Sunday, September 21, 2008

Almost Home

A lot has happened since I last posted, this has been a very busy month. When we first drew up the contract for the house remodel project, we intentionally left a few things out in the event that some cost overruns might put the total project over our budget. So we left out the kitchen cabinets, interior painting and flooring. We figured if the money was still there when it came time to do these things, we'd hire someone, otherwise, we'd do it ourselves.

Having to pay four months of extra apartment rent at the beginning of the project due to the zoning delay along with losing $10,ooo to a crooked contractor last year before we fired him, it's been apparent for some time that the final month of the project would involve a lot of labor on my part. As it turns out, the project has gone very smoothly otherwise and those two items totaling $17,000 were virtually the only two unexpected expenses that we faced. In terms of actual construction, we've had only two change orders adding up to less than $2,000.

Tuesday, September 16, was the day interior painting was to begin, so I arranged for vacation time from my job for the remainder of the week. The job would involve spray painting 6,000 square feet of freshly textured drywall and 2,000 sq. ft. of ceilings in one day (spray painting ceilings is not a fun job). However the drywall texturing was delayed until Tuesday, meaning that painting couldn't start until Wednesday.

Does this bunny suit make me look fat?

Kitchen cabinets were scheduled for installation on Thursday and Friday, so that area had to be painted on Wednesday as well. As the week progressed, we managed to keep everything on schedule and by the end of Friday, 80% of the interior painting was finished and the kitchen cabinets were in and looking good. This involved a lot of help! Amy held up her end painting and answering questions, my brother-in-law Tom laid ceramic tile floors in both bathrooms, rented a second spray unit and jumped into the painting panic. He, along with another fellow parishioner – Dirk McCuen – installed a whole kitchen full of Kraftmaid cabinets. My Dad, 81, painted his brains out and helped keep the place straightened out while boxes, ladders, brushes and paint buckets were flying about. Another friend from church, Carol Henke, lent her professional expertise helping Amy pick a gorgeous palette of colors, made excellent recommendations on paint brands and grades and with her husband Bill pitched in with the actual painting and brought us a meal. Amy's sisters Leslie and Luanne helped paint the upstairs on Saturday. Luanne also brought lunch over from Brea's Best Burgers and Pepe's on Thursday and Friday. David Curlee not only provided some much needed painting help, but loaned us some ladders and critical lighting equipment as well. Our pastor, Darrell McGowan took time out of a very busy week to pick up a brush and roller for the cause. 

All told, it was perhaps the closest thing to an Amish barnraising that you'll see in Orange County, outside of a Habitat for Humanity project. 

Late yesterday, I took on the task of installing a ceramic floor in the entry way. It was the first time that I had attempted such a thing on my own, and will perhaps be my last. Amy stood steadfastly by as I mixed thinset adhesive, cussed, groaned and finally completed the job at 9:00 p.m. with the help of the Curlee lighting system. To say that I was thoroughly "whupped" when I got back to the apartment would be an understatement. I ate some leftovers out of the fridge, took three ibuprofen along with a prescription pain reliever left over from a tooth extraction a couple months ago and was in bed by 10:00.

Why I'm wide awake at 4:00 a.m. the next morning, sleepless, and writing this, I can't explain.

After church today, Tom and I intend to grout the downstairs tile, and I may paint the door frames as well. I'll meet an installer at the house on Monday so he measure and template the countertops in the kitchen.

Otherwise, the pros take over again on Monday. The finish electrical will be installed Monday and Tuesday, the stucco color coat goes on Tuesday, interior doors, floor molding and door casings go in on Wednesday and Thursday before I start installing the floors on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I may be ready for one more of those pills next Sunday night, but if we continue to stay on this schedule, we'll be moved back into the house three weeks from now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Handcuffs All Around

I returned home last night from seeing the Angels lose to the Yankees 7-1 (what a waste of 6 dozen baseballs that was) to find a letter from Countrywide Home Loans on my desk with a mild expletive scrawled across the top by Amy. It said that our data, along with that of two million other customers, had been stolen by one of the company's senior analysts. The stolen information includes our Social Security numbers, credit history, etc. The letter stated that the company was offering two years of free credit monitoring services. (Insert expletive here)!

Reading the LA Times this morning, the article about this incident stated that Rene Rebollo of Pasadena, Calif., has been fired, arrested (in that order?), pleaded not guilty and is free on bail pending trial Oct. 7. I hope that was worth it Rene.

Countrywide is one of the prime culprits in the whole subprime lending mess that has rattled our economy. I would have never intentionally done business with them, but when we refinanced our house for the remodeling project, the ink was barely dry on the papers we'd signed when we were informed that Countrywide had bought our loan.

Ironically, directly below the Countrywide story is an article concerning the intense security of KFC's efforts to protect the secret blend of 11 herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken. The yellowing sheet of paper handwritten by the Colonel himself" was placed in a lockbox that was handcuffed to security expert Bo Dietl, who climbed aboard an armored car that was whisked away with an escort from off-duty police officers."

Apparently, our financial secrets don't rate the same security measures as a fried chicken recipe.

By the way, the house is moving along great these days. We passed drywall and exterior lath inspections yesterday, they'll finish the roof and start the scratch coat stucco today, and I'll be installing ceramic tile floors in both bathrooms over the weekend.

New Photo Album

Less than five weeks until moving day!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Obviously, the house project is the foremost thing on my mind these days. However, I have tried to put a "spacer" post in between each one about the house. With about six weeks to go before we move in to the "new" house, it will be difficult to maintain that rhythm, because finishing the project is going to the only thing on my mind in the foreseeable future.

But there are other things going on to be sure. Saturday, Amy and I were returning from a Santa Ana College art gallery opening, exiting the SR91 freeway at State College Blvd. She said "look at all those balls!" "Huh?" I said. "There's a whole bunch of Union 76 balls on top of that building, haven't you ever seen them?" Honestly, in the hundreds of times I've taken that off ramp, I've never looked 90ยบ to the right, I've been more concerned about the cars stopped at the end of the ramp.

Donco & Sons, Inc.

So we drove over to have a look. Sure enough, in the extreme southeast corner of Fullerton, is Donco & Sons, Inc., a signage and lighting company that was apparently the keeper of the Union Oil Company's classic orange ball signs which were all removed a few years ago, when Conoco/Phillips/Union Oil were all merged into a single entity that is now about to get out of the retail gasoline business itself. I kinda wish old man Donco had sent one of his sons up on the roof to rotate some of the signs into a more photogenic pattern, but it's still pretty cool.

Then this morning, I'm driving to work, listening to the aftermath of Sarah Palin's VP acceptance speech, my blood beginning to boil, hearing a bunch of right wing pundits try to tell me that running a state for a year-and-a-half that has one fourth the population of Orange County, constitutes the necessary experience to take over the helm of our entire country, if indeed John McCain who'd be the oldest man ever elected to a first term in office would do what comes naturally to many men that age. And I'm sorry to bring this up, but when did teenage pregnancy become fashionable amongst the Christian right wing? I know we're supposed to leave Mrs. Palin's family out of this, but perhaps she should keep her family out of the limelight for a while. Perhaps she could use her shtick to audition for the reunion episode of the Northern Exposure TV show.

But I digress. Let's try that again.

Then this morning, I'm driving to work, turn the radio down and pass under a freight train slowing for a stop at Fullerton Jct. It's 6:15 am. I know that Metrolink train 701 (Riverside to Los Angeles) is due at 6:18 and that train 700 (Los Angeles to Riverside) is due at 6:19. Might be worth parking the car and taking the camera over to the platform. One of the aspects of digital photography that I've come to appreciate is its ability to work well in the low levels of pre-dawn and evening twilight. Things like street lights, locomotive number boards and signals stand out, and for the first time in my experience it's possible to capture the real feeling of those moments.

BNSF 7510 West and Metrolink train 701 pushing away from the station.

Metrolink 700 pulls into Fullerton.

Metrolink 700 crossing from Main 3 to Main 1 at Fullerton Jct.

Meanwhile, back at the house, they start doing the roof today, and the drywall starts tomorrow. I've updated the the Construction Slideshow with a new finale. There will be a lot happening real soon, and I'll try to keep you posted.