Losing my house (part one million) & New Starts

I don’t know where I left off with the story of my house in Oakland, anyway it’s been listed on the real estate market since May, it’s now mid-November. I *believe* it will close on Friday, we finally got the bank to agree to this extension. If not this week, I think it may go til next Friday.

I had tried since January to get the bank to modify the mortgage, but they wouldn’t play, and there was no way to rent it out in our neighborhood for more than about 2/3 of the monthly cost (not including utilities, of course) so we became obligated to sell. I would have thought that the house would be worth $220k (what I owe on it) but it went way short. The first attempt was tried and failed in late July, the bank (Bank of America, of course) refused to acknowledge receipt of all the documents and then blamed our real estate lady for being “uncommunicative”. Total bullshit, of course. They wouldn’t even respond to tell her what was missing or what was wrong. So I started to get foreclosure notices, and then we went into a short sale agreement again. BoA has completely abused our very awesome realtor in the whole short sale process, it’s pretty sick.

The person/persons attempting to buy this house have offered $135k. Man! If the bank had adjusted my mortgage to that, there would have been no problem. Regardless, the buyers claimed they had a $300k line of direct credit, so the close could happen quickly. This was in August. Then they wavered on taking over the lease on the solar panels, finally did, wavered on getting the documents in in time, and managed to blow off the October closing date. So we extended formally until the end of October, finding out that they in fact fraudulently claimed that they had this line of credit and were seeking backing. They managed to get the documents into the title company at 4:35pm the day before close, sot the title company refused to write up the title transfer.

So we’ve missed the closing date. We asked for a written request for extension. They thought that this might make the bank refuse the sale (?) so hesitated, eventually we get this. Now all docs are in to the bank as of last Friday, but we haven’t heard from the bank for over a week. We’ll see if it actually happened this week.

I would like it to end. Not because I’m super happy about losing the house, mind you. That was my life savings. I had a chunk of money in the late 1990s, my mother died and my brother and I sold the house we grew up in. Like so many other people, I thought hey, the best thing I can do is to buy my own house. But as a musician/miscreant, there was no way to get a large loan like that…unless I offered a bunch of money down. So I put all the money I had, $100k, (half the house in Davis, it sold for $208k!) down on the $250k house in Oakland in 2001. So why did I owe $220k? Well, a year after I bought it, I discovered (by way of having a wet winter where all the sinks backed up randomly in the middle of the night and run all over the wooden floor) that the drainage system was all broken, and in discovering that we needed new drainage dug on the south side of the house where an underground stream flowed, we found that this stream had broken the foundation on the south side of the house! Yay! So I refinanced and got a new loan and a bunch of money to fix the house. And this one was from Countrywide…. yup. Adjustable. Yup. And bought by Bank of America in 2009. So I’ve been paying only interest (all we could afford) and very very little principle for about 10 years. I figure that’s another $200k or so down the drain.

Familiar story? I hear it’s going around. Anyhow, I’ll be glad when this is over so I can feel like I am out from underneath the endless saga and can really start over. For the maybe fourth or fifth time in my life!

I don’t like starting all over again.

Currently this re-do is a big one. Every life reset is somewhat shocking and difficult, you feel like you’re just about at high score and somebody unplugs the game. You get to start the next game at level 1 again, though maybe you know a little about how to get through the lower levels this time. But doing them all over again isn’t so fun, it’s a little back-breaking. (Or maybe it’s like love affairs, as if you could learn something form the previous that would apply to the next, then you find out that each relationship is its own kettle of fish. So to speak.) One little stash of points I have kept at each and every restart has been my instruments, (which I am slowly writing about on this weblog) and this time the best keeper is the family. We all made it to this level!

and we’re where?


I was thinking about all my new starts on the train back from language school this morning. I went from high school to university directly, and from there started playing with Camper Van Beethoven. I graduated from UCSC the same week that our first LP came out. We didn’t make much money that first couple of years, but then I lived mostly off of being a musician in 1987 and entirely in ’88 and on into ’89. Since I had started this trajectory of being a rock musician fairly early, I think of this all as a continuum, it made sense to exit college and make records and tour. Who else can do that besides kids? (Especially these days, financially. It costs a lot to tour, and as you get older it’s nearly impossible to spend that time not working, or away from your family!)

I left/was kicked out of CVB in January of 1989, and moved almost immediately to San Francisco (a *real* city) from Santa Cruz (make believe-land). I tried to keep it going, but I had no manager, no agent, no record label, etc. This was the first real “new start” in my life. It didn’t go well.

I had just released my first solo album, Storytelling, which would have been fine as a side project of Camper (was, in fact) but was not a great calling card to start a new musical career at the time. I started recording what became the first Hieronymus Firebrain record, but similarly, not great stylistically for the time period. Way too prog. We were beginning grunge at the time. A small label agreed to put out the HF on CD, and I put together a band to tour in 1991 to promote it. We opened for the Monks of Doom. We played a bunch of places in the midwest, it was generally fun, but the CD never caught up with us to sell. We found out later that it was pressed in Europe and basically stayed there, I got a few copies and saw that the lovely full color painting that Richard Gann had done had been printed in 2 colors. Ick. There are numerous interesting stories from this tour, but the highlights were that our van’s engine seized and had to be replaced in Iowa city, where we stayed with locals who attacked chairs in the room we were sleeping in with chainsaws in the middle of the night, and that on the way home at the end of the tour, again in Iowa, we skidded off the road on black ice. We were all ok, and so was the van, it slid down the I-80 embankment and sat there resting at an angle against the snowbank. We hitched a ride into town til the next day, when we could get a tow truck and get on our way home to California.

Anyway, back home in SF, I had nothing going on. Not awesome. Here’s a song about this from 1992: A New Start. A friend who was the bartender at my local took over a new bar, so I started bar tending. I spent the next 6 years drunkenly living as a member motorcycle riding royalty of the San Francisco service industry. There’s at least a few novels in there, if not a few film manuscripts… And several songs, on both the Hieronymus Firebrain CDs and the Jack & Jill CDs. (again, see music.jsegel.com)

Victor Krummenacher and I started our own boutique label in 1993, Magnetic, and put out our own (mostly) CDs for a long time, we finally shut it down last year. We never made any money… Though strangely in shutting it down, the IRS has just sent a bill for $2000. Which is more than we earned in the past 5 years, I think.

Round about 1997 or so, alcohol, depression, bad relationships, combined with the never-ending attempt to be a musician (I have never stopped making recordings. Dunno why.) came to a point that demanded change, so I followed a girl to Los Angeles.

New start number 2? A very interesting period of time. I actually had stopped drinking altogether in 1996 or so, for about 10 years. Liver needed some time! And I did eventually get a job, working in the film sound world, for Dane Davis at Danetracks. A very interesting experience. The depression and bad relationships stuff didn’t go away, though. Then I got the offer to join Mark Linkous’ band Sparklehorse, just about when the 2nd record (“Good Morning Spider”) came out. So I took that job.

That was exciting. It lasted for about a year and a half. I was almost a rock star, or at least I made a living ($800/week!) as a musician. High rock-society peer group. (That actually made me a little self conscious about finishing my own records. “Scissors and Paper” remained unfinished during this whole period, as whenever I worked on it I thought about how good Radiohead or PJ Harvey were. I asked Polly Harvey to sing on “Perfect Ears” and “Little Blue Fish”, but she said “No, I don’t think that’s the kind of music I’d like to be doing now.” ) This all ended fairly suddenly, as Mark simply said “OK, we’ll call you” after a tour, and I never heard from them again. I stayed in LA for another year scoring films for people I knew, and wondering what the hell I was doing.

At this time, Camper actually got partially back together to work out what became “Camper Van Beethoven is Dead, Long Live Camper Van Beethoven”.

Not knowing what else I should do, and wondering what sort of music I wanted to make, after making some very specific music for other people (see the row of film scores here:) I applied to graduate school for New Start #3. I applied at a few places, one of which was the University of Hong Kong, which inspired a long trip to Asia. I put everything into storage back in the Bay Area, and left to Southeast Asia for several months. I got accepted to Mills College in Oakland, where Fred Frith was teaching, and was offered an assistantship there, so I took that instead of Hong Kong (who just wanted me to den mother the studio).

So when I got back from Asia, the first thing I did was record Psychedelidoowop with Victor and Eugene Chadbourne, and then started grad school.

I moved to Oakland at this point and here is where I bought the house that started this bit. I spent the last decade living in Oakland, playing a lot of improvised and electronic music with the amazing musicians in the Bay Area, and playing and recording with Camper Van Beethoven, and making some of what I feel are my best albums. I think All Attractions is the best, but I may concede that maybe that’s just because it’s new.

After grad school I taught music theory and “desktop musicianship” at the College of Marin and at Ohlone College, and worked at a bookstore in San Francisco on the days I wasn’t teaching. That was good. Then the giant wall street collapse happened and suddenly all part time teachers for community colleges had their contracts “not renewed”. So I started working at Pandora. Long story here…another entry someday… but anyway, I got let go last spring. You know this stuff that the Trichordist is writing about the company? That’s the sort of thing that I wouldn’t shut up about. That’s why I was “let go”. It was “you should stop questioning things that have been decided by the company” or else “you will have some tough decisions to make”…. *I* will?

Anyway, that precipitated this New Start #4, is it?

Back in September of 1998, during the first European tour I did with Sparklehorse, I met this girl named Sanna. I didn’t actually start speaking much with her until I was in Stockholm again with Eugene Chadbourne a couple years later. But then I saw her at that concert and thought, huh, I assumed she was only into pop music. Well, how about that. We got married in Stockholm on the winter solstice, Dec 22nd, in 2003 (at sunset: 2:30pm), really in order to be able to stay in one another’s country for more than a tourist visa’s length of time. Sanna actually went back and forth for a couple of years, but we ended up living together in Oakland for a good six or so years. Now I guess it’s my turn to be the immigrant.

musician. real person. that's my real name, go ahead, look me up.

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Posted in etc., Music, Sweden
3 comments on “Losing my house (part one million) & New Starts
  1. […] had a house in Oakland for 10 years… I told that story on this blog before… it’s gone now. And all that stuff is now trying to be put into an apartment. All that […]

  2. […] We finally figured out where Cracker’s dressing room tent was and found our way over backstage to it, but everybody was gone except David who was falling asleep on the couch. He had had to get up at 6am to get here on time to play at 1! We were there getting the scoop on the festival from Bobby when John Doe and his girlfriend came by to chat, they were wearing Heart passes (Heart were playing later that evening on the second stage, where CVB would play the next day.) John lives up in Marin County now, I hadn’t seen him since I had moved to Sweden so I had to explain to him a quick sequence of events that led up to me being an ex-pat. (See earlier posts) […]

  3. […] and savings, I’ve got a bunch of parts-made guitars. (I did “own” a house for about a decade. The house story is on this blog as well. It’s […]

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