The Allure of What Money Can Buy

View from Our DeckNot long after we arrived in Mendocino, we picked up a couple of free newsprint flyers promoting real estate in and around the area. Most of the listings were, as expected, wildly beyond our financial abilities; house list prices of one million dollars and more were far more common than prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But a few listings were much closer to what I consider “reality” than the rest. Granted, I do not know what the places are like, but the prices—alone—attracted me to them. A few older two and three bedroom homes in what is described as a “55+ community” were particularly interesting, with prices of less than $300,000. I expect we will try to locate some of them today, purely out of interest born of fantasy.

Last night as, unable to sleep, I tossed and turned in bed, I thought about what was driving my sudden and somewhat unexpected interest in exploring the remote possibility that I might be able to afford a house in this exceptionally beautiful area. Was my interest tied exclusively to the beauty of the Pacific coastal intersection of mountains and a vast ocean? The amazing vistas certainly draw my interest; they are unlike anywhere else. But is it just the landscape and seascape that is so captivating? Or it is something else? Or, perhaps, a combination of factors? I think the latter must be it. Yet, as I think about what I so enjoyed last night—sitting on the wood deck high above the water’s edge, gazing out at the rocky island just off the shore, watching the seagulls, and listening to the constant sound of the waves crashing into the rocky cliffs below us—it occurs to me that the biggest draw is the climate. Cool, breezy, and comfortable. No need for air conditioning, except possibly on very rare occasion (but not sufficiently frequent to warrant having an air conditioner). Rare need for heat, as far as I know.

It seems absolutely ideal. Except for the signs I see everywhere we go: “severe drought…conserve water.” The severe drought brings with it the susceptibility to awful forest fires and grass fires. As we drove up the coast yesterday, we saw evidence of fresh fires, still smoldering as firefighters tended to hot spots and worked to keep the flames from erupting again.

Okay, so there’s the cost of housing and the danger of fires. It still is captivating. What else might deter me from wanting to live here? Earthquakes are not just possible here, but probable. With the right construction, though, in the right place, I think I could live with that threat. Earthquakes’ cousins, tsunamis, also threaten the entire coastline; again, with the right location, I could live with that threat. Unless, of course, access to the “outside world” and its provision of food, fuel, clothing, etc. But that possibility exists wherever one might live. The costs of fuel and groceries here, though, are stunningly high. The one gas station in Mendocino recently was reported to have the highest gas price in the country; more than $10 per gallon. We paid as much as $7.39 (maybe more?) on the trip out, surpassing $100 to fill the tank. If nothing else, gas prices would prompt me to limit leisure driving.

Our friends, who are very important to us, do not live here. They might come visit, but there is no guaranteed. We might visit them, but the frequency would be unsatisfactory. Yet we all have moved away from places where we had human connections and we have developed other connections. I suspect we might develop them here, if we ever found a way to relocate to this place. I would be much closer to my sister, who hosted us for a couple of nights as we made out way to the California coast; that’s a plus.

I keep coming back to the almost magical allure of this area, though. The climate. The weather. The absence of chiggers! As we sat outside on the deck last night, we were not bothered by bugs of any kind. The only “threats” were seagulls flying rather close to us and a family of quail surprising us as it suddenly fluttered across the deck from beneath the hot tub.

Mendocino is a tourist draw; I suspect more than 90 percent of the people we saw in town yesterday afternoon were tourists. The only place we saw people we felt confident were “locals” were in a dive bar (Dick’s Place), where we stopped for a drink yesterday afternoon as we waited for our room at Little River Inn to be available. A sign in the bar read “So many Dicks, so few Richards.” The people there, mostly 40ish to 60ish, definitely were locals. We were undoubtedly the only tourists; it would not be considered the most inviting place to most people (except people we are happy to call friends).

So, what is the most overwhelming obstacle to moving to a place like Mendocino, a place where the climate is close to perfect? It’s the same obstacle that has kept me from following most other dreams I have abandoned during the course of my life: money, or the lack thereof. Though I am more fortunate than perhaps most people on the planet, I am like most people in that I have access to only a fraction of the money necessary to enjoy what is truly “the good life.” Life in a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and easy on the nerves. Wealth is too often wasted on the rich. Unlike the rich, who often take wealth for granted, I would not only enjoy it to the fullest, I would share it in an effort to spread the joy. I am grateful, though, for what I have. I would be downright ecstatic, though, if I had access to what the wealthy tend to consider their birthright.

We’ll see what we find when we go out and about in search of affordable places among this incredibly beautiful, scenery—free of evil insects.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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