We must be nuts, my wife and I. Maybe we are. I’ll give you the facts; you decide. Those that have
already decided fall in fairly impressive numbers solidly on the “Yes, they must be” side of things. Among
them, initially at least, were my wife’s parents, my own dear parents, my best friend and almost
everybody else who has heard about our sudden madness. The one exception was my wife’s best
friend, a well-traveled, somehow still innocent, Russian intellect who is amiable and maybe more than
just a little nuts herself. She was the only one we told who understood. She smiled genuinely, and
congratulated us. She was delighted for us “I think it’s great!” she warbled. Everyone else pretty much
just looked at us blankly as if what we had told them was incomprehensible, or worse… they looked at us
knowingly. Behind our backs I’m sure they shook their heads in disbelief, or rolled their eyes about
wildly, but while facing us they were kind enough to maintain firmly fixed faux-smiles and refrained from
using phrases like hoodwinked, bamboozled or flim-flammed within earshot. My wife and I are delighted
despite this reception. That’s us; we laugh in the teeth of good sense. You wouldn’t know it to look at us

To look at us you would never guess that we are the type to buy a house which we have never seen,
2600 miles away, in a town we’ve never set foot in, from a couple who we have never spoken with, using
an agent and a lawyer, neither of whom we have ever met, to represent our best interests. I’m fairly
certain that we are not the first people to buy a house sight-unseen, in a town far far away, but it feels
like it. From the looks on people’s faces when we tell them, such behavior still remains pretty much
uncharted territory; territory best left unexplored, or perhaps explored exclusively by gullible idiots. From
their point of view, it is a peculiar thing to do—buying a house without having clomped around in it with
one’s head cocked, tapping on walls, crawling around on your knees looking suspiciously underneath
sinks, pausing on the lawn while staring at the roof-line, rubbing your chin meditatively with one eyebrow
slightly raised. These are the things that anyone really serious about buying a home would do. Still, we’
re pleased. Though I haven’t seen North Carolina in more than thirty years, and my wife—born in France
and raised in San Francisco--has never been there, we love the place already.

If you think you might find some clue to our lunacy by looking into our past you’d be mistaken. Everyone
who knows us—or thought they knew us—was taken completely by surprise. We surprised ourselves, if
you want to know the truth. “You did what? You bought a house that you haven’t seen?” If that revelation
wasn’t staggering enough, then we gave ‘em the ol’ knock-out punch, telling them we have no plans to
see the place anytime soon. Did I mention that? Well, yes, more likely than not it’ll be several years
before we ever see our lovely little house. Those who care about us were (quite naturally perhaps)
concerned about our discernment. They were dumbfounded by our joy. Many of them seemed to have
difficulty digesting what had just been said. We were asked to repeat ourselves. After hearing it again,
there was a lot of open-mouthed blinking going on, as if they were unable to decide, which was more
astounding (and by astounding I guess I mean stupid) buying a house unseen or not going to see the
place as soon as the ink was dry.

There’s an explanation however. But briefly: we’re in the hotel business, and the hotel business is like
raising goats. You can’t just abandon the goats and go wandering off across the United Sates of
America to the mountains of North Carolina just to look at the single most expensive purchase you’ve
ever made in your entire life. This is especially true if you don’t own the goats; if they’re merely goats-in-

For my own comfort I have to assume that you’re with us on this. I mean, in order for me to continue this
tale I have to imagine you’re laughing with us and not at us. After all, what’s the big deal? It was all done
quickly, neatly, painlessly, over the Internet. Or maybe that doesn’t help our argument.

And of course then there’s this: we weren’t even looking for a house. We never talked about having a
house; never even thought about having a house as far as I can remember. And, if we had, the idea of
buying a house, seen or unseen, 2600 miles away in the mountains of North Carolina, never would have
crossed our minds. If we had been looking for a house, had talked about a house, had longed to own a
house--that house would have been in California where we live. That’s where we would have been

But, we wouldn’t have found one of course, because we couldn’t have afforded it. We couldn’t afford any
house in California…which is why, I think, we’d never given the matter much thought. On this side of the
map the full price we paid for our lovely little cabin in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains might have
been a down payment. In this city, the shabbiest little tear-down in the most frightening part of town (and
I mean frightening), starts at, literally (and by that I mean literally), five times what we paid for our lovely
little North Carolina mountain home. Five times. So, for us, out here, owning a house would forever
remain outside the realm of possibility, since neither of us plays the lotto.

That’s the kicker. When I think about our far-too-distant-future-home in North Carolina, I don’t feel so
bad. And I certainly don’t feel stupid. They can laugh if they want. Because, when I see pictures of our
little house—the house some people apparently think may not even exist—my heart fills with a kind of
proprietary fondness. The first time I saw that little cabin, snuggling up against the hill, sheltered by the
trees, it was like a ball dropped into a slot and, “HEY! That’s my number!”


The main problem with buying a house unseen far far away is the many nagging questions we have
which must remain unanswered. Why was this house built around a rock? I realize that it’s biblically
sound advice, but, still, it seems a bit strange having a huge rock taking up more than half of your
basement. Is that entire hill behind the house one big solid rock? Is every house around there built on a
rock? What do our neighbors, whose house we can see from our driveway, look like? What do they do
for a living?  Is their house built upon a rock? If we move the washer/dryer combo from the bathroom into
the room downstairs, will that leave enough room to install a nice old claw-foot tub? What will it cost to
have French doors put in downstairs? How far is it to the nearest hardware store, café, grocery store,
bookstore, library, theatre, French restaurant (not necessarily in that order)?

We’re also concerned about other, somewhat more nebulous things. We’re concerned, for example, that
the dog we don’t have yet will run out of the house we’ve never seen and be eaten by a bear we’ve only
read about in your local newspapers. It doesn’t keep us awake at night, but it’s a legitimate concern.  
Somehow the breeds of dog my wife and I are most attracted to all harbor this dash-out-of-the-house-at-
every-available-opportunity aspect to their character. There are, of course, more immediate concerns.
While watching the strangely fluctuating temperatures in the mountains on the Internet, my wife has
expressed her concern that the poor plants won’t know what to do. Is it Spring? Is it Winter? Poor plants,
always trusting, much deceived. I’m worried that the pipes will freeze and that, if we plant all the fruit
trees my wife wants, the roots will grow into the septic tank and we’ll have, not just trouble but, the kind
of trouble nobody really needs.

But there are joys associated with buying a house unseen far far away and things are learned, some
useful. For example: it used to be that if I wanted to clear out a room full of bachelors all I had to do was
start talking about what a wonderful wife I have. And that still works of course; mention the joys of
marriage and unwed males scatter like chickens. But now I’ve added a new weapon to my arsenal and,
in the same stroke, I’ve expanded my field. These days, if I want to empty a room of people--male,
female, married or not--all I have to do is start talking about our little cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
And I’m glad to see them flee of course, because of the constant dread that one of them might
innocently ask, “When was the last time you’ve been to North Carolina?” Somehow deep within me I
know that the truth—that I haven’t been there in 35 years, and my wife has never been there—might
sound maybe just a bit peculiar, even to a sympathetic ear.

One of the joys of buying a house unseen far far away is that t doesn’t seem real. If you’re not actually
able to touch the antique table lamp, have seen it only in pictures, you’re not able to absorb its quality,
the detail of the ornamentation, the fineness of its lines, or feel its weight, its presence…you don’t worry
so much about whether it might fall off the lovely little antique table, which you’ve also only seen in
pictures, and shatter into ten thousand pieces on the floor which is somehow always out of focus. (This
is due, in part admittedly, to what my wife calls my monk-like detachment to material things.) And, if the
ceiling in the bathroom falls in, you don’t find yourself entangled in the frenzy that might otherwise
surround such an occurrence. From 2600 miles away such events just don’t have the immediacy.

Owning a house yet-unseen far far away also affords you the chance to dream. And dream we do. My
wife and I both dream about the place. We dream quietly, alone. We dream together openly, eagerly,
excitedly at times, anticipatorily. We dream together on the couch while glued to every home
improvement show that airs. We dream of the day we move in; we dream of knocking down walls and
moving staircases; we dream of just sitting on the deck exhausted, covered in plaster dust and
deliriously happy. We dream of eating at the little round oak table in our very own first kitchen. Yes, it’s
small, but it’s ours. And we scheme too. We’ll enclose the north side of the deck and turn it into a nice
little sun room. We’ll build a guest room downstairs. We’ll turn the second bedroom into a library. We’ll
raise the roof; plant fruit trees all along the driveway… For us, for now, there’s a pretty fine line between
dreaming and scheming…and either one may involve power tools.

Before we owned a cabin in the mountains we never spent a lot of time planning what we would do if we
had all the money in the world, and we still don’t. These days we do spend a little time thinking about
what we would do if we had a lot of it. If that ever happens, we’ve got plans. Believe me, every penny has
been allocated.  

Money’s not so much the problem; it’s time we will never have enough of. All in all, I’d say we have about
ten to twenty years worth of work to be done around our little house to turn it into the place we dream
and scheme about. Then, of course, once that’s all out of the way, it’ll all be reading Shakespeare,
building historically accurate ship models from scratch, playing the cello (with noticeable improvement) in
front of the fireplace and going on little strolls with the dog we don’t have yet, while my lovely wife, the
mere mention of whom can clear a room full of bachelors, is picking fruit from the trees whose roots have
not yet punctured the septic tank thus avoiding the kind of trouble nobody really needs. This is our
vision of living life in a little mountain cabin far far away.

And as the sun drops over the Blue Ridge Mountains, my wife and I rock steadily away on the sun porch,
at peace, dogs and cats secure, and I sing a quiet little ditty off key.

Get yourself a little French wife,
Buy a small cabin in the mountains,
These are the keys to happiness,
I’d recommend them to anyone.