Smile though your heart is breaking?

My father, an attorney turned French professor, taught me never to ask a question I didn’t already know the answer to. I find that’s a great cross-examination technique, but a hard way to learn, especially for people who’ve been out of the Ike loop. For instance, I reconnected with a couple of wonderful old friends on Facebook this week, and had to finesse the answer to “What’s new?” Things are really great, but it’s so hard to explain why without diving into the yin of our yang. Such a simple question with such huge bunny trails. So finesse from me these days sounds something like this:

6-bedroom/5+ bath Lasker Home for Homeless Children is on the market for $999,900. Owner says "Bring all offers!"

6-bedroom/5+ bath Lasker Home for Homeless Children is on the market for $999,900. Owner says “Bring all offers!”

This month, Jody & I took a Carnival Cruise that truly was. Then fifteen of her family came down for the weekend, and stayed with me in my office, which is in the Lasker Home for Homeless Children, and is where I live. I cooked some cool stuff I’ve snagged and adapted from The Food Network, like shrimp & grits and tempura fried asparagus. We went to the newly renovated Galveston Country Club for the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet Friday night, and had Sunday brunch at the new Olympia Grill on Harborside. (Scallops on the half shell with wasabi seaweed and soy sauce… Oh, my GAWD!)

This beautiful little girl adopted me on July 23, 2009. We met for the first time at the Dairy Queen in Buffalo, Texas.

This beautiful little girl adopted me on July 23, 2009. We met for the first time at the Dairy Queen in Buffalo, Texas.

Two days ago, I drove my borrowed car to Buffalo, Texas, where I adopted a two-year old cavapoo (King Charles Cavalier Spaniel/Poodle) I named Kaki, after my mother. Kaki came back with me to live in the Lasker Home with my other adopted kids — Radisson, Aesop, and Dudley. The irony is not lost on any of us.

I commonly write about the state of real estate on the Island — a feat which generally requires statistics of some sort — so this month I was able to submit my first article since last September to The Islander Magazine for the August issue. It tells us that in June alone we did 31% of all the business that’s been done since January. Our market is finally chasing last year’s, and activity and values are up.

I also interviewed with Houston Chronicle reporter Nancy Sarnoff and we discussed Galveston real estate and the fact that Keller Williams is growing and looking to add agents in Galveston. We talked about the foreclosures that are just now catching up with ordinary people who have been un- or under-employed since last September, and how mortgage companies have had problems of their own, so they have missed the point with our displaced and damaged homeowners. (That’s a really kind way to look at it.) We agreed that humiliation is one of the biggest impediments to these people’s recovery.

Dead tree removal experts came by to evaluate the dead trees in my yard, that is, the Lasker Home’s yard. Eventually they’ll come chop them down, but first they’re focusing on the dead 100-year old oak trees around schools so they can get those out before school starts up again. Meanwhile, we’re just planting annuals around their bases and letting vines climb them for the greenery.

Last week at Galveston Masterminds, a monthly real estate event I host at Lasker House, a homeowner confronted our Tax Assessor/Collector, Cheryl Johnson, to unofficially protest his tax value. His house is picture-perfect on the outside, he said. Beautifully landscaped and painted with no visible flaws. This is because of his “pride of ownership,” he boasted. But inside, he has no air conditioning or water, he complained, and his living conditions are abysmal. He wanted his tax value lowered. You could see the little cartoon bubbles popping up over everyone in the room’s heads, saying: “Dude, Why in the world would you landscape before you fix your A/C???”  But Cheryl just said kindly, “Give us a call. You can protest over the phone. We can’t tell about your condition from outside.”

“No,” he said. “You should just know.”

Note to self: A painted-on exterior can hide a multitude of sins, but it doesn’t make you cool. People just think you have a perspiration problem.

P.S. Speaking of stinks, last week Galveston City Council finally passed a smoking ban… the toughest in Texas, I’m told. You can’t believe how many people still think it’s unfair.


Copyright © 2009 Alice Melott

Essays by this author can also be read by joining

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  1. #1 by Mary Lee on July 25, 2009 - 8:56 pm

    Great article! Your writing is so inviting, Alice. I can picture everything you mention. I love the spiritual message in that guy’s plea about the state of his house vs. his tax assessment. Thanks for including that. Beautiful!
    Mary Lee – Jakarta, Indonesia

  2. #2 by Mary Lee on July 25, 2009 - 8:59 pm

    One more comment – Welcome Kaki. Truly adorable little puppy. And very lucky to have found you!
    Mary Lee, Jakarta, Indonesia (formerly of Houston)

    • #3 by amelott on July 25, 2009 - 9:10 pm

      So happy to hear from you, Mary Lee! How are all of you? Jakarta still agreeing with you? Do you ever come back?

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