Sunday, March 31, 2013

house work

The house looks remarkably less janky every day, which is gratifying. The biggest current work is the painting and wood-floor guys. The painter thinks the flooring guy has to finish first, otherwise he'll screw up the finish quality of the painting; the flooring guy thinks the opposite. Anna resolved the d├ętente somehow, and work is humming along.

(Normally one could call this a "Mexican standoff," but it turns out I'm not at all comfortable with that idiom when I'm pretty sure the participants are, in fact, Mexican.)

Our wood floors are damaged somehow, with green stains that show stubbornly through most varnish colors and are too deep to be sanded out. We'd told Flooring Guy that we were fine with seeing the marks in the floor, but in this case he was right and there is some really unappealing stuff there. This means we're getting darker floors than we wanted, but we're not prepared to shell out for a new floor, so there we are. The new floor in the kitchen looks spectacular, and the paint jobs have the bedrooms looking enjoyably habitable, which they definitely weren't before.

It's really striking to me that, had the owners chosen or been able to give a shit, they could have done a fraction of the work we're doing (which is not at all expensive as remodeling goes) and gotten another $100,000 when selling the house. Instead, they were slumlords and content to extract money from low-income tenants who would tolerate the kitchen plumbing leaking out over the foundation, in return for $2600/month--more than we pay in our very nice but admittedly underpriced rented condo--and no questions asked.

(This also means that barring a low-end housing market disaster, which seems vanishingly unlikely for our situation, money spent on making the house pleasant and livable is a good investment. Honestly, the way the market is running crazy around here, I think we could have done nothing to the house, held it for 6 months, and sold it at a [not necessarily large] profit.)

Friday I got an electric lawnmower, and yesterday we bought All The Appliances[tm]. We were surprised by the price of new appliances, and decided to take our chances on Craigslist for everything: for the price of a new dishwasher, you could go through 3 or 4 on Craigslist, and they can't all be broken, if you use some common sense about who and where you're buying from. (We got our dishwasher from San Carlos; I would not, to take one example, buy a dishwasher from East Palo Alto.) Since we'd rented a cargo van for the fridge and dishwasher, we decided to go ahead and get a washer and dryer today and just not have to think about it any more. "GE? I've heard of GE. Go for it."

Apropos of nothing, if you don't do it regularly, moving a large refrigerator is not a simple or fast project. Especially if it doesn't fit through the front door and you have to bump it around the side of the house, down a path of flagstones set in mulch.

I have numerous friends who absolutely cannot tolerate this kind of casual decision-making. They must research hand-made tiles and $2000 dishwashers that are certified the world's quietist by the European Parliament. They buy washer-dryer combinations that talk to each other with a USB cable, so the dryer knows exactly how much water was in the clothes. They drive Audis and Mercedes and sometimes wish they had Teslas, and seem to find my enthusiasm over my lowly Mazda a bit baffling. The stereo has to be Very High Quality, as does the TV. Professionals would envy their kitchen (they are fabulous cooks). You get the idea.

It's true, they own nicer stuff and live in a nicer house than we do. They also have two tech incomes instead of one, and I don't think they're any happier for having more restrictive standards for the artifacts in their life. Quite the opposite: they show a lot of frustration when dealing with inferior stuff.

Anyway, back to me. The important one here.

Since we move in two weeks from tomorrow, I'm about ready to pull the trigger on a pool table. It feels a little weird to be putting it in a garage, and then I also have devious plans to figure out a way to move it without needing to re-level the thing. Then I realized two things:
  1. Putting it in a garage is one reason I'm not buying a super expensive table.
  2. It's my pool table, and if I feel like I'll enjoy it more by carefully drilling some holes in it, I get to do that.
I grew up with a kind of caring about our house that argued against taking risks or experimenting with changes: minimizing holes in the wall, being extra careful with the pool table. (Which wasn't very nice, but things were more expensive 30 years ago.)

That's not the world I live in, though. I can build grape arbors or shade structures or drill holes in the house or whatever. The truth is that I'm unlikely to make it that much worse, and it will probably end up being more awesome.

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