Thursday, June 26, 2008


today is the fourth time i turn 29, also known as my 32nd birthday. it’s a weird one this year, mainly because i feel like i’m not ready for it. another month would have been nice before i arrived here, but given that controlling the speed at which time passes is not something i have mastered yet, here i am having a birthday i’m unprepared to confront. not that birthdays call for so much preparation, but they’ve always triggered some level of introspection and inventory-taking for me, which is hard to muster when i’m shopping for window treatments nonstop.

so this year the birthday belongs to the house. it’s the thing getting showered with all the gifts anyway so i may as well shave a year off of my age and will it to the house instead. so the house turns 1, or maybe it’s just being born, and i remain 31. i mean 29. hell, let’s just make it 25.

i did get a few worthwhile gifts, most notably a new iPod from Mo. it’s full of tubes and has the internets in it. anyone else interested in getting me a gift is encouraged to send a bag of money to my new home address. don’t worry, i won’t spend it all in one place. i’ll just dig a hole in the front yard and pour it in. or maybe i can staple it to the roof or cement it to the siding. and here comes the house getting in the way again, like it always does.

back to birthday, it’s nice this year i guess. overall, i feel fairly spiffy, fairly content. i see now that with each passing year, fewer things are changing so i don’t expect too much crazy this year. at least none of that controlled crazy of my own making. not so sure about the curve ball crazy life might throw my way, but i’ll deal with that when i have to.

my only real resolution for the next year is to start taking better care of myself, which means more exercise, less red meat and more facials. the problem i’m having with aging lately is the actual aging part, where my body and face don’t look quite like i’d want them to. not that i was so satisfied with them before but i have noticed the lines on my face deepening and more gray hairs sprouting on my head. sometimes i’ll catch my reflection in a mirror and be startled by it, like “who’s this old broad with pores so big you can swim in them?” then i’ll go soften the light in the room, take another look and feel better momentarily.

so yes. 32. here i am. and still curious to see where i’m going.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Home-Improvement Chronicles: The Living Room

ready to come inside? it’s not so scary anymore. in fact, it’s downright gorgeous — so gorgeous that i die a little inside each time i have to leave the house.

welcome: Juice and Pinko will be your faithful tour guides for this journey and will demonstrate how well the house facilitates their doing of nothing — but doing it in style. here, Juice demonstrates her favorite pastime of floor laying, with her trusty sidekick Pinko at left aiding her in the leisurely pursuit.

view from the front door, looking left: would you like a seat? how about a cup of coffee? what about a laptop or book? now put all those together and you’ll have a good sense of what i do when i’m lounging in this chair.

view from the front door, looking right: wanna lie down? you’ll have to clear it with Mo, as the couch is generally his to lounge on. mine, too, sometimes.

view out the picture window: after the walls were patched up, primed and painted, Mo and i just didn’t have the heart to put holes in the new craftsman-esque trim we add to the windows and doors, so we went with free-standing screens instead of drapes in the living room, bought for cheap from the three-panel screens have adjustable shutters that we keep open during the day to let the light in. the screens don’t extend all the way to the top of the window, but given the house’s position on the block, only the birdies sitting in the massive tree in the front yard will ever be able to peek in through the opening at the top to see Mo and i, um... reading on the couch. yeah, reading.

hey, where did our tour guides go? where they always go: to the deck to take in the cool air and nice view below while sun tanning. i don’t blame them. i do the same thing, minus the sun tanning and usually with wine.

roasted meat: Pinko will usually outlast Juice in the sun by a good half hour or more and come in smelling like a barbecued hot dog. then i put ketchup and pickles on her and feed her to Juice.

back in the house: when Pinko does finally come inside, she’ll usually collapse on the bamboo floors and pant a puddle around her own head. then i’ll swoop in with paper towels to blot out the puddle and gently remind Pinko that we’re not renters anymore.

Chuy who? i do love the floors, even though they are hard as hell to keep clean. like a black car, they pick up and amplify every piece of dust of dirt, so i find myself sweeping, vacuuming and mopping them almost daily. but when they are clean, they are stunning. they are also everywhere in the house, including the kitchen. so far, they have been quite durable, which is not to say they are totally unscratched as my playful pets have indeed left their marks, but i imagine that hardwood would have picked up more marks than the brand of bamboo i chose, which is (supposed to be) harder than the white oak and maple species of wood.

the three blues: with a few exceptions, the darkest blue is reserved for the innermost walls of the house, the ones without doors and windows. the medium blue is for the outer walls that contain the doors and windows and are opposite the dark blue walls, which allows for the natural light to bounce onto the dark walls and lighten them; the lightest shade of blue was used for the trim. also note the Arroyo Seco Parkway poster, bought especially to honor the new house and neighborhood. if you’ve ever been (stuck in traffic) on the historic 110 freeway near Pasadena, which was built in the 1930s with overhead bridges so low that trucks are forbidden on its roads, you’ve likely seen signs that are identical to this poster.

immediate left of the front door: beyond the short wall that houses my Blitzstein’s Lightbulb Man is the kitchen. that wall used to be twice its width and painted maroon. to the left of that wall is a foyer that leads into the two bedrooms and the one bathroom.

the cluster effect: Mo’s philosophy on art-hanging is to cluster pieces on some walls while leaving other walls largely empty. clearly, this is the art wall, with the opposite wall, which holds the blue dog painting and not much else, serving as the bare wall. watching Mo drill multiple holes into this wall caused me great discomfort, enough to declare that the items on this wall shall remain permanently affixed to it. there will be no changing of the art in the future, as that might necessitate the making of more holes.

his and hers: Mo’s four Buff Monster cans next to my 1980 Moscow Olympiad poster, the only Olympics the USA ever boycotted.

wall of tyranny: i don’t collect many things, but i’ve decided that the nesting dolls of russian leaders will be that one collection obsession of mine. Mo bought me my second set recently, a unique set that has Putin on top with 12 leaders incubating inside him, including a rice-sized Nicholas II and a pea-sized Marx and Engels. next, i’m keeping an eye out for a Medvedev set.

the coziest chair in the world: it really is. i quite enjoy sitting on it. behind it is a sneak preview of the kitchen, to be covered in the next chronicle.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Everything Else

when i haven’t been busy loving on the house, working on the house or living in the house, i’ve been doing other stuff. not much other stuff, though, as the house remains the centerpiece of most waking moments. but when it’s not, i’ve been spending time doing much exploring of my new neighborhood, which i’ll get to at a later post and which entails the eating of much mexican food. it also entails getting lost constantly and following streets until they dead-end into hillsides — a common feature in highland park. then there’s the trips to ikea, home depot, lowes, Micky Mouse Hardware, and there i go talking about the house again. let me try to stay focused with some bullet points:

  • i saw Duran Duran in concert a few weeks ago, which made me very, very happy since i loves me some Hungry Like the Wolf. i’ve seen them before, numerous times in fact and, as always, their performance was beyond superb and made me scream like the 14-year-old girl i truly am inside. but unlike the 14-year-old girl i used to be, who would spend hours by the backstage door hoping to catch a glimpse of my soul mate, bassist john taylor, i went home right after the sunday-night show, humming New Moon on Monday during the drive home.

  • i took the Gold Line to work the other week — and was probably a little too excited by it. it was an exhilarating experience, one i never thought i’d have in this fair city of mine, where car culture is the only culture outside of the yogurt. but there i was making the 10-minute drive to the train station, where i parked my car and hopped aboard the choo-choo — dumb smile on my face, my love for los angeles overflowing — and sat among the other commuters navigating their way into downtown LA for the workday. one trip did the trick, so starting in july i’ll be going metro to work three out of five days. this means a company-paid metro card, the $50/month parking fee my work charges waived, and savings galore on gas.

  • speaking of work, i’m starting a new job at my company in july. i’m not sure what i can say about it here other than it’s different from the work i’ve been doing as a financial editor, though not entirely different. i’ll still be making edits to copy, but whereas before when i would review copy and then send it to my company’s Compliance department for rubber-stamping, i’ll now be on the Compliance side doing the rubber-stamping. the job is rooted in the legal department and will have me interpreting all sorts of sexy FINRA guidelines, like how regulatory disclosures should be presented in sales materials. HOT!

  • i spent a few days in beautiful El Segundo taking a course on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which are complicated as a mother fucker to learn. the course was the complement to the HTML course i took last year in Costa Mesa, which was also complicated. i’m sure it could all make sense with a little practice, maybe a lot of practice, but three days of having the nuances of a programming language thrown at me overwhelmed me enough to conclude that i am just too stupid to learn this stuff.

  • i saw the SATC movie, which i enjoyed immensely as it felt like a long, new episode of the show and was made better by the fact that i caught one of the SATC T-shirts the ushers threw into the crowd before the film started. i got some serious mad-dog glares from the girls surrounding me when i nabbed it and worried that those bitches would jump me in the parking lot after the show, but they kept their distance after i told them that i knew kung fu. (i don’t know kung fu.) the shirt reads “I ♥ New York,” which is funny because i don’t ♥ New York all that much. i ♥ LA infinitely more, especially after that train ride.

Monday, June 09, 2008

How It’s Been

i know, you don’t really care about how it’s been being a homeowner for three weeks. you’d rather see the after photos that show the gorgeous bamboo floors and beautifully painted walls that don’t resemble monkey shit. rest assured, they are coming. it’s just that no one room is truly done and fully presentable. bedroom is close, but it’s still missing window treatments and closet doors. the office is piled high with boxes. kitchen is without backsplash and needs its baseboards painted. and the list goes on ad infinitum. i won’t bore you with it here.

ok, maybe i can bore you a little bit: why is it so hard for ikea to make backsplashes for its countertops? why is it that when you buy an entire kitchen from ikea, as i did, you have to buy an extra block of countertop and cut the backsplash from it yourself? wouldn’t it make more sense for ikea to carry precut backsplashes for its countertops as a basic constituent part of a kitchen?

alright, bitching done. thanks for playing. let’s resume with our originally scheduled program of praise for homeownership…

so far, it’s been pretty fantastic. i’m not sure whether it’s homeownership itself that is fantastic or just the fact that i’m living in a place i dig a whole lot. i did like my old place a whole lot, too, but it was small. about 650 square feet of bite-sized charm that worked perfectly when it was just Juice and me, but when Mo and Pinko joined our equation, life at home became decidedly less charming and more sardine-like.

but now we all have space. now, Mo no longer lives out of his suitcase — as he has for the past two years — because he has a closet of his very own. now, he no longer has to use our living room as his studio because he has an office of his very own. and there’s space for storage: a basement and a garage. and there’s the driveway where i park my car. a driveway so big that it fits TWO whole cars, meaning my friends no longer bitch about parking when they come over because we’re not in west hollywood anymore, Toto, and they can park right alongside me in the uber-driveway.

so yes, the space is nice. the house itself is also extraordinarily nice. (yes, yes, photos are coming.) i find myself walking around the place daily, studying every molding and kissing every piece of hardware in the kitchen before i lie in bed and cuddle with the refrigerator.

in short, i’m in love: deeply, passionately profoundly in love. every love song i hear on the radio reminds me of the house. every vacation i daydream about taking involves me hanging out at home. i miss the house when i’m at work and spend my days imagining all the things we can do together in the future. i’m not sure if the house has become my new boyfriend or my new baby, but i’d breastfeed it if i could. if it needed a kidney, i would so deliver. i love it so much that i find myself telling Mo daily, “have i told you how much i love the house today?” only adding as an afterthought, “and you, too, baby!” then i go make out with the baseboards.

i know, it’s the honeymoon phase — and i hope it lasts as long as possible. i like this phase, need it really, so when the ceiling crumbles and plumbing floods the basement later on, i’ll have developed a solid love for the house and won’t mind pouring the time, money and effort needed to make it great again. so for now, i’m happy to have that love grow and sustain me later when things turn to shit, which i’m sure they will. i’m sure there’ll be situations that make me curse the day i stopped being a renter, situations borne of uncooperative appliances and unexpected expenses. already, there has been a toilet that broke, outlets that have gone boom and a kitchen overrun by ants. and i anticipate many more unhappy surprises of the subflooring variety when future phases of construction begin on the house, with one (hopefully) beginning later this summer.

but for now i’m happy to relish in the newness of this love, when anything seems possible. i’ll regard this time always with fondness, as it marks the start of the next profound relationship of my life, akin to when i first brought my puppies home and first committed to Mo.

and did i mention the view? the glorious view that serves as the backdrop of each waking moment at home, comforting me during each meal, during each cup of coffee in the morning and glass of wine in the evening, the view that has already done wonders for my usually variable mood. it does indeed soothe me after a hard day’s work, “adding minutes to my life,” as my new buddy Miguel says. it’s the one thing that will make all future household drama bearable as all i’ll need to do when things get tough is step on the deck, take a few calming breaths and stare.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Home-Improvement Chronicles: Construction Rewind

as you might have guessed, i’ve spent the past few weeks slaving away at home, lately in more temperate weather, with the house starting to look somewhat presentable. i’ve actually had some folks over to see it, including my perpetually critical parents, who kindly pointed out everything that still needed to be done while also throwing in some compliments. they also brought me about a year’s supply of toilet paper, paper towels and aluminum foil, with my ma saying that i could use a microderm.

it’s very close to being complete, getting closer by the day, and once i buy closet doors for the bedroom and hallway, install window treatments and the ceiling fan in the bedroom, hang the big mirror as well as the art and dry-erase board, finish the cabinetry in the kitchen and redo the house’s exterior plus the deck, i’ll be ready for the big housewarming party. at this rate i’m only three years away.

in the meantime, i thought i’d post additional photos, some of which were taken by my contractor during construction, sent to me only a week ago.

kitchen rewind: behind that maroon wall is the house’s kitchen. correction: was the house’s kitchen. Mo spent a good chunk of time there, notebook and tape measure in hand, sketching the new and improved kitchen.

more ugly: besides the obvious ugly of the cabinetry, in typical Chuy fashion, the kitchen’s layout made no sense. the countertops consisted of granite scraps glued together haphazardly with no backsplash. also note how the kitchen’s only window is obscured by an overhead cabinet.

sink wall: perhaps the sink should have been facing the window instead, because in its old location it was impossible to wash dishes without hitting your forehead on the wine cabinet above. but maybe the former owners were all circus midgets who didn’t have that problem.

square one: nothing was worth salvaging from the kitchen, so we tore everything out to start from scratch. we also demolished about half of the maroon wall to open up the space and join the kitchen area with the living room. also note the multitude of electrical outlets in the kitchen, positioned in the most random places. my theory is that Chuy wanted to hone his outlet-wiring skills so he practiced in the kitchen by wiring eight different outlets on two separate walls. i can’t say he was very good at it, considering the fact that the fridge blew an outlet one week after it was plugged in, spoiling the groceries i had filled it with a day earlier.

indisposed: ok, so one thing from the kitchen was saved — the garbage disposal. sink was scrapped.

back to the floors: this shows the condition of the wood that “supported” the subflooring in the living room. these are the boards my contractor was able to rip apart with his bare hands, the boards that prompted me to call Terminix to schedule the termite holocaust.

82 years? the theory is that these were the original floors from when the house was built in 1926, but something tells me they can’t possibly be THAT old, can they?

floored again: the day the contractors tore out the old subflooring, i arrived to the house after work to see the yellow CAUTION tape cops put around crime scenes taped to my front door. the crew told me not to enter, but i couldn’t resist so i opened the front door only to peek in and saw that there really weren’t any floors in the living room, just openings that provided a view into the crawlspace underneath the house. this reminded me of the one time i dissected a frog in biology class and saw its exposed organs.

plywood to the rescue: i went home that day and told Mo the architect about the floorless house and he assured me that the house was heavily anesthetized and not feeling any pain. he also assured me that the frog i dissected in high school was dead long before i tore it open with my knife.

to the next 82: i hope my mythical grandchildren don’t have as hard a time with these floors as i did. i also hope those ungrateful little shits appreciate the new door added to the kitchen and the new window for the sink that will allow them to gaze lovingly into the valley below while they’re washing my dentures.

more floors: the bamboo needed to sit in the house for a couple days before installation so it could acclimate to the house’s natural humidity. a small plank also lived in my purse for a few weeks, visiting stores with me to make sure that any product i bought for the house matched the floors.

click and groove: i went with espresso-colored bamboo by Teragren. great company, LEED-certified, harvests only mature bamboo to produce super-hard floors that can take a beating.

i need to throw my contractor, Platon, a plug here, with my most aggressive suggestion that anyone undergoing a home-improvement project call him. he was beyond fantastic to work with, so fantastic that he’ll be the first and only person i’ll call when more improvements need to be made to my house. he was always responsive, totally genuine, faultlessly polite, and his quote — like the work itself — was unparalleled. great in every way. i couldn’t be more satisfied.

he gave me permission to post his number here, so here it is: 818.279.3118. his full name is Platon Markarian, company is Da Vinci Group. call him immediately.