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The Red Sweater

In the weeks leading up to the three-day City of Buffalo InRem auction, we had driven by countless properties up for auction and done our usual diligence, taking note of random, non-scientific data. Roof and driveway condition, grass height and number of blue plastic flyer bags strewn about stoops. If the property passes the drive-by litmus test, then it’s back home to the computer for a google fest. By this time, the foreclosure list has been thumbed into a curled mess, spattered with coffee and sloppily consumed tacos. One particular property stood out. In the margin, next to 619 Lafayette, I had written “TGTBT” in green, with my four color Bic pen.

Each day, the $5 printed list got smaller as properties were saved by the bell upon payment of taxes. Adding to the drama, a special telephone in the front of the room rings as arrears are satisfied. Property addresses are hand-written on a white-board signifying they are no longer available for auction.

It was day two of the auction, which had gone on late into the evening, and still, they did not get to 619 Lafayette. It would be auctioned off the next day. On the way home, Joe decided to drive by 619 Lafayette again, but this time he was bold enough to enter the outer foyer, cup his hands, and peek through the sheers. He couldn’t wait to get home to describe what he saw, which he said he couldn’t describe, except the hair on his arms stood up and he’s never seen anything like it. All I was able to decipher was stained glass, coved ceilings, grand hall, fireplace, carved oak woodwork….and that was all I needed.

At last, the third and final day of the auction. 619 Lafayette is up. In my peripheral vision I could see Joe’s arm, encapsulated by the red, Ralph Lauren sweater, holding up the paddle. I sat paralyzed in my seat, heart thumping and knees wobbly. When the bidding was over, a tap on my shoulder forced me to rise from my seat and try to walk. I managed a pretty convincing smile and answered “yes, was I who purchased the house.” “It’s probably a million dollar restoration,” she said. Already numb, but knowing what Joe and I are capable of, I tried to take the slap of the restoration estimate in stride. Scanning the room, I easily spot the red sweater over by the table that takes the money. How can I get there to stop this insanity?

So I recovered a little and was able to walk. Red sweater was coming and hard to miss. It was the most expensive property to sell at the auction in the last five years, so I imagine the sale was commanding some attention from the crowd, and the red sweater didn’t help. There were some congratulations and back slaps from friends and acquaintances. There were also some mumblers questioning if we had seen the inside. As we walked outside into the grey October day, I proudly announced, with confidence, “off course we hadn’t.”

TGTBT = Too Good To Be True