Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Lease Purchase Christmas Carol (Parts 1 & 2)

 A Lease Purchase Christmas Carol ©
(with Sincere Apologies to Charles Dickens)

By Claude “What the Dickens” Diamond

Part 1- Agony

I remember when it was “the best of times” in the Lease Purchase Creative Real Estate Business, but for the last couple of years it has been “the worst of times”.

I really couldn’t afford the hot meal that I was currently eating, but I was starving. I sat down to a steaming giant bowl of Chioppino, at my favorite Seattle Pub on the water. It was full of Shrimp, Scallops, Lobster and the local catch of the day, Halibut or Sea Bass. I grabbed a chunk of the warm, freshly baked Sour Dough bread and dunked it in the rich red broth, cherishing every bite. Man, I was Hungry. I ordered another Anchor Steam Beer, my favorite. 

I hadn’t eaten in 2 days, not since the visit by my Old Lease Purchase Mentor, Max. Oh yes, did I fail to mention that he passed away many years ago? Yes, this is a ghost story, but first let me give you a little more background.

Emily, my Girlfriend, she hated it when I described her by the term, Wife, she felt it was an unromantic description of our relationship. We had a great life together. We had known each other since high school, went on to college, graduate school and had a Fun $35 wedding in Vegas, which she paid for. We had two kids, a boy and a girl. I went on to Corporate America and she became a stay at home, homeschooling Mom. The Lexis and the Caddie were always new and shiny.

All was going according to plan, we were part of The American Dream. Money was good and got even better, when I began my own Real Estate Investment Company. We had the life, the vacations to Europe and Hawaii every year, no balance on the credit cards, best restaurants. Yup, we had it all and then as quickly as we had it, we lost it all. The economy, the banks and most importantly, the real estate market crashed.

I should have seen it coming, all of the signs were there. When it hit us, we lost our savings and the new McMansion lost all of its equity with crazy high payments, which we couldn’t afford. I figured that I was always a good provider and I would be able to turn things around.

It was only a month ago, that I was trying to get up the courage to tell Em that there would be no Christmas gifts this year. In fact, we were probably going to lose our home in the next 30 days if I couldn’t pay the back payments on our home.  We stopped using the heating system and resorted to me chopping wood for the Franklin Stove. The Electric Company was threatening to shut off the electricity! I gave the Lexus back at the end of the 12 month lease and bought a used Volkswagen Bug with 150K miles on it. 

All this was going on in my head, as I pulled into the driveway. It was already dark at 5:30 in the evening. Damn, there was nosy Lenny, my neighbor. You can imagine that this was a very embarrassing situation, even the neighbors got into the picture of our economic demise when I showed up in a Bug.

Hey Ralph, how come the house is always so dark? You starting a candle making business? His Smirk could be seen between the yards of our homes. He had the manicured home, while my domain needed a new coat of paint 3 years ago.

Just trying to create a romantic atmosphere Lenny, I replied nonchalantly.

Is that car a classic? Looks like the one I drove in high school, he laughed.

Why didn’t this jerk just mind his own business. I waved good bye as I went through the front door. The kids were busy doing homework in front of the TV;  the small one with the rabbit ears antennae, as we lost cable service last month. Emily came to the door as she always did smiling and gave me her perfunctory kiss. How did it go today, Sweetie?

You know same old stuff. Everyone says “call me after the New Year” or “I have to think about it”. I was on a roll with my usual diatribe about the problems with the banks, lawyers, economy and politicians. How an honest Creative Real Estate Investor couldn’t make a living these days. She had heard this quite often.

Why don’t you relax, dinner will be ready in a half hour.

What are we having, Em?

Leftover Mac N Cheese Casserole, she replied.

Gawd, I was so sick of that stuff, but I kept my mouth shut. If it wasn’t for her part-time nursing job, we would have been living with the in-laws.  Need I go on about that with you? I retreated to my office and looked over the bills. I knew that there wasn’t anything I could do about them. Heck, I didn’t even have enough money for gas. 

We had a quiet dinner.  All I wanted to do was shower, crawl into bed and pull the cover over my head. I hate Mac N Cheese. I think I know what depression is. All I was doing was thinking about money day and night. I had to turn things around, but how? I had to stop this crash, not so much for me, but for Emily and the kids. 

I needed a Christmas Miracle like in the old movies and I needed one fast.

To be continued tomorrow

Part II - The Return Of Max

Part II - The Return Of Max

I went to bed early that night as I was exhausted from lack of sleep and money stress. I woke up about 11:30 PM and felt ravenous. I guess the Mac N Cheese didn’t really stick to the ribs, so I stealthily got out of bed without waking Emily or the kids in their rooms. The house was so quiet. Looking outside the window, I saw a gentle snow beginning to cover the lawn. Odd, as I didn’t recall the weatherman predicting any precipitation.

I made my way down the stairs to the fridge.  I recalled that I had a slice of leftover NYC style pizza that I brought home 3 or 4 days ago from my favorite cheap pizzeria. It was still in the brown paper bag with the wax paper around it.  It was cold and stale, of course and I decided not to use microwave, as the noise would wake up the kids. I smeared some decadent thick and gloppy mayo all over it and tossed a couple of jalapeño peppers on it for good measure, just to beef up my questionable feast and then opened a bottle of beer. I think it was my very last can of Dale’s Pale Ale. Too expensive to buy premium beer anymore. I either had to switch to the flavorless popular light junk beer you see in football game ads or quit altogether.  Can’t even enjoy a beer anymore without thinking about the money problems. Where would this all end, I pondered?

I took my midnight feast to the Lazy Boy lounge chair, put up my feet and proceeded to demolish the cold pizza and beer.  It was delicious BTW or I was damn hungry.  After a satisfying regurgitation, which was a little too loud for comfort, I fell fast asleep enjoying the warmth of the room. Thank Goodness for the Franklin Stove. Yup, snug as a bug.

I was awakened by a noise and a chilly blast of wind that blew across the room. Man it was cold in here. I had better throw some wood in the stove and toast things up a bit. Wonder why the fire almost went out? I tended to it not 15 minutes ago. As I knelt by the old black wood burner stoking the embers, a haunting, but familiar voice called me; 

Ralph, why have you called me back?

I almost lost my late night snack, upon hearing the unearthly sound. I quickly spun around, the adrenaline was making my heart beat as fast as hummingbird wings. I beheld someone I recognized, an old friend, but something was different. I realized that I hadn’t seen Max, my old Mentor, in at least 10 years or more.  He was dead, he had died a long time ago.

Again, why have you called me back?  He repeated.

I didn’t think I had, Max. Why are you here? How did you get in? You are dead, aren’t you? When I stopped with the rapid fire questions he spoke softly. 

When the student is ready, the Mentor will always appear. Have you forgotten all of the entrepreneurial secrets of The Society of Mentors which I once taught you?  I gave you everything you needed. Why have you forsaken all of my teachings, those of unlimited wealth, health and happiness?

Max, you don’t understand it’s the economy and the.....

SILENCE, he bellowed. You should be ashamed of yourself. Have you no pride, no self worth. Blaming others, circumstances, politics, the weather, for your misfortune. HOW DARE YOU !!!!

WOW, was he mad!  Maybe this is what I get for eating old pizza at night, I thought. I made an immediate mental note to forgo old Italian food with mayonnaise and jalapeños in the future. 

SILENCE your petty thoughts Ralph and pay attention, for I will only ask this question once. Would you like to turn your financial standing and your life around in the next 30 days and give your lovely family a truly memorable Christmas, free of financial worry and debt or would you rather continue on the path you have created for them? You will not receive this offer again. As you know, I only make offers once and then you are dead to me.

You must decide NOW !!! 

Heck, what did I have to lose, I muttered to myself. I nodded in agreement, not wanting to anger my old Mentor again.

Then before the sun rises, you will be visited upon by 3 Apparitions. Take serious heed as to what they say and show you.

Who are they Max?

They are the Real Estate Entrepreneurs of the Past, Present and Future. They will show you the errors of your ways. They will teach or better said, re-educate you;  if you have the courage to learn. Are you ready to accept this challenge, this Gauntlet for the sake of your Wife and Children?

Yes, I replied and with that he vanished as eerily as he had appeared.   
Wondering what the heck had just happened, I decided that this ghost was probably just some undigested pizza and this was all a bad  and wacky dream. I climbed back into the chair and promptly fell asleep.

Part III -Tomorrow

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