(Pictures of the house are at the end)
Day Zero (Sunday) — The Day The Movers Came
Tough, blistering hot day. Marta finished her packing (and part of mine) by midnight last night. I finally finished my office at two a.m. Curtis and Anne — the previous owners of our new house — texted us around five a.m., indicating that they’d finally finished cleaning. We’d all been working toward a midnight deadline, and only Marta met it.
Marta left at seven-thirty this morning with both cats and the dog. We planned to put the cats in the upstairs bathroom of the new house and close the door, then take the dog to Mamita’s for the day. I started to haul boxes to the cars, still half-asleep — computers and potted plants we didn’t want the movers to touch.
Every body part aches this morning, but the worst is my feet. I’ve been standing on them for days, and they feel like they’re going to split around the edges and let me leak out onto the floor. I limp on both feet, like an old man.
Movers arrived by 8:15. I missed breakfast — all the spoons were packed. I’d just finished moving boxes and had begun contemplating how to tear open a yogurt container with my teeth in some way that would allow me to suck out the good stuff without spilling it all over my chest, when the movers arrived. Then I became too busy to think about eating.
We all took a very short lunch break — a good thing, since I was by then hungry enough to eat my own head. Then the ants descended on the new house and disgorged our home into it.
I missed that part almost completely. I needed to go back and collect the “few things” we’d told the movers not to move, which inexplicably included most of the pictures on the walls, and stray caches of delicate items I seriously considered dumping into a box to be thrown out the second-floor window in the general direction of the dumpsters. Not that I’d have been able to aim: the windows were beginning to warp in the heat. I left with my first load of “final stuff” just as Lulu arrived to clean the house.
There’s a smart tip for movers: hire someone to clean. It’s worth twice whatever you pay. It’s also a pretty easy cleaning job, in some ways: just a big box with carpet in it. Of course, now you actually see every single cobweb. There’s nothing else to trick the eye; nothing to say, for instance, “Pay no attention to that cobweb over there, pay attention to this huge, threatening pile of magazines that might slither across the floor and slip an inappropriate journalistic metaphor up your pant leg….”
Or am I the only person who worries about those kinds of things?
Easy or hard, cleaning isn’t something you want to start at the end of a long day of watching your home eaten in one place and disgorged elsewhere.
By the time I got back to the new house — something like three in the afternoon — the movers were packing away dollies and settling the bill with Marta.
There’s a magic to the first moments alone in a new home. We wandered about in a daze, not quite believing that it was all done. No more phone calls to make. No more papers to sign. No more uncertainties about whether we’d be packed in time, or if the previous owners would make it out, or if the lender would bail at the last moment and topple the whole deal.
It’s finished. We’re home.
Eventually, Marta set to work on the kitchen, and I unpacked the liquor. Sound priorities, I think: food and drink.
At some point in the next two hours of leisurely unpacking — that’s the sweetest part of it, the fact that we weren’t pushing up against a deadline — Mamita brought Dorian (the dog) home, and Marta let the cats out of the bathroom. Felipe found himself in cat heaven with all the boxes stacked high and piles of fresh, clean, crinkly paper. Sophia hissed murder at everything that moved, from Felipe to Dorian to Marta to lint. Dorian seemed thrilled with all the space, especially when we got him out in the back yard and chased him in circles.
Teri and Joe arrived at five-thirty with blessed food, and a bottle of welcome wine. A full gourmet meal in a picnic basket, chicken with dill aioli and fresh handmade cole slaw.
We had invited Stephen, my son, to join us for dinner. He runs as late as I used to run, and then headed across town to the old place, only to find it empty except for a total stranger scrubbing the sinks. Thank goodness for cell phones.
Stephen finally arrived, and then Lulu finished the cleaning and called just as Stephen finished eating, so Stephen and I went to the old place one last time to get the food from the refrigerator.
We returned to a dessert of frozen fruit in molten white-chocolate sauce, and more wine. Lulu joined us a little later, and we all sat in the back yard as the sky turned starlit and vasty, and the suffocating heat softened into a wine-scented lover’s embrace.
Marta crashed first, and I wasn’t far behind.
A good day.
Day One (Monday)
Restless night, early morning.
At two in the morning, Marta heard running water and woke up in a panic, which woke me up. We finally realized it was only the outside sprinklers. At the old condo, the water for the sprinklers came from exterior pipes, but here, it’s house water, so we hear it sing in the pipes. We’ll get used to that pretty quickly.
One of the cats found my computer battery backup in the wee hours and stomped on the power switch. Of course it wasn’t plugged in, so the thing started beeping. No power — DO something. No power — DO something…. Marta wandered the house a second time searching for the source of the noise. I slept through that one.
Breakfast consisted of yogurt and blueberries. We found the appropriate dish box, dug out a couple of bowls, and Marta managed to magic-up some coffee, which put the whole world right.
Priority today went to kitchen and bedroom, and dealing with deliveries.
Comcast arrived and wired us for Internet. I spent a fair amount of time cleaning up the power to the “Internet Closet” and setting up the Internet firewall/router.
A little later, Best Buy delivered the new flat-screen television, which went to the basement to be ignored for now. Funny thing about the TV: the old one broke about a week ago. We’d intended to get a flat-screen “someday,” but the old TV worked perfectly well, so why spend the money? The breakdown settled the issue.
Gallegos Sanitation dropped off our trash barrels.
Curtis (former owner of this house) came by to pick up a few items he’d forgotten, and he showed us where a lot of switches, buttons, and other hidden house features lurked.
Julie (new owner of our old condo) called in the early afternoon to let us know she could not get into the house: that blasted storm door. It has a little lock-button that you can brush against as you work the handle, and then if it slams shut and latches, you can only open it from the inside. Which sucks when you’re outside. The first time it happened to me, I swore I was going to drill out that stupid lock, but I never did. I told Julie to hire a locksmith to get her in through the back — the key to which unfortunately sat on the mantle, inside — and send us the bill, but she had a locksmith friend who she said wouldn’t charge her.
For the most part today we sorted out our clothes, bedding, towels, and closets, and Marta put the kitchen into a first pass at working order.
Paper management is a big thing when you are unpacking. All those crumpled balls of paper would fill the house. Flushing them down the toilet is a very, very bad idea; burning them is not much better. So we flattened out each ball and set it in a loose pile. It will never fit back in the three tiny boxes it came from, but we can get it down to just a few boxes of paper.
In the late afternoon, I met Julie at the old place to pick up the one picture I’d left hanging in the bathroom, and showed her locations: power panel, water shutoff, and so forth. We went out to look at the mailbox just as everyone else in the cluster started to arrive home from work or school, so I introduced Julie around.
On the way home I wanted to pick up beer, and wandered by chance into The Cellar, just off Horsetooth and College. I joined a Wine Club there — seemed like a good idea. We’ll see how it works out: only $15 month-to-month. It probably beats looking for a mauve at Wilbur’s.
Hamburgers at home on the grill. Our first home-cooked meal in our new house.
Marta took a bath in the big tub, and crashed into bed.
I stayed up for a bit and assembled the new television and stand. It took a lot longer than I’d expected — I spent too much time trying to figure out how to mount brackets on the back of the TV for the “tilt-mount” and finally concluded that they’d sent the wrong hardware. The instructions said I might need to visit a hardware store. No chance of that: not when there’s the perfectly fine option of just setting the TV on top of the stand.
Then I found the wireless signal was too weak for the television to pick up, and all of the DVD players and such were still in boxes, somewhere. I gave up and went to bed.
Day Two (Tuesday)
Took my coffee in the back yard, on the meditation bench under the big Blue Spruce. I think that’s going to become my spiritual discipline for a while. Drinking my first cup of coffee on the meditation bench.
Tuesday is Trash Day with Gallegos, so we set our new container out on the street for pick-up, though it was almost empty. The previous owners used RAM Sanitation, and they had their old container packed to the top with stuff that smelled like a dead horse in the heat of the garage. Unfortunately, pickup is not until Wednesday. I suppose we could have emptied it into our new container and gotten it out a day earlier, but I didn’t want to touch the thing, much less pick it up and turn it upside down. We’ll hold our noses for another day.
Getting the garage door working was high on today’s list. Security, convenience, call it whatever you like. Bought a second remote control — the owners only found one — synced it up, changed the codes. Took all of about ten minutes, not counting the shopping trip.
I tried to get an extra key for the mailbox, but they said they needed my closing papers, and I can’t print those until the printer is up.
By the time I finished my errand-loop, it was time for an early lunch, which I brought home in the form of bagels.
Focus in the afternoon is on the offices. Both of us need to get back to work.
My first job was to move books to the closet for temporary storage, to give me enough floor space to put a chair behind the desk. The closet is filled with book boxes. Thirty three boxes. This room won’t come close to holding them, but we have three bookshelves in the basement as well. Even then, I may have to prune. Or buy another bookshelf: we have the space, now.
I did a few Internet performance measurements and discovered something interesting: the 5G wireless routers are fast enough. They’re far short of wired ethernet, but they’re as fast as what Comcast provides over the cable. It’s good news: it means I can go all-wireless. The 5G makes the difference — the old 2G wasn’t enough.
All kinds of good news once I connected to the Internet. Ooma wasn’t able to transfer my telephone number because Qwest had some kind of “pending order.” My chair won’t arrive until Thursday. And there’s that Aurora mass-murder.
Still brutally hot outside. The house is fully air-conditioned, however, so I haven’t been noticing the heat. The humidity, I do notice: the cool inside has been a little clammy. I still wouldn’t trade it for the suffocating heat outside.
Pizza for dinner. Panhandler’s delivers here (YAY!)
This night was my turn to use the bathtub, after I’d given Marta a 30-minute backrub with tiger balm and massage oil.
The bath was … exquisite.
Day Three (Wednesday)
Focus is still on the office: searching for critical computer components, and they finally turned up in the box on the bottom of the pile in the corner. Of course.
At a quarter to nine, I realized I didn’t know the conference code to our Wednesday morning SGI teleconference: that number lay buried in an e-mail on my PC. I rushed to cobble together enough pieces to get my old e-mails up, and managed to join the conference fifteen minutes late. Then I discovered my phone was nearly dead, with no charger in sight.
After the conference call, I went out to buy two critical pieces of new hardware: a USB-to-wireless adapter for my old PC, and a wireless repeater for the television.
Bravo. Work computer and television are at last fully functional. The whole house is now running 5G wireless, and it’s fast enough to stream 3D movies.
FedEx said they delivered the chair this morning shortly after six o’clock: that they left it on the doorstep, like an unwanted child. I looked on the porch — no chair, nor was there any unwanted child. I made several phone calls to confirm the delivery address, and then started looking around the neighborhood. Found the chair on the porch across the street, 1624 Waterford, not 1625 Waterford. The label on the box was correct. Misdelivered.
I wonder if that’s common around here.
The rest of the afternoon I spent working to meet a hard deadline. Marta was also able to get in a good half-day of work. It feels like we’re settling in.
Teri and Joe dropped by on their evening walk. That is going to be one of the really sweet things about living here. Drop-ins.
Day Four (Thursday)
Slept in a little this morning, until eight.
I love the new living-space arrangement. We live on the ground floor now: living room, bedroom, kitchen. The offices are upstairs. In the old place, my office was on the second floor next to the bedroom, so my first stop after rolling out of bed was to check my e-mail. It was an automatic reflex — probably a mild case of that “connection anxiety” that makes up the latest fear-of-technology fad. It felt wonderful to hit the shower and the kitchen for breakfast. Then a few minutes under the Blue Spruce with my first cuppa Joe. All before I touched a computer.
Today’s urgent list is mostly phone calls to straighten out messes. Phone service is at the top of the list. We have the cell phones, but having VOIP through Ooma solves several long-term problems, including international calls. Unfortunately, CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) messed up the phone number transfer, so it falls to me to fix it. If it’s fixable at this point. We may just need to accept that we have a new phone number.
It also falls to me to fix the piano. Something went wrong — probably a foreign object that rolled when the piano was tipped on its side — and one of the keys is stuck hard. I need to know my options for fixing it.
Rearranging my office is like playing house with ten-ton blocks. My original idea for placing the desk was crapola: glares galore on the screens. So I basically had to rotate the room ninety degrees. I like this arrangement better. I did manage to lug the new chair up the stairs, and get the old one back down. Nice chair: a Herman Miller Aeron. Glad the company I work for paid for it.
John and Sheridan came over tonight for dinner. Salmon en papillote, done up on the grill. A relaxed after-dinner conversation in the living room. It’s a place that invites gathering. I love that.
I offered John a drink, and he wanted to know what “mixers” I had. I’ve never had mixers, other than the frozen margarita mix. I generally drink the hard stuff straight up, maybe with some ice. So does Marta — tequila straight up, no chaser. I guess my hosting duties have gone up a step along with the house.
Day Five (Friday)
Started off well enough, then it all went to crap. Tried to do a big errand loop, which took me all the way downtown.
The downtown area is completely constipated. They have torn up Mason Street to repair the rail line that runs down the middle of the road, so there are only two choke-points where you can cross east-west. Traffic was ugly as a troll with diaper-rash. My errand took me to the DMV — just a change-of-address for the car registration — and I wasn’t willing to wait in the line to talk to the person who would tell me which line to wait in. Every errand stop after that was a complete bust, and I came home in a foul mood.
It helped a lot to sit under the Blue Spruce.
Marta had invited Maenon over for lunch. Marta is Maenon’s informally adopted daughter: when Mamita came to Fort Collins, she and Maenon ended up being roomies, which is how we met her. Maenon loved our new house, but she seems a little less present every time I see her.
Piano guy came at three, and he sorted out the piano problem: turned out to be relatively minor, and not uncommon in a move. There’s a thing called the key stop rail just behind the key cover that prevents the keys from lifting too high. The stop rail wasn’t adjusted properly, so the low keys were able to lift a bit too much, and when that happens, they can lift off their guide pins and shift from side to side. The hole the guide pin goes into is lined with felt, so if the key pops up and shifts sideways, it can get hung up on the edge of the felt. If you then press the key back down, it can crumple the felt, which plugs the hole and makes the key stick. So it was basically a matter of removing the wadded-up felt, replacing it, and then adjusting the stop rail — which won’t be finished until Monday, since we’re waiting for the glue to dry on the new felt lining under the key.
The most interesting thing about his visit is that he was able to cross-reference the serial number inside the piano, and confirmed that it was built in 1926. I’d been told when I bought it that it dated to the 1920’s. It was cool to confirm the date.
In the afternoon I took another shot at the errand loop, and this time I was able to get important things done, such as resupplying our beer.
I spent the evening working on the entertainment center. We have too many things to plug into the screen, and I’ll have to sort that out. But I was able to pop popcorn, open a beer, and re-watch Sherlock Holmes: War of Shadows on DVD.
Day Six (Saturday)
Another round of errands.
It’s interesting the way projects just screech to a halt for want of a nail.
I went to the hardware store several days ago, looking for replacements. The printing on the bulb itself says it’s for a 30V power system. One of the old-timers at the store said the 30V systems were popular back in the 1980’s, but builders had gotten away from them, and now the hardware store didn’t even stock the bulbs. “But,” he said, “here’s the good news. Just use a 120V bulb. It’ll run a little dimmer than a 30V bulb, but it’ll also run cooler, so it’ll last longer.”
Riiiiight…. And if the wiring is actually a 110V system, those 30V bulbs would be getting far too hot and popping like flashbulbs. So now I was curious about the wiring system under the counter.
My little five-dollar digital voltmeter was dead, once I found it. It’s actually been dead for years. It runs off two little hearing-aid batteries that ran dry years ago. So a set of #357 batteries went on my shopping list, and that project stopped.
When I got the batteries and plugged them in, I managed to break the battery cover, and without a secure cover, the batteries don’t make good contact. I tried several fixes, but any jiggling of the voltmeter and it would switch off. So a new voltmeter went on my shopping list, and the project stopped again.
This morning, I finally was able to measure the voltage, and sure enough — the system is not 30V DC, it’s 110V AC. As I’d suspected. So that pretty well explains why the previous owner could never keep the bulbs working.
Three days to replace a bloody light bulb. It’s been like that all week.
Michael and Tania and Luca dropped by around noon, on their way to take Mamita out to lunch. A short visit, but sweet.
At this point, the ground floor seems to be finished: everything is unpacked, pictures are hung, and it all looks gorgeous.
Upstairs and downstairs are different: they both look like a bomb went off.
Mark and Deborah came up from Longmont to spend the night and hang out. Lovely evening. Brats and beers and wine. Incredibly cool app on Mark’s iPad that maps the night sky, and changes the picture as you turn and tilt the pad: it shows the patch of sky you’re looking at.
Too much wine. Sleepy….
Day Seven (Sunday)
On the seventh day, they saw the work of their hands, and they saw that it was good. So on the seventh day, they rested.
Well, not really. Marta made a wonderful breakfast for the four of us, a spinach fritata, and then we hung out in the back yard. Warm and humid, but a normal summer warm, not the blistering fires-of-hell warm we’ve been having.
Mark and Deborah have left, now; Marta’s puttering in the kitchen, and I’ll be puttering in my office for the rest of the day.
This entire adventure has moved so unbelievably quickly.
We had our first date with our realtor, Carolina, on Friday, May 18. Eight houses that day. Then another eight scheduled for Sunday.
Approaching this house was odd. Carolina wasn’t really showing it to us — she’d had several nearby houses in mind, but she’d just seen this one go on the market and wanted to take a quick peek, thinking that her boyfriend might like it. She said something about how her boyfriend didn’t like his job, and complained but did nothing about it, and I mentioned that I’m the same way: the sort who never does anything if I’m complaining — but if I get quiet, watch out. Change is on the way.
I’d been very vocal about the houses we’d visited. I figured the more Carolina knew about what we liked and disliked about houses, the easier it would be for her to sift through her listings. We’d been through nine houses at this point, and I’d kept up a running commentary on each one, except for the one where I stopped just inside the door and said, “Ladies, you’re welcome to look around, but I’m done. I hate this house.”
So we stepped in through the front door of this house, and the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh, my God.” Those were also the last words for the next fifteen minutes.
Finally, I looked at Carolina over my glasses, and said, “Notice anything different about me?”
She blinked, and said, “You’re quiet.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” I agreed, and then asked Marta to give me reasons to not buy this house.
It wasn’t quite what we were looking for, but I’d realized after the last nine houses that what we were looking for wasn’t going to be available in this part of the country in our price range, if at all. And this house — it spoke to me. Particularly the two giant trees in the back yard, but also the “welcome spot” on the walkway to the front door, where the energy shifts abruptly and made us all felt relaxed and welcome, and the giant living room with the perfect spot for the piano, and the beautiful, beautiful kitchen, and….
The clincher was the little sign on the giant cottonwood in the back yard, which read:
“The path of least resistance”
It felt like advice. Good advice. So we made an offer that Sunday.
Our house didn’t go on the market until the following Friday. A week from the next Saturday, we had an offer.
Two weeks and one day. The whole process was so smooth that it seemed pre-arranged. And there is something about this house that feels pre-arranged to us. Our furniture fits and looks beautiful, almost like we had been buying it for years for just this place. The animals love it here, and Sophia — who became a bit of a grumpy-gus the day we brought Felipe home — has actually been seen frolicking.
It feels like home. Already.