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A $500,000 Home On The Northern Plains To Hide From The Future

Chris Thompson/Defector

It was too hot outside for my dog this week. The sidewalk was hot. She didn't like it. Usually, she wants to walk forever, for miles and miles. And we do. Most days, we walk about five miles, her for her energy and me for my terrible brain. But not this week. There was a heat wave as I'm sure you know, and it was 90% humidity in the District of Columbia. Sweaty. Awful. Swampy. My phone said it felt like 103 degrees outside.

I am no foreigner to heat. I spent my whole childhood building up a heat tolerance on the bottom of my feet so that I could walk on the sidewalk in the summer. My sister and I would play outside in the park, climb the big tree, get our hair parts sunburned, and then lie on the concrete floor on the kitchen eating Pop-Ice, getting goosebumps as I bit the outside of the cold plastic to crush the hard ice. My heat tolerance has waned since then. It's a weakness that I hate, but now I need to wear a hat outside. I can't stay out too long or I get nauseous. The heat is winning.

This week I've been frantic in the heat because for the first time, maybe because of naivety or maybe because the entire pacific Northwest is hotter than the Texas summers of my childhood ever were, I've realized that it's going to keep getting hotter. I knew this academically. I knew that climate change was happening. But I hadn't really processed that several generations fucked things up so horribly that in my lifetime this planet may not be liveable. It's hard to realize that I've lived in D.C. now with three different men in the White House and not one of them has done anything that can actually help us. It's terrifying. The asphalt is buckling. It is only the beginning.

Because of this and because my dog-sitter is moving (a tragedy), I spent a lot of time this week Googling "U.S. city where to live climate change" and "where move global warming." I have long said that I do not have the constitution to survive the apocalypse and nor will I try, but I guess survival instincts still exist in my body. What I have learned from dozens of articles written at least 2 years ago is that most of the writing is probably wrong because they say the West Coast, and it's pretty fucking hot there this week. All the other articles say is the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. The scientists expect that the winters there will get milder and so will the summers, that the access to fresh water is high and that the heat won't kill you...maybe. Sold!

This week's house is in Escanaba, MI. I asked the two members of Team Michigan at what I needed to know about this and both of them were totally useless. Lauren Theisen only contributed that there were strong accents. Maitreyi Anantharaman said, "I have no clue what’s up with the UP but I have heard of Escanaba because my friend’s horrible acquaintance was elected state representative there and is an awful wacko." Cool. That's not helpful. I tried to press them for more but they got distracted talking about some card game called Euchre.

Let's move on to the house. It is big. Four bed, four bath, which will be good for our pals to come visit in the impending terror summers. It is $499,900. That's too much money, but is it too much money to save you from hell? Personally, yes. But whatever! Let's look at this house, shall we?

Screenshot: Zillow

To start we have a lovely entrance. Five steps lead us up to a covered porch. One side of the porch has a window pane which I assume keeps the wind from getting too strong. The front door is a nice cherry colored wood flanked by the most beautiful window bars I've ever seen. They're like the bars people put on first floor apartments in the city to keep them from being broken into except they are designed with nice squares? I love them. Let's go inside.

Already I am psyched to be in this house because I love a double doorway. Inside the front door is a little entryway big enough to fit a bench and a mirror and a little coat stand, with another door and that door is also flanked with framed windows. It opens into a hallway with two doors at the end of it and beautiful pocket door entries to rooms off the side. No one needs to be arrested because no one has painted the beautiful trim.

In the living room we have big windows and a big fireplace with built-in shelves on either side. Beautiful. The pocket doors house even more paned glass! RIDICULOUS! I love it!

Screenshot: Zillow

Through another pocket door, we see the dining room. It is beautiful! There is full 8 foot wood paneling, but the broad kind for fancy people. There are built in china cabinets at the far end of the room. The ceiling is domed, or made to seem domed! There is a beautiful big window. Imagine having Thanksgiving at this table. Imagine setting out all your food down the middle under this big light. So nice. Imagine having the money to flee to this house which is close to the private airport for your private plane while everyone else sweats to death.

Screenshot: Zillow

Usually, the problem with these old beautiful houses is that at some point someone has "renovated" the kitchen so that it not only doesn't fit the vibe of the house but looks like shit. This house is better. This house had people who loved it. The backsplash is a little dated and so are the countertops but the cabinetry works with the rest of the house. There are beautiful, original windows in the kitchen with little hints of color in their designs. We deserve this, don't we? We all do.

Screenshot: Zillow

Something I haven't mentioned yet, that is rather important, is that this listing provides a wonderful treat. Past all the photos, at the very end, there are four images of a letter. The letter is clearly written by the current homeowners. The letter is perfect. It has so much information we do not need because we aren't actually buying this house as much as gawking at it, but it is information we WANT. In the letter we learn that all the cabinets are cherry. That the "butler pantry" (which I assume is this narrow hallway between the dining room and the kitchen with tons of cabinetry and drawers that makes me want to cry with envy) has a "pie warmer radiator." WHAT. IS. THIS!

This letter has a soapbox hidden in it that I too love to stand on. "This house does not offer the post Covid curse of an open floor plan in which private space for work and activities is limited," it says. "It offers multiple spaces for family activities together and apart." While I personally blame HGTV and Trading Spaces for the true pandemic of open floor plan housing, this is absolutely correct. Open floor plans suck. They are hard to heat and cool. They are too loud. They are filled with wasted space! I don't actually want to hear the television when I'm in the kitchen and I don't want you to pretend to be in the kitchen with me when really you are watching television. Let everything be it's own room! It's better!

Okay that's enough of that yelling. Let's go upstairs. In the hallway we have a beautiful staircase. It's so wide. This is definitely wide enough for both me and my dog to walk down without her kneecapping me and breaking my hip. And on the landing there are more fancy windows with stained glass!

Screenshot: Zillow

Upstairs, things are less interesting. There are four bedrooms, none of them fascinating. They all have carpet, however, that is plush enough that you can see that all the furniture is sitting in it like it's jello. Look at this. Look at the corner of the bed. See how it's all sunk in there?

Screenshot: Zillow

There are three more bedrooms up here, but they are boring so we will continue on. One somewhat concerning aspect of this listing is that there are no real photos of the four bathrooms even though we are promised that there are two upstairs. We can peek at one through the doorway of a bedroom, but how are we to know if they have bathtubs or showers? What if they've been renovated terribly?

In consulting the magic and perfect document provided with this listing, I have learned that there is all sorts of cool shit in this house that they fail to document with photos. This is a mistake lots of houses make on Zillow: showing boring things like beds in boring rooms instead of the cool aspects that make a house special. For instance, the document promises a basement recreation area with a wet bar. Where is that? The document promises a spooky attic with two large closets! What's up there that we can't see? The document promises that there is a three story laundry shoot that will drop all your dirty clothes into the basement. This is the shit the people want! We get no photos of any of this.

Screenshot: Zillow

What we do get plenty of photos of is the three car garage which, frankly, is nicer than my apartment. It has built-in cabinets. It has lamps. It has windows outside. The document tells us the floors are heated so you'll never have to be in a cold car! What? No! This is amazing! I'm sure it is implying that the winters are absolutely brutal, but heated garage floors! This is the lap of luxury, for sure.

Let's go into the yard. From the front there is a convenient side gate that allows you to walk down a stone path toward the back. Imagine how convenient this would be if you wanted to have a party or if you were perhaps social distancing during a deadly pandemic that only encouraged you to see your friends outside. This would be perfect for that. It has everything you could want.

Screenshot: Zillow

There is a circle fire pit with a fold-over grilling grate like you're in the nicest state park that's ever existed. There is also a covered patio where we could sit and have our coffee in the morning. It would be a nice, posh life we could live on the Upper Peninsula, surrounded by summer fun and people who own boats.

But looking at this house, even with how much I love it and think it's beautiful, has reminded me that the heat is worth it. I love being close to lots of restaurants so I never have to cook if I don't want to cook. I love being around people who are different from me. Even after this year of being alone at home, I want the rooms to be separate. I want to be around people I don't know when things are bad. And realistically, I'm not wealthy enough to outrun climate change. Almost none of us are. The solution for fixing a planet getting hotter by the day isn't buying a half a million dollar home far enough north to protect yourself and your family. The solutions, whatever they may be, probably should be for all of us. Rich people will be fucking fine, so everyone else has to stand together and sweat together. The heat is only going to get worse.

This week’s house has been listed on Zillow for $499,900 for 24 days. If you buy this house, please fight for climate legislation for all, and please invite me over for a summer dinner. It is a really nice house.

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