What I was not able to accomplish during the Great Demolition Operation of July 2011 since I completely ran out of time and money. 

Listen while you read to “Two Dreams”, a piece that appeared on the “red side” of the Panache Orchestra’s double album “10 Strings” released in 2008.

Late July, 2011

 Cat Shit Corridor.  That was high on the list, but I just ran out of money and time.  That turned out to be a critical issue that continued to plague our lives for the duration.

The garden, which was also a high priority area, but couldn’t get to it for the same reason as above.  In fact, all the plants I bought during the initial shopping expedition died and ended up in the compost bin! 😦   I eventually got around to that in late fall when I did the annual Guava Tree Management Operation.

The “basement” (crawl space under the house).  I had hoped to be able to take a crack at clearing out and reorganizing that filthy, vermin-infested space that is crammed so full of a chaotic jumble of stuff that wouldn’t fit (or didn’t belong) in the house that I had difficulty finding space to put the new tools and leftover supplies I had acquired for this project.  (This actually got done the week after Chi came back since the dryer died as soon as he put all the dirty laundry he’d just brought back from his trip into it and so we had to get a new one and since it wouldn’t fit in the tiny laundry room inside the house, we had to set it up under the house, which meant that we had to clear a ton of stuff out of there and re-route the gas line, etc., so while we were doing that much, we went ahead and did all of it.)

The bedroom(s):  I don’t care so much about Chi’s room except for it being such a dirty, confused pile of crap, but I am still bugged by the nasty, allergen-infested carpet with the duct tape patches over the places the cats have wrecked still left in the main (my) bedroom, and what a pain in the ass it is whenever the cats puke on it or fling dirt out of the turtle house and the house plants all over it, etc., etc.  I’ve given up even bothering with trying to clean it since I do intend to eventually demolish the bedroom(s).

The bathroom.  I’d love to redo the bathroom since I hate practically everything about it, but that’s one of those “where do I start, and where do I stop?”-type conundra.  I’d love to replace the crappy, decrepit built-in bathtub that is too small and shallow to have a proper bath in with a nice, deep, vintage, free-standing claw-foot one like the one in our old place in West Adams that I could probably get second-hand for an affordable price, but if I do that then I’ll have to replace the water heater with one that has sufficient capacity to fill a larger tub since the existing one isn’t even really adequate for the current too-small bathtub, plus the cost of having to hire a few really strong people to help move it and pull out the existing one.

While we’re replacing the tub, we might as well also do the floors, i.e., replace the hideous, decrepit linoleum with nice slate tiles, especially since the area under the tub would be exposed by the addition of a claw-foot bathtub, and then that would focus attention on the cheap, tacky, mildewed white ceramic tiles in the bath/shower surround, so I’d need to knock those out and replace them with something decent, and as long as I’m doing that, I might as well paint also, even though the color of the walls (an inoffensive off-white) is about the only thing in the whole room that’s not a visual affront, however I am getting increasingly disgusted at the burgeoning mildew problem and noticing that the paint is starting to peel in several places, so I think I’m going to at least repaint it.

I’d like to have a go at other details, like the cheap, ugly washstand and totally decrepit built-in medicine chest with the door that won’t close, the cheap, tacky, rusted white pressure bar holding the shower curtain up (I did at least replace the nasty, mildewed curtain!) and ditto for the cheap, tacky white plastic towel bar, the crap-tacular ancient toilet paper holder that is very likely “original” but unfortunately devoid of any “vintage charm”, and on and on and on.  At least a thousand unavailable dollars later…….

The kitchen is another story.  The floor is the same hideous linoleum as the bathroom and Cat Shit Corridor, and the wear layer appears to have long since worn off and some of the tiles are cracking and others are starting to lift, making it more prone to trap dirt, which is very obvious since it’s a light color, to add insult to injury.  I’ve already retrofitted the kitchen with some additional storage capacity (although more is needed) and proper lighting, and like the bathroom, the wall color is non-offensive (same civilised off-white), so apart from the disgusting floor and the wretched, discolored atavistic fake-wood-grain formica countertop, it’s reasonably well in hand otherwise.  Hey, at least there’s no god-awful horrifying wallpaper to have to get rid of!

I have seen some passable-looking home finishes and furnishings at the bottom end of the pricing scale, so I am puzzled at why our landlord outfitted this place with the most ungodly ugly, impoverished-looking specimens of practically everything!  I really shouldn’t complain though, given how lucky we are to have a good landlord who pretty much gives me free rein to retrofit the house in practically any way I see fit.  When he came over the day before Chi was scheduled to return to help me install some new light fixtures I had bought (ok, I’ll admit that I had him do the entire lighting installation — see below — since electrical work is not yet part of my skill mix), he was astounded at how well the floors turned out, and even more astounded still to learn that I had done them all by myself.

Mission Creep

Few things irk me as much as poor lighting, and since Chi had already sanctioned the purchase of a new ceiling fan w/remote control and strong halogen light for the main bedroom to replace the existing utterly inadequate arrangement there while providing relief from suffocating heat when we’re trying to sleep during the hot season, I decided to carry that process further and amend the lighting in other areas of the house that I found, to put it mildly, “unacceptable”.

I didn’t even want to touch the absolutely dreadful-looking overhead fixture in the bathroom to change the lightbulb that had burned out upwards of a year ago (I had pre-emptively installed peripheral lighting around the bathroom mirror when we moved in), so I bought a nice, new overhead light for the bathroom and got that rusty, decrepit atrocity out of there.  The living room was another area where the lighting has been sub-par, and since this demolition operation included a sub-project of totally redesigning our rehearsal/practice space, that would logically include installing appropriate lighting, so I bought a nice ceiling- mount track fixture with three multi-directional halogen lights.  Now all areas of the house that are relevant to me finally have decent lighting!  (And no fucking wonder that I am still to this day plagued by the financial crisis this precipitated.)

It struck me not too long ago that one likely reason why I haven’t accomplished anything particularly noteworthy in recent years might possibly be because I’ve been spending such a vast amount of my time and energy and money over the past decade of my life trying to transform a series of shit-hole apartments into liveable housing.  I’m sure the question foremost in the minds of my readers must be “Why in the hell would you put so much effort and scarce resources into retrofitting places you do not own?!”  Well, as I see it, we won’t be in any position to buy a home in the foreseeable future, and even if we did suddenly came upon some sort of unexpected windfall that would permit us to buy our own place, that would be a very good problem to have.

Since I fully expect that we will be staying put until we are in a position to own something in a strategically relevant location, I think it’s a good idea to make the environment in which we live our lives one that supports our success, and am perfectly happy to leave the gift of a more beautiful, livable home to future occupants when we finally do get our own place.