Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Martha's jail cell was cozier than this crib.

During my latest bout of insomnia (recurring; with nostalgia, my NYC neuroses are back), I came across this stellar blog, the Constant Craftsman, while searching for cheap talavera tile and/or xeriscape (best time to invest in the garden is in the dead of winter....The bonus? No weeds! Well, almost.):

Above is the new link to the Craftsman blog, but I actually prefer the old version.

This guy is also remodeling a bungalow, and it looks like he's enduring the same pain as I am (sans the neighborly gunfire). We even have the same ancient furnace from the early 1970's, and know the enduring hell of scraping layers of moldy linoleum from the kitchen floor.

I'm trying to decide on talavera (Mexican-style) tile to use behind the new woodstove (which is actually old; I got it on CL from a retired rich guy with bad taste; he and his pint-sized wife were moving back to her native Bali). My contractor tried to convince me to go with large slabs of saltillo, but, frankly, they looked cheap (they were) and easy (and, really, there's enough of that on my block). I wanted something warm and special; something that looks like it took thought and care, not a few sloppy handfuls of cement. The hearth is the focal point of the nicest room in the entire house, so it's no place to skimp. I'd rather spend a little extra money on nice tile and be happy with it instead of regretting my miserly, bad taste every time I walk through the front door.

The contractor built a raised platform, then plonked down cement tiles (like the kind you'd use for a garden path) inside of it. Easy. I could have done it. (Why didn't I, then?) It's removable, so it won't destroy the original hardwood flooring beneath it, and I can pick it up and store it in the summer (unlikely, but nice that it's possible).

I'm trying to choose from the talaveras offered at a local tile place.

I've got to find tiles that match the quirky, brick-lined wood stove I bought on CL (wicked cheap), which is bright, bleeding red. I could paint it, but I kind of like the way it screams. The rest of the house--and the permanent stuff, most importantly, will stay stark and neutral. I'm going for the Japan-meets-modern, metro loft-mixed with old-school, charming bungalow look. Pretty, no-nonsense, open and airy, simple, but with subtle, charming touches. The house is so small, it would be easy to overwhelm it with lots of busyness. Ideally, it will feel kind of stark and spacious, but warm. Whatever that means. (I'm not kidding anyone: I'm no M. Stewart. If the Connecticut model Martha ever laid eyes on this place, she'd turn on those kitten heels and haul ass out the improperly installed front door. Her jail cell was probably nicer than this place.)

I'm going to attempt to do the tiling myself. I really can't afford to pay someone for the labor, and I know I'd feel really proud if I could accomplish the tiling on my own. It would give me the know-how and the confidence I need to finally tackle the kitchen floor. Rumor has it that tiling is like painting--any doofus can do it.

For the "fireplace" (which translates to: I have to tile the wall so it won't catch fire), I'm envisioning a simple, creamy off-white with an interesting border and/or accents w/ funkier tile that's both classic and matches the contemporary feel of the house (and, most importantly, the faux Tiffany ceiling fan in the living room, which is diagonally above the wood stove area). Feel free to throw in your two cents. I'll take up a collection. (The first photo, above, is of the four top contenders.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Soaked in Nostalgia: When Brooklyn Looks Cheap, it's Time to Go Home

(Photos: My Bklyn apt -- clearly far nicer than my house.)

I was homesick already, but it took a $200/mo tax hike to really hit the point home--all the way back to NYC.

Don't get me wrong--I still love New Mexico. I'm enchanted and entrapped, ensnared in its sunny clutches. But, oh, do I pine for NYC. Ache for it. Get nostalgic at the sight of the NYT, or the mere mention of the Mole people. (I miss the Metro section! We can't get that out here.) I'd even give up my washer and dryer. My car. My charmed, simple life. Happily. In a second.

My apartment in NYC (which, by the way, is charming, affordable, and huge--probably a teensy bit smaller than my house, but only by a few sq ft-- by Brooklyn standards) costs LESS per month than my ghetto shack here in the barrio of Burque. Like, significantly less. WTF?! Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me, either. (And let's not even discuss the kind of cash I'm pouring into this place to make it bearable. Bare minimum bearable. And my salary? Less than half of what it once was. Not that I'm complaining about that. I'm grateful.)

I miss my Saturday morning bagels w/ lox and schmear; the Sunday paper in the park with Pip chasing after the pigeons; walking two blocks to the train to get virtually anywhere; my Metrocard; walking across Prospect Park to Park Slope for evening beers with my best friend. I miss my friends most of all, hands down. No contest. (New Yorkers are extraordinary. There aren't any like 'em in the desert.) I miss going out until 4 a.m., the open-all-night diners (i.e. scarfing a greasy 3-egg veggie omelette after a good party), fast service (with a hairnet, a "whaddaya want, honey," and a Coney Island accent), cupcakes and coffee from Magnolia after a good meal at Cornelia St.; the F train at Smith-9th street at night, lights gleaming across the river; bookstores one can happily get lost in--8 miles of them--and $1 carts stocked with ancient hardcovers; garden bistros in Carroll Gardens in summer; coffee on every corner; the sweet smell of roasted nuts in Union Square; anything you could ever want, even the most obscure, absurd item, within a one-mile radius; not owning a car; walking everywhere; surfing the subway; parquet floors; city cache; communion w/ Woody Allen; the hush that falls when it snows, and how clean the city suddenly looks, and how quiet it gets; dinner parties for no good reason; the Georgia O'Keefe painting of the Brooklyn Bridge at the Bklyn Museum; the simultaneous class, charm, and brash behavior of no-nonsense New Yorkers... So much more. And that's exactly what I'm missing: I know there's more than this. I want it again.

Two years, or less -- and I'm back. (I know, I'm always teasing. But, in time, I know where I'll end up.) God, two years sounds like an eternity...

I talked to a woman tonight (to whom I'm subletting my apt) and she said that NM wouldn't be any fun unless you were married w/ kids, tied down, with sandbags and chains, as are most 20-somethings around here. . It's definitely a settle-down kind of place. Yet settling down sounds thoroughly unappealing. Always has. NYC is my great love, maybe. Two years and I still can't get over it. I'm still as mad for the city as I was in childhood; love it despite its many, ugly flaws.

I realized, recently, why I miss the city so dreadfully: In Burque, I'm bored. Terribly, pitifully, old-lady-in-my-bathrobe bored. Out of my East coast mind. There's no denying that life here is good--and, by comparison, easy. But I'm too young for such sleepy living. At least, that's how I feel, like I'm wasting good years getting enough sleep and staying in on Friday nights. If I hadn't ever lived in NYC, it's possible I'd feel differently. I wouldn't know what I was missing. I don't want to return fully to my party days, but I don't want to die without ever seeing the sun come up from a subway car ever again, or seeing an incredible reading, or having a NYC moment.

In New Mexico, I feel free. In New York, I feel like I'm home. Both places, no doubt, are magical. I can't seem to let go of love for either.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Through the roof

Maybe it's just a bad day, or I really did make a bad decision in buying this house. Some bureacrats voted on a HUGE tax increase, so my payment is now MORE THAN MY RENT IN NYC. Now, that's just nuts. I'm sorry. For this dump? In this 'hood? (Someone stole my fucking flowerpots--flowers and all--while I was away on vacation.) I'm often tempted to move back to NYC (I know, I know, how I tease!), and this is just one more kick in the hotpants. I can't afford to live in a crappy, ghetto shack in a supposedly cheap, relatively unsophisticated city, but I can afford rent in Brooklyn? Fuggghedaboudit.

There's a real catch-22 situation here: I can't afford my new mortgage payment (based solely on tax increases), which I could afford (it would be better, at least), if I didn't have to pay a PMI every month, but I can't wipe that off until I finish the renovation -- which, of course, takes money. If I sold now, no doubt, I'd lose money. Maybe I should fix it up, rent it out to college kids or a couple, and set up shop somewhere else? (Oh, but everything else here, just about, is so good...)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins: 5k addiction continues

It seems I've temporarily ditched my sledgehammer for sneakers . I ran another 5k this morning, dubbed the "Pumpkin Chase." Some of my competitors were dressed cutely in costume. Me? I was decked out, from head to toe, in Spandies. Ready to run. Ready to smash some pumpkin ass. Forget the face paint and "for the fun of it" Halloween garb. (Who wants to run in a pirate's eye patch and beard, anyhow? Never mind a peg leg!) No, my friends. Not for me. I was there to kick booty and take names, bringin' the A game. I was determined to break last weekend's 27 min time in the Duke City, which was my first 5k ever.

Today's course was more hilly, so I didn't bust as hard as I probably could have, but I was less nonchalant than last week. And I shaved two minutes from my time. Two minutes, bitches. In a week. With no training. Not even a jog around the block. Boo-freakin'-yah. I crossed the finish line at 25 (almost exactly) min. Next time? I'm going for 23. Eat my dust, pumpkins!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

First 5K. Psyched!

Ow, momma! I just finished my first 5K and feel freakin' psyched! I had to get up at the ass crack of dawn after a fitful sleep, but as soon as I toed the starting line (not exactly...I took a friend's advice to drop back to help pace myself, then pass the heaving, galumphing suckers later on) in the freezing cold, I was totally excited. And I was faster than I thought! Worst case, I imagined I'd finish in 30 min. My goal was to finish in 28 or under. Happily, I'm slightly faster than I thought.

I don't own a watch, never time myself, seldom do sprints, and often stop to wrangle Rex from the Rio Grande during my training runs (which were once just for fun and, really, still are). So, when I finished in 27 min (almost even...27:12, I think? Final results aren't posted yet, but I saw it on the clock), I was freakin' psyched! I didn't run fast--imagine if I had! I don't usually run continually bc I'm always having to stop--for Rex, for traffic, to tie my shoe, to change the tune on my iPod (which I raced w/o), bc I want to...I have myriad excuses. So, I wasn't sure how I'd feel without the brief walking break. (Granted, when I do run, I usually go much farther than 5k; usually 6-8 miles.) I have asthma, and sometimes, feel like I really need a walking break to catch my breath. I didn't want to bust out full-speed and have to walk to the finish like a tired, old fatty. But I wasn't short of breath, tired, or sore. Not at all. I took it pretty slow, actually, and stayed at the back of the front pack. I wish I'd sprinted the 1.5 back to the finish line, time. I could have done it!

I've always been more about my brain than my body, and never very competitive about sports. But I do relish an honest challenge, especially when it means competing with myself...pushing myself beyond what I believe is my limit. (This is why I love the yoga. So hardcore, no competition, except with my own mind. Om, baby. Om.)

I find it pretty incredible that I ran a race at all...for fun. Wasn't I the kid who would sneak behind the bleachers during gym class to smoke Marlboros with my best friend? The girl who used her inhaler to get through the dreaded gym class mile? The asthmatic chick who subsisted on smokes and martinis, and hang-over cures for seven years? So kick-ass. The only part of me that's still pretty rough is my lungs (though I wasn't wheezing or hacking, as were many of my peers...who I left in my imaginary dust).

I liked the 5K because its runners ran the gamut...literally. They ranged from gangly kids (one of whom looked just like me, and finished at almost the same time) to super-ripped, bionic studs with calf muscles like mallets. (I passed my favorite hottie in the third mile.) I knew I wouldn't be up there with the pro-guys, but that I'd at least do better than the chubby moms who whined that they hadn't trained in three weeks, if at all. That gave me a surge of confidence, and helped me to take the whole thing less seriously. Nevertheless, wicked fun times! Bring it on, again! (I should also say that my kid sister is like our own little Kenyan. She ran her first 5k earlier this fall and, w/ virtually no training, finished in 22 minutes. I'll have what she's having.)

Results (I'm a division winner. Pretty cool!):

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Scrub a 'Dub 'Dub

Remember what the bathroom used to look like? I wouldn't even touch the shower handles. Now, they're all new and shiny. It's not completely done, but there's a totally new floor (new sub, topped with saltillo tile), all new hardware in the shower, and a new sink and mirror. Here's what it looks like now (much better, though the photos don't do it justice...for a quick comparison, check out pics in old posts). Also, some extra pics, too:

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Lots going on, but, for now, I'll let pictures speak louder than words. I finally got some furniture, which has made the house feel more cozy. It's coming along!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Me n' Mattie, during his visit

My little brother, Matt, stayed with me for much of the summer. Here's a shot of us, just after I let him sip my beer.

A Curse Upon Your House!

Quickly, because I can't resist, though it's well past my bed-time...

I've made the decision to go full-time freelance. It's a big one, for several reasons, not the least of which is this: that's why I moved here. Over the weekend, while on a press trip to Seattle, I realized it. I was reading the NYT with my feet propped on a pillow, in a terry robe, drinking an '04 vintage pinot noir and popping hand-made chocolates into my mouth, thinking, this is work? All of it was free (all expenses paid) -- and I was paid to do (and, of course write about) it. Despite my gross overindulgence in little-known luxuries (like organic brut champagne, oysters, a ninety minute massage...), the trip shook me awake, and screamed for me to quit my job. (Quite literally, a new found friend, a NYT reporter, did, too.) So, after two days of playing hooky while on my working "vacation," I did. The morning I returned, I handed my boss the letter. I gave them thirty days. That said, I'm at once thrilled and terrified. In the long-term, I think I'll make three times as much as I've made as a teacher. But in the beginning, turning a profit may prove trying. I'm trying to be both optimistic and realistic, so I've been searching for a roommate. In short, it's been a saga:

In May, I met a woman who wanted to move in, but not until July. She seemed cool, so I held out for her until then. She signed the lease, gave me her deposit, then bailed because her house, down the block, had been burglarized. The neighborhood, obviously not Beverly Hills, sent her running -- to Rio Rancho. For those of you unfamiliar with RR, imagine a desert town where there is nothing but big-box stores and little box houses. Cooking-fucking-cutter.

The next guy, who I have a weird, roundabout connection to (which, for the time, will go unexplained), signed the lease and gave me his deposit last night. He called me this afternoon to say he can't move in. I'm presuming his current landlord won't release him -- which he should have frikkin' checked before singing my lease.

I interviewed another guy this afternoon, who was cool until he revealed himself to be a Bush-loving racist. I threw the redneck fucker off the front porch and told him never to come back. (I actually cried afterward, partly because I've never experienced racism the way I have in NM. Because I'm blond, those ignorant fuckers always expect me to agree.)

Tonight, I got a call from a cool-sounding college girl who was riding her bike in the rain. She said she was on her way over. The rain was torrential, so I prep'd a towel and sweatshirt for her and put on the kettle for tea. About an hour later, after I'd been fretting b/c she was so late (did she crash? lose her way in the dark? get accosted by a lusty drug dealer?!?), her friend called me from the emergency room of Presbyterian Hospital to tell me that the girl had been hit by a truck on her way over. My knees buckled as she said the words. By some great mercy, the girl is just fine, her friend reported. Thank god. I was practically weeping by the end of our conversation. I feel partly responsible, like I should have offered to pick her up. Getting in a car with a crazy-driving stranger (me) would probably have been safer.

Ugh. In New York, finding a roommate was never this hard! And I really need to find someone -- soon -- so I don't completely lose my mind fretting over finances. I need a roommie to float my income, at least for the time being.

Anyhow, apologies for being a deadbeat blogger. Finally, I'm back in action.