Saturday, December 30, 2006

A very ghetto x-mas

I've been AWOL for a while now, but that doesn't mean I've been slacking on the sledge. Au contraire. In the interim, there've been at least six trips to Home Depot, and six thousand dollars (probably much more) spent on supplies and building materials. I've also acquired a live-in contractor. Maybe it started as a crazy idea, to find a live-in contractor via CraigsList (list of all lists!), but, my, my, it was BRILLIANT. Not only is the guy pretty cool, he has a sweet, scary-looking dog (Rex's latest gay lover). He's pretty easy to live with, not a sketchball, and, most importantly, he knows what he's doing. I've never been a woman to swoon over guys with powertools, but now I'm enlightened. Not that I'm swooning. (Sorry kids, not at all.) I just see the value in having someone on-hand to fix things you can't easily figure out. (I've had my bed on milk crates for the last six months b/c the frame was broken...and this dude fixed it in five minutes! What's so bad about that?)

I didn't realize how hard it is to do something as seemingly simple as selecting a faucet or lighting fixture until I found myself staring at them. THOUSANDS of them! The contractor, who has seen and remodeled hundreds of re-sells, is like a re-do guru. Forget Martha Stewart and those TLC people. I've realized, over the course of making these plans and buying this stuff, that if I can't even pick out a fixture (it's like staring at a menu with too many choices), there's no way I could've done this remodel myself. (As ever, in over my head...then, by magic, in the clear.) I feel really fortunate. And I'm psyched to see it come to fruition!

The master plan:
Get the place ready for a re-appraisal so that I can get a home equity loan (HELOC) (right now, there's so little equity, I'd be a fool to apply). This includes re-doing:
Kitchen, living and dining rooms, and two of the bedrooms. Also, install the windows, for which I paid cold, hard cash. (Ouch.)
With the HELOC, I can pay off the supplies I've charged thus far AND remodel the back bedroom, bathroom, and add ANOTHER bathroom, which will be exculsive to the back bedroom (a room to rent, w/ private entrance from garden). By the summer, I should have the front and back lawns xeriscaped. Vision: French doors from kitchen lead to back garden patio (fenced, private...many mornings of coffee and the NYT w/ dogs at my feet...heavenly), which will be very GREEN and include a sauna...and maybe a hot tub, too, if I feel really extravagant. I plan on living in the place for at least a few years before I can re-sell, so I want it to be NICE (and to include those features that rich people can't resist).

Bought poplar to trim ALL rooms and add lighted crown moulding to cieling in living (and maybe dining) room.

In the living room: built-in bookshelves on either side of the chimney (will install wood stove), refinish wood floor, bought new front door and door to hide furnace, knock out part of wall btw. liv/din. rms (add ballustrade)= gorgeous.

In kitchen: Laundry room (pretty big) becomes a part of the kitchen; door in laundry room disappears, thus making French doors (from kitch to back patio) main back entry. Hide laundry stuff w/ a closet; add pantry, new cabinets, new counters/countertops (custom butcher block mixed w/ sandy-colored slate); saltillo tile on the floor (also in dining); breakfast nook btw. dining and kitchen (requires removing a wall).

Serious undertakings! But I'm psyched. Now that we have all of the materials, it's really going to start coming together. I spent an entire day hunched over the kitchen floor, chipping away at the layers of ancient linoleum, all the way down to the concrete. It's still not entirely done, but it's close! It's going to be slow, I realize, but, well worth it, I think. Like anything else, I've got to suffer a little before I can eat my cake. (Speaking of which, I'm afraid I'm getting scurvy from eating so many xmas goodies.)

It's been nearly a year now that I've lived in NM (I drove out after Xmas last year, and arrived Jan. 3), and though I never meant to stay, it feels exactly right that I did. I can't imagine going back to NYC...not now, anyway. I couldn't take the hustle-bustle, not any more! (I don't know if I could've withstood another year...I'd be bald from too much stress, fat from all the drinking, and terminally insomniac.)

It's SO flippin' BEAUTIFUL here. We're in the midst of a major snow storm, and the entire city is blanketed in this pristine white crust. Coupled with that electric sunset? Outrageous. It never tires. Even the ghetto looks stunning, covered in snow. This was Rex's first encounter with the stuff, and he went nuts. We went for a run in the snow today, and he went loping through the woods, snarfing up the snow like a coke fiend. Totally adorable. At the park, he chased after kids on sleds, bounding in front of them as they torpedoed down the hill, then issuing drooly kisses as the kids lay face-up in the snow. Most succumbed in half-terror, half-glee. Who could resist?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Littlest (Living) Christmas Tree.

I shouldn't be blogging (WORK up the WAZOO!), but I can't resist. Check out the latest developments, in photo form (inc. my littlest Christmas tree. Cute! And, even better, it's alive.) Dog pics because I can't resist. You should also know that I spent $1400 at Home Depot last night. I can't think of anything I own that's worth that much money. I had to grip the register counter when the cashier told me the total. But, I'm going to have a GORGEOUS bathroom in just a few days! I bought a totally classy porcelain sink (Kohler!) and other fineries, inc. matching fixtures (faucets, showerheads, etc.). To save money, I'm salvaging the bathtub w/ this incredible refinishing spray, and am laying saltillo tile in the bathroom. (I LOVE saltillo tile...more in the kitchen, too.) I bought a wet tile saw, too, which is my favorite tool in the universe. More ltr!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Dropping the Bomb (on-board)

I’ve been listening to All Things Considered every morning, like I used to – before I read that listening to a morning newscast puts you in a sour mood for the rest of the day (whereas listening to music makes you happy.) Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling like crap? I guess I’d rather hear about the civilian death toll in Iraq and get angry about it than listen to the inane morning radio hosts discuss dirty x-mas gifts. Worse is the holiday music. I can’t venture out to any public venue in this wretchedly chipper season without hearing Nat King Cole belt out White Christmas, and I can’t hear a Christmas song without bursting into tears. (I actually cried over a head of lettuce while grocery shopping. Jingle Bells was blaring over the loud-speaker.) I wish I weren’t such a sorrowful scrooge.

Anyway, my intended point: I heard something SO FUNNY, SO ABSURD on the news this morning, I can’t resist sharing it. It proves NPR has a sense of humor. Reportedly, a woman on a flight to Nashville (?) lit a match on-board the plane. According to the NPR report, the FBI concluded that the woman lit the match b/c she had GAS and was trying to conceal the odor.

That’s fucking hilarious. And retarded. Who needs pop music in the morning when you can hear shit like that on the radio?! Made my day.

News of the “Bombplex” the feds are planning to build in NM sort of soured my cheer. Ironic how people flock to NM for spiritual renewal, when the gov’t. views it as a repository for nuclear waste and weaponry. (Fact: NM is home to the only site in the nation where nuclear waste is deliberately --and legally -- dumped...just miles from a world-famous spa.)

In other ironic news, I also hear that New York City is trying to pass an ordinance which would ban all food svc. establishments from using trans-fats. Who’s behind this? A coalition of anorexic supermodels? NYC is not SoCal. NYC is skinny, yes, and beautiful. Glamorous. But NYC is not healthy. NYC is about indulgence and excess and hedonism. I’ve never bought a donut from one of those street vendors, but if ever I do, I want it fried in the kind of oil that’s going to kill me. That’s just the NYC way.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Shaking my the Poor House

The house sometimes feels like an unbearable burden. I'm not as daunted by the work that needs to happen as I am by the cost of it. I'm one of the few people I know who's both debt-free and independent of their 'rents, and the prospect of going into debt is making me panic. I can afford the mortgage, but that plus my living costs, plus renovations is way beyond my capability. So, it looks like I'm destined for a loan of some sort, at least eventually. I can only hope that the house will be a money-maker (shake it), not a money pit. After all, that's the sole reason I bought it: to make some loot. I try to console myself w/ the fact that millions of other people take out loans to fix up their homes and aren't agonized by it. But are those the millions of people who buy diamonds and convertibles with borrowed money? I'm a simple girl. I like things to be simple. Not fancy. Not complicated. Simple. I like having one credit card (now I have more -- and they're all in the freezer), one bank account (I have four), and a budget that doesn't stretch beyond rent, food, and the occasional haircut. When did I get so fucking high maintenance?!

Here's what I figure: charge essential stuff to the new Home Depot cred card (uh, yeah. I have a HD credit card. Hard-core.), which is interest-free/no payments for six to twelve mos. By then, the place will be fixed up enough to rent out a bedroom, maybe two (rental income, also part of Plan A), and I can get a home equity loan (fixed rate!) for the amount I owe. Sounds reasonable, but I'm still sick over all of that money. But, no pain, no gain...right? Bring on the burn!

I've found a contractor who's willing to buy into my barter agreement (free rent in exchange for contracting svcs.). He and his dog are moving in this week. I'm not thrilled to have a roommate, but I am psyched to really get serious about the renovation (and for Rex to have a dog buddy w/o my adopting another). I chose this dude as opposed to the others b/c he doesn't seem crazy or creepy (most were automatically eliminated on some grounds, i.e. the Vietnam vet who told me he hoped to get "raped by an Indian lady" on his drive through NM...I don't know what's worse, the rape or the fact that he said "Indian lady"). The guy also sees what I see in the place: serious potential. He agreed that most of the stuff that needs to be done is simple (for him) and cosmetic -- nothing major, as I suspected. Reassuring. An interesting little deal that we've waged...I hope it works out.

This wknd was mostly a bust. I've been feeling anxious and cranky, and especially lethargic. Lazy and leaden-limbed. I figured that if the contractor guy was moving in, he could take care of the stuff that needed to be done, and I could rest. All I did was wash the bedroom walls to prep them for paint. This was my hot Friday night, on which I turned down a date w/ the geophysics professor in favor of spackling the walls. I'm convinced the spackling paste is more dynamic, albeit a little disappointing over dinner. I did, however, make friends w/ a neighbor who seems like a v. cool chick. She's a teacher, like me, and (also like me) very interested in the institutionalized racism in the schools. We talked for almost an hour over her picket fence, while Rex made gay love to her dog, Mr. Fluffy. (What's more gay than a guy dog named "Fluffy?") Pretty psyched to have met a neighbor who doesn't have an NRA sticker slapped onto the bumper of their SUV.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ahhh...a sigh of relief and a renewed sense of false security

Nothing like a trip to dreary, dark New England to make me yearn for NM -- even if I do live in a ghetto shack. Good news: My house didn't get broken into, and I still see the charm and potential in it, beyond the wood paneling and 1970's decor. There's enough fake wood in this house to build a village. For midgets. (Rather, there was b/f I sledged most of it outta here.) But, I confess: the huge, gold-swirled, stick-on-panel mirror on the dining room (soon to be library) wall is kinda growing on me. (Narcissism, obviously.)

My joy at returning home was buzkilled by the newly broken furnace. And did I mention it snowed? Yeah, it's f'ing cold here. Eyeball-freezing cold. I was so chilled I couldn't sleep, even with Pip nestled in my armpit. I fixed the furnace this morning (and, by some miracle, managed not to blow myself up), and again three more times...just today. The pilot keeps going out on its own, even after I shelled out $200 big ones last wk. to fix it. Go figure.

The cold killed my plants, too, but I'm trying for some indoor resuscitation. I'm just glad they weren't lifted, along w/ my Mexican string lights. I guess I took precautions for naught, out of paranoia. Feel like kind of a fool.

Also: Eastern people (beloveds aside, of course) are bitches! Rudeness abounds! I didn't notice it when I lived there, but, my god, there's truth in that stereotype. New Mexico is such a sanctuary of false security. There are nuclear weapons stored in the Sandia Mtns and surrounding areas, but people are friendly and generous (SO generous!) and kind. It feels like an innocent place, despite the dereliction.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

In Mr. J's A.S.S. (YouthBuild: Alibi)

I entertained inviting the kids over to the house to do some work for me, but thought that would be crossing the line of professionalism...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hot Stuff: Puppies, Pahkin' the Caaah, and Self-induced Poverty

Preparing to rejoin my Bostonian brethren for canned cranberry sauce (sliced, of course), fixin's, and a Pat's game. Not that I'll watch it intently or know what's going on. Anyhow, I'm kind of psyched to ride the T (Wonderland! Aquarium! Copley Squa-ah!). Despite the smack I talk about Beantown, I do sometimes get nostalgic. (But it's no New York.) As a semi-related digression, I'm going to blow off some holiday steam: why must all of my colleagues and just about everyone who comes over my house make comments about my "weird" eating habits? If I were eating a cheese-smothered steak grinder and sucking down a cherry-flavored Slurpee, no one would blink. But because it's a flippin' salad, or a tomato, or the berry smoothies I bring for lunch, I'm a *freak.* They get upset when I refuse to eat the courtesy nosh (BEEF! DONUTS! Watery coffee!) that's laid out in the lounge. Blech. I don't judge them when they eat stale, icing-smothered danish. Why am I so weird?

I did get to give out iPods to some smarty-pants kids today, though, which was pretty cool. And it was on tv!

Back to business: Lots of home-related developments today. Fixed the furnace for $200 (needed new transformer), so now I have heat! I was kind of getting used to freezing my tuckus off and toughening up (ready for some winter camping! cowabunga!), but oh, well. The electrician never showed, but I did have a dude from PNM check for gas leaks. My bill, for only six days of svc, was exorbitant (probably bc the furnace was busted, but still burning gas). Fortunately, there's no leak. B/c if there were, I probably couldn't afford to fix it. I met with Grace, the security bar lady, on my lunch break. She's been in business for forty years, and has probably been smoking for much longer. She sounds like a lawnmower riding roughshod. But I like her. Of her enormous selection, I actually found some iron bars that I found aesthetically pleasing -- and not prison-like. They were kind of artsy-fartsy cool, but not overwhelming. The cost? Upwards of THREE GRAND! (Remember, the windows are going to be more than $3K, too, so that's nearly $7K, right up-front, right now.) She doesn't take credit cards, which is good and bad, nor does she have a payment plan. It's no secret: I don't have three thousand big ones to shell out for security bars. Nor do I want to take out a loan. Not right now. I've decided to deal in cash until I absolutely can't. I've got a few years, and I don't want to go into debt. I'm only invested in this house for as long as it takes me to fix it up and sell for a profit. Then, surely, the wanderlust will pull me somewhere else (probably further west, is my guess). So why get into lots of debt? I can stand to take it slow, can take the dust and the ugliness for as long as I can manage. I'm doin' it the old-fashioned way -- which is how I like to do just about everything. Besides, I don't even think I *own* $3K in valuables. My foremost concern is safety... a problem possibly solved by a new, mean n' nasty, cuddly pup.

I was looking online at the shelter dogs for adoption today, and man, am I a sucker. I even called to be sure they wouldn't put them down over Thanksgiving (they don't make a habit of euthanizing, they said, but I've heard conflicting information from other sources). I'm not enchanted by the idea of having another thing to take care of, but don't find $3K of security iron on my doors and windows appealing, either. Another dog is just more love, right? Anyhow, I'll wait to make a decision on this. Don't want to be rash! In the meantime, just look at what I'm up against. How can you say no?:'ALBQ','ALBQ1'&PAGE=1&WHERE=type_DOG,size_l&searchtype=ADOPT

Monday, November 20, 2006

Early-Onset Senility

Not much to report today, except that I often feel bleepin' crazy for taking this on. I moved away from the ghetto...only to wind up in another. And there's so much work ahead! I resent the time it takes from things like working on my ms, or retreating to the Jemez for the weekend. It's been so gorgeous here, and I haven't been able to get away (I'm missing the golden leaves and their crunch)! BUT, the house around the corner (old, rehabbed) is selling for $400K. The place across the street (presently rehabbing) is going for OVER $400K. And the little brick place w/ the cutie-pie porch, just down the block, is on the market for $350K. So, if I do it right, I think I stand to make some sweet bank. Which is why I signed. It's just going to take a lot of mooh-lah up front.

I called the bank today to investigate rates for a home equity loan. Scary: variable rates! high interest! Borrow more than you need, and you've STILL got to pay it off, w/ interest. (And they explain all of this in a very soothing voice, the same one you'd use to speak to a baby or a senile geezer, so as not to alarm.) I'm not even comfortable with carrying credit card debt. Even the mortgage gives me jitters. But home equity? Eeek! Maybe I should just pay cash. which case the place would be finished... maybe by the time I'm toothless.

The windows are going to cost upwards of $3K, and security bars at least $1.5K. And these are two things I need to do NOW. I've got to get the bars, even though I think they're sinfully ugly. I hate taking all of my valuable junk w/ me everywhere I go, and worrying that I'll come home to a ransacked house. I especially worry about the dogs' safety, even though they're supposed to be protecting me. I don't want to become a paranoid wetta.

I love the windows guy. He's from Idaho, and totally sweet. He's got my back, b/c he knows I've got a lot of work ahead, little money w/ which to do it, and that I'm new here. He says I "struck a chord" in him and "stuck in his mind" -- in a completely non-gross, non-threatening way, of course. He's coming over on Weds. to help me estimate the full cost of the reno. and draw up a budget -- free of charge. He's also a realtor and a contractor, so he knows what's happenin'. The windows guy is down. (And, probably, thinks I'm a little nuts. Which, maybe, I am.)

Will maybe tackle the bathroom next. Showering strictly at yoga, b/c the thought of stepping into that tub w/o protection is almost as sickening as using the old toilet. Uck! It's worse than the skankiest foreign hostel -- I swear.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pics: lath-and-plaster, lv. rm

More Photos: Funky Gunk

Nasty kitchen, funky wiring (in cabinet), and the gunk that fell from the ceiling.

Photos of the Nasty Ceiling

Asbestos? Let's hope not.

The Wetta Wants it Done

My grand visions of the master bedroom didn't come to fruition. Not just yet. Looks like I'll be sleeping on the couch for at least another week. In ripping out the old ceiling and sanding the walls, I discovered that the walls are made of different materials. Most are old-school lath-and-plaster (much of which is crumbling...lots of patch work to do), but one wall, by the closet, was drywall. The drywall reached only to the old ceiling, so the wall looked markedly different where the drywall met the plaster. I decided to get in a little over my head and tear the whole wall out. I can half-ass this renovation or I can go full-throttle. I'm revved. It's all or nothing, baby. What's so tough about drywall, anyhow? I've done it before. And, I figure, if beer-guzzling knuckleheads do this for a living, why can't I learn?

Re: bedroom colors - I think A's right. A bright red bedroom might conjure nightmares, and lord knows I have enough trouble sleeping. Perhaps a soft pastel, or natural/neutral? Something slightly girly?

People ask me what I think about when I wield my sledgehammer. I don't have very much to be angry about, so I sledge away the big, bad untouchables -- like Rummy and Bush and their axis of evil cohorts. I sledge Bush-lovers and warmongers and Bill O'Reilly (extra hard swing for him). Jerry Falwell gets it good, too (AW, remember when we were on his show, defending the gay Teletubby?). I take a few shots at Heather Wilson, who sobbed over the indecency of Janet Jackson's exposed nipple, but sees no wrong in sending teens to war, and then move on to sucker-punch the man I caught kicking his dog. Maybe I should don a spandex suit and a cape, work on my superpowers, and start crusading.

I've been thinking about getting another dog. Which is INSANE. Rex is so docile, I'm afraid he'd go belly-up if a burglar barged through the door. I've never seen him bear his teeth -- not once. And he needs a pal. Pip isn't any fun. He's old and grouchy, and growls whenever big dog tries to play.

Roger said he'd have the linoleum ripped up by today. Not so. He didn't even help Freddie w/ the labor (although Freddie took his sweet time and plenty of smoke breaks). I don't want to come off as a bitchy wetta, but I paid him -- and I want it done. He first said he'd finish it a week ago. I told him that if this keeps up, our little deal -wink, wink - is off.

Other notables: Watched my other neighbors, two Mexican guys, nearly kick Rick's drug-addicted ass in their driveway. Not sure of the conflict, but it was rough. Labor: Ripped out wall in bedroom, tore down ceiling in living room (showered with dust, looked like a coal miner by day's end), pried wooden beams from walls (remnants of wood panels), and swept endless piles of dust and debris. Next: Drywall, the furnace, and the retired electrician (who pays a visit on Tuesday...all of the wiring is out of code).

Week one triumph: I think I've finally eliminated the cig stench, with all of my candle-burning, coffee brewing, and fresh air.

Photos (more in next post):

1. Archway, from lv. rm. to one of the bedrooms/bath.

2. Blue light, porch.

3. Bedroom closet (needs drywall).
4. Light fixture in bedroom, dangling from ceiling.
5. Ceiling in lv. rm., after ripping off lowered tiles.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Forays into the Forbidden...and The Frontier (or: Burritos and Break-ins)

I was thoroughly lazy today, namely b/c I had a glass of wine on an empty stomach before bed last night, which gave me a royal headache this morning. (What happened to the days when I had an Irish, iron-strong gut?) This one foray into the forbidden set off a landslide of naughtiness. I soothed my aching head with a disgustingly delicious breakfast burrito from Frontier, the ultimate in NM guilty pleasures (green chili, cheese, scrambled eggs, AND hash browns, baby!) and a cup of coffee from the cutesy shop down the street. Rex and I have become regulars since running out of beans a few days ago. The woman who owns the place is always fawning over the dog and feeding him treats. I'm tempted to beg for a cupcake. I know some pretty good tricks, myself.

Roger and Freddie (next-door neighbors) came over this afternoon to finish scraping the layers of linoleum from the kitchen floor. I tore up the top layer, but there's some ancient, yellow stuff glued down to the cement that just won't come up. So, when Roger offered his assistance (for cash, of course), we shook hands and made a deal. Freddie was telling me that he gets harassed by the cops b/c he looks young. He does. He's 31. I thought he was 19. The cops, he said, pulled him over as he was riding his bike home from the store -- sirens blaring! And they pulled a fucking WEAPON on him! Crazy!

"They won't bother you, though," he said.

It's b/c I'm a wetta, isn't it, I said.


Freddie says I'm the only white chick in the neighborhood. It's true, at least for a few blocks. But I like it. It was the same way in Brooklyn, but there wasn't as much poverty. I didn't realize until I moved in how absolutely impoverished my neighbors are. Roger just offered me food stamps at a discount. There's a black market food stamp ring I wan't privy to, but it exists. Breaks my heart. How to tell him I don't need them w/o offending, or seeming righteous?

And that guy, Rick? Lupe, Roger's wife (former truck driver! so cool!), warned me that Rick is bad news. Not only is he pushy, he just got out of prison -- for the umpteenth time. I suspected he was on drugs, and, sure 'nough, it's true. Lupe says he overdosed and nearly died on his front lawn not too long ago, needle sticking from his arm.

There are some SERIOUS DROGAS en esta barrio. Muchas drogas, and just down the street from an elementary school. All night, cars beep their horns and dim their headlights, signaling for a deal. It's fucking everywhere. Totally pervasive, totally obvious, yet the cops are more concerned w/ people speeding down Central. Not that I want the cops around here. I don't. I just don't understand the blatant deals and the city's blindness. Corruption, no doubt the culprit.

Yoga was like a Floridian torture chamber today, without the rednecks and the gators. But it felt really good, especially after sledgehammering out the ceiling and wrecking my back w/ all of this manual labor.

The only work I did today was minimal: I climbed up on the roof and yanked down all of the hideous cable wires that were falling across the front of the house. I don't have a TV, so what's the sense?

Lupe warned me that my house is going to get broken into. I know it will, especially b/c everyone here thinks I'm little miss moneybags.

"Once they break in, they'll realize I don't have squat."

Lupe laughed. "Sure looks that way, honey."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Christmas and a Cubic Zirconia

My neighbors think they can make some bucks off of the wetta. They see that I'm doing some heavy-duty renovation, and the dollar signs blind them to the fact that that I have no money. Hello. I work for the public schools. I'm too young to have worked up a decent savings, I don't have a trust fund. And I'm a little bit boho, to boot. I'm self-sufficient, always, but I am poor!

One guy, Rick, who lives around the corner, approached me this afternoon as I was taking the dogs out for a stroll. He practically begged me to hire him, said he's got three kids and another on the way (eventually met his very pregnant wife, who stumbled over in her stocking feet), said that Christmas is coming up. (I hate Christmas. So many reasons. Bah-humbug.) He mentioned karma, and tried to guilt me into hiring him. He asked me if I was married. "Well, that's money right there!," he said, when I told him I wasn't. WHAT?!? I must look like a fucking money tree. An unmarried money tree. If one more person in this grand state asks me if I'm married, I'm going to start wearing a cheap-o cubic zirconia on my finger to fend off any unwanted inquiries. I'm sick of it. For the last time, NO, I'm NOT married, and don't intend to be any time soon. Not nearly! I'm only twenty-four! My biological clock has hardly ticked! (Later addendum: Just received the official deed to my property, which states, precisely, "Katherine [full name], an unmarried woman." In fact, it says it a few times. WTF? And it's written in bold. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, considering that single women weren't allowed to hold a credit card until, like, the late 70's or something. Still creepy, though, no? I wonder if a deed must state whether or not a dude is unmarried. If so, it would probably change the terms...something more like, "unburdened bachelor," or "swinger, sans ball-and-chain.")

Two little girls came over today, just before Rick, to meet the dogs. One of them told me that her mom is 24, and that her birthday is on Halloween -- two days b/f my own. The kid was SEVEN years old. This is the NORM here, baby makin' while you're still wearing braces. I don't get it. But all of these marriage inquiries are really pissing me off, like I'm supposed to have some muscle-y due helping me out w/ the heavy labor. I've always done everything myself without complaint, and I don't intend on that changing.

It's hard for me to pity Rick, as much as he tried to convince me I should. The fact is: yes, socioeconomically, he hasn't had nearly the advantages I've had. It's a different situation, I realize this. YET, there are SERVICES! He and his wife didn't have to have four friggin' kids! That was their choice. Not mine. I don't have money to hand out. And I don't want that reputation. I did, however, think of offering Rick and his family xmas dinner. That I'd do. By then, I hope, the house will be somewhat straightened-out. I'm not into bogus, unsentimental, meaningless gifts, or caroling or lawn ornaments or flourescent xmas lights stapled to the gutter. More than the glitz, I loathe the religious fervor. I am, however, an advocate of good food and good company -- which I think gets lost in all of the other hoopla. So, maybe I'll have Rick and his family over for xmas dinner, and buy some gifts for his girls (even though I hate all of that commercial xmas shit...ugh, I shudder!).

My other neighbor (next door), Roger, says that the ceiling tiles I've been pulling out may be ridden with asbestos. EXCELLENT. PSYCHE. I've been wearing my mask and goggles, but, no doubt, I've been exposed -- if they are, in fact, contaminated. I read the asbestos report b/f I bought the place, and it looked clean, but I should review. What happens, anyway, if you're exposed? Will I suffer brain damage or grow another toe? Turn green? Scary stuff, surely.

Roger is supposed to come over tomorrow and scrape up the rest of the linoleum in the kitchen. I scraped the first layer, but there's still one stuck on. A pain in the patuckus to rip up. Now I know what he meant by, "I'll work w/ you, if you work w/ me." Wink, wink, wetta.

I'm realizing that my grand visions are going to be far more difficult to accomplish than I anticipated. In my (future) bedroom, alone, there's so much to do b/f I can even slap paint on the walls. Much of the electrical wiring here is out of code, in that it's not fed through the walls, but outside of the walls. It's illegal AND unsightly. I think I can sledgehammer through the plaster and lathe and sling it up through to the attic. Lots of work ahead. Oh, to sleep in a real bed, in a real bedroom! Thinking of red and off-white, and an office in the walk-in closet...?

Two More Feet (and Freezing)!

I awoke this morning to Rex licking my toes. He was crying, because there's not enough room on the couch for his chunky dog butt. It was still dark, at 5 a.m., but I got up and got to work, chiseling that horrible tack-board (the stuff they hammered to the wood floors -- and ALL of the floors -- to keep the nasty carpet down...sacrilege -- on the wood floors! oh!) from my future bedroom, and, finally, hammering into the ceiling.

I struck gold. Proverbial, household gold, that is.

One of the investors I consulted b/f buying the place said that the previous owners had likely lowered the ceiling, which makes the house feel cozy, but kind of cramped (at least, to those who haven't lived in a tiny apartment for all of their adult lives). Two contractors looked at the place and said the ceiling tiles would just peel off -- it'd be easy, they said. In sum, the ceiling looks like shit. The prev. owners covered up the real ceiling (until this morning, an unseen mystery) with these tacky, cardboard (?) tiles. They'd been painted white, who knows how many years ago, and were beginning to slope and dip and warp. They look old and rotted. I'd started busting into the ceiling a few days ago, but was discouraged to find that the tile just peeled apart, flaking into pieces of crappy cardboard. I presumed they were glued to the ceiling (the prev. owners liked to GLUE shit everywhere, like the frikkin' wood panels on the walls, for example), and that it was going to be a mega-bitch to take them off, b/c they weren't coming w/ any ease.

This morning, I climbed my newly purchased ladder and took a whack at 'em. More peeling. More cardboard. Then, GLORY! An ENTIRE PIECE of tile peeled away to reveal TWO more FEET of space -- and a gorgeous, old, original hardwood ceiling (that had been painted, of course)! I'm psyched! By the end of it, I had a ring of black dust around my mouth (had to wear mask and goggles) and sawdust in my ears. It's going to be a bear to remove all of the ceiling tiles, the support beams, and the low molding. I can handle it, though. What I'm more concerned about is the electrical stuff and heating duct that are now exposed. I'd rather not get electrocuted...not the best way to go.

There's no risk of my cooking to death via the heater, though, considering the furnace is probably ka-put. All I know is that there's nothing coming out of it, it's not making any noise, and replacing the thermostat (which I did yesterday...correctly?) didn't make diddly-squat of a difference. Sister Sledge has been freezing her flat, white girl booty off, with only the weak heat of a space heater to warm by.

I think I have to pay some dude w/ experience to take a look at it. Having grown up in a household where my father kept the heat at 59 degrees F throughout the freezing New England winter, I'm hell-bent on keeping warm. I'm notorious for wearing my heavy jacket at work. And, if it's cold enough, my hat and scarf. I hate being cold! Worse, I hate being cold in my own house.

This weekend: finish whacking out the ceiling in my bedroom, figure out what to do w/ electrical and heating hanging from the ceiling, fix furnace (pray I don't have to buy a new one), prime and paint (off-white and red?) bedroom; take a sledgehammer to the sealed-up chimney in the living room -- and maybe buy me a pot-bellied wood stove (or pellet stove, the new vogue) to keep cozy.

Photos to come.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Welcome, Wetta

A "wetta" is a white girl. Specifically, a white girl with pelo rubia. A blondie. Like me.

I met another neighbor this evening, as I was walking the dogs at dusk. Stuart was a little drunk, but very kind. He didn't mind when Rex whizzed on his flowers, and knew that Pip is named after the Dickens character in Great Expectations. (What's wrong with a beer after work, anyhow?) Stuart is old, but not so ancient that he's out of it. He's missing three teeth, and one in the very front of his mouth wriggles while he talks. It's kind of endearing. He also swore that Pip has more brains than Donald Rumsfeld, which made me like Stuart immediately.

Stuart is a neighborhood sage. He's been here for at least thirty years, and has seen enough gun-slinging shake-downs, especially w/ the local cops, to put my experience in Brooklyn to shame. Describing the neighborhood, he said, "The white people don't bother us here. It's nice."

"Stuart," I said. "I AM a white person. I'm a wetta." I held a up a fistful of blonde hair. But I don't like the cops or the government, and I have a big, scary-looking dog. He said I'd be okay.

We bid farewell to Stuart and mosied down the block, where I found two young, liberal-looking white guys in tortoise-shell glasses moving their junk into a run-down adobe, just around the corner from my place. Is it a wetta invasion?

My colleagues think I'm INSANE for living in this neighborhood. They don't understand -- I'd rather live here ANY DAY than in the Northeast Whites, or in one of those god-awful McMansions on the West Side. Blech! I'll take a shit shack with character and potential over a cheaply crafted modular that looks identical to all of the other homes on the block -- any day!

I am a bit overwhelmed, though, by all of the work this place needs. AND, by all of the money it's going to take to get it into shape. I'll definitely rent out a bedroom, but I can't do that until it's well in shape -- and that's going to take A LOT, esp. time, money, and elbow grease. I think I can finish my bedroom this weekend, but I'm taking a break for tonight. I'm EXHAUSTED. Haven't been this tired since I lived in NYC. Went to yoga tonight for the first time in four or five days. It didn't energize me the way it usually does, probably because I'm so physically and mentally wrecked. I need time to recover! Must try to remember that fretting gets me nowhere. I've just got to take it one room at a time. ONE ROOM AT A TIME!

All work, little play...

Having three jobs is taking its toll...I have droopy, black bags under my eyes, yet I can't sleep. I'm too jazzed. I spring off the couch after a restless night ready to wield my hammer. Photo: me in action at job someone else's office (I'm school administration, baby). (Job two: freelancer. Job three: construction worker.)

Mr. Roger's Ghetto

I'm not wearing wool cardigans or leather loafers, but my neighborhood, however notorious, is straight out of Mr. Roger's -- with some rated R elements (frequent drug deals, toothless neighbors, homeless people, and meth addicts stumbling though the streets).

What New Mexicans lack in intellect, they make up for in kindness. In terms of its people, it's the polar opposite of NYC. In NYC, there are lots of bitchy, busy, self-involved smart people. In New Mexico, most of the folks I encounter aren't headed to Harvard, but they're so FRIKKIN' NICE!


*Homeless people say hello -- w/o asking for change

*My REALTOR and her husband, who I've never met, helped me move in. So did my former colleague, Cathy, and her husband. In NYC, I was always reticent to ask anyone for any kind of help, b/c most everybody -- including me -- was always too busy to give it. Not that I don't love NYC and the people who live there. I do. But 'burque - and NM, in general - is less self-involved, less pretentious, less harried than most other cities. Albuquerque has a gritty underbelly that I admire. It's still transforming, still kind of nasty and quirky, still down-to-earth and totally charming.

I love when I wake up and the sun and the moon, both, are still up in the sky. So cool. Even in the ghetto, it's fucking gorgeous.

I'm in love with my electric sander. I used it last night, for the first time, and sanded the walls to my (future) bedroom (filthy, blue, and stucco -- yuck!) while wearing a cashmere cardigan and a dust mask. Sledgehammer chic.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My CraigsList Ad: Got the Skillz to Pay the Bills?!?

See photos for what you're up against, suckah...

Believe it or not, I've had some bites!

**Ch-ch-check it out:

Rent: Zero dollars, in exchange for your handy man or woman skills
Where: Downtown, 3 br fixer-upper
Who: Young liberal and her two dogs; one big, one small.
When: move-in any time
The low-down: I just bought a 3br home in seriously rough condition. Most of the issues are cosmetic, but they're throughout the house. It needs a total renovation. I've started in on it, but there's some stuff that's over my head -- for example, installing a new shower, toilet, etc. Ideally, I'm looking for someone who's willing to offer their handy services (i.e. someone who CAN install a new shower -- and has experience doing so) in exchange for free rent (on a month-to-month basis). All the renter would be responsible for would be half of the utilities. Again, the house is in ROUGH shape -- but, it's habitable. So, if you're someone who can't stand a little cracked plaster, this ain't for you.

You: No druggin' or stumble-bumble, daily drinkin'. Dog loving, handy (experienced), helpful, responsible and respectful roommate. Can pay half of utilities on time. Your pets are welcome (upon approval). References required.

If interested, pls. e-mail w/ a brief description of yourself, your experience (inc. speciality, if applicable), and your pet(s) (if applicable).


Edith Blvd SE at Pacific google map yahoo map

yes -- cats are OK - purrr

yes -- dogs are OK - wooof

this is in or around Downtown

no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


Cookies...and Milk! (Or: I meet the neighbors)

First, the photos in the previous post:

1. Close-up: exterior of house
2: The living room (entry) BEFORE I touched it. Makes you sick, right? Can't you just SMELL the cigs?
3: Diagonally across the street from my house: the old Edith St. Laundry/grocery, which an investor is fixing up (a loft, I think) and selling for BIG BUCKS! I wanted to buy it, but couldn't afford it.
4: Living (entry) room AFTER I ripped the carpet from the (gorgeous hardwood!) floors and paneling from the walls. Lots of drywall to finish...
5: View of ext. from street corner

Now...about the neighbors:

A homeless guy walked into my house yesterday. I'd left the door open, because I was hauling out the debris I'd pried from the walls with my chisel and hammer, wood paneling painted orange and brown by the previous owners.

I nearly gouged him with a splintered 2 x 4 on my way toward the door.

I looked him in the eyes. His head nearly skimmed the cieling. He was at least six feet tall, and toothpick skinny.

"Hello," I said.

"Hi. You know where Roger is?"

Roger is my next-door neighbor. I cocked my thumb toward Roger's house.

"I think he's over there," I said. I held out my hand. "I'm Kate, by the way. You live in the neighborhood?"

In a cardboard box on the corner?

"Yeah," he said. "I was gonna buy this house!" he said, and pushed past me into the kitchen.

"I'm hungry!" he said, eyeballing the shelf of food I'd set up in the corner. There wasn't much to offer: maple syrup, oatmeal, cinnamon, salt, curry, and a package of rice crackers.

He pointed to the crackers.

"Can I eat these cookies?" he asked.

"Take 'em," I said.

He picked up the package and tore it open. "Hey, you gots some milk?" he asked.

No, I said. I didn't have any milk. Which was sort of a lie. I had soy milk in the 'fridge, but I wasn't about to pour the pushy homeless dude a cold glass of Silk.

"You ain't gots no milk? How can I have cookies with no milk?! How come you ain't gots no milk?!"

The nerve! I couldn't take it any longer. Even homeless people should mind their manners -- especially when they're an uninvited guest in a stranger's house.

"I think Roger's next door," I said. "Maybe he's got some milk."

Homeless guy wasn't getting the hint. I told him that he should be satisfied with the cookies, and told him I didn't like to be disrespected in my own home. "I invite you into my house, give you cookies, and you're mad because I don't have any milk?" I told HG that isn't how I operate.

"Roger's waiting for you," I said. "I think you should leave."

"Okay, okay," he said, hands up in surrender. "Thanks for the cookies." The door was still wide open.

"You got a husband?" he asked.

"No," I said. "But I have a mean dog." And a crowbar.

The dogs and I are sleeping on the couch in the dining room. Cozy, w/ three of us on the sofa. Rex weighs almost as much as I do, and is a hundred times as gassy. I awake in the night gasping for air...

I put the BEWARE OF DOG sign in the window before anything else... Pretty sure the house will get broken into...inevitable, I think.

This morning, as I was walking back home w/ Rex (morning dog walk), I passed a group of approx. ten kids hanging out on my street corner. "Hey, guys," I said. (Better to be friendly than afraid. And what the hell am I afraid of?!? I taught high school in Brooklyn. Ghetto kids are my specialty. Hell, I love them!) "Hey, Miss," they hollered. Cute, calling me miss. I was tempted to invite them in for Cheerios and tea. Instead, I called their elementary school, which is just a block away. "These babies need to be in school," I told the secretary. "Come 'round 'em up!" Here I am, thinking these seven yr olds are drug dealing... As I was leaving for work, I saw them again...boarding a school bus. They were waiting for the fucking bus! Agh. And I ratted them out. For nothing! What a wetta.

Got my first piece of "real" mail today: a big, fat check for a freelance writing gig. A good omen? I think so.

The First Swing

"Adventurous." That's what the contractor said when he looked at the house. He was here to give me an estimate on the windows (most of which are shattered). "You got a lot of work ahead of you, girl."

So I do.

It's my first house, a run-down fixer-upper built in the late 1920's, with few updates but for some 70's wood paneling and a wall mirror painted in glittery gold swirls. (My realtor says she wants it for above her bed.) The furnace is busted, electrical wires snake in and out of walls (out of code!), and the bathroom floor is rotted through to the foundation. The house reeks of cigarettes (I'm finding butts in the tub, behind the stove, and beneath the brown wall-wall carpeting that I tore from every floor of the house - inc. the bath and kitchen - yuck!).

The good news: it's got character. At least, that's what I'm clinging to. I struck hardwood floors in three of the main rooms (living room and two front bedrooms), which are in fairly good shape, and there's a chimney (wood stove!) that's covered w/ those fake brick faces.

My realtor thinks the previous owners were brother and sister. Harsh, yes, but I'd believe it. They're moving into a double-wide mobile home -- and surrendered their dog to the pound b/c dogs aren't allowed at the trailer park. (Poor pup!) They painted their living room ORANGE. No, PEACH. Pinky-orange, make you wanna puke PEACH. With brown trim. The place was so filthy when I moved in (this wknd), I thought that maybe they'd opted to move out instead of taking on the chore of cleaning. They had this nurse's station planked down in the middle of the kitchen as a counter. It was HIDEOUS! I demolished it w/ a sledghammer and found, underneath, heaping mounds of mouse shit. I've lived in NYC, but never have I seen anything nastier.

My first job? Replace the toilet seat. No way in HELL was I putting my ass on that old thing. I spent the weekend ripping up the carpet, pulling the paneling from the walls, and hosing every surface down with gallons of bleach. The pile of debris that accumulated after Saturday's work, alone, was astonishing (see pic!).

My neighbors are wondering who the "wetta" (blonde chick) is. For whatever reason, I'm always the only blonde kid in the neighborhood. The house is in downtown Albuquerque, which is pretty ghetto, but, I believe, getting "cool." EDo (East Downtown) is already totally gentrified, and that's a mere three blocks from my place. Many of the houses on my block have already been restored, and I have faith that the trend is toward restoration -- which means CASH. I'm gonna be rich, bitch. Just as soon as I find the money to make all of these changes. And it's gonna take A LOT. I ain't got it.

I put an ad on CraigsList, looking for someone with "the skills to pay the bills." i.e. Free rent for someone who's knowledgeable/experienced in renovation and contracting. Beyond cosmetic stuff, I don't know squat. But, I'm willing to learn! I know this project is going to teach me a lot. And I'm ready to swing my sledgehammer at whatever needs changin'.

...more to come. And photos!