The Humble Homeowner

Byron King

A letter from Byron King to Bill Bonner:

You have outdone even your usual humble self these past couple of days in The Daily Reckoning. Your essay on chateaux as money pits hit home, even to humble me with my humble abode in humble Pittsburgh. (Yes, I fit in well… being so humble, and with so much to be humble about….)

Our Pittsburgh weather has been unseasonably warm in the past couple of weeks. Good. Let others freeze elsewhere, I say. To my mind, every day of unseasonable winter warmth means one less day of a gas bill to fire the boiler to make the steam to heat my house with the leaking roof. Thus I am saving precious and depleting natural gas, some of which I know comes from wells drilled into the Devonian sandstones and raised at great cost from deep beneath the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. Hence I am saving Devonian sandstones, not that those ungrateful Devonian bastards care. And I am saving myself some dinar, which otherwise would go to pay the utility bill.

But oh…did I mention that we have a leaking roof? We found that out the hard way, by noticing the water-stain on the plaster of the ceiling in the living room. Damn. Winter warmth also means that moist, humid air is blowing up from the Gulf of Mexico to form a warm front in opposition to the frigid arctic blasts that hover just north of here, around Lake Erie. When the jet stream shifts south just a bit, the cold air meets the warm air and we get rain, which is, as you know, composed primarily of falling water. The water comes down, and comes down some more, and lately comes down even more. So in addition to our unseasonable winter warmth, we are experiencing unseasonable January rainfall. Said rainfall lands upon our humble roof, and apparently has managed to find its own channel through the shingles and into the walls of our humble home, thence to the ceiling of our humble living room to form a nasty stain which serves to remind us to remember our humble place in the vast, cosmic scheme of things. So it comes to pass that we are required to engage the services of a roofing man, and pay him the dinar that we otherwise would pay to the utility company. Net-net, so much for humility getting you anything in this lifetime. Maybe in the next?

Up until now, I thought that we only had a leaking basement, what with the water doing what water does and running down the hill in the back yard to flow up against our foundation and penetrate the basement walls of our humble home. We did have plans to reconstruct the drainage in the back yard last fall. We were on the cusp of moving earth, and installing French drains, and thus diverting the water flow away from our foundation and towards a more direct connection with sea level. But then that damn Hurricane Ivan came through and flooded my wife’s business. This unfortunate turn of events, to say the least, upset our list of things to do and we had to rearrange our priorities.

As if to make us feel better, the Municipal Engineer says that he has never seen such a wet fall and a wet winter, and that this wet weather is causing water problems in many a household in our otherwise fair community. Well, gee-whiz. I sure feel better now that we are all wet together. Actually, water is starting to seem to me like the charm of a woman… hard to live with it, but you can’t live without it. And it is just plain expensive whenever it gets close.

…An office colleague merely wanted me to thank you for explaining to her the implications of a merchandise trade deficit in your essay of the other day. This was the example you presented of the town that made meat, and the town that made bread, and the problems when the bread-people purchased more meat than the meat-people purchased bread. Long-term, the meat-people wind up with all of the dough, and the bread-people will just have to, in the immortal words of Marie Antoinette, “eat cake.” Yours was a wonderful explanation, so…”thank you.”

Byron King is a graduate of Harvard University and currently serves as an attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a contribting editor to the groundbreaking free e-letter called Whiskey and Gunpowder.

The Daily Reckoning