Saturday, February 17, 2007

Two seconds later...

...I found an apprentice to work with my contractor. Kickass!

Bitch Sesh

I admit to feeling anxiety over all of this remodeling. Living in a construction zone is really starting to get under my skin -- but ony because we have an agreed-upon deadline, and because the contractor is ever-optimistic about finishing, but doesn't actually finish. (A classic contractor tale, no?) I know it will get done eventually, but what's really driving me nuts is that I don't have a kitchen. Everything's still hooked up, but I'm truly sick of preparing my food amidst such squalor. And meeting that March first deadline? Show me a miracle. I guess I'm also frustrated b/c there's so little of this stuff that I can do on my own. It's not that I wouldn't -- I can't. It's physically impossible, or I don't know how. I know I have to either let go my frustration or hire someone to help (I'm looking). Moreover, I hate feeling so whiny. The good news is that my house is worth almost $160K now. Schweeeet!


Bullet holes through the stop sign on the corner, at sunset (see the loft in the background! making progress); dark view into my very messy office/desk; nearby church; Rex at park w/ a crazy look in his eye; painting the lv. room...which is STILL not finished, for f's sake.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Simply photos...for now

Just photos for now. Too exhausted to update! Will write soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sweet smell of summer (success)? And: God bless A-Mexica!

Since the weather's turned warm, I've been more focused on fixing up the house -- and, possibly, others. I think I'm afflicted with that Seasonal Affective Disorder...or, maybe I just don't get enough vitamin D. All I know is this: since it's been seventy degrees, I've been a million times more motivated, productive, and blonde-chick-chipper.

The contractor and I are talking about going into business, which I think, prospectively, has serious potential. There aren't many people who can live like this (in total construction squalor, financial uncertainty, and detachment), but, like him, I live for this kind of life. I love it more than any 9-5 day job, or any kind of stability I can imagine. It's not boring, I'm my own boss, and I'm doing stuff I like: cruising ReStore for cool, cheap salvage materials (bought a Pella 3-panel wooden, sliding French door today for $150 -- imagine! It probably cost well over $1K, retail. And it's fucking gorgeous -- and HUGE. Nearly 8ft wide, I think), making executive decisions, playing with numbers, figuring stuff out, and making ugly crap appealing; generally, creating. I revel in having so few material goods, so little in the way of roots, so little to bog me down. It's liberating. And, I hope, a sustainable, profitable lifestyle.

I realized today that all of this has been a long time coming: I have a consistent history of making something out of nothing, as far as salvaging and refurbishing goes. In Brooklyn, I was always bringing junk up from the basement garbage pile to refinish or reuse. And, for years, I've been scoping out real estate, namely in NYC and NM, and have wanted to prettify some ramshackle hovel; make it habitable -- and make a pretty penny, too. Now, I've got one hell of an ugly house -- and things are really starting to come together. I've hired a friend of the contractor's to help us out, which will make things move quickly. They're building the kitchen cabinets (I'm paying the friend in cheap beer!), and this wknd, will install the front door (gorgeous! retailed for almost $7K...I got it for a fraction of that, new, b/c it was a display). We're planning major demolition in the kitchen for Friday - Sunday: ripping out all of the walls (which are totally, permanently destroyed from paneling and painted wallpaper) and replacing them with insulation and fresh drywall. We may have time to paint, too, if the drywall mud dries and sets in time. I hope, too, that we can tackle the living room (and maybe the dining room) soon, as the walls are pretty much finished. It's the little stuff (electrical outlets, random holes, etc.) that slows us down. I'm psyched to start making things PRETTY. And to start working outside in this outrageous weather.

The contractor and I talked about maybe doing this from city to city...chasing the "hot" real estate zones, turning a shack into a chateau (w/ a "green" bent), and making bank -- continually. I'm down, if this place works out. And I have faith it will. I think this might be the perfect solution to my job-hopping, nomadic, self-steering nature: writing, traveling, and remodeling. If I make enough bank off of this place, I can hire some Mexicans to help, next time 'round. God bless aMexica!

Today: filled out a bunch of paperwork so that I can pick up the new windows and begin installing; in ReStore, spent a few hours searching for perfect door (found it!); placed order at HD for a bajillion bucks, for pick up on Friday; discovered that Pip's cataracts have gone full-throttle...poor old guy has gone blind in one eye, looks like. Made me think about getting old and not wasting my life investing in worthless, dead-end endeavors. (At a meeting this morning, one of my bosses, w/ whom I'm pretty close, told me that the last person in her position *literally* worked himself to *death.* He was 28 yrs old, and so frantic, harried, and busy w/ work, he didn't take care of himself. He got an infection, never went to the doc, kept working, and fucking DIED. Hello. Lesson learned. Busting your ass to no end for some fat,rich fuckhead in a leather chair, or some corrupt federal system ? No way.) Yesterday: replaced most of the light bulbs in the house w/ energy-saving, economical, compact fluorescent light bulbs. Tomorrow: will order eco-friendly bamboo countertop for kitchen. Psyched!

Interesting factoids: (state) (county)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Zestimation: Yuppie Central

According to, the most rockin' real estate site I've seen yet, my house has increased in value by over $7K in the last THIRTY days. (The "zestimated" value is almost a full third more than I paid.) Is that even possible? All I've done, for the most part, is demolition. (Which my contractor realizes is my favorite part of the renovation process. Yesterday, as I was sledging the kitchen cabinets from the wall, he said, "You sure like that sledgehammer, don'tcha, Kate?" Brings out my destructive side...) Are the property values skyrocketing THAT quickly?!? I guess this means the yuppies are moving in - fast. (Proof: on the next block over, there was a kid's stroller parked on the porch, and a hybrid in the driveway. If that's not evidence, I don't know what's more damning.) How soon will it be before the yuppies outnumber the crackheads?! Not that I'm crying about the yuppies. I am one...kinda, sorta...though I'd rather not be. But I'm continually broke, don't have a trust fund, and don't get more than five dollars from my grandma in my birthday card (and those stopped coming years ago).

I'm growing more antsy about seeing at least one room FINISHED. It hasn't happened yet, and although I feel REALLY fortunate to have found an extremely cool contractor/roommate, I'm itching with impatience, especially now that I need to get a loan to finance the rest of the reno. Throughout, he's encouraged me to get the shiniest of bling -- top of the line, go all out, crazy expensive stuff. But the fact remains: this neighborhood is still uber-ghetto, regardless of the yuppie influx. I'm not going to make more than $40K profit if I sell soon and keep spending so much on building materials. And that's a rosy estimate. So, I think I need to be more realistic about my expectations for this house...maybe not get so ambitious; get a plan (stop wavering!) and stick to it. And stop listening to my contractor. Although his help has been invaluable, I'm the one with the history of financial responsibility and savvy. He, on the other hand, is totally broke. That said, I should listen to my gut -- not his supposedly sage recommendations.

Update: I've been aggressive with the sledgehammer, demolishing the kitchen cabinets (found the nastiest roach nests I've EVER seen...they actually SMELLED bad. YUCK.); chipping away the remaining linoleum on the kitchen floor (readying it for saltillo!); tearing the wood panels from the dining room wall, including the stick-on square mirrors (1970's disco fabulous), tearing out the lowered ceiling in the dining room, and patching the stucco in the lv. and dining rooms. My windows are ready for pick-up (don't have the money to pay the other half, BUT windows man, my favorite, says that I don't have to pay for ninety days after pick-up...debating as to whether or not I should pay to have them installed, or do it myself, w/ the contractor). CAN'T WAIT until the kitchen looks decent, and to start GARDENING! It was SEVENTY degrees today, and wickedly beautiful.

Meanwhile, the bills are kicking my butt. The last heating/electric bill was nearly $250, and the latest water bill is over fifty bucks. All of my credit cards are in deep freeze...literally.