Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Fourth Parallel of Hell . . .

. . . also known as Moving. It really is.
Yes, we moved this past weekend. Yes, we are in the house now. But it wasn’t easy.
We spent all of last week painting. And I do mean all of it. Friday night Scott, Mook and I were still over there painting the trim and closets in the master bedroom. And the painting isn’t done yet. We still need to edge the hallway, touch up the molding in Adara’s room, and finish both her closet, the linen closet, and the entryway coat closet. But, at 2:30 Friday night/Saturday morning, after pulling up the carpet in the master bedroom (to reveal the beautiful hardwood floor we had thought might be under it) and removing the five thousand staples and tacks (they REALLY didn’t want that carpet to go anywhere!), we decided to call it a night. Particularly since we were supposed to move the next day.
Oh, but the moving saga does not start there, my friends. Oh no, it begins earlier on Friday.
I had been browsing Craig’s List recently for furniture—it’s an online classifieds. That’s where I found the kitchen table, and another table with benches. And, on Thursday, I find a guy selling two “sofa-beds” for $100 total. But he needs them out by Friday night. So I check with Budget and add an extra day to my truck rental. Friday I leave work a little early and pick up the truck. Then I drive out to this guy’s place. For those of you not in the NYC area, Friday was a miserable day, cold and constant rain, and driving a fifteen-foot truck under those conditions isn’t fun. Add in the fact that I have to go someplace I’ve never been, have to take the highway to get there, and have no one with me to help me navigate and it is not a good time.
Then I get to this guy Leo’s apartment, follow him upstairs—and he points to a black metal futon and says “there’s one, and the other is right in here.” Futons! I have a futon! In fact, I have that exact same futon! That is not a sofa-bed! And I can’t take it—we had planned to get rid of our existing futon, not get it two siblings! I do buy his TV, which is the same size screen as mine but newer and a smaller case and lighter, but mainly because I hate having to go through all this and then go home empty-handed.
So I’m in a great mood when I get home, of course. Then Mook shows up, and he and I lug the hutch and the sideboard and the new dresser and our two old dressers out to the truck. We figure we’ll bring them over to the house, thus getting them out of the apartment, and then meet Scott there to start painting. Which is all well and good, except that they are going into the garage, which means driving in back of the house. Which means taking the tight turn and the really steep incline into the party driveway in back. Mook gets out to spot me, and tells me I’m fine in front. Except that actually he was just telling me I am fine on my front corner, and is skipping around to check out the other side. But, because it is raining out and the furniture inside the truck is sliding around, I don’t hear him yelling at me. Or banging on the side of the truck. And I figure that horrible crash is just one of the pieces falling over.
Not so much.
No, it’s the truck taking out the low brick wall at the corner of the driveway—the brick wall belonging to my new neighbor. And some of those same bricks then fall down into his driveway, and clip the front fender of his car. Well, not car so much—more Mercedes SUV.
Seriously, someone upstairs is laughing at me right now.
So of course I get out and go knock on the guy’s door and apologize and give him my contact info and tell him to let me know how much it is. Then, utterly dispirited, I drive the truck two doors down to my house, and we unload. Scott shows up then, and we get to painting, but I have a hard time concentrating. Or smiling. Or breathing. All I can think is “what a great way to start out our life in this neighborhood” and “How much of what little money I have left is this going to cost to fix?”
Saturday dawns cold but clear. Mook and Scott crashed with us, so the four of us are there from the start. Lirath, Peter, and Arwen turn up around 10. Lois gets there maybe an hour later. And Dana and Steve come by around noon or so. No one else shows up.
The problem is that, because we were painting all week, we haven’t had much time to pack. So we spend the day packing everything up, loading the furniture into the truck, and loading boxes into Lirath’s car. We make six runs over to the house with his car, which gets most of that out of the way. But we also don’t have enough boxes—I thought we’d saved all of the ones from our move to the apartment, but it turns out we must have tossed most of them—and so we buy some more and also recycle some of the current ones (by emptying out books and things at the house and bringing the boxes back). Arwen, Dana, and Steve take off at around 5 or 6, having been a BIG help. At around 7:30 Jen’s cousin Steve shows up at the house with the table and benches, and a display case from Jen’s aunt. We carry those into the house—by this time my arms feel like wet noodles—then go back to the apartment for a quick dinner. Steve leaves, as does Lirath. Jen, Peter, Scott, Mook, and Lois and I decide that we’re not going to manage to get everything to the house tonight. So, rather than push it, we decide to load the last of the furniture into the truck, leave the truck parked across the street from my house, and then move the rest in the morning (I had the truck until Monday morning). So everyone leaves at around 8:30. Jean calls shortly after that, and offers to come over and bring more boxes and help pack what’s left. She shows up around 9, we pack for another hour, she leaves, Jen and I pack a little more, and then we crash at around midnight.
Sunday, Peter, Mook, and Scott show up again. We take the bed apart, lug it and a few other things into the truck, and then go to the storage locker, where we get the wardrobe, a rug, and some boxes. Then we drive over to the house and unload. After the wardrobe is in, and the boxes are in the garage, we take a break for lunch. This is at around 3. Jean shows up at the apartment and brings Jen, Adara, Bleys, and our electronics over in her car, and we walk back over from lunch to meet them there Then we finish unloading the truck. We actually have everything out by 7pm. Then we drive the truck back to Budget, and Jean drops Mook, Scott, and Peter off at the subway, swings me by the apartment to pick up a few odds and ends, and then takes me home as well.
I took Monday off from work, so I get up at 7am, go to Budget to hand in the keys, then go by the apartment again and lug three bags of miscellaneous items back to the house. Jen and I spend the day sorting a bit, and get the family room mostly set up. We also let Bleys loose to wander, and he decides that the family room is his.
Since then we’ve been sorting and unpacking and trying to get things in place. It’s coming together, slowly but surely. But my arms and legs still hurt when I move. And, right now, we still don’t have a working phone or cable or Internet—but that’s a whole other Hell, so I’ll deal with that in some other post.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

An Empty Birthday Chair, a Cake with no Candles

Today is my mother's birthday.
She would have been sixty-two today.
It's been a little over seven months since she died. I still keep expecting to hear her voice when I call home on Sundays. I keep thinking she'll be waiting when we fly out for Thanksgiving. I still feel like she's nearby.
In a way, I guess she is. But it's not the same.
In the midst of all my moving woes, I find myself thinking that Mom will really like the house, that she'll appreciate the kitchen, that she'll admire the stairway and the woodwork and have all sorts of ideas about the little garden in front and the small yard in back. It hurts that she'll never get to see it, that I won't get to walk her through the house. That she'll never get to come visit and stay in the guest bedroom.
It hurts more that she never got to hear Adara talk, or see her walk, or listen to her laugh. Mom did get to hold her, but only a few times, and not nearly enough.
But I know my mother well enough to know that she'd want me to smile and remember all the good times, rather than dwelling on the pain of her absence. My youngest sister suggested that we all make sure to have some chocolate ice cream—Mom's favorite—today to celebrate her birthday. She'd have loved that. I hope all of you who met her will do the same.
Happy Birthday, Mom. We love you, and we miss you.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A-painting we will go

So, since we closed on Friday and got the keys right then and there, we started sprucing up the house this past weekend.
Our plan was to get a bunch of friends together Saturday. We’d bring those Colgate-painted furniture pieces over in our cousin Steve’s truck, and a few people would strip furniture while the rest painted. Jen and I painted our apartment, back when we first got it, in one evening. So I figured that, with another five people or so, and a house about twice the size of our apartment, it should only take one day. Right?
Wrong. No plan survives first contact with reality.
The first problem was the help. Some of my friends were out of town. Others were busy. A few were simply wusses. But we wound up with less help than we’d expected. Fortunately, the ones who did show were troopers (no, not literally--it's an expression. Sheesh).
The second problem was the truck. It broke down—last week. So we couldn’t use it to move the furniture. We tried renting one from Home Depot while we were there spending ungodly amounts of money on paint and supplies, but they were out. So no furniture. Unfortunately we found this out after Jen and I emptied our dressers—which we also wanted to strip.
So people showed up at 10am. Glenn, Lois and I went over the house, measured the rooms, then went to HomeDepot and bought way too much stuff for WAY too much money. Glenn dropped Lois and I off at the house with the supplies, then picked up a few others and brought them over—the rest came over in Faith and Spensser’s car.
And then we started taping off the woodwork.
The house has nice woodwork. Lots of it. Everywhere. Which meant LOTS of taping. We weren’t all at the house until probably around 2pm. And we didn’t actually start applying paint until about 5.
Needless to say, nowhere near what I’d been hoping.
So yesterday (Sunday), Jen and I went back over there. Arwen, Lois, and Scott met us there, and we did more painting. Jen and I were there from 9am to 7pm. Right now the dining room needs only a little touch up, the living room needs a third coat, the entryway needs a third coat, the bedrooms need second coats, the bathroom needs a second coat, and the kitchen, stairs, and hall need first coats. The basement also needs paint, but since a small section of the wall also needs repairs that might have to wait.
I’m still hoping to get the painting done this week, so that we can move in on Saturday. We’ll see. But the paint that is up looks nice, and everyone who’s seen it agrees that the house is great.
And, by the time we’re done painting, we’re all going to know the house really, really well.

Two months and five long hours later . . .

. . . and we have a house.
For those of you who haven’t been following the entire saga, we started house-hunting back in June. We actually made an offer on the first house we looked at, but didn’t get it—the listing agent pushed the seller into taking an offer that was less than ours but came from someone she had found herself (which meant she didn’t have to split the commission with our realtors). Amusingly enough, that deal fell through later, but by then we’d moved on.
We saw this house back in late August, and loved it immediately. Made an offer on the spot. Got it accepted a few days later. Signed the contracts on Sunday, September 5. And then the waiting began.
And not waiting on financing, either. We didn’t start looking until I had been pre-approved for a mortgage. No, this was waiting on everyone involved—the bank, our lawyer, their lawyer, our realtor, their listing agent—to get their sh*t together. Lots of calls back and forth. Lots of me yelling at someone to just give someone else what they asked for now rather than later. We’d wanted to be in the house in time for Adara’s baby-naming. That didn’t happen. We wanted to be in by the end of October. That didn’t happen either. But finally this last Friday, November 5, we went to the lawyer’s to close. We arrived at 1pm. We left at 6pm, utterly destitute. But at least we have house.
Some of you have seen the pictures of the front and back. It’s a nice two-story brick rowhouse, with a stone front, a bay window, a small front yard, and a little backyard and driveway. It’s got three bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms, a formal dining room, an eat-in kitchen, and a finished basement. The house was built in 1945, so it’s also got hardwood floors and nice woodwork throughout. And it’s all ours. Well, ours and the bank’s.
So that part of the ordeal is finally over. Now we just have to get it ready and move in.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Monster Unleashed

This weekend was Halloween, of course. We didn’t go trick-or-treating—Adara’s a little too young, but we’ll probably go next year—but we did go to a friend’s Halloween party on Saturday, and we did dress up. Adara wore a pair of purple fuzzy paints, with clawed feet at the bottom, and a matching jacket with a spiked tail on the back, and a dragon head for the hood. Underneath that she had a black onesie on which Jen had written “godzilla, Godzilla, GODZILLA!!!” in front, and “FEAR ME! Godzilla” on the back. Jen and I had black shirts on as well—hers said “Tokyo” in front and “I [heart] Godzilla” in back and mine said “Hong Kong” in front and “Godzilla’s playground” on back. Yes, we were the support crew. But it was fun, and everyone got a kick out of it. Of course, most people didn’t know that we’d chosen Adara’s outfit because Godzilla used to be one of her favorite games—we’d stand her up and have her walk across us, saying things like “Oh no, it’s Godzilla!” the whole time, and she’d grin at us and drool and then head butt us so that we’d fall over. Lots of fun. Next year, of course, we’ll actually let her have a say in her costume. I might go as Hong Kong again, though—it’s not often I get to play an entire city.

Another Furniture Saga

So this weekend I spent yet another day moving furniture. No, we don’t have the house yet. Yes, this was new furniture—well, new to me. No, it didn’t go exactly as planned. Intrigued? Read on.
This past Thursday I got a call from my friend Jean. She had happened across an estate sale, and had found a really nice dresser that the woman was selling for a very good price. Jean didn’t need any more furniture herself, but she wanted to know if I was interested. Sure, I said—a nice dresser at that price sounded good. Then Jean mentioned that the woman also had two big dining room pieces, that they were nice but had been painted a hideous color, and that the woman was asking five bucks apiece for them. Did I want them? Sure, I said. At that price, I was willing to check them out—if Jen and I didn’t like them, we could always toss them or resell them.
That night Jean stopped by with photos of all three pieces. Dresser—very nice, big, nice finish. Hutch and sideboard—big, solid, looked like nice detail work. Painted a horrid Colgate green-white. But sure, we’d see what we could do about refinishing them—or, rather, I would, since Jen washed her hands of the project. She didn’t think trying to refinish two big pieces, while trying to paint and renovate the house and move in, was a good idea.
Of course, the catch to all this was that the pieces needed to be out of the woman’s house by Sunday at the latest. Jean’s dad has a van, so she asked him if she could borrow it. Initially he said no, but Jean thought she could convince him.
Sunday morning, Jean called me to tell me that the van was a no-go, but that she had her station wagon and we could probably move them one piece at a time. Mook called shortly after that—of all my friends, he was the only one available and willing to help move the pieces Sunday—to confirm that we were doing this. He showed up at around noon. Jean called just before that to say that her dad had relented, and we’d have the van after all, but not until 1 or 2. Mook and I hung around for a little bit, then figured we’d better see if we had space in the storage locker before we tried sticking anything in there. Turns out we rearranged and got almost a five foot by two foot space, which would be enough for either the hutch or the dresser and the sideboard. But the storage locker closes at 4pm on Sunday—as in, they lock the gates at 4pm. Jean met us as we were getting out of the locker, and we drove over to pick up the pieces.
Up close, the dresser was every bit as nice as it had looked in the pic, definitely worth the price. And the hutch and sideboard were every bit as ugly. Apparently the woman’s sister had painted them—with remnants of latex house paint, no less. But under that they were nice pieces. So Mook and I lugged the sideboard out to the van, and then the hutch. We realized that we couldn’t fit all three pieces at once, and also that it was already 3:45 (where did all the time go, you ask? That’s a good question—we set out for the woman’s house at around 2:15, but getting those pieces out of the basement took a lot longer than expected, as did cleaning out the van and removing its back seat before taking it from Jean’s dad). And we were at least twenty-five minutes from the storage locker. So that wasn’t going to work.
Instead we drove back to my apartment—with me sitting on the corner of the hutch, in back. Then we tossed out our wicker chair (anyone want a reasonably comfortable wicker chair? It’s sitting on the curb) and started carrying the hutch in. It was then, and only then, that we decided to see if the hutch actually came apart or not. Turns out it does, and fairly easily—about ten screws (and many jokes about screwing in public) later, we tore the top off the piece. Much easier to carry that way, obviously. And the lower compartment hadn’t been painted inside—the woman had applied ugly gray wood-grained contact paper to the hutch shelves, but apparently hadn’t bothered with the lower compartment—which meant we could see the beautiful mahogany clearly. These were once gorgeous pieces, and hopefully will be again. So we carried the hutch in, in two pieces, and then the sideboard.
Then we went back and got the hutch’s front door (we’d removed it before taking the hutch, because of the glass pane in front) and the dresser, and also two small end tables that Jean had gotten (I think it’s funny that, in the past two weeks, Jean and I have been hitting sales for furniture, and she’s gotten more things than I have), and headed back. Carried the dresser in, slid it next to the hutch and sideboard—our living room now looks like a furniture store—took the van back, restored its back seat, then picked up some pizzas and headed back home. We got back around 8pm—I know this because Jean and Mook were hoping to catch the new episode of the Simpsons, but then we got distracted by food and forgot to turn it on.
And so another full day was spent moving furniture. We now have a hutch, a sideboard, three good dressers (counting the two we already had), two good living room chairs, a secretary with a small china cabinet on top, three end tables, a kitchen table, one good kitchen chair, a few book cases, two desks, two filing cabinets, a crib, a student school desk (the kind that’s a chair with an attached arm), three good rugs and one runner, one bedside table, a coffee table, a side table, a TV/VCR stand, and a video tower. We still need a king-size bed frame, nightstands, a vanity, a day bed, a dining room table and chairs, a living room set, a pair of couches or a sectional, at least one more good kitchen chair, and possibly a bar. Whee! But we’re getting closer.