3.31.2006

TGIF?

"Ms. Stone has famously denied having plastic surgery, and maybe that's true, but, man, does she look weird here."

- enjoying Manohla Dargis on Basic Instinct 2

I wanted to have the kitchen done by May 1, so spring is for gardening and biking and general merriment. But I'm paying a price for the rush; scheduling contractors who seem to never be able to arrive on time (sometimes they are much too early, sometimes they don't show at all, or are an hour or more late) or contractors who aren't accurate about when they'll be done. I wake up at 5:30am, dreaming of details about plaster, how to drywall, when to schedule inspections. It's the obsession with details that un-does me, I think; yesterday the doctor had lots of concern over my newly-high blood pressure. But I think I know how to fix it. My short-term prescription tends toward an increase in bubblebaths and reading US Weekly, but the only real end to the stress is to complete the project. Once the kitchen is done, maybe I can regain those 7 hours of sleep I miss each week (hey! that's like losing a whole night!).

3.27.2006

pictures!

For those interested in our kitchen demolition.
Sunday Morning

The first thing I noticed was the fog machine. The fog against the blackness of the room and the striations of blue lights skimming across more than a hundred stationary bicycles. "Open your box," said Jon as he paced the stage. It was Sunday morning, and Blue and I were sitting on adjacent red and silver bikes. Inside Avalon. It felt surreal to enter this downtown club, a night place, out of the beautiful warm sun-filled morning, and into the black fog. When I signed us up for a two-hour spinning class with proceeds going to my favorite charity (a holistic gym free to homeless and low-income women and pregnant/parenting teens), I didn't expect to feel so jarred by the bouncers wearing brass knuckle belts and the packs of cigarettes available behind the bar.

But the music was pounding and we began pedaling. We laughed when the instructor's friend began blowing into a didgeridoo, but I followed his directions and closed my eyes as the lights, the beat and the haunting, unusual music took over my workout. And I did leave my box. I didn't feel self-conscious when he began playing music with chirps and squeals and bird calls and jungle sounds that seemed to hover somewhere around the beat, which sometimes disappeared entirely. I just pedaled. I even stopped thinking about work, the demolished kitchen, the contractors, the dust everywhere, the mounting costs, the microwave dinners. I just pedaled. For two hours, we just pedaled, sometimes harder, sometimes slower, with a hundred other people, as our instructor paced the room, pounding bongos and ringing bells, under strobe lights and inside those awesome club speakers. When we finally stopped, having climbed hills in our minds, been everywhere, we were covered in sweat, breathing hard, laughing, and drinking one bottled water after the other. In the middle of a detail-heavy kitchen renovation, we'd barely had the time, money or energy to drive downtown on a Sunday morning and workout for two hours. But this wasn't just about the body. Later that afternoon, we were out in the suburbs again, picking out recessed lights. I was relaxed in a new way.

3.17.2006

Appetite for Deconstruction*

Countdown to demolition! Our little, happy, functional kitchen will be a ruin of plaster dust, jagged walls, exposed plumbing, mysterious wires, asbestos-filled tile, and sawzalled-out cabinets by tomorrow night. Well, maybe Sunday night. And that's if everything goes according to plan; if we don't chicken out or feel too ill or get distracted by a sudden desire to get drunk and play Scrabble. Or maybe there will be a Mythbusters marathon. But we don't have cable anymore. And we haven't been playing board games recently. So, no: I think I've got a hammer with your name on it, wall.

You know what I mean.

Everything got moved out of the kitchen last night. It went surprisingly well. The basement and dining room are absorbing our kitchen overflow nicely.

In the meantime, we've both been calling contractors to try to schedule appointments for the floor, plumbing, and window replacement. Here's hoping they show up, once our kitchen is gone.

I've worked from home intensely this week, meaning my only colleague half the time is my cat. I've taken to thinking that this must be what it's like to have a teenage daughter: she's bad, pretty, and wants to go out all the time.

I'm thinking maybe my cat needs another cat, a friend who is not a human and therefore cannot constantly lord over her rights to go outside. I don't want to be some cat lady, but on the other hand, we haven't gotten a dog yet, and if we're not going to get a dog, the cat still needs a friend.

In my dream last night we got a collie. Actually, first it was a gosling I'd found. (Very reminiscent of the gosling I once found and we loved, Goz.) Then I went to go pick it up, and it was a collie instead. Typical of my dreamlife. We loved the collie, and it was a wonderful pet. Unfortunately, I believe I named it "Lassie" in my dream, which is a little disappointing. I expect more from my subconscious, especially considering I never even watched "Lassie."

But we probably won't get a collie. Blue has ordered a book on Bengal Cats, which are large cats that like to swim in the water. He wants one, for some reason. Personally, I feel like getting a large, dangerous cat negates the $4500 we're about to spend to replace the lead-painted windows in the name of protecting our potential future offspring. They may not have lead-induced brain damage, but will they have to hide from the large, dangerous animal in the living room? I mean, we already have one moody animal with claws and teeth. And she's only eight pounds.

Still, it is Blue's turn to contribute a pet to our menagerie. And it was me who wanted a cat. Not, you know, a tiger, but a cat just the same.

Ah, the mundane intricacies of married life.

Happy weekending!

*apologies to M. Savage.

3.14.2006

Home Improvements

Last fall I planted 115 bulbs in our front and back yards. Tulips, hyacinth, English bluebells, though no dafs, by oversight. This morning, it's raining on that rich ground. When we returned home on Sunday from a good weekend in Rochester I had to alter my path across the yard from car to house so as not to crunch the new green shoots. I feel that to be a really loyal gardener and Netizen I should build a webpage devoted to the daily changes taking place in my yard, but I just don't have the energy.

Lately I've been low on energy in general. I'm a bit sick, fighting off whatever Blue has, and I'm also swamped with details. We're remodeling our kitchen, and are slated for demolition this coming weekend. I don't know if it will happen or not; perhaps we'll postpone due to sickness or lack of confidence. But the plan is to haul away our stove, finish ripping the tiles off the hardwood floor, put the fridge in the dining room, buy a hotplate, tear out all the cabinets, and take down two walls, one of which holds a pipe actively used by our upstairs neighbor. We printed out How to do a Demo from the This Old House website, so we figure we're covered.

In the midst of all this, we're interviewing contractors every couple days or so. Blue has decided that to protect any future children against lead poisoning, we must replace most of our windows (little moving parts -> fine lead dust -> covers kid's toys -> toys go in mouth -> learning disabilities), so, that's made it all much more exciting.

The array of details in this project is substantial enough to rival planning our wedding. And leads to more guilt, making us two yuppies concerned with knobs and countertops and full extension drawers. And it seems more people have to be involved, ironically. The town needs a permit, and every step of the process requires an inspector. A plumber stressed me out the other day, shaking his head, telling me how nothing in the kitchen is up to code, how it'll cost him $1,000 to move the gas line six feet, how we'll have to snake a vent three stories to the roof (where my aforementioned neighbor is busy living!). Time for a new plumber.

We turn again and again to Angie's List, where contractors get graded and reviewed. Once again, community reviewing their own showcases the Internet at its best. People have a lot to say about contractors, and for transplants like us it's nearly as good as a network of family recommending you in one direction after another. Maybe my Aunt Rita would be more accountable if her electrician couldn't make the lights turn on, but Joe Schmo's complaint about Floors 'R' Us on Angie's List is detailed, and his damning score of F steers us away just in time with a thoroughness and focus you can't always expect from family. That's the Internet: one big family, only with helpfully structured assessments.

3.06.2006

Oscar, Schmoscar

I'd anticipated last night's awards as the first time they might actually mean something to me. I really, really like Jon Stewart, Brokeback Mountain, gay rights, political humor, celebrity gossip, nice dresses, etc. But, sitting in front of the TV last night, I remembered the two words that describe why I never watch the Oscars: profound boredom. Really interesting people are trotted out on stage, awkwardly read the blandest statements ever written (where do they FIND these writers?), often fumble doing it, and then leave. And the preaching! Jesus! What's more boring than self-righteousness? By the time the Academy president started in on scolding people for watching DVDs, I began to think that the organization is a dinosaur, and the Oscars might not be around in 20 years. And that, I think, would be a good thing.

I fell asleep before Best Picture was announced, but when we woke up to news that "Crash" had won, I was unsurprised. And kind of bored.

3.03.2006

House O' Toxins

Good news! We're asbestos-free. Now just to test maniacally for lead.

Not Teaching Media

The other night I was sitting around with some friends from college. When I was an undergrad on "rolling boil," I wanted to be a professor of media criticism. The market was hot at the time, competitive and exciting. I'd get a Ph.D. in media studies, American studies, political science or even rhetoric, and then be a fabulous professor.

I can still see a glimmer of myself in that life, but as I told my college friends, I'm glad I didn't do it. Media is something different now. I'm not sure you can teach criticism anymore, when most people make their own media in one way or another, or a clever or stolen mass email can get you on the nightly news. And I'm not sure it's as interesting. (Secretly, I wondered, but not aloud, if Baudrillard was right and we're knee-deep in hyperreality now, where the impact of media and advertising is too profound to measure anymore.)

On the Lost Entry

Status.Blogger says they lost the entries posted on the 18th. "Major apologies to those of you who were affected. We work hard to maintain Blogger as a trustworthy place to keep your writing, and we really hate to let you down." No trace of the Maggie post on the Wayback Machine, in Google cache, or in my memory.

Rework

Major dental work today. I put off getting this new crown + two fillings for a year while working for a struggling nonprofit, then looking for a job, and finally starting this one. But it's time; I've already forked over the cash, and I'm looking forward to being able to chew on my left side without pain. I'm not that excited about the actual pain of the work, but I find that in situations like this it helps to focus on the "right-after." The 15 minutes or hour after a procedure is done, and everything's fine. You see yourself driving home, happy, steady. I have many little coping programs like this that I rely on to tap dance through those hours when things could be better.