I wasn’t going to do it. The advice from the “wise heads” in my wife’s family was to buy a multi-unit house, have the tenants pay the mortgage, and live in one of the units. They thought I was stubborn and maybe a bit inscrutable when I stated that I would not do it.

I had two reasons for this. First, I noticed that not one “wise head” had used this strategy themselves. And secondly, as the son of a New York City “super,” I had intense memories of weekends away that never happened, Holidays spent cleaning up plumbing messes and emptying trash. But, no, when trouble strikes, it’s the super or the landlord who gets to clean up the mess.
There were some tut-tuts and head nodding that I was just stubborn and expected that my resolve would crumble.

It was then that I recalled my first father-in-law, the Cap’n. He had been a Master Mariner who had come ashore to raise a family and sell soap as a traveling salesman. He was always trying to either get me to leave anthropology, move back to Maine and become a lobsterman, or invest in some idea he had. From him I learned the joys of a firm no.

The Capn’ would always conclude some significant push to persuade or command me by looking me in the eye. Then he’d fill his pipe, light it, puff on it, point it at me, and conclude with some platitude he’d heard his grandfather say. Between the steely glint in his eye, the command tone of his voice, and the inescapable logic of the parable you yielded. Having watched the show and listened to the sayings for years I absorbed what I found useful.

Thinking about this, I selected an appropriate saying that the Cap’n frequently used on me when he felt that I was foolish. In my best ersatz Mainer accent, I told the ‘wiseheads” that I had no intention of ” sinning in haste and repenting at leisure.” End of arguement.

We bought a lovely single family with some esthetic issues, which provided an excellent place to raise the kids. We missed no holiday weekends or events due to tenant-related problems, and my wife and I were pleased.

As the Capn’ used to say, ” if you wish to sup with the devil, make sure to use a long spoon.” Or was it, “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin?”

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