Those People

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FYI…we’ve become “those people” who lunch at Costco (come on..two huge hot dogs with sauerkraut and all the toppings, plus 2 sodas for $3.20 including tax…why not?) and who run off to Florida in the winter!

Susie retired in 2013, and in just a couple of weeks, it will be three years since I left WABC on January 29, 2016.  In February of 2016, we headed down to Florida for a few days at Disney World, and to catch a couple of the Mets Spring training games.  It was a real treat to experience a bit of a preview of the Summer of 2016, and I guess we got bitten by the bug!  In February of 2017, Susie and I participated in the  southern swing of the “Kenny and Chris Relocating to LA Tour”, and spent some time in Disney World with the boys, and then New Orleans with the boys and Krissi and Mike, before they headed off to California and we headed back to winter.  Last year we toured a large part of Florida, heading down in February and starting at Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast, traveling down the Gulf Coast, then across the state, down the Keys to Key West, up to Hollywood, then to my cousins in Barefoot Bay, and we ended up with 5 nights at the Boardwalk Hotel in Disney World!  All told, a little over 3 weeks away from the winter!

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23d34fcc-bfe6-455b-98e7-d47076bcdfa0So, this year, we are being pigs!  We leave this Saturday with our first stop being Raleigh, North Carolina, the home of our oldest and his wife, and our 2 grandchildren!  It will be Christmas #3 for Susie and I, this time complete with Christmas Eve traditions of Shrimp Sauce over Linguine, and Lobsters stuffed with Baked Clam Stuffing!  After a couple of days there, we start slowly making our way to the Sunshine State, with stops in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and Darien, Georgia and our favorite shrimp place, B&J’s Steak and Seafood!  

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Last year we fell in love with Indian Rocks Beach, Florida and we’ve decided to return to the scene of the crime.  We’ve rented a condo right on the Gulf Coast for 3 weeks, and we look forward to a lot of warmth, sun, surf, pool, and fun!  During the course of our time there, our cousins Jeanne and Walt will come to visit, as will Krissi and Mike for a long weekend!  We only hope our favorite Florida bartender Lindsey, who we met at our hotel bar last year, is back on her feet and we can spend some quality time with her!

After that, it’s off to the East Coast and a 3 day stay at the lovely Doubletree Resort we really didn’t take advantage of during our stay there last year in Hollywood, Florida.  More pool, sun, warmth, and Tiki Bar time we hope!  Then we are off for 5 nights with our cousins Jeanne and Walt at their place a little further up the coast in Barefoot Bay, Florida!

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Although a stay at Disney World has been a part of our last 3 escapes from winter, we decided to pass on it this year.  Even with my Disney  Retiree benefits and discounts, it’s still an expensive stay, and that 3 week condo rental is costing us enough.  Plus, we were so disillusioned by all the crowds there last year, and the attractions that broke down, that we think we’ll take a year off, and decide again next year.

So that’s it.  If you did the math, you’ll have come up with five plus weeks away this year.  We hope to be in warm weather for the better part of 5 weeks, only dipping out of shirts and flip flop weather on the way down and back up.  I told you we were being real pigs, but there is nothing like that Summer Preview you get from spending some time in warmer climates, when it’s snowing at home!

Ahhhh…RETIREMENT!!

Christmases Past, Present, and Future

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Christmas in Mineola

On this Christmas Eve, 2018, a little Christmas reflection…..

Christmas has always been a big deal in our household.  Early in our relationship, it became obvious that it’s Susie’s favorite holiday, and one that she waits all year for.  Indeed, because of her love of the holiday, it was on Christmas Day in 1978 that I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! Talk about giving…her saying yes was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten!  So from our first Christmas in our apartment on Firwood Road in Port Washington, just months after we were married in 1979, we have always gone all out to decorate and celebrate the holiday!  

Every year, when the kids were small, sometime in early November, we’d journey to Lancaster, PA, for a weekend in Amish Country, and every year, that’s when the D’Elia Family started listening to Christmas music!  Indeed, our selection of Christmas music grew over the years to the point that when we cleaned out our 100 CD changer, close to half the CDs were of Christmas music.  Now we’re all digital, with music stored on the Amazon Cloud, but Christmas music still makes up a large percentage of it!

Our Ocean City house became ours at the end of January 2005, and when the next Christmas rolled around the decision was easy…we were going to decorate two houses!  That first year we got a table top tree and bought ornaments, and house decorations on the cheap from Big Lots.  It wasn’t as grand or beautiful as we did on Long Island, but we even had a small Manger we’d gotten at Big Lots, and lots of outdoor decorations.

Over the years, more and more items were added to both our Mineola house and to the Ocean City house.  A year ago, on November 9th, we sold the Mineola house, and made Ocean City our permanent residence.  That meant we now had to meld two Christmases into one.  Think that wasn’t a hard job?  Well, the fact that we had to make 3 trips with a fully loaded SUV to transport our Long Island Christmas decorations, to the shore, and the fact that our Christmas Decorations then took up fully half of our rented store room, may give you an idea about the scope of the job!  Last year, the consolidation started, and it’s continued this Christmas too!

First things first…the Christmas Tree! 

From our first 1979 Christmas, a live tree was the only way to go for the D’Elia Family.  We did the “cut your own” version, but the kids got kind of tired of that after a couple of years, and after one year of doing it ourselves, Susie and I tired of it too, so it was a yearly trip to Hicks to pick out a tree!  That lasted till we started going to Ocean City and realized when we got home the beginning of January, the tree was severely dead, and we’d missed a lot of it’s life.  The next year the first artificial tree made it’s debut in the D’Elia’s living room! 

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IMG_1556As I said,  for our first Christmas in Ocean City (2005), we bought a 4 foot tree at one of the craft stores, and put it by the front door, on top of our porch table, and we decorated it with ornaments we’d purchased at the Big Lots in Somers Point.   We continued for a number of Christmases in Ocean City with that table top tree and the our Big Lots ornaments.  In 2012 we bought a new artificial tree for Long Island.  It was our 2nd “fake” tree, was much more lifelike and sophisticated, prewired with lights, and all the set up we had to do was pop the three sections together and it was done and wired!  Of course, the next Christmas we decided to get a thinner version of that same tree for Ocean City.  When our last Christmas on Long Island was over in 2016, we decided to take our bigger tree to Ocean City, move some furniture in the living room for the holidays, put the big tree in a new location, and enjoy more room for presents under it!  It was worth it.

 

 

 

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The Manger

Of course, the Mineola Manger won out over the Big Lots version.  The Manger scene that graces our Ocean City home now, has been with us since that first Christmas in Port Washington 39 years ago.  Bought from a long defunct Long Island department store, (A & S), with additional pieces purchased at a 5 & 10 on Plandome Road in Manhasset, it moved from a table near the front door in Mineola, to the top of a book shelf in our living room in Ocean City!

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The Big Lots Manger

 

 

 

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Snowman Village

For a number of years, Susie put up a huge Department 56 Snow Village display in our Dining Room on Long Island, but furniture and styles changed, and the Snow Village went bye-bye.  Susie has always loved Snowmen (and women), and with a desire to go in a new direction, she did a Snowman display on the top of our entertainment center on Long Island, with a smaller version in Ocean City.  Of course, now her big production has moved to our corner cabinet in the living room, that transforms from a bar to a winter wonderland during the Christmas Season.

 

 

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And that’s but a small part of the Christmas Displays at our home during the holidays.  Over the past couple of years, we have weeded through lots and lots of ornaments, bows, house decorations, Hallmark animated displays, and hundreds of Christmas items, big and small, cheap and expensive.  It hasn’t been easy.  We know that when we unloaded our storage room into our garage this year (2 trips with the CRV fully loaded), we realized we still have too much Christmas “stuff,” and perhaps this year, we will be able to part with some items.  But there are regrets….like the two snow globes we had, one from Susie’s Mom and one from my Mom.  These globes graced our living room in Mineola for many years, but sadly when we decorated in Ocean City last year, they were nowhere to be found.  Did we make a conscious decision after Christmas 2016 to let them go, or did we put them in the wrong box, and it got left behind?  We’ll just never know, but every Christmas, we will think about them, and wonder what happened to them.

There you have the story of our Christmas dilemma and how we tried to solve it.  Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress! 

 

 

As we share our Christmas this year with Family and Friends, near and far, just one last thought.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Another Saturday Night in OC

If you read our recent multi-part story about how, why, and when we ended up being retired in Ocean City, you may remember it said, “We loved being down here, and as we spent more and more time, our Ocean City Family grew.  We attended weddings on the beach, parties at neighbor’s houses, Saturday night dinners out, several Pennlyn Place Block Parties, St. Patty’s Day and New Year’s Eve events, and even went to a couple of local fundraisers.”   Those Saturday Night dinners I spoke of,  are an important part of our Ocean City life. While some weeks it will be 3 or 4 of us going out, some weeks it can be as many as 12 or 14.  Some weeks it’s just us, and some weeks, friends will bring friends and relatives and our group expands.  While we do go out a lot, many weeks we will get together at another’s house.  It can be a planned dinner, a pot luck, or an impromptu “order take out” night. All things being equal, just about every Saturday, some members of our group will be together.

Here’s a selection of some past Saturdays!

Having said that, let me tell you about a recent Saturday, where a number of us headed out to Carmen’s in Sea Isle City, for their last night of the season, and what they call their “Carmen’s Belly Buster”.  We’d been there only once, earlier in the year, and our waitress made a point of telling us about the Belly Buster night, and it peaked our interest.    Our good friend Denise called and made a reservation, and worked out transportation, and on Saturday October 20th, it was indeed Another Saturday Night…but this time in Sea Isle City! 

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The funny thing is that the Saturday before, we’d also been with Denise and her husband Chris, and our friends Patti and Meade, but that was in Lake Tahoe, Nevada!  It was great having some of our Ocean City Family with us at Kenny and Chris’ wedding, and it was a Saturday night, and yes, we did end up in our room after the close of the wedding!  On the side of the Atlantic Ocean, or the shore of Lake Tahoe, a Saturday is a Saturday for our Ocean City Family!!

But let me get back to Carmen’s and The Belly Buster!  The place seemed very festive when we got there with large groups of folks at tables on the outside deck.  It was a little chilly (Denise wore my jacket) but they did have side curtains and most of us were fine.  We started at a tight table, but then asked, and they moved us to a great octagonal table, where we had lots of room and we all could see each other!  Lucky they did!

The meal started with a hot crab chowder and a nice salad.  Then pass-around fried sea food (shrimp, scallops, clams, etc).  Dale and Denise are not seafood eaters, but there were several Chicken dishes in the next round of pass-arounds.  Then they lowered the boom on us with the Main Attraction of the evening!!

 

While we’d seen other tables with big disposable pans of mixed sea food, we somehow got the mother lode, pilled high in a huge fancy bowl!  Not quite sure why we got singled out, but we did end up on their web site, so I’m thinking we got the “display” portion!  Here’s that picture!

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It was loaded with clams, mussels, crab legs, and at least 4 lobsters!  Oh My God!  By no means did we eat it all, but we tried!

There was lots of laughs that night as we ate and drank our way through dinner (it is a BYOB), but there was still about half left (mostly mussels and clams) when we’d had our fill, and they wanted us to take it with us.  Nobody at our table was interested, so we passed it off to a lady at the table behind us!  She may still be dining on our leftovers!

It really doesn’t matter what we do, or where we do it.  What matters is that we are together, having fun.  Family Chosen is a Great Thing!

Ocean City – Part 11

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As you read in the last stanza of this epic story, we’d gotten rid of just about everything we could in the Mineola house, and now the next big task was selling the house!

We’d lived and raised 3 kids in a house that was built in 1928.  It was old, and needed some work, and we assumed it would go the way of other old houses on our street…demolition or gutting!  I was really concerned about the how and why of selling the house, but once people heard that we were moving,  we kept getting “keep me in mind” messages about the house.  By late summer of 2017, Susie had a list of 4 people that were interested in buying our house!  Who knew!!   When the first person dropped out because of financial reasons, Susie called the second person who’d messaged her.  This was a teacher that Susie used to call in when she arranged the substitutes at  Hampton Street School, and she was still very interested in the house.  She knew the house and the location because her cousin lived right across the street from us.

Susie set up an appointment late one afternoon for her family to come look at the place.  She came with her husband, two kids and her father.  They wandered from the attic to the basement, all around the property, and through the garage.  About a month earlier, we’d worked out a price with our Lawyer Glenn, when he told us our original asking price was way too low.  Susie had shared our price with the prospective buyer, and after the tour, we told them to go home and talk it over, and if they were really interested, make us an offer.  They called us that night, made a slightly lower counter offer, we agreed, and like that, we’d sold our house!

We felt good about the fact that a house that had been good to us, was going to go on and be part of another family’s life.  We probably could have asked more, and had the house on the market for months, but in the end we decided on a price that was good for us, and still left some money on the table so the new buyers could start to make our home their home.  The house sold quickly, we didn’t have to pay a real estate agent a commission because we used none, we got the price we wanted, and after all our expenses, we were able to replace the money we’d taken from my 401K.  We figured it was a win win for all!

So now, it was real. The house had a buyer, we had a closing date, and now we really needed to empty out the house.  We gave whatever we could of our furniture to friends and family, took what little we could to Ocean City, and called the guy we’d had recommended to us to clean out the house.  He showed up one morning, we handed over $3000 in cash, and before we we left for Ocean City, he told us he’d found needy families for our furniture.  That made Susie feel better!

 

The next time we saw the house was early on the afternoon of November 9, 2017.  That day, we drove back to Mineola, and after stopping at McDonald’s in Carle Place, had our

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Our Last Meal after 31 years

last meal in our old house.  It was very strange to walk around a now totally empty house, that in just a few hours wouldn’t be ours anymore.  After eating, we cleaned up, threw our camp chairs in the car, and drove to the lawyer’s office on Mineola Blvd.  Within an hour, we no longer owned 40 Fairfield Avenue, and walked out with a handful of checks, which we quickly deposited in the TD Bank in Garden City, before returning to Ocean City and our one and only home!

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A couple of days later, we went to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission office in Egg img_0820Harbor Township.  We turned in our NY Driver’s Licenses and got NJ Driver’s Licenses, we got NJ License Plates for the Sonata (the Mustang already had them), and even registered to vote!   In every way we could think of, we were now New Jersey Residents, and 854 Pennlyn Place was our one and only home!

We’ve been back to Long Island a number of times, since that November day when we sold the house, and of course, there’s no way we can go without driving down Fairfield Avenue.  We’re happy to report that the new owners are well on their way to turning our old house, into their new house.  We are excited to see what they are doing, and looking forward to the tour we’ve been promised when the work is completed.  

 

Early work to the latest progress..so happy to see it live on!

Since that fateful day in November, Susie and I have survived our first winter at the shore.  Sure, we’d been here before, but for just brief glimpses of what winter in Ocean City is like.  What we’ve discovered is that we love the small town Ocean City turns into in the winter.  We love the ability to go across town on any street you like, rather than UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2d2aour summer MO of only crossing town on streets with traffic lights.  We love going to places like Ready’s or the Varsity for breakfast, and having staff know the customers.  We love the quiet of our street, but also seeing the many folks who call Pennlyn Place their full time home.  We did discover that it did snow a lot more this winter than it seemed to in the past, and that even though we gave away our gas snow blower, we might need something here, so we got a battery powered snow blower to supplement our shovels.

We celebrated our first Thanksgiving at the house, and had Susie’s sister and her family join us.  Although we’d always done Christmas decorating at the house, we did an extensive D’Elia Family Christmas this year, with our family tree and ornaments, and white lights all around the outside of the house, as we’d done in Mineola.  We were joined by Krissi and Mike and even Kenny and Chris came from the West Coast!  All the D’Elia Family traditions were in force, from the kids putting their special ornaments on the tree while decorating, to Lobsters,  Italian sandwiches and Cold Duck on Christmas Eve, to stockings Christmas morning!   It was a very successful transition of the holidays from Long Island to Ocean City!

 

As we had done the two years before, late January found us heading south to Florida, for 78FD7BA1-8112-43FE-9CD3-5E46701611C9what is fast becoming a Susie and Frank in retirement tradition! We love car trips and we traveled down the west coast, came across the Tamiami Trail, went down to Key West, spent 5 great days with my cousins Jeanne and Walt, and ended our stay at DisneyWorld.   It was wonderful to have a 3 plus week visit to summer, but when it was over, it was also great to get back to our home!  

As spring came to the Mid Atlantic States, we enjoyed the longer days and the increasing temperatures.  There was work to be done in and around the house, but knowing that we’d be the only ones to enjoy it, and not renters, made it fun to do!  Summer came, and so did friends and family, and the activity level in Ocean City ramped up.  While we do enjoy the quiet of the off season, there is a lot more energy in the town during the summer, and although we could do without a few of the summer renters, it is wonderful to see all the happy families that love our now hometown! 

So that’s our tale. We now call a place that I first went to when I was 5 in 1955, took Susie to in 1980, a place we both loved, and a house in a location we dearly love, our home. It’s a story about family and friends that are like family, about making choices for your future, and about making decisions that pay off in the end.  It’s also the story of a house that we’d lived in for 31 years, that was a great place to raise our three kids, go on to another life.  It wasn’t demolished, but rather a new family is making it their own, and it’s life, and memories of happy times will continue!  Yes, we could have sold it a lot sooner, could have spent less money carrying it for a year plus, could have realized our grand Tag Sale plan wasn’t going to fly, but in the end, we got what we needed, left a little on the table for the new owners, and started life in our “new” home that we loved. 

Our dream was to have a house in Ocean City, and to not only have that dream come true, but to have it come true as successfully as we now have, well, we figure we must have done something right along the way!  It’s a story with a very happy ending about living out your life, living your dream!  What could be better!

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Ocean City – Part 9

img_0788If you’ve read every chapter in this saga, you’ll recall that our original plan was to buy and then flip this house down the road.  The details of the plan were simple….to buy the house and then sell it in a couple of years for substantially more than we’d paid for it, and then do the same thing again.  It sounded good when we bought in 2005,  but several factors intervened and changed that plan.  

First, the collapse of the housing bubble and the subprime mortgage crisis that occurred between 2007 and 2010 severely reduced housing prices across the country, including in Ocean City.  The bottom line was that we’d bought the place near the top of the curve, and our house just wasn’t worth what we’d paid for it.  Unlike many others, we’d made a pretty substantial downpayment, and had no problem paying our mortgage. We were not in risk of losing the property, but the ability for us to be able to sell for more than we’d paid just wasn’t there.

The second reason was that we no longer had any desire to sell the house, and it really didn’t matter to us if the house was worth more or less than we’d paid for it!  We were surrounded by friends who we’d started to think of as family, and between our perfect location, and our life we had in Ocean City, Susie declared that there was no way we were ever going to sell this house!

She was soooo right!

U1%FWAFbRJGRlp2oEKUPZQ_thumb_31a1Living right next door to Pennlyn Place’s Mayor, Doc Anderson, just made it a perfect location.   Everybody on Pennlyn Place knows Doc, so anytime we’ve ever met new people on the street, we just say we live next to Doc, and everybody knew where we were!  I met Doc the morning after we bought the house, and he has been a huge part of our life ever since.  Doc has been the one who has introduced us to neighbors, who has made sure we’re included in events, and who has helped our Ocean City Family grow.  I’m not just using that word, because to our minds, these friends are our family.

For example, let’s talk about when that wonderful hurricane Sandy decided to aim at the Jersey Shore!  The Governor had ordered an evacuation of Cape May County, but several of our full time neighbors decided to stay.  Doc on one side, and Patti and Meade on the other side were here through the storm, and fed us updates on what was happening on Pennlyn Place.  Luckily, Sandy decided to make landfall just a couple of miles to our North, which lessened Ocean City’s damage.  That’s not to say that it wasn’t a devastating storm, and that there wasn’t millions of dollars worth of damage on our island, but it wasn’t as bad as some of the pictures you saw on TV of other Jersey Shore communities!  

So, as the storm approached, Doc would send us pictures and reports from Pennlyn.  Even before the storm hit, the high winds caused us on Long Island to lose electric and cable.  We continued to communicate via our cell phones, finding info on the web that img_0806we shared, and hearing first hand stories from OC.  I remember Doc sending us the first pictures of the Atlantic Ocean rolling down Corinthian towards Pennlyn after it had breached the dunes north of us.  Then there were pictures from Patti and Meade’s of the river Pennlyn had become, and pictures Doc took of what our houses looked like.  Our Ocean City Family had weathered the storm on Pennlyn, but there was a lot of work ahead for all!

On the second day of no electric on Long Island, we went over to our friends Pat and Steve’s for dinner.  Steve had hooked up a generator and had satellite TV, and for the first time in several days, we were actually seeing the damage the storm had caused.  As we were sitting in their den, Fox News cut to a feed from their Fox 29 affiliate of a helicopter flying over the Jersey Shore.  We were shocked when we realized that they were over Ocean City, and even more when we recognized Pennlyn Place!  By this time the water had receded, and everything looked normal, but it really wasn’t.

On the third day, we heard from Doc that electricity was back and that they were going to open the island at noon.  At that point, we were still without electric or cable in Mineola, and laughingly decided to evacuate to the Jersey Shore!  After waiting in line for more than an hour for gas, we started on a roundabout route down to the shore, attempting to avoid any of the bottlenecks we’d heard about.  As we passed our first rest area on the Garden State Parkway, and saw a line for gas that backed up onto the parkway, we realized we’d made a good decision to gas up before we left.  Those conditions also existed at the next rest area we passed, but as we got further south, there were no lines.  As we got off at exit 30, we realized why…electric was on, gas supplies were plentiful, and it was business as usual!

We decided to stop at Acme in Somers Point before heading to the island, and were shocked to see fully stocked shelves, including shelf after shelf of bread and cases of milk.  Both had been long gone from Long Island.  When we got to the house, we found all that the receding waters had left behind, but we had electricity, heat, and even cable TV.  We decided that we were in much better shape than we’d been in Mineola that morning!

Because of the way our house is built, we were fortunate that no living space was damaged.  The ocean water invaded our under-house garage, coming up about 2 and a half cinder blocks from the floor.  Yes, we’d lost some things, but we’d been lucky that the water stopped about half a cinder block from our furnace.  We lost our garage refrigerator, some golf clubs, a lot of booze and soda, but boy did we have a mess to clean up!

For the next couple of days, we were dragging everything out of the garage, power washing and bleaching the floors and walls, shoveling “sludge” in the street, throwing out things that had been ruined, cleaning everything else, and trying our best to erase the effects of Sandy.  It was hard work, but the great thing was we were all out there doing it together!  We laughed with each other, we realized how lucky we’d been, we ate and drank together, and we continued to solidify the relationships that turned friends and neighbors into family!  It was the Silver Lining of the Cloud called Sandy!

And that’s the way it continued to be.  On any given Saturday night, year round, there is always a group from Pennlyn out to dinner in a local restaurant.  It can be 3 or it can be 18, but it’s one of the givens in our life! Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, if we are in Ocean City, we feel like we are home!  From the minute we drive over the new 9th Street Bridge, we know we are home and that our friends and family are close.  If we need help, we know where to go.  If were on our front porch, we’re just as likely as not to have someone walk, bike, or drive by, and stop up and join us.  It’s just a place where we have a life that we really never had on Long Island!

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Just part of our OC Family on a recent Saturday Night

We were very fortunate when it came time to retire, because we knew exactly where we were going to go!  We didn’t have to be scared we didn’t know anybody, or were unfamiliar with the lay of the land, or wondered if the decision we made was the right one.  We knew all along!!

As I said earlier, all through our ownership of 854, we would spend at least 2 out of 4 weekends a month here.  As the years went by, we rented less in the summer and kept more weeks for ourselves.  The last full year I worked at WABC, we spent the entire 5 weeks of July here, and much of the shoulder season.  When I retired at the end of January, 2016, one of our biggest thrills was Sunday nights in Ocean City!  Having always had to head home for work on Monday, Sunday nights seemed to be a “forbidden fruit”, if you will.  Now that we both were retired (Susie had retired a couple of years before me), we NEVER traveled anymore on a Friday or a Sunday, and discovered how much easier it was to make trips to and from Ocean City on a Tuesday or Wednesday.  Sunday nights were just Sunday nights, and we loved it!  

In the next 2 sagas of our story, join us as we rent 854 for the last time, empty out a house we lived in for 31 years, and turn a second home into our primary residence!  Next time on Our New Adventures!

 

 

Ocean City – Part 7

img_0788So, when we last left you, we’d taken possession of 854 Pennlyn Place, and started our life as a landlord.  Now, was that something we wanted to do?  Ah, no, not at all, but with the help of our summer rentals, we could afford to own this wonderful place, but it was not without it’s issues!

Let’s start at the very beginning, the night of January 28th, 2005!  We’d closed on a Friday afternoon, and that was to be our first night sleeping in our new beach house.  Let’s just say, there were times that night when we wondered what we’d done!  It all had to do with a very interesting upstairs tenant.

Let me back up a bit, and explain a bit about 854 Pennlyn.  In the old days, we’d call this a Duplex, or a Two Family House, with two 3 bedroom 2 bath domiciles in the same building.  Today, it’s called a condo, and when we bought the first floor of 854, we also became members of the 854 Pennlyn Condo Association.  So the “upstairs tenant” was a tenant of our co-owners, who owned the second floor unit.

The reason we wondered what we’d done, was this upstairs tenant had a small dog, that spent the entire night running from the back of the house to the front of the house non-stop!  I haven’t thought about that night in a long time, but just writing that last sentence brought back the feeling of absolute frustration we both felt that first night.  The tenant was a pip, but as they say on TV, wait, there’s more!

Upstairs was owned by two young couples who had bought the property as an investment.  The husbands worked together and they both lived nearby in Egg Harbor Township, that was until one of them got transferred to Chicago.  It was the couple that got transferred that was the point person we were dealing with.

img_0786Turned out that the upstairs tenant was a co-worker of the husbands who was just in as a Winter Rental.   The couple we dealt with was very nice, and when I mentioned the dog, the wife said to me, “Wait…he’s got a dog?”  Turns out that the tenant had asked the landlords if he could get a dog, and they emphatically said, “NO”.  Strike # 1!  Then I discovered that he’d also asked if he could get a satellite TV dish installed on the house, and again the answer was, “NO”.  I’m sure you can guess what was hanging off the back end of the house…wait for it….yep, a satellite dish!  Strike #2. 

We had very little interaction with the tenant, who apparently couldn’t figure out that we were coming down most weekends that first winter, because on a number of occasions, we’d find he or his girlfriend blocking the whole driveway!  That was until one weekend where we came on a Friday night and every light upstairs was on.  Same thing Saturday night and we never heard a sound all weekend.  When we came back the next weekend, we found the lights still glowing brightly, and again no sound upstairs.  I called the woman we dealt with, and told her that it looked like their tenant was gone.  Gone he was!

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We saw his car…as close as we got!

 

As I said he worked with the husbands, and later found out they worked at a nationwide mortgage concern.  Turns out that this “friend” they rented to, who had very obviously done whatever he wanted as a tenant, had done much the same at work.  There were rumors of embezzlement, and one day, he just didn’t show up, and was never seen again!  I never heard what happened at work, but know that he not only skipped out still owing the upstairs folks rent money, but cost them money as he’d trashed their rental.  An expensive lesson they learned….never rent to friends!!  Strike #3!

img_0785Luckily, our rental history was much smoother.  We rented via three real estates in Ocean City, and had a web listing on Summer Shore Rentals that we used to rent directly.  Other than the annoying woman, who bitched daily about the noise from the new house being built down the street (our friends Patti and Meade), until we gave her back some money, we were lucky.  We had great repeat renters, who wrote lovely things in our guest book, and treated our beach house like their beach house.  We loved the location, and so did they.  

IMG_2979Other than the fact that we weren’t here for much of the summers, and we hated preparing the house for others to rent, we appreciated the money we made each summer, and loved using the house the rest of the year.  I’d have to say, that during the first 12 years or so of ownership, we were down in Ocean City on the average of 2 weekends a month.  We loved being down here, and as we spent more and more time, our Ocean City Family grew.  We attended weddings on the beach, parties at neighbors houses, Saturday night dinners out, several Pennlyn Place Block Parties, St. Patty’s Day and New Year’s Eve events, and even went to a couple of local fund raisers.  Let’s not talk about the Kentucky Derby party we went to one year where Susie “claims” I got drunk on Mint Juleps!  

 

 

 

 

Yes, our plan to flip this house was long gone.  Turns out that even if we wanted to, there was no way we could leave Doc and Doie, Patti and Meade, Denise and Chris, Bob and Karen, Dale and Barbara, Rod and Helena, Georgia and Vinny, Jane and John or all the other folks we consider to be our Pennlyn Family!  Yes, we are anchored here in many ways, but the biggest for us by far, are the people that make up our Ocean City life!  That’s why it was an easy decision to make, when we had to decide where to retire.

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Coming up next…owners!

Ocean City – Part 6

 

We first saw the property of 854 Pennlyn on December 28, 2004. Exactly one month later, on the afternoon on January 28, 2005, we were sitting in the office of NJ Title Company on West Avenue in Ocean City signing a ream of legal papers.  By the time we left the office, we were the proud new owners of the first floor of 854 Pennlyn Place!  Our dream of having a house in Ocean City, had turned into a reality!  

 

img_0780 It was a great feeling, knowing that although we would be renting out the house during the summer, we also would be using it as much as possible.  Unlike the Las Vegas house, this was by no means just an investment, it was a real place just 3 hours away from home in Mineola.  Speaking of investments, let me tell you what our plan was when we bought 854.  If you remember, in Part Five of this epic, I spoke about the increases in property values Ocean City had been experiencing.  Fantastic double digit value increases had been the norm for the couple of years before we bought, and although our place was only 4 years old, we were the third owners.  The others had bought it, held it for a couple of years, and then sold at a substantial price increase.  That was also our plan before we spent that first night.  We’d keep it for a year or two, flip it for something bigger and more expensive, continue to do that, and eventually perhaps have a million $ plus house right on the beach.  Then something changed.
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On the morning of January 29th, 2005, I came out the front door of the house and was standing on the front porch surveying my kingdom.  As I was standing there, a gentleman came out of the small bungalow to my left.  He said good morning, and asked if we were renting the place for the week (that’s mainly what had been happening to our place as the former owners rarely used it).  I replied that no, we’d just closed on it yesterday, and were the new owners.  The gentleman walked down his steps, crossed to ours, came up on the porch and shook my hand.  That was the morning I met our next door neighbor, Doc Anderson, and the beginning of our first “flip house” turning into our forever home!  

IMG_2654We call Doc the Mayor of Pennlyn, and with good reason…he knows and talks to everyone on the street!  Doc was also our introduction to so many of our friends, that we feel like we’ve known them forever!  Over the years, our group of friends has increased, be they full time residents, of which there are many on our block, or the summer/weekend friends that get down here as much as possible.  In a very short time, we’d met lots of them, and we found that we were down at the Ocean City house an average of 3 weekends a month!  Oh yes, we had indeed found our special place, our sanctuary, our place populated with friends that feel like family.  Our happy place that just getting to, no matter what our moods, made us feel happy…..854 Pennlyn Place!  

So now that we were owners, we really took a good hard look at the place, and what we saw really didn’t thrill us.  The house was decorated with a real tropical theme, with lots of wicker furniture, but the closer we looked at some of the furniture, the more issues we saw.  It turned out that some of wicker furniture was held together with tape, that was keeping the wicker from unraveling.  Of particular concern to us were the chairs of the dining room set, that sagged every time you sat in them.  We could just imagine that a renter would sit in one, end up on the floor, and a lawsuit would arrive in our mailbox.  Also, it only provided seating for 4, so a new table was in order.  Looks like a trip to Platts was in our near future!

 

              Old to New

Platts is a wonderful beach furniture store that you pass in Somers Point on the way into Ocean City.  We’d wandered in there several times, fawning over the incredible beach furniture, and now we were going to get to buy something!!!  In short order we found the perfect table and ordered it…the first of many, many orders we’d place at Platts over the next couple of years!  Before long, we’d bought a new coffee table, new snack tables, a couple of chairs, lamps, and even a bed.  Then there were other chairs (including one that went home to Mineola), more lamps, and assorted other items that upgraded the house.  As I said, the more we looked at things, the more issues we saw.  We honestly wondered if the former owners had furnished the place with garage sale finds or even things picked up at the curb on trash day!  Boy, had we learned our lesson about beauty being skin deep!  But the good news was that the house itself was in good condition, so as long as we were just dealing with decorative items, we were happy!

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When we bought

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After our Platts visits

Our first year, we listed the house with 3 local real estate brokers, and in pretty short order, we’d rented most of the summer.  That first Spring, we took a week off from work to make sure the house was ready for our guests.  We’d loved the houses that we’d rented that seemed like homes, not just investments,  and that was what we wanted our renters to feel. That was one of the things we loved about renting Denise’s house on Asbury.  A funny story…when we told Denise (who’d become more a friend than a landlord) that we wouldn’t be back the summer of 2005 and why, she told us that she and a friend were starting a Saturday House Cleaning business.  We ended up being her first customer!  She was an important part of our team during those first years of rental, and treated our house like her own.  Every week after she cleaned our house, she’d call and tell us everything was ready for the new tenants and rated the tenants who’d just moved out!  Perfect!

Of course, we’d kept 2 weeks mid July for us, but as the first renters moved in, we were already anxiously counting the time till we’d be back!  For us, the two worst parts of renting were those last moments when we left before the first rental, and the day we returned.  The first was hard because we knew there’d be somebody else living in our home, and the second because we knew there would be work getting the house back in shape!  It may seem like a little thing if you’ve never rented out your house, but trying to find where pots and pans had gone, and bringing some semblance of order to the kitchen cabinets and drawers left us wondering so many times, “why would you put that there????”  We quickly learned it was just part of the summer house rental game.  

We had some great rental experiences and some not so great.  One of the not so greats was the Saturday Denise called us to report that our last renters had left the house a mess, and she’d found mustard in the bathroom tub and hair in the refrigerator.  Interesting, to say the least!  Then there was the renter that kept calling and complaining because they were building a house down the street (our good friends Patti and Meade’s new place), and she couldn’t enjoy her vacation.  We sent her back some money, and she surprisingly had no problems!

Then there were the great ones.  Like the family that battened down our house, put away our porch furniture, and treated it like it was their house, when a hurricane approached Ocean City late in the summer.  They were with us for a number of years!  There was also a lovely lady who came from Arizona every summer to return to her South Philly routes and vacation in Ocean City.  She loved Ocean City and loved our house and sharing it with her family.  We were very sad after she was with us for 4 years, to get an email from one of her friends that she’d died of cancer.  She said one of her best memories was the time she’d spent with her good friend at our house by the sea.  There are some good times when you rent to people who love your house as much as you do!

Coming next…the joy of being a landlord, and the thrill of stopping!