The following online journal entries are from August 2003.
MONDAY. 2:32 PM. My sister's cat, Nemo, bit me today. Since my sister's been away, I've been on cat duty. I make sure Nemo's fed and watered, but I also try to spend some time with him. He definitely misses Alenda and Brian. I try to eat lunch up at my sister's apartment and watch a little TV. He follows me wherever I go. If I get up, he immediately jumps up and comes after me. I think he's terrified I'm going to leave him again. But, at some point, I have to go. Today, I guess he sensed I was going to go and got pissed off. He bit my arm and one of his teeth scratched me pretty good. I cleaned up the scratch immediately; hopefully, it won't get infected.
The "Great Hovel Makeover" is fast becoming the "Great Hovel Fiasco" and threatens to become the "Great Hovel Debacle."
Sunday, after getting up way too early for my own good, I went over to the house for a few hours before gaming. I stopped by Home Depot for some base moulding, finishing nails, and other supplies. I wanted to get the painting done in the kitchen (which is becoming its own latex-based saga). I worked on getting most of the wall color up and finishing any touch-ups needed on the upper cabinets. I also started on getting the moulding down. The kitchen stove had been sitting in the middle of the room for weeks. Now, it's reattached to the gas supply and pushed back into its proper space. I did as much as I could before my tolerance for painting bid me leave.
For some reason, I decided to check in on the downstairs bathroom. The leak from the upstairs loo is still not fixed and the water damage to the ceiling of the downstairs bath had been getting worse. I wanted to check. And, to my dismay, I found the ceiling sagging, cracked, covered in a slick of green, black, and white mold, and dripping all over the floor. Letting out a series of expletives, I got the big trashcan under the leak and punched a couple of holes in the soggy drywall. Water poured out for a few minutes and then slowed to a steady drip. It seems the ceiling had been its own little man-made lake for weeks before finally giving way.
Confident that the huge trashcan would not fill anytime soon, I left feeling a distinct lack of confidence in the house renovation as a whole. I called my father. All three available numbers. House, office, mobile. And left messages declaring a state of emergency at the house.
I got home, visite the cat, and found my friend Shawn waiting for me. He had come over early before Tellings. I needed to chill out. I need to relax. I needed to drive around. So I dragged him on some errands. We went to Target. Then we went on a three county search for an open liquor store. Eventually, we ended up in Anne Arundel County near Shawn's house in Laurel and finally found a place that was selling on Sunday.
Sunday evening was Tellings. It was fun and distracting.
My father never called me back that day.
On Monday morning, I was woken up way too early for my own good by a call from my father at 7 AM. He said he had tried to contact the townhouse's condo management group and a plumber. He said that a plumber should be out to the house that morning. So, instead of going back to bed, I got up and headed over to the house for more painting.
I got a few hours of painting done before my father showed up with my stepmother in tow. She didn't say a single word to me the whole time she was there. A plumber, named Mike, showed up shortly after. I explained the plumbing situation. We opened up the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom. And, lo and behold, there were several pinehole leaks in the supply lines running to the upstairs bathroom. All of the townhouses in the community use copper pipe, which can be very susceptible to such leaks. I also pointed out the pinhole leak in the basement water pipe.
Unfortunately, Mike was not able to repair the damaged pipes. Since the water is managed by the condo association, it is up to them to fix the problem. The plumber needed permission to shut off water to the whole row of houses and to do the work. Plus, since the pipes are "in the wall," the plumber thinks the condo has to pay for the repairs. So, the plumber left and the problem remains. Attempts to reach the condo management group have been in vain. Hopefully, they'll get on it soon.
After the plumber left, my stepmother decides to lay into my father. It's all in Chinese but completely in earshot as I'm painting the kitchen. She is basically upset that I have anything to do with the townhouse in the first place. And she is upset that my father is letting me use the house. So, they leave squabbling. My father pulls me aside and tells me that we'll have to pretend that I'm renting the house, draw up a lease and everything, or I might try to figure out some sort of other living arrangement. Didn't I predict this just a month ago? I said, "The house could be livable with fixing the floors, the kitchen, and the bathroom leak; everything else can be done later. I guess I hadn't expected there to be so much to do; it was disappointing and a little overwhelming considering I have to move by the end of August. Wednesday was spent stressing about that and feeling out-of-sorts. I was hoping to just get in there, clean up some, and be done with it; I'm also fearful that this may turn into the house 'fiasco' of last year when my father promised me the Calverton house and I waited months and didn't get it." I guess I am due for my "fiasco" this year.
Completely frustrated, I try to go back to painting. While carefully removing painter's tape, I pull of several patches of ceiling and wall paint. Even more frustrated, I packed it up and just go home.
I spend the rest of the day just trying to take my mind off the whole mess. I work on some stuff for the coming semester -- trying to put together my syllabus for a MWF schedule (rather than the TuTh schedule I'm totally used to). Monday night, I parked myself in front of the TV, had a drink or two, and just chilled out all by myself. I had been invited into the city to attend a drag queen pageant; but the friends that did the inviting decided not to go.
I ended up watching an episode of The O.C., a new teen drama on Fox starring a very rough-and-tumble, wrong-side-of-the-tracks boy, who is very cute with a very James Dean-ness to him. I might watch the show just for that fact. But I'm also a sucker for teen melodramas. There is definitely something very "pretty people with problems" about the whole show. But I like the two male leads -- there is the potential for some complexity -- best friends, brotherly love, with just enough of the homosocial ambiguity for my tastes. (Of course, the misfit, dark-haired, punk-listening, Kerouac-reading friend of the outsider, rough-trade, I-think-with-my-fists character has already been called "queer" by the hyper-masculine, chiseled-face, well-muscled, six-foot-ish water polo jock.)
Somehow, the whole episode made me feel lonely.
But I followed up The O.C. with the brand-spanking new I Love the 70s series. I watched 1970 and 1971. It's scary how much of the 70s I remember. The whole thing is worth it because of Wonder Woman. I am sure I will get caught up in an I Love the 70s marathon at some point. It makes me laugh, and I can always use a laugh. After the 70s, I watched a VH1 special called "Totally Gay."
Somehow, it also made me feel really lonely.
I went to bed at midnight. And, to add insult to injury, I was kept up by my upstairs neighbors stomping around till after one o'clock in the morning. I event pounded on the ceiling. Eventually, I fell asleep.
I got up early today, Tuesday, and went over to the house. The painting is almost done in the kitchen. I worked on the moulding, the door frames, and the window trim. There are still touch-ups to be done. And I have to tile under the radiator and paint it white. Then I need to get in the cabinets, countertop, and new kitchen sink to put the whole room back together. Hopefully, that'll all happen this week. Hopefully.
Things are still way up in the air as far as the housing situation. My father called me briefly this morning. We didn't talk long, but he suggested that I might want to try to renew my lease here at Fairland Apartments. It's a possibility. It's a last minute, last ditch, effort. But do I want to subject myself to another year of being underneath the Family Von Clogging?
It all sucks. And that makes me feel really, really, really lonely.
FRIDAY. 5:42 PM. The week has not been as productive as I would have liked. But I've done my best and done what I could. I guess that's all I can do really. But "This Moldy House" is still on going. The early part of the week was wracked by drama with my father, my stepmother, and the plumbing. I am nearly done with the painting in the kitchen, and like the hardwood floors, it's not perfect but it will do. I really like the color and the couple of people that have seen it have liked it as well.
Wednesday morning, whilst doing the last bit of painting in the morning, my father called me to talk about the townhouse. We had a little bit of a fight. I told him that the situation with my stepmother and her near-vicious need to control everything (particularly assets) is really just hurting everyone involved. My father knows. He's just so completely unwilling to be confrontational, he'd rather acquiesce or ignore the whole thing. So, we talked and argued about stuff. I cannot change his life. I cannot change his wife. I cannot make him do anything. All I can do is express that it's ludicrous and toxic. The phone call ended with him suggesting once again that I stay in my current apartment and me in tears. Not a great morning to say the least. However, he called back about half an hour or so later and told me to just go ahead and move into the townhouse. He would deal with the ramifications including facing down my stepmother. I told him that I didn't want to move in only to be told to move out in a month. I told him that he really needed to be more of an advocate for himself, for me, and for my sister.
So, the plan moves ahead. I'm still bound for the townhouse. Now, the house just has to be ready for habitation. I really hope that a few things start falling into place -- quickly, easily, and within comfortable tolerances.
Wednesday afternoon, my friend Cate and I went to pick-up bathroom fixtures and cabinets. I got two new pedastal sinks for the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. I wanted to get the kitchen cabinets, but Lowes did not have the ones I needed. Special ordering meant waiting up to five weeks before delivery. Unacceptable. I need to get my kitchen done now. I would have to look elsewhere.
Thursday, I spent the morning at Home Depot reconnoitering their cabinets. I found the cabinet kits I needed. I would just have to get Cate and Skinner's pick-up truck again to lug them to the townhouse. I also bought a bunch of casement window operators, the opening and closing arm mechanism, for the house. For some reason, Home Depot only sold the left-hand operators. Now I need to track down the right-hand ones.
Also on Thursday, I stopped by University of Maryland to pick up a few things from the Freshman Writing office. I wasn't ready to be back on campus. The start of the semester is less than two weeks away. Crazy. But while visiting the main English office, I was informed that they were just going to call me to offer me a third section of English 101. I gladly accepted. It's extra money. It also means additional tuition remission, but I'm not sure if I can handle teaching three classes and taking three graduate courses. It would be a shame to not take advantage of the added free class. I'll have to think about it.
Thursday afternoon, I had lunch with Cate in Silver Spring. We had coffee afterward at Caribou Coffee. Then we went back to her house to wait for Skinner to get home from work. I wanted to go pick up my cabinets. Unfortunately, we got sucked into a marathon of VH1's I Love the 70s. We watched six straight episodes. Suffice it to say that I did not get my cabinets. (But now I really want a Blythe Doll.
I went home Thursday night. Ryan came over to hang out. It had been weeks, maybe even months, since we got together and just talked, had a few drinks, and caught up with one another. It was really nice to see him. We talked about what's going on in his life. We talked about the whole house renovation taking over my life. I showed him The Gamers. It was a good night.
Today, I got up and did some stuff for Archaea. Then Ryan and I went over to Cate's house. We three drove up to the Wal-Mart (evil) in Laurel, MD to see if I could get two vertical chassis air conditioners. Unfortunately (and fortunately for my conscience), they did not have any in stock. We left before the madness and the evil settled into our brains. Unfortunately, it seems Wal-Mart is the only company that carries the upright AC units. I will try to hunt some down elsewhere.
After evil, we decided to have lunch. Makes perfect sense, right? We end up eating at Chili's -- not necessarily my first choice but it was close and convenient -- and suffered through the slowest, most un-enthusiastic, and disinterested server person ever. Lunch took forever, but the food was all right.
After lunch, we drove to the nearby Home Depot to get my cabinets and countertops. We were going to go to the HD near my apartment but figured to just head to the one in Laurel. After tracking down a big pushcart that rattled uncontrollably, we discovered that the store didn't have one particular cabinet kit I needed. God damnit. Of course the most convenient route always ends up being the most inconvenient. However, after a little fastidious searching, we found only the last remaining box hidden way up high on the overstock shelves over twenty feet off the ground. So, we hail an orange-aproned service rep to help us. Something must be in the water in Laurel because it took half an hour or more for them to get the motorized lift to get what I needed off the shelves. It seems Laurel wanted to keep us waiting for as long as possible.
Finally, we got the truck loaded and drove the stuff over to the townhouse. I have almost everything I need to finish the kitchen. I still have to get a sink, a disposal unit, and a dishwasher. Then I have to find the time to get it all put together. But it's good to have all that bulky shopping done (even though it took forever and had to be done on one of the hottest days of the summer thus far).
I'm freaking tired. And I want to hide indoors. Maybe I'll spend the time in the AC packing. I've already started and got a number of boxes of books already to go. Whee, look at me go.
THURSDAY. 6:58 PM. Three days till I must vacate my apartment and fully move into the townhouse, which still holds the epithet "hovel." Though it's borderline "run-down townhome" or "dingy dive" or even "shabby chic" -- except it actually is shabby.
The past week has been pretty slow on the "progress" scale. The townhouse is slowly taking shape, but not by leaps and bounds. Now that all the big stuff, the big gestures, the big paint strokes are done, the work on the details isn't as noticeable.
Last Saturday, I was going to do house stuff with my friend Scott. But one of the Archaea players was having a going-away gathering before he trundles off to his first semester away at college. So, a bunch of us met up at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It was opening weekend. I've been to the MD RenFest a dozen times at least. Much of it doesn't really change. It's the same people, the same characters (even if the actors aren't the same), the same food, the same shows, and the same merchants. I didn't do much except walk around a little bit and then spend most of the day hanging out at the Dragon Inn. It was a mellow day. Though I was distracted thinking about all the work I needed to do on the house.
I actually went over Saturday late afternoon to work on the kitchen cabinets. I needed to do something so I felt like I wasn't just totally blowing off working on the house. I put the lovely "Bianco" plain white melamine cabinets together and called it a night.
Sunday morning, Scott and I went over to the townhouse to try to get the plumbing for the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom done. We needed to alter the hot water supply line to the sink. Unfortunately, Scott had some difficulty sweating or soldering the pipes. So, we left that project on hold (plus the copper had to cool off). We went upstairs to get the new pedestal sink installed. After removing the old sink and vanity (completely falling apart due to water damage), we put in the new sink. Unfortunately, more plumbing snafus ensued. Some of the drain parts we bought weren't the right size.
Unfortunately, the sinks had to be left unfinished. We had to get back to my place for Tellings.
This past Monday, I did some school stuff with my sister. I managed to get my syllabus done. So we went to campus. My sister is teaching English 101 for the first time this coming semester. She had to get her syllabus looked over by the Freshman Writing office. So, while she was getting the eagle eye, I did some photocopying. Afterward, we did a quick tour of Home Depot for plumbing parts. Then we got lunch at a greasy Chinese place near campus. Then we went home. (We were going to go by the house, but both of us had afternoon engagements that left little time.)
I had a meeting with my client Monday afternoon. I basically got a project that needs to be done pronto. Of course, I told him that I was really strapped for time. So, it'll get done as soon as possible after I am moved. I spent the rest of the day helping my sister jazz up her syllabus with some mad desktop publishing skills. Then we drove up to have dinner at La Madeleine and see Alenda's boyfriend Brian at work.
I have been sleeping pretty soundly as of late. I climb into bed and within minutes I'm out like a light. Even the shenanigans of my upstairs neighbors don't keep me up. I must be exhausted. And I must be stressed out. I usually sleep when I'm really anxious or freaked out. It's one of the sure signs. It's totally a defense mechanism to take me "out" of reality. (Maybe my upstairs neighbors are just being quieter. There are school-age children that live above me. Schools have started in the area. Maybe their doing their homework and getting their beauty sleep.)
Tuesday, I went over to the house bright and early. My father told me that the condo management association's plumber was coming by that day to tend to the plumbing leaks. Of course, he failed to tell me when the plumber was coming by. So, I just had to be there in case he showed up out of the blue. I spend most of the morning cleaning up, putting tools away, sweeping, vacuuming, and organizing. I tried to finish the upstair bathroom's plumbing, but yet again I was missing a needed part. Failing that task, I went back downstairs to fully clean the very grungy stove; my sister had started a few weeks back but never got to finish. The stove is presentable now, but I sort of had a little accident. I had taken the oven temperature control knob off for scrubbing. I left it soaking in the bucket of water and cleanser. Unfortunately, it sank to the bottom of the murky water and I forgot about it when I dumped the whole thing into the toilet. With a whoosh, it disappeared down the drain. Gone. Bye-bye. Oven knob go down the hole!
Around lunch time, Alenda and Brian came over bringing me food and some volunteer time. They even did a Home Depot run for me while I waited for the plumber. We managed to get the base cabinets installed. (Too bad stud finders don't work for other things.) We got to work on getting the countertops ready for installation. (I got to play with the circular saw and made a pretty darn good cut on the counter.) We didn't get to fixing down the countertops. A bad thunderstorm rolled in around 5 PM and knocked out the electricity to the area. That was probably the closest thing to divine intervention telling us to go home. The plumber never showed up.
Unfortunately, after fighting through the stormy weather, I got home to find my computer trying to recover from the power outage. I rebooted it. It refused to start up except in Safe Mode. I rebooted it again. Again, it would try to start up but would hang up, reboot itself, and suggest I go to Safe Mode. I really thought my computer was toast. Finally, I decided to reinstall the operating system. All of my data was safe on a second hard drive. There was nothing else I could do but try. It took me several hours to get Windows and most of my programs reinstalled. Everything seems fine now. It was a close call. I think if I lost my computer, I would have had a total meltdown.
Wednesday, I had a short meeting on campus for one of my special English 101 sections. Afterward, I stopped home for a little lunch. Then I loaded up my car with boxes of books and drove them over to the townhouse. For the rest of the afternoon, I painted the living room walls. The back, rear wall is a deep red (called "Rapture" by Glidden). The adjacent wall to the right of the red wall is a dark blue (called "Midnight Dream" by Behr), which is the deepest saturation of the kitchen color. I call it the "superman" room because it's red, blue, and yellow (the other walls are beige). I like it a lot. It's very stunning.
The plumber called me and apologize for a miscommuncation. Either my father misheard, miunderstood, or someone's not telling the whole truth. The plumber said he'd try to schedule the repairs before the end of the week. Basically, Thursday or Friday. He would call me and let me know. Of course, he never called me back that day.
Scott called me that afternoon and said he had some time to come up and tackle the house again. I raced home for some dinner and then raced back to meet him around 7:30 PM. The skies were threatening again. There's nothing like running from your car to the safety of indoors while carrying a six-foot tall torchiere lamp under lightning-filled skies. I had brought over one of my lamps to add more light to the living room.
The storm broke right over the townhouse. Lots of lightning, thunder, wind, rain, but no hail. I hoped it wouldn't kill the power again or else we'd get no work done. Scott turned up and we set to work on getting the counters set. Then we took a look at the plumbing sitution. We made a quick run to the hardware store to pick up a few loose ends. We got the upstairs sink squared away. Alas, the gremlins struck again. The sink's drain pipe, which came with the faucet kit, is defective and leaks. Now, I have to get a new one, rip out the old one, replace it, and return the faulty pipe. Moving downstairs, we cut the hole for the kitchen sink. Then we tested whether Scott's soldering would hold under live water pressure. Again, there was a leak. The problem will probably require professional attention. So, I still have yet to have a fully functional sink in the house.
Today, Thursday, Alenda and I went to campus for an English 101 professional day. I spent all morning in discussions about the upcoming semester, the changes to the 101 syllabus, and the pedagogy of "politics in the classroom." It was an all right session. There was free food, which was bonus. In the afternoon, my sister had to stay for an additional training session. I decided to go over to the townhouse to finish up the painting of the living room. While I was touching up the red, I heard a sudden bang at the back door as if something had struck the storm door. I put my brush down and went to investigate. I found a dead, run-over, fly-covered squirrel sitting on my back porch. That had not been there earlier. Immediately, I thought someone had thrown a dead animal at my door. There was no one outside in sight. It wasn't a freshly dead squirrel. I didn't think it had just fallen out of a tree. Someone must have thrown it. Why would they do such a thing? Being slightly paranoid about the neighborhood as it is, I think that it must be some sort of harrassment, some sort of warning, some sort of "we don't want your 'kind' moving in next door." I thought it might be a hate crime. So I call the local police department using their non-emergency number. I get the runaround a little bit. My call was transfered several times. Finally, I explain the situation to someone and all they can tell me is that if I didn't witness the actual throwing of the squirrel then the police can do very little. That doesn't comfort me at all.
While on the phone with the police, I look out my back door again. Lo and behold, there is a turkey vulture sitting on my back stoop eating the aforementioned dead squirrel. It seems the culprit was a big ugly bird who lost its lunch. I tell the police woman on the phone and she says she'll transfer me to animal control. Animal control is stymied. They actually said they would have to get back to me. Meanwhile, the buzzard has taken the carcass to the yard and is eating away. Animal control calls me back and says, "No, we don't come out for that." Again, bureaucracy saves the day. A few of my neighbors catch sight of the big bird and we have a bonding moment pondering, laughing, and being amazed by such an unlikely appearance. I wonder what a turkey vulture portents? What crazy factors must have aligned to have me be at the house, at that time, whilst a rogue turkey vulture was flying overhead with roadkill, who drops it and it lands with a slam against my back door?
What an amazing day. At least it wasn't some homophobic-xenophobic-crazed hooligans, right? Also, the plumber calls and apologizes again for not calling me back right away. I tell him that one of the pipes has sprung an actual leak where water is spraying out in a thin stream. He says that the repairs will get done Friday afternoon and that he'd be happy to help me with the kitchen plumbing. Hopefully that's set in stone.
I finish most of the touch-ups to the painting and head back to campus to pick up Alenda. Of course, when I get there, I tell her the whole story. Totally amazing. We decide to head to the local bookstores to see if our class texts are in. Alenda and I are actually taking the same graduate classes. Most of our books are available. We buy them and head home.
I am tired. Very tired. I did very little this evening save for make dinner, do some laundry, and write this very update. I need to pack some before going to bed. Tomorrow, I'm going to try to move a bunch more boxes. Then, I get to wait with baited breath for the plumber. Then, Scott is supposed to come up again and help with the last bits of what needs to be done before I move in this weekend.
Could the week get any stranger? More stressful? Maybe easier? I hope and pray.
© 2003 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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