Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Garbage Disposal and A Lizard

When we bought The House it had been stripped of any valuables that hadn't been bolted down and even some that had.  Here's what our House didn't have on moving day:

a refrigerator, 
an oven, 
stove top vent, 
water heater, 
garbage disposal, 
light switch covers, 
closet handles, 
closet magnets 
kitchen cabinet closers.

What it did have lying on the kitchen floor was a very long, very dead Southern Alligator Lizard.

I gasped when I saw its prone body.  Our Realtor, Thelma, brushed my fear aside.
"Congratulations," she smiled.  "A lizard in the house brings good luck."

No wonder Thema's been selling houses for 30 years.  She knows just what to say.

A house good enough for a lizard was good enough for me.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Good People

Commuting from work the other night I exited the freeway early to cruise our neighborhood.  I passed the river, turned at the school and stopped by the park for a herd of dog walkers.  In my corner of Los Angeles, the ratio of Chihuahuas to humans is something like 7000: 1.  And in the fashion competition the dogs outdress the people with their studded collars, knit sweaters and pillbox hats jauntily titled to one side.  If any coyotes came to my ‘hood they would dine very well if they didn’t mind swallowing doggie fabric, zippers and rhinestones.

Before I could move the car forward two boys dashed across the street in front of me.  One looked to be nine-years-old, the other seven and both wore silky blue uniforms and huge, face-splitting smiles.  The older one cradled a soccer ball, indicating he was either an excellent goalie or a lousy striker.  As they ran past I noticed the backs of their jerseys both read “Perez”.  How great to play soccer with your brother; to be near your family; to have a washer and dryer to clean sweaty uniforms. 

My family didn’t live nearby and Mr. Wonderful’s lived even farther away, which meant we were free from nosy mothers, nosy in-laws and complicated Thanksgiving dinner plans.  So we were happy.  But it wasn’t like we disliked our families.  Au contraire Mr. Wonderful and I still gabbed with our relatives through regular phone calls, emails and text messages because they were good people and good people are hard to find.

So every now and then when I saw two brothers in the park or two sisters shopping at the mall I longed for some old-fashioned, good-people family contact.  It was in this mindset that I read an email from my older cousin’s son, Matt, a 23-year-old itching to leave the Midwest and move to the big city.  Not the Big Apple but the Big Citrus “Orange” of Los Angeles, the 21st century locus where dreams, dreamers and folks on the make came for money, fame and a slice of the organic, fructose, silicone-implant life.
“All I need is a place to stay while I look for an apartment,” Matt wrote.  “Can I stay w/ u?”
Mr. Wonderful read the email and cocked an eyebrow.  “What’s your cousin’s kid to you?  A second cousin or a cousin once removed?”
“Does it matter?  He’s family,” I said.  It was true.  I didn’t know Matt well.  He had grown up in a different city from me and his branch of the family didn’t come back to the homestead often.  Although I did remember seeing him at my sister’s wedding when he was battling a particularly bad case of high school acne.  So we had that in common.

Family is good people.  Of course he could stay with us I decided and Mr. Wonderful agreed. 

Just then my mother-in-law called to chat so I told her the Matt news. 
“He’s moving in with you and my son in your brand new house?” she said shamelessly inserting her nose into my business.
“He’s not moving in, he’s just going to stay a few days.”
“Uh-huh,” she said sucking on a cigarette.
“Until he finds a place of his own.”
“I believe him.”
“Make sure you give him a move-out-by-this-date because if you don’t, he’ll never leave.”

Don’t you hate when your nosy mother-in-law is right? 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011--10 years later; 2,977 lives lost; 350 million lives changed

On the coast of Malibu, Pepperdine University erected a moving tribute to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.  One flag for each person.  The strong Pacific wind whips the flags, which flutter, quake and bend but never break.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Urban Light" and a night out

All work and no thrill makes me a sad... grill.  

Off to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).   I love walking through LACMA's lamp post exhibit.  At night it's especially cool when the lights are on.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Neighbor 1 Part 2

It was Sunday and I'd decided today I wouldn't work on the house.  Last night I stayed up until 2 AM to finish painting the bathroom.  So today was a free day I'd more than earned.

In the morning I shuffled out to the driveway to get the newspaper.  Nothing says weekend more than sipping espresso and lingering over the paper version; from the front page, to the editorials, to the comics.  On Sundays I need my fix of "Zits"in color, thank you very much.

Bending down to pick up the plastic-wrapped paper I felt each separate muscle in my back burst into a flaming pyre of aching agony halting me in mid-reach, just three inches from "Zits", "Doonesbury" and Sunday comfort.  After four weeks of continuous house painting the physical pain lingered.  

But today it didn't matter because today I.  Was.  Doing.  Nothing.  I would lie on the sofa, drink coffee and read all the comics.  With it out of arm's reach, my foot pushed the paper toward the front door.

"Nothing like a seven mile power walk to get the juices flowing," says Harold, our geriatric, nosy next-door neighbor.  He stopped in his marathon shoes to look down on me bent over like an uncoordinated gymnast.
"Hey, Harold," I said.  "Be careful out here in the hot sun."
"Me be careful?  You young people can't keep up," from his lawn he picked up hand weights and started doing curls.  Just watching him make me winded.  
But Harold was just getting going.  "I saw you painted the bedroom Navajo white," he said. 
"You looked in our window?"  
"You don't have curtains." 

Wow.  He looked in our window.  Okay, it was true.  I had bought fabric to make curtains but between work, commuting, the painting and cooking and just life in general I hadn't had the time to make the curtains.

"The color looks... okay," he continued.  "At least it beats the green sponged stuff."  
He looked in our windowS!  My sense of independence and freedom felt violated.  

"So when are you going to work on that lawn of yours?  Replant the dead grass?  Remove the weeds?"
He's telling me what to do?  "Seems like today is a good day for you to do yard work," he said doing curls while twisting at the waist.

"No, Harold, no yard work today," I said opening the front door and sliding the paper inside with my foot.

I closed the door, pulled out the sewing machine and bag of fabric.  Today is curtain making day.

The newspaper laid on the floor all day unopened.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mailbox and Doorbell

Starburst Mailbox and matching Doorbell from the 1950s.  Made in Los Angeles, California by the "Babco" company.  So nifty-fifties mod.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Part of the journey of being a new homeowner is examining the house and yard you've plunked down a boatload of money for and asking yourself: What were the previous owners THINKING?

Why did they paint the living room PINK?  Why did they plant ELEVEN palm trees in the itty-bitty front yard?  Why did they hang the mailbox on the BACK of the house?

Some questions are elementary.  As for the walls, since the previous owners painted the master bedroom a 3D reptilian green and the dining room a salmon-orange meets WWII-era Spam, of course (!) they painted the living room a feminine pad pink.

And landscaping with eleven palm trees?  The people who built the house back in the 1950s were from the Midwest, so they embraced the exotic palm and planted it wherever there was an available plot of one square foot just to say, "Look, Honey, we aren't in Cleveland anymore!"

But hanging a narrow, wall-mounted mailbox on the BACK of the house?  Behind a locked fence?  In the backyard?  That was a head-scratcher.  Perhaps the previous owners disliked junk mail?  Or they disliked ALL mail?  Or they used it as a laundry hamper for just one dirty sock?

"Maybe," Mr Wonderful said, "They retired it to the back because it's too small for a mailbox now."  Granted this was a valid point.  It measured just 7 inches wide by 9 inches tall by not even 3 inches deep and was capped with a flip-top.  It was so tiny a box of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies wouldn't fit inside.  "I'll go to the home store and buy a bigger, standard size one," he said unscrewing it from the back wall.

But I found this old mailbox appealing.  Yes, it was small but it was in proportion with Our small House.  According to the metal stamp inside it had been manufactured in Los Angeles, "CA" by the "Babco" company, which meant it was local and since that company no longer exists, made it a relic.  Finally and most importantly the starburst cut out pattern decorating its front matched the illuminated starburst pattern of our doorbell.  This mailbox was original to the house.  It belonged with Our House.  I wanted to keep it.

"For a postal worker a mailbox, is a mailbox, is a mailbox," I said.  "But if you're right and it is too small for current U.S. Postmaster specifications, let's at least hang it near the doorbell since... they go together." 

Despite his misgivings Mr. Wonderful mounted it on the wall between the front door and our starry 1950s doorbell.

The next day I came home from work to see our starburst mailbox holding a packet of envelopes bound with a rubber band.  Flipping through them I noticed various postmark dates stretching back to our escrow.  Apparently the postal carrier had been carrying our mail around for weeks because he didn't have a place to put it.

Happily now he does.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Paint Supplies

We've painted the living room, dining, master, spare, bath, closets, cabinets, ceilings, crevices and cracks.

Now it's time for quiche!  Goat cheese and zucchini.  And garlic.

Made by yours truly.