You can call mine Mortgage Manor
Lupine Lodge. Del Mar at the Sea. Massive Mountain Manor. Harbor House at the Pines. I have changed the names to protect the ostentatious; to protect those who not only must own four luxury homes in four different places, but also pick and register names for them.
I didn't think I was capable of being surprised at any excess of the rich and insecure, but the article in the Phoenix, Ariz., paper rocked me.
A gentleman in that city has incorporated a national database of homesite names. Once your lodge or manor or 8,000 square feet of conspicuous wastefulness is registered, no one in your ZIP code area can use the name. Thank goodness: I've been worried somebody would give their house the same name as mine: Sagging Floor at What's Left of Old Flagstaff.
Lupine Lodge, Del Mar at the Sea, ad infinitum, are all owned by a Phoenix family physician, who explains his names give each of his homes character * though, he tells us, there aren't really any lupine at his Scottsdale, Ariz., home because it's too hot.
He bought the initial package for 75 bucks per house, which included name registry, name search, official certificate, Web site updates * and welcome candle. (Better to curse the darkness than light even one registered home welcome candle in a state without adequate medical care for the poor.) There is also a catalog from which one can order extra items, perhaps a plaque, or imprinted coffee mug.
If registrants can't come up with a name, the registry will provide suggestions, inspired by geographical cues, architectural style, presence of natural features and wildlife - in case the registrant has been just too darn busy making millions, or whatever these people do, to notice. (Of course, in the Nouveau West, what we are more often dealing with is the absence of natural features and/or wildlife.) In that case, the registrant could name their place Hideaway at Scraped Desert.
The CEO of the registry believes that people take a different attitude toward their homes when they give them names. That's the fun of it. And, you don't have to own a mansion. Heck, you can register a condo - or even a tract house. He's hoping that the practice of registering home names might contribute to more neighborhood spirit - spirit difficult to sense or enhance if you occupy your second, third or fourth home only a few weekends out of the year.
I looked around my 400 square-foot cabin here at What's Left of Old Flagstaff, at its fine minimal construction of recycled wood and wallboard, and found myself regarding the sagging floor and the plastic over the east window with greater affection.
I thought of names for my son's home in Los Angeles: Struggling Screenwriter Single Room, and for a working mom friend's one-bedroom house: Mortgage Manor. I thought about calling the registry CEO with the brilliant idea of registering the homes of those of us a little less fortunate, and realized none of us had a spare 75 bucks for the fee.
Then, of course, there are those who have nothing to spare for anything. They could still name their homes. Tarpaper Shack at the Dump. Soggy Box Bungalow. Abandoned Chevy Pickup. Immobile Mobile. Maybe a Web site could be maintained for them. They would be given a nice certificate and maybe a candle for freezing nights. A name search would be impossible - there are millions of homeless.
So, if you think you want to name your home and register it, here's an alternative: You might get ready to give up 75 bucks. You'll get nothing back. No certificate. No faux-bronze plaque. No 10-buck candle. Instead, send the money to a local shelter, or food bank, or winter-clothing distribution service - whose shelves, in this most recent Season of Giving, were probably much too bare.
Your reward will be a fine way to name where you live. To name yourself. As a person in a real community, where people do not name their houses, but understand true neighborliness.
Mary Sojourner writes in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Copyright © 2002 HCN and Mary Sojourner