When we moved here, I immediately started looking for a house. Since we were new to the area, I asked several of my co-workers about good places to live, places to avoid, interesting things to live next to, etc. Everybody in the office learned pretty quickly that we were looking to buy a house. I also tried to make it clear that I was looking for something a little bit different, something distinctive.
I did not want a typical "new" house. If anyone has built a new house in the Midwest in the last five to ten years, then you know what I mean. Something with an open floor plan blending kitchen and living room into one space, probably with a fireplace at one end. Something that has a powder room downstairs, a full bath upstairs, three bedrooms upstairs and a master suite. There's nothing wrong with those houses. It's just that they are so alike to each other. A house like that would never feel like my home. It would always feel like everybody else's home.
So anyway, I let everyone know that I'd be looking for something distinctive, probably older, with a lot of "character". My co-workers are generally a good lot, and they certainly mean well, so I wasn't surprised when one of my co-workers pulled me aside to talk to me about my search for an older home. The conversation went something like this.
Co-worker: So you're looking for an older home?
Mr K: We are. We'd like to find something with a bit of character.
Co-Worker: Hmmm...Well, you'll want to be careful when buying something like that.
Now at this point, I am of course thinking of all the things that can go wrong in an older home like high heating bills, leaky roofs, dangerous electrical, lead paint, asbestos insulation, drafty windows, rotten wood, etc. I'm very interested to see if the co-worker has some sort of insight that I've missed.
Mr K: Well, I know that older homes certainly can have some issues.
Co-worker: You know that all of those older homes are located near downtown.
Mr K: Yeah, we've seen a few in that area.
We did go around the older areas of the city and in fact, some of the areas were very nice. At this point, I'm just very puzzled about what could be so horrible. So what could it be? Loud traffic noise? Airplane fly overs? Horrible stench from the sewers? Chemical spill? Nuclear testing? Gaping rift to hell? Keep in mind that this particular co-worker lives in the suburbs in one of the new houses mentioned above.
Co-worker: Make sure you check out the neighborhood before you move in.
Mr K: We have been. We make it a point to go for walks in the neighborhood that we're buying into.
Co-worker: Well, there's a lot of Hmong in the downtown area.
Ahhhhh, now I've got it, I think to myself. She's prejudiced. So I decide to play this out and see how it goes.
Mr K: And?
Co-worker (dropping her voice in her best conspiratorial tone): They raise carp in their basement.
Mr K: Carp. In their basement.
Co-worker: Really they do. Talk to (another co-worker). She lives next to Hmong and they are raising carp in their basement.
Still reeling from this revelation, I try to organize my thoughts.
Mr K: How does that work? I mean do they cover up the drain in the floor, turn on the garden hose and flood the basement? What about the water heater and the furnace? What about the electrical?
Co-worker: I don't know, but you should go talk to (other co-worker).
I'm imagining massive 100 pound carp swimming blissfully in 5 feet of water in a flooded basement, and some 100 pound Hmong man trying to wrestle one up the stairs for supper. I know that I'm going to have to cut this conversation short, or I'll start laughing out loud.
Mr K: We'll be sure to check out the neighborhood, but as long as the neighbors are law abiding and friendly, I think we'll be OK.
Co-worker: Just make sure you know your neighbors.
So there you have it. Anybody else know of anyone raising carp in their basement?