Mary Elizabeth Williams Gimme Shelter

ISBN 13: 9781416557098

Gimme Shelter

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9781416557098: Gimme Shelter

Of course I want a home," writes Mary Elizabeth Williams, "I'm American." Gimme Shelter is the first book to reveal how this primal desire, "encoded into our cultural D.N.A.," drove our nation to extremes, from the heights of an unprecedented housing boom to the depths of an unparalleled crash. As a writer and parent in New York City, Williams is careful to ground her real-estate dreams in the reality of her middle-class bank account. Yet as a person who knows no other way to fall in love than at first sight, her relationship with the nation's most daunting housing market is a passionate one. Williams's house-hunting fantasy quickly morphs into a test of endurance, as her search for a place to live and a mortgage she can afford stretches into a three-year odyssey that takes her to the farthest reaches of the boroughs and the limits of her own patience. "Welcome to the tracks," she declares at the outset of yet another weekend tour of blindingly bad, wildly overpriced properties. "Let's go to the wrong side of them, shall we? " As her own quest unfolds, Williams simultaneously reports on the housing markets nationwide. Friends and family members grapple with real estate agents and lenders, neighborhood and quality-of-life issues, all the while voicing common concerns, as expressed by this Maryland working parent of three: "The market was so hot, there were no houses. We looked for years at places the owners wouldn't even clean, let alone fix up." How frustrating is the process? Williams likens it to hearing "the opening bars of a song you think is 'Super Freak.' And then it turns out to be 'U Can't Touch This.'" Told in an engaging blend of fact finding and memoir, Gimme Shelter charts the course of the real estate bubble as it floated ever upward, not with faceless numbers and documents but with the details of countless personal stories - about the undeniable urge to put down roots and the lengths to which we'll go to

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About the Author:

Mary Elizabeth Williams is the cultural critic for Public Radio InternationalŐs morning news show, The Takeaway, and a regular contributor to Salon.com. She has written for many publications including The New York Times, The New York Observer, and Parents. She has appeared on Court T.V. and has lectured on journalism and community at New York University and Columbia University. She lives in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Home-Shopping

Of course I want a home. I'm American; it's encoded into my cultural DNA.

My country was founded by stragglers looking for a place to put down roots. Its wilderness was built by people lured by the promise of a plot of land. Its sales pitch to the world, even now, is that this is where everybody else comes to forge a life. Home is what we fantasize about and sacrifice for; it's what we go into debt over and fight wars over. It's what The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind and Battlestar Galactica are all about -- that wrenching, primal need to have a place in the world that belongs to us and to belong to it.

I walk by the house, even though it's out of my way, and sneak a fleeting peek through the windows. Sometimes, I cross the street, the better to play the part of someone who's not interested, and cast a coy glance right as I go past. I pray no one I know sees me here on Sackett Street in the middle of the morning, off my usual route and with no good excuse. There's nobody in there that I'm interested in; the place is empty anyway. No, I'm fixated on the house itself. I'm stalking an inanimate object.

I saw it a few weeks ago, and now it haunts me, a crush I can't get out of my head. I shut my eyes and try to remember the precise leafy design of the ceiling medallion, the color of the bricks in the back yard. I've got it bad. So I walk past, hoping not to see signs of people moving around, people moving in. Someday soon I will, and I'll have to stop coming around like this.

Most of our friends have already made the leap. Mortgages happen. They happen to the buttoned-up friends who work for the government, and they happen to the burnouts who never miss a Burning Man. They happen to the single and the married, the gay and the straight. But not us, not yet.

We live in the most expensive shantytown on earth. It's the place we can get bok choy at 3 a.m. but the supermarket runs out of toilet paper. Where we can share a pediatrician with one of the Beastie Boys and get felt up by junkies on the bus. How many other places boast luxury lofts above skeevy bars? And where else, outside the refugee community, is obsessing over shelter the chief local pastime? Where else but New York City -- Brooklyn, to be exact? The grandly named County of Kings used to be an afterthought, a bridge-and-tunnel punch line. Now it's rapidly becoming a Zagat guide destination of its own, with rock star residents and CEO-priced real estate.

I had never been to an open house before I saw the place on Sackett. I hadn't any need. I've recently decided, however, that this is the year our family buys a place of our own, the year Rent will become just a musical instead of a way of life to us. The average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime. By my count, I'm already on my fifteenth residence. I've clocked in six of those with Jeff, in four cities and a dozen years. The world is full of nomads, to be sure, but I have done enough wandering. Even here in dense, cramped Brooklyn, I believe there's a space to truly call our own. I just have to find it before we're priced out.

Enter my new Sunday pastime -- snooping in other people's closets, flushing strangers' toilets. It's easier and more constructive than brooding, which is how I've spent the previous few weeks.

It is the winter of 2003. Since Lucy turned three in January, Jeff and I have been on the fence about whether to have another child. At thirty-seven I'm not exactly decrepit -- yet -- but my breeding years are finite. Whatever we choose, I'd rather it be an active choice rather than something we forgot to discuss until it's too late. The way things have been between us lately, though, we may not ever have sex again, let alone babies.

We have a spectacular spat on Court Street, on the way to a kiddie birthday party. I badger Jeff about when we're going to have the conversation, and he mopes that I'm pressuring him. We fight again on the F train. "You promised we'd talk in February!" I snap, providing the morning's drama for the occupants of our car. "February's not over!" he lobs back, narrowing his brown eyes at me.

"You'd better get it together," I hiss before storming out at Jay Street, "because it's a short month."

When we finally have the discussion, one exhausted night when work and parenting and the seventh straight day with no sunlight have put us in the optimum frame of mind to make a life-changing decision, neither of us is surprised what my vote is.

I'm not one of those women who gets off on her fecundity. I didn't enter marriage, or even parenthood, raring to produce multiple offspring. Having a child didn't do much to quell my ambivalence about kids as a species either. When friends started having their perfectly timed second children two years after their firstborns, I felt no urgency to join them. I shudder when anyone I didn't give birth to calls me a mommy.

Yet I deeply relish the sweet, silly intimacy of motherhood, and I love my kid with more ferocious tenderness than I ever thought possible. Expanding on the adventure of family, this time with Lucy in the role of big sister, is exactly what I'm up for. Despite all the financial and career and time and sheer stamina concerns that another child would kick up, I'd like to try. There's more to it than that, though.

"I look at our table," I tell Jeff, shifting my gaze all of two feet from the couch to the spot where we eat our dinner, "and I see someone else at it."

It's not that I want some imaginary Gerber-jar baby. It's that I'm ready for the child I'm convinced we're meant to have. You can overanalyze, you can list your reasons why you want the things you do, but in the end the big stuff defies explanation. Sometimes, you feel life pulling you, and so you go.

A year ago, at Andrew and Ruth's wedding in New Orleans, I splurged at Marie Laveau's for a tarot reading. "I see you with two daughters," the fortune-teller informed me.

"That's pretty good," I said, "I have one daughter."

She smiled indulgently at me, the way you do when a child puts her shoes on the wrong feet, and repeated herself. "I see you with two daughters."

"So do I," I said.

My husband isn't so sure. We're an ordinary middle-class family. By that I mean a true working middle-class family, not the people you see on the cover of New York magazine wringing their hands because a half-million-dollar salary doesn't go as far as it used to.

When we moved back to New York in 1999 after several peripatetic years of freelancing and grad school, Jeff had to reinvent himself at a lower-level office job. Even now after a few raises and promotions, he's still in a not terribly lucrative position in the not terribly lucrative world of publishing.

I work from home at a half-time job for a Web site, and do freelance writing as well. When the Internet boom went bust, my company gutted much of its staff. I was one of the lucky ones who got to stay. Salaries were cut and I haven't had a raise since. I don't make six figures a year. My husband and I put together don't make six figures a year. We've never owned a car. We rarely go out. Our main expenses are rent and parenting.

"I worry about money," Jeff tells me, and I do too. "I'm scared I'll be trapped in my job forever," he says. I suspected this response was coming. That whole cringing whenever I'd broach the subject thing was a tip-off. "I can't fathom how much harder all of it would be with a baby. I'm so tired all the time now."

He's a good man, and he wants to do the right thing. "I keep looking for a sign," he says. He's searching my face for the answer. "Maybe you being so sure is the sign. If this is what you want, then we'll do it."

And then I say something that stuns me.

No.

This isn't how I pictured it at all. I wanted to have a baby the way we had Lucy, to be utterly, romantically on board for the experience. It isn't like having the chicken or the fish for dinner; it isn't a "whatever you want, honey" decision. I can't go through trying to conceive and pregnancy and swollen ankles and pushing a human being out a reluctant orifice and raising a child with someone who's so-so on the idea.

Jeff and I are both only children ourselves. We know you don't need siblings to have a family. I'll resign myself to accepting what we have as more than enough. I'll give away the maternity clothes and little baby things I'd packed up. I'll get over it. I'll flail around for a while, missing like mad this child I didn't even have, but I'll live.

"If it's not right for both of us, it's not right, period," I tell him. "That's our deal, right?"

He puts an arm around me. "Then I guess it's settled," he says, and it feels like something inside of me just broke.

I had so blithely assumed this spring would be all about conception and pregnancy, based on little more than my own wishing. Now that the plan is off the table, I badly need a distraction from the grief. I need to channel that nesting instinct into something. If we're not expanding the family, then that's one less big expense in our lives, and a space requirement that's more or less settled. The idea seizes me almost immediately. If I can't have a baby, I'll get a home.

The Sunday after the big talk our family is crammed around a tiny table at Bagel World, loading up on carbs. As I flick through the paper, I make my intentions known. "Maybe we should start looking to buy a place," I say, "because the housing market is heating up."

Jeff is somewhat less hesitant about homeownership than he is about having two children. "I guess we can see what's out there," he answers noncommittally.

Before we can see what's out there, though, we need to know what we can spend. We start by reducing our contributions to our 401k's so our take-home pay is higher and we have more savings at the ready. We have some money put aside already, but not a lot. I twiddle with a mortgage calculator and, based on our rent, get a rough idea of what we could pay each month. We're looking at, absolute maximum, a $400,000 investment. The sum is staggering, but it's a blip in the New York ...

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Of course I want a home, writes Mary Elizabeth Williams, I m American. Gimme Shelter is the first book to reveal how this primal desire, encoded into our cultural DNA, drove our nation to extremes, from the heights of an unprecedented housing boom to the depths of an unparalleled crash. As a writer and parent in New York City, Williams is careful to ground her real-estate dreams in the reality of her middle-class bank account. Yet as a person who knows no other way to fall in love than at first sight, her relationship with the nation s most daunting housing market is a passionate one. Williams s house-hunting fantasy quickly morphs into a test of endurance, as her search for a place to live and a mortgage she can afford stretches into a three-year odyssey that takes her to the farthest reaches of the boroughs and the limits of her own patience. Welcome to the tracks, she declares at the outset of yet another weekend tour of blindingly bad, wildly overpriced properties. Let s go to the wrong side of them, shall we? As her own quest unfolds, Williams simultaneously reports on the housing markets nationwide. Friends and family members grapple with real estate agents and lenders, neighborhood and quality-of-life issues, all the while voicing common concerns, as expressed by this Maryland working parent of three: The market was so hot, there were no houses. We looked for years at places the owners wouldn t even clean, let alone fix up. How frustrating is the process? Williams likens it to hearing the opening bars of a song you think is Super Freak. And then it turns out to be U Can t Touch This. Told in an engaging blend of factfinding and memoir, Gimme Shelter charts the course of the real estate bubble as it floated ever upward, not with faceless numbers and documents but with the details of countless personal stories -- about the undeniable urge to put down roots and the lengths to which we ll go to find our way home. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9781416557098

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Of course I want a home, writes Mary Elizabeth Williams, I m American. Gimme Shelter is the first book to reveal how this primal desire, encoded into our cultural DNA, drove our nation to extremes, from the heights of an unprecedented housing boom to the depths of an unparalleled crash. As a writer and parent in New York City, Williams is careful to ground her real-estate dreams in the reality of her middle-class bank account. Yet as a person who knows no other way to fall in love than at first sight, her relationship with the nation s most daunting housing market is a passionate one. Williams s house-hunting fantasy quickly morphs into a test of endurance, as her search for a place to live and a mortgage she can afford stretches into a three-year odyssey that takes her to the farthest reaches of the boroughs and the limits of her own patience. Welcome to the tracks, she declares at the outset of yet another weekend tour of blindingly bad, wildly overpriced properties. Let s go to the wrong side of them, shall we? As her own quest unfolds, Williams simultaneously reports on the housing markets nationwide. Friends and family members grapple with real estate agents and lenders, neighborhood and quality-of-life issues, all the while voicing common concerns, as expressed by this Maryland working parent of three: The market was so hot, there were no houses. We looked for years at places the owners wouldn t even clean, let alone fix up. How frustrating is the process? Williams likens it to hearing the opening bars of a song you think is Super Freak. And then it turns out to be U Can t Touch This. Told in an engaging blend of factfinding and memoir, Gimme Shelter charts the course of the real estate bubble as it floated ever upward, not with faceless numbers and documents but with the details of countless personal stories -- about the undeniable urge to put down roots and the lengths to which we ll go to find our way home. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9781416557098

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Book Description Simon & Schuster. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 336 pages. Dimensions: 8.9in. x 5.9in. x 1.0in.Of course I want a home, writes Mary Elizabeth Williams, Im American. Gimme Shelter is the first book to reveal how this primal desire, encoded into our cultural DNA, drove our nation to extremes, from the heights of an unprecedented housing boom to the depths of an unparalleled crash. As a writer and parent in New York City, Williams is careful to ground her real-estate dreams in the reality of her middle-class bank account. Yet as a person who knows no other way to fall in love than at first sight, her relationship with the nations most daunting housing market is a passionate one. Williamss house-hunting fantasy quickly morphs into a test of endurance, as her search for a place to live and a mortgage she can afford stretches into a three-year odyssey that takes her to the farthest reaches of the boroughs and the limits of her own patience. Welcome to the tracks, she declares at the outset of yet another weekend tour of blindingly bad, wildly overpriced properties. Lets go to the wrong side of them, shall we As her own quest unfolds, Williams simultaneously reports on the housing markets nationwide. Friends and family members grapple with real estate agents and lenders, neighborhood and quality-of-life issues, all the while voicing common concerns, as expressed by this Maryland working parent of three: The market was so hot, there were no houses. We looked for years at places the owners wouldnt even clean, let alone fix up. How frustrating is the process Williams likens it to hearing the opening bars of a song you think is Super Freak. And then it turns out to be U Cant Touch This. Told in an engaging blend of factfinding and memoir, Gimme Shelter charts the course of the real estate bubble as it floated ever upward, not with faceless numbers and documents but with the details of countless personal stories -- about the undeniable urge to put down roots and the lengths to which well go to find our way home. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9781416557098

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