What the–?

An intellectual exercise to start things off today: Anyone care to guess what NN.C community member and DePaul University professor Ashley Morris’ homeowners’ insurance bill is this year? Take a moment before you peek, and really think about it. Ashley lives in New Orleans, sure, although if I recall correctly, I don’t think his house was flooded post-K. (Yes, it’s true — the entire city is not below sea level, as NOLA-hatas like to say.) I’m guessing even your highest guess will be dwarfed by reality, so go ahead and look.

Amazing, isn’t it?

For the record, I think the last check I wrote to State Farm for the usual coverage was for around $575. And my agent apologized because I had to carry more liability than those in adjacent counties, because Wayne County jurors have a history of stickin’ it to the man in civil cases.

As for Ashley, and New Orleans, this is how a city dies. Not in one fell swoop, but from a lot of little players each doing their part to make life there impossible. The rest of you who live in high-potential-disaster areas — California, coastal Florida — what do you pay?


Alan went to the lake Sunday to solve our Shrub Problem*, and discovered we have a Groundhog Problem. Our tiny homemade cottage sits not on a slab but on smaller supports, and over time we’ve had a variety of animals trying to make our floor their roof. Most of these can be banished with rude treatment and some chicken wire, but evidently Mr. G. has already done some major excavation. This will call for, at very least, a trap, and potentially firearms. The plan of attack was outlined for me today: First the humane trap, followed by a release “a minimum of five miles away,” and then, if that doesn’t work, Alan’s dad’s .22 rifle.

“Do you even know how to fire it?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, sheepishly. “But I had to look up some instructions to figure out how to load it.” And with this ol’ Dead Eye Derringer is going to kill a groundhog. I’m further advised this weapon is “from the ’30s, I think,” a “really nice rifle” and “has one of those cowboy lever-action things.” I can’t wait.

Let’s hope the trap works. I’m reminded of our old neighbor Patrick, who had a raccoon living in his attic. He trapped it, and took it to the park at the end of our street to release it. He then re-set the trap, just in case there were two. The following night, the same raccoon (raccoon with identical scars, anyway) turned up in it again. This time he took it several miles away to a rural area. It took the animal three days to find his home base again. The third time he took it to an adjacent county, and it finally stayed away. I suspect it was run over by a car on its journey home.

True to form, Alan has exhaustively researched groundhog bait preferences. I was told today to shop for cantaloupe, which we will then drench in vanilla extract. Then we made groundhog faces at one another. This will be fun.

*The Shrub Problem: When Kate was a baby, Alan planted a row of boxwood bushes in front of the cottage. They were about shin-high. Now, years later, they’ve been so thoroughly gnawed on by deer they’re now ankle-high, and I’m not kidding. Actually they’re now on their way to a compost heap, because they’ve been replaced by a row of hardy Canadian rosebushes, with lots of thorns. We shall see.

Perhaps because I have not fired a gun at a living thing in my lifetime, a loving God has smiled on me today, and given us all a new Tim Goeglein column to laugh and point at:

This has been a landmark summer in our family. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Another aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Two other aunts and uncles celebrated their 60th wedding anniversaries. One of my aunts celebrated her 75th birthday. They all live in Allen County; they were, with one exception, all born in Allen County; they were all married in Allen County. Landmarks like these make cities and counties thrive.

The juxtaposition of fading summer against the permanence of those landmarks is remarkable to ponder. Some of my favorite quotes about summertime point up the contrast luminously.

Wow. Most people get over this sort of pondering when they finally set aside their bongs: You mean, in my fingernail, there could be, like, a whole universe? And our whole universe could be, like, in the fingernail of something even bigger? Actually, I’m disappointed in Tim today. He goes to his parents’ anniversary party, mines Bartlett’s, and phones it all in:

It did not hurt things to know that the beauty of the weather combined to make it a special day. “What a beautiful, sunny morning,” wrote Takayuki Ikkaku. “It makes you happy to be alive, doesn’t it? We can’t let the sun outshine us. We have to beam, too!” It was a glory to see my parents so radiant on that day, surrounded by their children, grandchildren, siblings and friends of long standing. “The summer,” wrote the poet Wallace Stevens, “is like a perfection of thought.” All of us kept thinking what a remarkable occasion it all was across four generations and every part of the United States.

Yes, you should not be surprised to learn that the Lord sent his finest weather for Tim’s parents’ party. Nor should you have any doubt that the party was simply wonderful, and went off without a hitch:

I keep thinking about those five hours of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party when all the people they love so deeply gathered to eat, drink, dance, talk, laugh and catch up. Henry James wrote: “Summer afternoon . . . the two most beautiful words in the English language.” How right he was. That afternoon gathering could have gone on for hours; it was a pastiche of civility and kindness; of old memories and old friendships; and, most important, of the tenderness that humans have for one another on golden anniversaries.

The tenderness of golden anniversaries? Yes, as opposed to the brutality they show one another on the silver ones, I suppose.

Oh, you can wade through the muck yourselves, if you want.

But I wouldn’t waste your time. It’s a lovely day, and I’m headed out to enjoy it.

Posted at 12:12 pm in Current events, Media |

24 responses to “What the–?”

  1. Neil said on September 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Re: price of HO insurance; Southern California, flat land (i.e., no brush), no earthquake coverage (don’t ask), average liability limits, deductibles, through Kemper: $1,100. Cost has been relatively flat for the last few years. I’m sure we pay a premium for living in LA county (generous juries, high home values, high repair costs), but insurance on a 2nd house we own in the high desert valued much less is similarly priced.

    We’ve shopped around and the difference between carriers is minimal. Your best bet 1–get HO insurance from the same company you get car insurance from. 2–or finding a carrier who left the market and now wants back in; they lower their rates to bring in a lot of premium in a short time. Note that these companies often also leave the market when they get burnt by claims.

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  2. leslie said on September 18, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I can’t buy a house, let alone insure one, here in CA. The house I rent would sell at $850k. At least. (It’s a small house.)

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  3. Mindy said on September 18, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    I paid our homeowners’ insurance two weeks ago, $382.

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  4. alex said on September 18, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    They jacked my homeowner’s insurance post-911 because I lived in a high-rise. I live in Mindy’s area now and pay about the same as she does. Not bad for a house with an acre of land.

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  5. colleen said on September 18, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Thousand bucks a year

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  6. Cathy D. said on September 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Goeglien aside, as an Aboite resident I am too stunned over my property tax increase (62%) to have anything left to feel over my homeowners insurance.
    Goeglien head-on, it’s stuff like this that makes reading the editorial page worthwhile. Especially in the new format. Same old Tim, though.

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  7. nancy said on September 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Get outta town, Colleen. On Beaver Avenue? Or did you move outta town?

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  8. ashley said on September 18, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks, Nance. My suspicion has always been that the goal is to price out the middle class, and turn the place into disneyland. This is a good start. Also, you’re correct, there was no claim for the flood, and this house was not flooded.

    Some details on the policy:
    Dwelling: $213k
    Garage: $42k
    Personal property: $150k
    Liability: $500k

    Of course, there is also an additional hurricane/peril deductible on the policy. And this doesn’t include my flood insurance.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on September 18, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    We pay $850 for a medium-large ranch in an unpretentious neighborhood in the good old Fort. And I thought that was a lot.

    Now auto insurance, that’s another matter. We’re insuring four cars; one is two years old and everything else a junker. We have a 20 year old son with a perfect driving record; his car is his age and carries no collision. Any guesses? $1270 per year! The two year old Camry is $600, with collision coverage. All four together are $3400/year. That’s with auto/home discounts, and because we’ve reached that magical age, “prime of life discounts”. Ashley, is your car insurance ridiculous too?

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  10. John said on September 18, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I don’t shoot animals with the exception of when they invade my space. I don’t do the have-a-heart trap or try to discourage their behaviour. I simply dispatch them to a higher plane of existence with my trusty air rifle.

    Southeast Connecticut 20 miles inland: $600 homeowner’s insurance and $2600 for property tax (3 bedroom half finished basement).

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  11. CSB said on September 18, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Please, please keep on trashing Goeglein’s columns – they’re so horrible that they’re wonderful.

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  12. Jim in Fla said on September 18, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    In FL, our HO insurance costs about the same as Ashley. We live about 35 miles from the gulf and about 5 miles from Tampa bay. We are lucky, though. Many folks in FL can only get insurance through the state gov’t sponsored insurer of last resort (Citizen’s Insurance). My son lives in Broward county (Ft. Lauderdale). He says there are no private insurance companies writing new policies down there. Everyone has to go through Citizen’s.

    Same son was 18 when we moved down here. Because FL has required no-fault, his premiums were $4800 per year. That has dropped over the last 5 years. Now, with no claims, he’s almost down to what we pay, ~1100/auto/year. No fault is due to expire in November. Can’t wait…

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  13. beb said on September 18, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    First of all, can you even fire a gun in that area without being investigated by the police?

    My Dad, who lives outside Mishawaka, IN, has a groundhog problem, too. Mostly he sets traps then makes use of a convenient horse trough. i’m not sure that that’s “humane” but it’s certain. He wondered why there were so many groundhogs in his area till he found out that animal control in Mishawaka just took the varments outside the city limits before releasing them. Since he lives just outside the city limits the neverending groundhog population was explained. He once asked the county conservation officer what could be done about the groundhog problem. The officer, with a certain amount of discrimination replied “they’re not an endangered species.”

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  14. nancy said on September 18, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Good question about the shooting, beb, but I honestly don’t expect it to come to that. Alan is nothing if not prudent, and I think once he has a shootin’ iron in his hands, he’ll become more so, rather than less.

    Anyway, one of our elderly neighbors up there regularly uses a shotgun on his garden rabbits.

    As for Goeglein, after rereading that ponderous first paragraph I’m struck once again with the certain knowledge that Tim is a guy who loves to hang out with old people. I’ve never seen a man in my age range who a) looks so young; and b) writes so old. There’s another contributor to the same page, age about 1,000 in human years, whose prose style is practically identical.

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  15. Faith said on September 18, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Hi, Nancy … I knew you’d have a heyday with the column! What a hoot!
    Glad you’re still reading the N-S. The new press went online yesterday, so we are all dealing with the early early deadlines. I found your old “Telling Tales” rack card in the recent newsroom renovation and posted it on the board. A couple people actually noticed it.

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  16. MichaelG said on September 18, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Just got back from Bakersfield on Amtrak with no incidents. Whew!

    Not a hunter so I don’t shoot at animals. I don’t even own a gun. Don’t tell the neighbors. I did spend a lot of time exchanging fire with other humans when I was in Vietnam, though.

    Home insurance in Sacramento is $938 with no flood and no earthquake. I can’t remember what the Auburn house costs. It’s a much nicer, bigger place with property so it has to be more. Auto is $1214 and that’s just for me, my four year old Taurus and my 37 year old F-250 that doesn’t look a day over 25. I had accidents two and four years ago. I’ve shopped and that’s the best I could find. I hope it comes down next year.

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  17. Colleen said on September 18, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    Yanno, now that I look at it, it seems like a lot, doesn’t it? I will have to call the insurance company. I think we got stuck because the company (USAA…they are always top rated in service, etc) insures the house for what it would cost to rebuild like it is…complete w/ plaster walls and wood floors.

    Or something like that.

    Definitely have to call.

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  18. Jeff said on September 18, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Central Ohio, 4 br, half-finished basement — $480 HO ins., $520 auto ins., property tax $2,250. I have no complaints!

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  19. Danny said on September 18, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Sorry to change the topic because I think it really sucks that Ash is getting shafted, but I wanted to revisit the topic of dead authors.

    Last night I posted about the recent death of the internationally best selling fantasy author, Robert Jordan. He has been one of my faves for over twelve years, but I remember about four or five books into the WoT series thinking, “Wow, this shows no signs of ending soon. How old is this guy? Well, not too old, but there could be a tragic accident. Hmmm.”

    Anyway his untimely demise and the dedication of his fans reminded me of the “About the Author” inscription that would be at the end of every book. It read:

    Robert Jordan was born in 1948 in Charleston, South Carolina, where he now lives with his wife Harriet, in a house built in 1797. He taught himself to read when he was four with the incidental aid of a twelve-years-older brother, and was tackling Mark Twain and Jules Verne by five. He is a graduate of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, with a degree in physics. He served two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army; among his decorations are the Distinguished Flying Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star with “V” and bronze oak leaf cluster, and two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm. A history buff, he has also written dance and theater criticism. He enjoys the outdoor sports of hunting, fishing, and sailing, and the indoor sports of poker, chess, pool, and pipe collecting. He has been writing since 1977 and intends to continue until they nail shut his coffin.

    That last sentence, of course, reverberates in light of recent events. But he was quite a guy and while his prose was not Dickens, well, he did have a great sense of humor which made his novels very enjoyable and the intricacy of the plot lines and character development were excellent.

    I say all of this knowing that most of you probably don’t have a liking for this genre, but thought you might appreciate moreso the passing of a decent man and my humble homage to him.

    And that reminds me. Did any of you read Madeleine L’Engle as a child? I did. “A Wrinkle in Time” and “A Wind in the Door” captivated me as a fourth grader. I was the sort of child who read under the covers by flashlight at night. She was one of my faves too. She too passed a few weeks ago at the ripe old age of 88.

    God bless both of these fellow travelers and their families.. They brought me much joy.

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  20. LA mary said on September 19, 2007 at 10:44 am

    Hillside house in the city of LA, with earthquake insurance about 2200. per year. Auto for my five year old VW Beetle and a 2006 Hyundai, no teenager on the policy yet, 2450. per year. Allstate loves me.

    Danny, you don’t want to know that I knew Madeleine L’Engle, do you. Actually I knew her son, who was a childhood friend of my ex.

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  21. MarkH said on September 19, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I knew you wouldn’t fail us, mary.

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  22. LA mary said on September 19, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I ran into Madeleine’s son, Bion, around 1980 in NYC. I mentioned it to my then mother in law, who could be a fairly nasty person, and she asked me if he was still a bed wetter. I guess at a sleepover twenty five years earlier there had been a problem. I told her I’d ask him next time I ran into him.

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  23. Danny said on September 19, 2007 at 12:11 pm


    Mary, by any chance do you know Steve Howe, the guitarist for YES? Because I would really like to meet him.

    Also, you know that the Led Zeppelin tickets were just impossible for most of us to come by. Will Bob or Jimbo (Robert Plant and Jimmy Page to the unwashed masses) be sending you any extra tickets that we at NN.c might share?

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  24. LA mary said on September 19, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    I don’t know Steve Howe. Is he a bedwetter too?

    Never really liked Led Zepp, so I sent the tickets back.

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