Moving On, Part IV: A Wrench in the Gears

I had planned to make Part IV of this thrilling saga you’ve been reading to be about purchasing a new place. I spent a lot of time looking right before I left California, in between furiously packing, selling and giving away everything I owned. I figured if I could find a place before I left, I would be ready to move right in when I returned to California for the winter. I even made two offers on places, though I didn’t follow through with either of them. One because I came to my senses that it was actually more than I could afford, and the other I determined was just too small. Which, as it tuns out, was a good thing.

Two days after leaving California, I was in Rhode Island to visit my brother for a couple of days, en route to Barcelona. I was working  at the bar which serves as the kitchen in his house. He lives in a former bar- but before you go thinking he is a total degenerate, he owns the entire building plus a few more in Newport. He just has a high tolerance for unconventional living situations. And questionable levels of cleanliness. Which is why I ended up cleaning his bathroom the night I arrived. But my brother is a story for another time. So there I was, working away next to the empty beer taps, sweating  to get an assignment completed a little bit early, when I got the call. That “I hate to deliver the news…but we don’t have any more work for you” call. Suddenly, finishing that task early was not so important. In fact, that assignment got turned in three days late.

I probably should have seen this coming, but I didn’t, or maybe I didn’t want to. When you work on a project basis, even when you are a full time employee, this is a call you get sometimes. I was given an option to keep my employee status without pay, like I did for nearly all of 2009, which might let me pick up work here and there, and likely guarantee me time on the next project. But I chose the layoff. Yes, in this job market, I’m probably crazy. But I’m hoping that my friend JJ’s psychic email skills are accurate when she says she senses a fulfilling opportunity will present itself to me randomly and easily. Though I’m not sure what that is going to be.

For the moment, I’m OK. I don’t know where to start, but panic hasn’t set in yet. My self doubt is at a manageable level, only requiring a few handfuls of chocolate chips to maintain my calm as I write this.

Could this wrench be a fortunate thing?

Moving on, Part III: Downsizing

I got rid of about one third of my belongings before I left my house with its new owners. I gave a lot of things away and sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist. For cheap, to make sure it went. But I still sold as much as I had time to photograph, advertised and sell, as I can use the lunch money, what with all the travel and mortgage and rent paying and whatnot.

I procrastinated in selling all this stuff (because of the task itself, no other reason) yet it was still difficult to curttail my selling when I finally began – typical behavior for me, as once I fully engaged in a task it becomes difficult for me to stop. Doesn’t matter what it is – working, bicycling, sleeping, reading, organizing, eating. You can see the ramifications here – this can be productive for tasks like working or studying, even bicycling or motorcycle riding. But bad when I need to stop doing something in order to be on time somewhere. Fortunately if I don’t fully engage in an activity I have no problem stopping, hence the reason I frequently disengage when eating or drinking booze.

So anyway, I posted more ads than I care to remember. I received emails or calls on nearly every one, but the reliability of someone actually showing up to buy something from a Craigslist ad is about 25%. Now, make whatever it is free, and multiple people show up at the doorstep, clamoring to take it off your hands. But put a dollar amount on it, and the probability of that person who texted you 8 times and swore they would be there at 6pm  drops to 1 in 4. However. The amusement factor my Craiglist shoppers held was high enough that it almost made up for the frustration and hassle of photographing and listing and the calls, texts and visits and no shows.

Take the Syrian couple who came to look at my antique display case. They wanted to see everything I had for sale, and also everything not for sale. They checked out my photography on the walls. They eyed my furniture. They looked the house over and asked how much this kind of house went for. They asked about other houses in the neighborhood, and seemed very surprised that such a little tiny house (just under 1000 square feet) could possibly go for so much. I explained how restored historical neighborhoods and their gentrification are desirable. (They didn’t get it.) But I didn’t mind engaging in a long conversation with these strangers who didn’t want to buy my display case. Because this guy had the best rug I have seen in a long, long time. A shiny, puffy mullet, as teased and solid as a Ken dolls. His mustache and beard were dyed a shoe polish dark brown. Of course, she was heavily made up and carried upon her head long, curly, black and burgundy cascading tresses that I suspect were partly false as well. But he was awesome.  At 5 foot 5, with a stunning orange spray tan and topped with that mullet, he made up for the rest of the losers.

Then there was the chick who wanted my lawn mower. She failed to show or call at the agreed upon time, so I emailed her asking if she still wanted it. That was the first mistake. Her reply went something along the lines of her husband got off work late how she was “expecting”, so couldn’t drive. I deleted the email and chalked it up to another flake or someone wanting a free delivery. She actually called the next day, asking if I still had the mower – but mostly she called because she wanted to talk about being pregnant. First, she told me she couldn’t pick up the mower because she is pregnant and can’t drive. She paused dramatically, waiting for my response, of which there was none. She made other leading comments  in the same vein, all ignored by me. This girl was so desperate to talk about her amazing miracle of getting knocked up and all the issues surrounding this nearly impossible feat with a total stranger on the phone, since clearly she was the first woman in the world to accomplish it. (If you don’t know me, you might be getting the feeling that I’m not a big fan of children and even less of a fan of women who think making babies is an heroic task. If you do know me – well, then you know how I wanted nothing to do with this conversation). So it pleased me to no end to leave all of her attempts to provoke an inquiry about her baby making unanswered.

And then. THEN. There was the guy who sent me a text at 5 in the morning informing me he’d like to buy my 33 inch high speakers for sale. Then he emailed me, with the respond to email: Blackmeat at We set up a time after 3pm that day to pick up the speakers. 3pm was presumably when he either a) got off work, or b) woke up for the day. I was looking forward to this visit, but alas, Blackmeat never showed.

And on and on it went. Early morning texts, people with endless questions about a five dollar shelf (people, it’s FIVE DOLLARS, what the hell do you want from me?), so many no shows or people arriving up hours later, long after I gave the thing away to someone else…But it’s over now, the remaining stuff went into storage or to my fathers house. To be moved to a new place when and if I buy one. But that is a whole other story.

Moving On: Part II Searching for a Place

So here I am, living the last few weeks in my house with my dogs. I’m going to work, to the dog park, the dog beach, riding my bike around the neighborhood, riding my scooter, watching some junk TV in my overstuffed leather chairs, trying new restaurants, visiting with neighbors. That’s the good stuff. Meanwhile, I’m sorting through boxes and drawers and a garageful of things. Working, doing the paperwork for a loan, for my taxes, for my bank accounts and vehicles – and looking for a smaller place to buy. (Incidentally, I found myself wondering why I wasn’t also signed up for a class to improve my Spanish or Italian.  Why don’t I allow myself time to breathe?)

Which brings me to the topic of this post. House hunting hates me. I’m not joking. Three out of four places I attempt to view downtown are either not actually on the market or impossible to get inside to view.

Let me elaborate. Today my realtor and I spent an hour trying to get to a key in a lockbox, it’s whereabouts unknown other than “in the garage”.  The building had three garage levels, internal entries only. The push button lock code to enter the building didn’t work. So we opened the lockbox of an office unit on the ground floor with an external entry, entered with a key and went into the building through that unit’s internal door (yes, we basically snuck in). We did not have a key card for the elevator to the first garage level, so we waited to follow on the tail of some resident, then we jumped in after him. In the garage, I had to hold the door to keep it from shutting, lest we get locked inside (apparently this happens). No lock box in the garage. The realtor called whomever and was assured there was a lock box, but we had to enter on the ground level inside the lobby, to a level that was there but not indicated anywhere. So back down we went (fortunately the elevators did not require a key card to go down). We wandered through fire doors and hallways, and eventually found the garage passage from the lobby (but only after calling for assistance again). Again, I held the door so we didn’t get locked in. The realtor finally found the lock boxes, of which there were around ten. Not all of them were marked with unit numbers. Another phone call, and several tries finally located the correct lock box. My realtor opened it. There was no key inside. No, we never got in.

And that was only one of the units we attempted to visit today. We attempted to see 8 apartments, and we saw 3.  Unmarked lock boxes, missing keys, unreturned calls for appointments, and listings that we “no longer on the market ” (but showed up as updated or new listing just this morning). And I’m not even looking at the short sales (where people aren’t really moving out, just camping mortgage free and putting the house on the market over and over to buy time).

The places I did see weren’t anything I liked at all. One place had amazing views, but not one appliance. The previous owner stole everything, you could see where they ripped the microwave off the wall. This place also had a shower in the kitchen area and a toilet and sink in the bedroom closet. You’d think I was in Barcelona with that kind of craziness.

Other adventures today included an old dude from a neighboring apartment building with a big knee brace, trying to talk his way coming with us to view a unit because he was interested in it  too. He spent 15 minutes telling us all about the place as he remembered it from the one time he had seen it, as we struggled with a lock box and phone calls. He actually tried to hobble behind us into the apartment. I nearly gave him another knee brace.

Then there was the young, clueless office attendant with the 5 inch heels and the wrong pair of jeans for her bubble butt who showed us a developers unit. She seemed to be preoccupied with our reactions to her “tour” which consisted of traipsing us past the pool and showing us the gym and presenting them both with a flourish of her arm like the ladies on those late night TV commercials for some super vegetable chopper thing. Or 20 knives or superglue or something. Then this chick would  glance nervously over to our faces then look away every 3 seconds while scrunching up her tiny mouth.  After her performance and showing us one place,  she let us walk out the door without showing us the other 3 or 4 available units we later learned about when the manager called to follow up. So I have to go back again. Did I mention  I got a ticket there? Yeah, not  really looking forward to returning to that place.

Something better turn up quick. I have 2 1/2 weeks left in this house and I need somewhere to put my overstuffed sofa and chairs. And I’m not too keen on peeing in a closet and showering with a stove and dishwasher.