Free advice to newly married couples: Do not buy an old house in New England that has a basement.

If you buy an old house in New England, it will certainly have a basement down there. If you have a basement down there, you will eventually have to deal with mold. If you have to deal with mold, you will find yourself in a world of expensive pain and suffering, and then not even DirectTV will be able to save you. So don’t buy a house with a basement.

Some history: When I came to Maine, I bought an old house when I should have just built a new one.

Everything in the world was cheaper then, and I had the money to buy a modest plot and build. Now I have no money, but I have an old house with a basement.

It wasn’t the house so much as the name of the street. It had one of those cute, suburban, ritzy names. Then I found out that some kids had turned the street sign around. The real name of the street was really dumb, but we had already signed the contract, and I was stuck with a basement.

I see no point in basements. A basement is where excess water collects and where serial killers bury their victims. The house I left behind in Los Angeles had no basement. It did have a very small wine cellar that did not qualify as a basement. There was no wine in the cellar, because it would have been expensive to fill, and the house cost so much the only wine I could afford came in gallon drums for $1.98.

As a result, I never went down there. I used it as a threat to train my dog. When he was bad I would take him to the top of the stairs and point.

“Do you want to be locked down there for the entire day? Do you want to live down there chained to the empty wine racks and have your food thrown down?” It always worked. I should add that it worked so well that she, who is no dummy, considered using it on me.

So this house came with a basement divided into two sections. One large room housed the 300-year-old boiler that heated the basement more than the upstairs. The other section, a handsomely paneled room featuring a large stone fireplace, was called a play room. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to spend gorgeous New England summer and autumn days playing in a play room. It was August when we bought it. In January I knew why.

Still, in 27 years we did all our playing upstairs. The only time I’ve gone down there was to have a new and very expensive space-age boiler installed, and to sweep the water out that flooded the play room every time it rained. It was and is, a damp, scary place with rings attached to some walls, where I suspect witches were chained in the old days.

This month we discovered that the attractive panels in the play room had mold lurking behind them, serious mold, the kind that requires the services of men like those who came for ET.

It’s the kind that they are finding on refrigerators that are washing ashore from Japan’s recent tsunami.

I know nothing of mold. In Los Angeles there is no humidity, and mold only forms on bread you stopped eating because you were on a low-carb diet.

So the entire place had to be gutted. Now there is nothing down there but the space-age boiler. The cleaners came and zapped the mold. The play room no longer exists. It’s interesting to note that behind the beautiful paneling was a piece of parchment that said “George Washington slept here.”

Now we know what killed George. I feel kind of guilty.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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