Wednesday, April 3, 2013

the map is not the territory

The other night, hanging out at one of my standard bars, I won against a drunk guy (who could beat me easily when sober), and when I left, I spontaneously decided to check out the remaining pool hall in the area, The Great Entertainer in San Mateo. I'd written it off since the guy on the phone said it was $14 an hour, and it looks sketchy as all heck from the outside. I figured I'd at least stick my head in, and it occurred to me that maybe they had memberships or something. I don't like being in bars, I don't like being around the kind of people who like being in bars, and I don't like playing on bar pool tables.

Now, I'm not going to say Great Entertainer is nice, exactly. Most of the tables are a few decades old (which doesn't really matter), with thin felt (which can matter, but mostly looks bad). The "restaurant" claim on the remarkably content-free website seems questionable: I didn't examine the menu closely, but did see "HOT POCKET" and "CORN DOG" on the sign. On the other hand, the manager and regulars seem nice, all the furnishings and trim are quite new, and the balls and house cues are good quality. And they do, in fact, have monthly memberships! Unlimited pool, Sunday through Thursday, either daytime, nighttime, or both. So I joined, and now on non-weekend nights from 7 PM - 1 AM I can go play as much as I want, on quality equipment, without spending a ton of quarters, free to practice however I need to, and being around other people who want to play pool. And even a few others who actually want to improve their game.

At least for the time being, this is much better than having my own table. I avoid my ambivalence about putting a nice piece of furniture in the garage, especially over the repellent partial linoleum flooring. It gives me one less thing to think about and plan for, when I need my energies for the house and the family and getting back to productivity at work. I still want a table, because there's nothing like being able to lazily wander ten yards away to shoot pool in the comfort of your own home, with or without friends. This is a great stopgap, though, giving me the constant stimulation I need to stay awake past 10 PM or so, and giving me the chance to study and practice the game more pleasantly.

The house! It is nearly habitable! The new and old wood floors are sanded and beautiful, even with the old floor's bizarro green stains that are forcing us to use a darker stain than we want. (It turns out we want a darker floor more than we want a green-tinted floor. You have to make the weirdest choices, sometimes.) Our passel of Craigslist-bargain appliances lurks in the garage, awaiting the signal to colonize the kitchen. The kitchen itself looks much happier with a wood floor and rebuilt under-sink cabinet. The kitchen sink plumbing no longer leaks out between the wall and foundation, the errant icemaker hose no longer leaks into the dirt of the crawlspace. All sources of musty smell--carpet, moldy drywall, decades-old under-sink leaking--have been removed and replaced. The kitchen will be unrecognizable once the painter has stripped and refinished the cabinets.

You get the idea. It's been a long list. In the "aw, fuck it" department, we chose some easy-to-remove vinyl tile for the laundry room/rear entrance. If we go to the effort of making things really nice, that room is probably going to go away entirely.

Once we move in, I need to set up soil tests for the yard and water tests for the irrigation well, and then we can decide what to do with the yard. I think the half-dead lemon tree may have to go, since I had never really noticed they grow terrifying 2-inch thorns and I nearly impaled my hand this afternoon when I went to casually grab a branch and lean against it. Screw you, lemon tree! You're a jerk.

The concern with the yard and well is that there used to be a lot of nasty industrial sites in the Bay Area, to the extent where some Google employees, like Netscape employees before them, have been exposed to the vapors of the Superfund site under their office building. I want to grow grapes and veggies in the yard and use the well to water it all, so if the property is full of lead or something, that's important.

Given how much time we spend going back and forth to the house, supervising workmen who are both competent and honest, I can really appreciate why everyone complains so much when the house is farther away or the workmen are bad.

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