Dunga Brook Diary: Big Swinging Balls 

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November 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary 

The horse, of course


by Vicki Whicker

I bought my house sight unseen from a post on Facebook. I am probably going to say that more than once in this monthly column. Maybe once each month. I don’t think it can be stressed enough. Sight unseen!

I don’t need a lot of information. When something comes at me, I either say yes or no, there is no weighing of the options—I’m not calling my therapist, no friends are consulted, certainly not parents (long gone by this time, anyhow), my ex and his wife aren’t in on it, I might have mentioned it to my son and my best friends but I wasn’t looking for input. It’s just me, myself and I.

I don’t recommend it, it’s just the way that I was jiggered as a child. The only girl of four kids, my parents were too busy with their own angst to notice me and mine, and my brothers were animals—not to be looked at, or played with, nor conferred with—Ever.

I didn’t ask for advice on whether I should do it, but I took great joy in telling everyone I did it. Everyone is curious when someone dares to move when they don’t have to. Moving is not high on the list of things people want, or love to do.

The first time I moved, I was traumatized. I was eleven when my parents moved us from Florida to Illinois—in January. Despite being promised a horse come spring, I didn’t talk to my dad again until I was a senior in high school.

The second time was from Illinois to Colorado when I was 21. Moving to a ski resort was an eye opening and liberating experience—a five-year romp. When I left Colorado for LA it was with the full knowledge that moving was survivable, even thrive-able.

Vicki Whicker in Pacific Palisades, photo by Mary Petrie Lowen

After 25 years in LA, I was ready to go. More than ready. However, my glee was met with equal parts resistance, horror, and awe. Lovers of LA were shocked that anyone would move away from LA. Their quicker reaction was, “South Bay, Valley, or Malibu?” Out of state would be unthinkable. East coast wasn’t even a topic. East Coast is not West Coast, you see.

“Central New York,” I’d answer, giddily.

You’d think that I’d found the key to happiness or something.

“To the middle of nowhere,” I’d illuminate.

They’d knit their brows (unless botoxed), their eyes would darken, breath became labored and then they’d sputter, “WhattheFa…why?”

“I bought an 1820’s farmhouse.”

As if that explained everything. And sometimes it did. Who didn’t love that show, This Old House? Who didn’t want to isolate in decaying splendor?

The $10,000 house

Josh didn’t. That’s who. I ran into him at the Palisades Gelson’s, my home away from home, near the check-out. We’d been a thing back in the day (him, fresh from his modeling job as the Martini and Rossi Man, and me…about to Dot Bomb).

I chased him down the wine aisle, “Josh, I’m moving,” I blurted.

He looked at me with those hot brown eyes and asked, “Where to? With who?”

“To the middle of nowhere! Central New York! By myself!”

Damn—I’d always wanted him to look at me the way he looked at me that day. He looked really, really interested.

“Wow, Vicki,” he said, “you have BIG SWINGING BALLS. You are f…g crazy! The middle of nowhere by yourself? No way, man, I’d ever do a crazy-ass thing like that.”

I followed up with, “I bought it for $10,000.”

And, I did. But what I didn’t say was that they originally wanted $45,000. Which I was more than willing to pay until one of my friends from LA saw it in real time.

Laura happened to be taking her daughter on a college tour of the East Coast and one of her stops, Hamilton College, was a half-an-hour away from the house, so she offered to stop by and report back. I was treated, by cell, to this blow-by-blow report:

“Farmland as far as I can see, a beautiful lake about five miles away, cottages, a little sleepy looking, lots of hills, no town to speak of…very nice rolling hills, more hills, a valley, a haunted looking farmhouse next door (Jim’s, see post #1).

“I’m pulling into the driveway and getting out…there’s an oil tank in the yard, the front door is locked, the side door is unlocked and off its hinges…Ok, I think I’m in a mud room, it doesn’t look so good, I mean the outside is cute but…well, there are problems.”

My heart bobbing, hale and hearty, refused to sink.

“There’s a hole in the roof, it must rain here a lot, there aren’t any stairs to the second floor…and the bathroom…Oh, boy!…Do you want photos?”

I remained stoic, “Yes, please—but NO BATHROOM SHOTS.”

A dirty bathroom can really drag one’s dreams through the mud, don’t you think?

I took a peek at the photos…disgusting but not dissuading. Nothing could dissuade me. After, all, I had a little money squirreled away in an account earmarked for the renovation.

I thanked her for her investigation and used the new-found knowledge to calculate exactly what I was going to offer.

My calculations:

$45,000= house and acre.
Minus, inside of the house.
Minus, electrical panels, destroyed by tenants (squatters).
Minus, water, cut off (water was spring-fed but spring was on another farmer’s land and he kiboshed the sharing).
Minus, farmer-neighbor (asshole).
Minus, roof.
Plus, bones of house, good (I had a pro inspect).
Plus, stone foundation, original.
Plus, acre, $1,000-ish.

Best guess, total value= $10,000.

That’s what I offered and that’s what was accepted…immediately.

What could go wrong?

(To be continued)


Vicki Whicker is an iphoneographer living near Cooperstown, New York. In 2011, after 25 years in LA, she quit her fashion job and decamped for the wilds of central New York. Without a job, not much forethought, and a vague plan to remodel an 1820’s farmhouse, she had no idea what was ahead. https://www.instagram.com/vicki_whicker/



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