.  But it wasn’t that.  I simply bought what I could afford.   Yesterday as I was walking down the alley I saw a man in the garage of a home I once owned, remodeled and flipped in six weeks many years ago.  I smiled and said “Hi.  I used to own this house.”  He smiled and said “I know.  We bought it from you.  You are Laurie, right?”  He remembered the date and the real estate agent and everything.  I said “I love how you have kept it looking so incredible.”  He said “This has been a happy home for us.  We raised our son here.  In fact, my sister in law owns the house next door, and my brother owns the house right next to hers.  We’ve turned this street into a sort of family compound.”  I looked down the street and sure enough, each house, though different, decidedly looked loved.  I commented on the grape vines he had growing in his front yard.  “Looks like your winery is off to a good start,” I said.  He laughed “Oh, those are merlot grapes.  Not enough to make even one bottle of wine.”  I said “I notice that nobody picks them even when they are ripe.  I find that remarkable.”  He said “I know.  I tell people walking by to help themselves.  Good grapes only last so long.”

He closed the trunk of his car, gathered up his suitcase to go into the house, and we nodded again to each other as we both went back to our lives.

Lord, I love this neighborhood.  It is the people who make it glow.

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Laurie Beth Jones