After some high-spirited family discussion, (my wife spoke and I listened) we decided to join the celebrated ranks of home ownership. We desperately wanted to participate in the Australian dream, to owner/occupy our very own corner of this lucky country and to live with some alleged honor and dignity.
However, it's the Coalition Government's view that if you have a wife, 2 point 4 children, a mortgage, a station wagon, a dead-end job and an unhealthy obsession for sport and beer, then you have no time for dignity? Good point.
Anyway, we went to the bank (that place where you can borrow enough money to get out of debt) and applied for a home loan. The bank manager crunched some numbers and on his estimate, our monthly mortgage-repayments would roughly equal the Gross National Product of Argentina.
After some energetic CPR, I picked myself up off the floor, thanked the paramedics and was gleefully informed by my wife that our loan application was off for approval. The quest for Shangri-la had begun.
The first property we inspected was in Mermaid Beach, where we met the real-estate agent at the address. "This is a great little renovator," he proudly announced before handing us a compass and a machete. He then pointed toward what was obviously its very own thriving Eco-system and informed us that the front door was that-a-way. He politely declined to join us as Italian patent-leather and jungle mulch don't mix, and besides, he hadn't had his malaria shots.
My wife and I finally made it to the front door, but not before being stalked by a large feline predator of some kind and stumbling across the ruins of a lost civilization. If we thought the exterior had been left to its own devices, then the interior was definitely on the feral side of rustic.
At first glance the wallpaper seemed to be made of shag-pile carpet that actually turned out to be an aggressive species of primordial fungus, and chemical analysis of a purple stain showed it to be the original color.
Needless to say we passed on this offering and continued our search. What an ordeal. It didn't take long before house hunting became a nervous strain as we endured disappointment after disappointment. Walking into houses and immediately suffering that sinking feeling, that one similar to discovering blood in your urine, was becoming all too familiar.
On our journey we were also unfortunately introduced to all variety of crackpot and oddity that allegedly constitute our fellow man. Amongst an engorgement of tedious and ill-informed commentary, these malformed anthropoids love to tell horror stories in graphic detail associated with home ownership.
One of the more popular anecdotes is when a brown, sludge-like substance oozes up through the lawn turning the backyard into the Okeechobee. "Yep, you gotta watch out for that one young fella. Will end up costin' ya a pretty penny," came the warning in monotone chorus.
It was interesting how sewage disasters of all types completely occupied their mediocre little minds. Endless rhetoric about septic discharge and fecal flow had my brain dribbling vital fluid until it eventually shriveled up and blew away with the prevailing wind. If I wanted continuous toilet references, I'd watch 'South Park'.
Being shown shabby real-estate by embarrassed agents was one thing, but it was the private sales that provided an insight into the terrifying depths of humanity that menacingly lurk amongst a fractured society. On one such sale, we were shown around by the owner - a half man, half ape-like creature where evolution had apparently passed him by.
After several unsuccessful attempts at communication which included some rudimentary drawings, we decided that even the briefest exposure to walls the color of a discharged placenta would render permanent psychological and emotional damage. So, we declined his offer via jungle drums and our disheartening mission continued.
At another address where the police crime-scene tapes should have been warning enough, the wacko owner answered the door wearing nothing but a black balaclava, army boots and holding an AK-47 assault rifle. But by now, this kind of behavior seemed normal, if not somewhat conservative.
As time passed, our spectacular failures in finding something to our liking was becoming increasingly frustrating. Were our demands that unreasonable, why was this so hard?
Things began to get desperate. Finding something that we could afford close to the beach became a lost cause. Tragically, our search had to move inland where high-density suburbia, (that place where you can just feel yourself sliding down the evolutionary scale) sprawled out for as far as the eye could see.
This was also a spectacular failure as we didn't really want to live in a place where dating your mother is seen as normal behavior. At one house we inspected, the owner appeared to spend his day sucking opiates through a straw and drinking out of his toilet. His front yard looked like a 747 crash site and I'm sure the house across the road was where the Munsters lived.
At the end of the day, it was sadly obvious that we didn't have the capital to buy what we wanted. We went back to the bank for more money but the request was denied. Another early round knock-out that is my life. (that'll teach me for wanting to be a writer) Oh well, our rented apartment in Burleigh Heads didn't seem so bad after all.
After this frustrating experience, I have shifted my reality into cruise control and for life on the Gold Coast, that's a pretty good way of doing things. If my wife and I ever hope to own prime beachfront-property, I guess I'll just have to author a best seller or write a brainless screenplay for a blockbuster Hollywood feature. And while I'm at it, I'll pay my bills on time, discover a new planet and read Jean Claude Van Damme's autobiography.
I believe that true happiness is about focusing on what you have rather than desiring what you don't. Yeah, this is a cool fundamental principle to live by. Just remember, that every now and then you must surrender to your dreams while allowing disappointment to stir the imagination.
Copyright: Cameron Koo, August 1999