Friday, August 15, 2008

How Many SSHRC Grants Does It Take To Buy A House In Florida?

A few months ago my father told me that he was looking into buying a house in Florida. Both (sets) of my grandparents have owned homes down there since the early-mid '70s. One side has a condo in Hollywood, the other has a townhouse in Fort Lauderdale. As Jewish kids my cousins and I would go south every winter, eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve, and enjoying snowless nights of mini golf.

Six months ago the Canadian dollar was trading at $1.15 USD. I was eating Rosh Hashana dinner at my mom's parents' house; my cousins were there, my aunts and uncles were there, and both sets of grandparents were there.

"Did you buy U.S. dollars?" my mom's mother asked my dad's mother.



"How much do we need? We're only there four months."

"But next year!"

"Well, next year's next year. But look: this isn't all so good. Do you know what places around us are selling for?"

"I know."

"I can't believe it. Almost what we paid thirty years ago."

My SSHRC grant had just been renewed, and that morning I'd looked at a really nice Cartier self-winding watch: "What'd you pay thirty years ago?"

My dad's father: "A hundred and thirty-five."

Me: "And what did you put down?"

Him: "About forty."

My SSHRC grant paid thirty grand a year. And it was renewable for four years. So one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Canadian. Add fifteen percent for the conversion, and that was a condo.

"Why?" my grandfather asked. "Are you thinking about buying something?"

"I've got this grant. Why not?"

"Now's a great time to buy. Prices can only go up."

So I did it; I bought a condo in Florida. I called SSHRC: "Look," I said. "Instead of sending my cheques to, you know, where you've been sending them, my graduate director told me that this new address is, according to him, the location of some new processing station for grant money."

"Okay," the SSHRC man said. "Do you have that address handy?"

"Sure," I said, riffling some papers. "Uh, it's Wachovia--that's Wachovia Bank--1623 Atlantic Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And that's care of Russ Kleinberg, mortgage officer. Okay? And the account number is 1921-3341-9343. Regarding David Adler."

"Mortgage officer? Are you sure that's correct?"

"Yes. Absolutely. The university's outsourcing. Russ...Russ is handling all of our business. We're buying mortgages now. The whole English department. Five percent yield, you know."

"This doesn't sound quite right."

"Can you read back that account number?"



"Is that a savings account?"

"Savings and mortgage. Mortgage-savings. Saving on my mortgage."

"Excuse me?"

So now I own a two-bedroom, two-bathroom codominium in Fort Lauderdale. Prices have gone down, but my mortgage is locked in.

Last December I had my grandparents over for a housewarming party. I'd just flown in from Toronto, grading exams on my Air Canada flight, landing in Miami, driving an hour through miles of fenced-in, concrete city. I'd hired a Florida-based designer furnish the place with some leftover OGS money, so everything was perfect when I walked through the door. (The walls are cream, the floors done in twelve-inch terra cotta tiles, and I've got a lot of rattan furniture. It's not modern, but it's comfortable.)

"David," my mom's father said. "How can you afford a place like this?"

"I wrote a really good proposal."


"Post-colonialism's big right now."

"I don't know what he's talking about."

My dad's mother: "Look at the floors."

Me: "They must've liked my bibliography."

My mom's mother: "It's beautiful. What are you going to do with all this room?"

Me: "Oh, that's where I'm putting my New Canadian Library collection. All three editions. Complete."

So now my dad's getting a place right around the corner. We can go to Bennigan's, we can go to Jai Alai, we can go to Sawgrass Mills.

"It's the Canada Council, David," he told me. "That's where the real money is."

"I'll remember that."

"Oh, I almost forgot. You know who lives two doors down?"

"At your new place?"



"W.H. New."

"But you're right on the beach. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea."

"I know. Apparently he likes to sail. I'm going out with him tomorrow. He's taking me all around South Beach. We're going to talk about Henry Kreisel."

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