Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Finish Line

This is a picture of a pretty-much-almost-done china cabinet in its new habitat, hulking darkly in the corner of my dining room and looking pretty much like, well, a china cabinet. If you find this a little surprising, I can assure you that you're not the only one. 

Mom and Dad dropped it off a few Thursdays ago, along with the last of the blue paint and some well-wishes: after some preventive planing and hinge-tweaking, we left the bottom doors to settle before committing to finishing the edges. Three weeks later, they're all painted up, and  they open and close like a dream, but let's all knock on (poplar) wood just in case, shall we?

Scraping paint off the glass, or off the wood you just touched up? Surprise! Sometimes it's the same thing!

Hey, so it turns out china cabinets can be, like, hold dishes and stuff! And with that, fourteen months after moving in, the guest room is free of the tyranny of The Box. Give me your poor, your huddled egg coddlers, yearning to breathe free!

All put away, with a little room to grow on.

Today, I did the very last no-really-it's-done-this-time step: I bought some #8 wood screws and some washers and installed the wine-glass rack right over the gun rests. I did not drill through the bottom of the upper cabinet, which I would like added to my tombstone, please. On a related note, my wine glasses are enormous and do not want to be friends, but they will just have to get over it. 

So here we are: after many months and many weekend hours and much inhaled sawdust, I am the owner of a finished china cabinet built by my dad's and my own hands out of my friend's late grandmother's gun rack. You know, like you do.

The truth is that I love it even more than I expected to: it's exactly what I was thinking of, standing on Grandma Ann's lawn back in July, only better. I'm so grateful to my dad for jumping in and spending his Sunday afternoons (not to mention a few Niner games, which I offered to let him watch) in the garage with me, talking sense and making sure I didn't lose any limbs to the circular saw. It's a beautiful cabinet, and it makes me very happy, in no small part because it makes me think of those days. 

So this is the end—almost. I'm planning one more photo post, chronicling the entire process from start to finish. And then I will probably just go and make some coddled eggs and tea and light some candles and put a few flowers in glassware, just because I can.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Farewell to Frankencabinet

It's alive. It's ALIVE!

And all it took was a month and a quart of paint.

In recent weeks, the cabinet has gone from this:

to this:

This is one coat of primer and two painstaking coats of Benjamin Moore Advance in Hale Navy talking, and what they are saying is, I AM ALMOST DONE.

There's still detail work to be done: untaping, fishing the newspaper out of the gun rests (you can't see it, but they're painted white, in preparation for lining with paper/fabric/other items I can change according to my whim), putting the door pulls back on, and installing a rack for wine glasses on the underside of the upper cabinet. You might notice in the second picture that the edges of the lower cabinet doors are unpainted; they've shifted again and don't close, which we think we can fix by re-tightening the hinges after they've been untaped, but we've left the door open (heh) for further sanding and adjustments to the doors themselves, just in case.

But I've got some big news: after seven months and many, many weekend hours, the cabinet is coming home! This Thursday, my parents will load it into my dad's pickup truck and deliver it to my dining room ("room" being a loose term in this instance), where it will finally relieve the giant moving box in the guest room of the title of Holder of Decorative Kitchen Things. I gave Dad the go-ahead to take care of any little things he thinks might be easier at his house than at mine, including futzing with the doors; I'm not sure what I'll find on Thursday, but I'm excited to find out. Whatever it is, I'll report back.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

So Come On, Rest Your Guns With Me

There are lots of reasons I decided, on a Saturday last July, that I was going to make a gun cabinet into my new china cabinet. It was the right size, for one thing. I had been looking for something unusual I could use as extra kitchen storage, and this certainly fit that particular bill. And I thought it would be a fun project with my dad. But really, the way to my heart was through the gun rests. And there you have it: I'm a sucker for a nice ("nice") piece of artillery storage, which is something I never thought I'd say.

But really: they're gun rests. I, Elizabeth Ball, a person who catches spiders in a designated drinking glass and delivers them safely outside, have a place to rest my guns, should I so choose. Even better, I by "guns," I now mean "teacups." This is consistently happy-making.

Second, I like the way they look. They come in different sizes and shapes: big and oval on one end; narrow and straight-edged on the other. I think they're supposed to come in just two shapes, but they're hand-cut and a little irregular, and so they all look like they could be intentionally different. I don't know anything about which guns fit in which rests, but I don't really get tired of thinking about them.

So: I like my gun rests. I just don't have any idea what to do with them.

Originally, they were lined with some genuinely grody pieces of outdoor carpet.

Now they're not.

But what's a girl to do, decorationally, with the gun rests on her china cabinet? (File under: "unique Pinterest searches.")

My original plan was something gun-related: artillery-print fabric to line them, maybe. A little gun-related china-cabinet humor for you, right? I could still do this. Etsy, as one would expect, has me covered.

But now I'm considering going the other direction, and trading the gun theme for something completely unrelated. I could paint them a contrasting color, or find a pattern I like, to make them stand out. I could paint them with flowers; I'm picturing a Scandinavian-style floral pattern. I could just paint them to match the rest of the cabinet, and make fabric liners to match my mood. Or I could just let them blend in.

It's the last big decision to make about this project, and I haven't made up my mind. Internet, what would you do?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


If you're looking for the story-within-a-story in this gun-cabinet-to-china-cabinet process, it's got to be the glass door I bought for the upper cabinet. It took a long time and lots of salvage-store trips to find; it fits the rest of the cabinet suspiciously well; it makes the difference between a shelf and a cabinet. If you couldn't tell already, I'm a big fan of this door.

Since October, the door has been sitting in my parents' garage, leaned up against the work bench right in the middle of the action, where my mom has been warning somebody not to break the glass at least once per weekend day. Note: This will be important later.

Last weekend, it finally came time to hang the door. Before we broke out the drill and hinges, I decided to prep it for eventual painting: take the old hinges off, rough up the finish with the electric sander, and make a hole for the new door pull. Best to take care of the prep work before it's attached to anything, right?

I've spent a lot of quality time with the electric sander over the last six months, and made basically-invisible changes to a lot of boards. (Is it square now? Now? What about now? This was not that kind of sanding. The finish on the door came off with satisfying ease, and it looked different. I started with the flat surfaces, then started getting into the corners and molding around the small panes. Visions of taping and painting danced in my head. And then:


Here is the secret to safely sanding around a pane of glass with an electric sander: use the corners of the sandpaper. Don't use the sides--there are just too many points of contact and too much vibration. (Also, humility. Don't get cocky, kid.) I know this because I was sanding away, and the sander shuddered against the glass, and the upper-left small pane broke from corner to corner.

To me, this looks like the end of the world. How do I fix broken glass? Are there elves involved? Do I need magic jewelry to make this happen? Surely there's no store for this kind of thing. There you have it: after a long search and a semi-miraculous moment of door acquisition and months of skirting around it, I had somehow done the irreparable. With the sander, too. I always thought it would be my uneasy ally, the table saw!

To my dad, thankfully, this does not look like the end of the world. We pried off the wooden frame and took the rest of the pane out, and Dad saved one of the broken pieces as a sample for the guy at the glass store (...that apparently exists). Then he remembered that he had this kind of glass stashed away somewhere, waiting for a rainy day, or for someone to make a careless move with the electric sander. Mom says he's already cut it to fit. 

As I write this, that pane of glass is still missing. I'm nervous about nailing the frame back into place (yes, let's swing hammers near the new glass, shall we?), but Dad swears it'll be easy. In any case, we kept going. The door is up. We're getting closer.  

More later!

Monday, January 13, 2014

When God Closes a Door, Sometimes It Shifts and Stays Closed Forever

Let's talk about doors.

Here's the thing about doors: if you want them, you're going to have to hang them. Gravity is not going to help you.

Originally, the gun cabinet had drawers on the bottom. They were big, and deep, and mostly impractical for storing fragile objects, and would have ended up a mess every time I went looking for the fancy salt and pepper shakers. When Dad and I broke out the graph paper, the drawers were the first to go.

We cut new cabinet doors out of poplar, and I have to tell you: two rectangular pieces of wood can look the same, and have the same measurements, and they can be as twinsy as you think they're going to get, down to the thirty-second of a single inch, and you can line them up and find that they are TOTALLY DIFFERENT. We swapped them, spun them around, and flipped them over, lather, rinse, repeat. With time and the eventual use of cleverly deployed pencil marks ("left" "right" "front" "back" "top" "bottom," like a bunch of geniuses), and also some quality time with the electric sander, we found a configuration that seemed to work: two doors that matched in length and cleared the frame we'd built for them, and didn't scrape on each other when they closed. Before anything could shift, we placed the hinges and screwed them in. 

It worked!

For awhile. 

Here's a life lesson: the doors you have hung, which swing so freely in their frame, may be less graceful when they're bearing the stresses and pressures of a plywood rifle cabinet of undetermined age. The new doors worked when we attached them to the cabinet, but when we came back the next week, they'd warped--or, more accurately, the frame around them had shifted. We counter-stressed the rest of the cabinet with a brace and a small bucket of wood glue, but no luck. They catch and creak. 

We'll have to fix them, probably using the sander to smooth out any high spots. For now, though, we're leaving them as they are--there's no use fixing them before we're done with the rest of the cabinet, when any false move might throw them out of alignment again. 

But let's end with a happy story, shall we?

Back in July, as soon as the $25 for the cabinet was out of my hands, I started hunting for a vintage glass door to enclose the top half. This led me to cabinetry lesson #5,297: most glass cabinet doors are already attached to cabinets. 

I spent an entire weekend in September looking, browsing the architectural salvage and furniture-resale shops of the East Bay, then trolling Etsy, then giving up and going to eBay. I had people hunting for me, stopping into garage sales and thift stores. I found a merchant in Ohio that specialized in glass doors and stained-glass windows, and gave myself a $100 budget (not including shipping!) for something we might be able to repurpose. I spent weeks waiting for their inventory to change.

One day, I was errand-hopping my way across the East Bay, racing the clock before dinner reservations with my parents. I had stopped in to Ohmega Salvage--both sides--without luck, and was running out of time. I decided to call it quits and head to dinner.

Instead, I found myself at Urban Ore, running to the cabinet-door aisle just in case. I'd been there before, armed with gloves and a tape measure, and rifled through the ranks of abandoned pressboard and broken glass, and found nothing. By this time, I was getting late for dinner, and thinking I should have just headed off to meet my parents--but there I was. And there, sitting out in the middle of the aisle, was exactly one glass cabinet door with exactly the right dimensions and more or less the style I wanted. No broken panes, real wood, solid construction, not an obvious tetanus risk. Twenty-one dollars, including tax, and no need for shipping from Ohio.

I had it home before the appetizer course.

Now that it's home, the door is cooling its heels: it'll be the last big piece of the cabinet and the last thing that might throw the other doors out of whack, after we install the upper shelves. It's a good one, though. I'm glad I was late for dinner.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


The journey to a handmade china cabinet begins, as so many journeys do, with a single step trip to Home Depot. Dad and I spent an entire afternoon shopping for materials and considering the upsides and downsides of all kinds of wood, from pine to redwood to the entire contents of our local lumberyard's Unaffordable Hardwoods aisle. We eventually decided to make what we could from poplar, which at the time mostly reminded me of the most underrated Anne of Green Gables book, but is also apparently a good cabinetry-grade wood; we also chose three-quarter-inch AB plywood (top-quality on one side, slightly messier on the other) for the bigger pieces, plus a starter course of twelve feet of quarter-round molding for trim and internal supports.

Sadly, nobody had anticipated the vast market for people turning old gun cabinets into china cabinets, and thought to make all these pieces in exactly the sizes I needed. It turns out cabinetry is like sewing in that way: before the putting-together phase comes a lot of prep. Dad and I spent at least a month of weekends prepping wood. We measured and marked. We re-measured and re-marked. We ripped boards the long way, then cut them off the short way. We rasped. We sanded. We checked for square corners again and again and again. In one case, we did it all wrong, and made an emergency trip to Home Depot. I made friends with the electric sander and the miter saw and sometimes the table saw, especially if its friend the ripping guide was present. (One way cabinetry is not like sewing: sewing machines sew straight on their own.) In total, I got more sawdust in my sinuses than I would previously have associated with the average weekend project.

Let's face it: wood prep isn't that photogenic. It's exacting, precise work, minus the satisfaction of putting stuff together (and having it stay that way). I'm glad it's mostly over--but I'm also glad I did it. Back when I was hunting for a china cabinet, before I ever laid eyes on this $25 worth of plywood gun-cabinet glory, I knew I wanted something unique and interesting and personal--and now I feel like I really know my materials. I know where they're square (and, more importantly, where they're not square), where there used to be dings and scuffs and the occasional saw-burn mark, how deep that little knot actually went, and how much sanding it took to get it out, and how far I distributed the divot to make it less noticeable. Despite the assembly portion of the process, this is no IKEA purchase* (Bonus: Don't just assemble your furniture; complicate your life by cutting all the wood first! This is what they call WINNING). Maybe I'm just turning into Gwyneth Paltrow or something, and will now be required to name my kid something like Plate McGee, but I like that this cabinet and I are feelin' each other now.

Next up: Let's put stuff together (and have it stay that way)!

*Nothing against IKEA purchases; without them, I would have no place to sit/eat/keep anything. But: you know. Something should be made from real wood and weigh less than Andre the Giant.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Demolition Derby

Hey, remember this project? My dad and I are trying to make this, a $25 gun rack I bought from a friend's grandparents...

...into something like this, which will hold my dishes and be a generally adorable addition to my dining room:

Structurally, the biggest part of this project requires deepening the bottom half of the cabinet and replacing the existing drawers with cabinet doors—essentially, we're building a new exterior around the old bottom half and replacing the bottom and the interior shelf. And what has to happen before a new exterior? The old parts have to go!

Like so:

Some of the demolition was satisfying Hulk-smashy hammer work, but the point wasn't to destroy the entire cabinet—I needed to clear out the innards but leave the frame intact and the gun-rest portion pristine. (Well, as pristine as the amazingly crusty piece of fabric inside allows.) My desire to ironically hang my teacups above the rifle rests is, after all, pretty much the point of this entire project.

 So there was some of this:

And a lot of this:

The shelves weren't made of solid boards—they were balsa wood, held apart by other balsa wood glued in as spacers. Sneaky, yet inexplicable!

To preserve the surface of the cabinet, I hammered all the existing nails out from the inside and picked out a few staples, and also nearly ended up at Kaiser for a tetanus shot, saved by the grace of God and the squishy soles of my construction-inappropriate footwear. ("Hey, why is that board stuck to my shoe?")

But at the end of the afternoon, I had it: a cleaned-out cabinet bottom, ready for its new frame, and no nails in my feet. I'm calling it a victory.

Next up: In which I learn to use the power saw!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Annie Get Your Sunday China

A few weeks ago, I bought a gun cabinet. It's going to live in my dining room, and it's going to be the best.

It's for, you know, all...the guns that I...own?

(Don't be ridiculous. I don't own any guns.)

What happened is, I moved into my new apartment in January. I unpacked pretty quickly, leaving exactly one enormous moving box intact, sitting in the middle of the guest room. The box holds all of the entertaining and kitchen items I don't use every day and that don't fit in the kitchen proper: serving platters, a few pieces of good china, candlesticks, a huge bag of tealights I bought at IKEA years ago. The box taunts me. My brain says, this is going to be the coziest guest room ever! But the box says, what are you going to do, put me in the closet? OH WAIT, YOU DON'T HAVE ANY OF THOSE LEFT. To shut the box up, I've been looking for a china cabinet.

About a month ago, my mom and I stopped by some friends' estate sale, more to say hi to our friends than to buy any of their stuff. Out on the lawn stood a tall, narrow, open cabinet with no shelves and oval holes carved into the base. "That's weird," I thought. "That cabinet has no shelves." I went inside. I saw my friends. I tried to throw a ball for their Boston terrier, Zorro, who ignored me and stared into the middle distance of two opposite directions. I bought a set of dominoes and a fifty-cent paperback copy of Anna Karenina. We were just on the way out when my friend Don knocked on side of the shelfless cabinet. "Sure you don't want this?" he said. I'm pretty sure he was at least half joking. "You need a place to store your rifles." You see where this is going. With that, I knew: I did want it. It was old and paint-spattered and made mostly of cheap plywood, and it was definitely, definitely my new china cabinet.

This is how you know my dad is an above-the-call-of-duty kind of dad, and also an engineer: when I waltz into his living room on a Saturday afternoon and announce that I've bought a plywood gun cabinet and I want to turn it into a fancy place to store my trivets, his main response is to run for the graph paper. (I may have heard the words "a project!" emanate faintly from the area of his desk.) By the end of the week, we had a plan--deepen the bottom half, switch out the drawers for cabinets, find a vintage glass door, new feet, maybe some kind of curly decoration on top. Definitely a coat of paint or two.

So far, with the exception of a mostly ineffectual going-over with soap and water, the gun cabinet is the same as it was the day it moved into my parents' garage--but it won't be for long. In the coming weeks (months?), Dad and I will be taking it apart and putting it back together, and I'll be writing about it here.

As someone I know would say: A project!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Where I Am Now

Since I last wrote here, a few things have changed.

I am, by the grace of God, no longer on hold with the California Employment and Development Department. I got a job! I write things and mess with the Internet for an organization in downtown San Francisco, and eat lunch by the water when it's not too cold. That's all I'll say, because: Internet. (MAYBE I'M A SPY.) (I'm not a spy.)

I also bought and moved myself and the cat into a new home, a spacious and sunny apartment in a small building. It is, for the most part, a wonderful thing: growing tomatoes on my back stairs, grilling in my be-twinkle-lighted backyard with friends while the neighborhood goes all war-zone on the Fourth of July. It's far from fully furnished and decorated, but I'm happy to have that be a process. Better to not have my entire home look like June 2013, and who I am now, because who I am now is certain to not be who I am in a year or two. I can build slowly.

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time in my home--after a long spell of traveling and houseguests and parties to attend and parties to host and meetings at church and "meetings" at my choir pub, I am indulging my inner homebody and sheltering in place. I'm cooking simple food, and finishing some handknit socks, and watching a little TV--I just finished the new season of Arrested Development, which I enjoyed mightily but which wore out my cynicism bone for awhile. I recently taped together some cut-up paper bags and traced a sewing pattern for pajama pants, and now that the machine's out on the dining room table, I can't wait to sew ALL THE THINGS! It's been a few years since I sewed consistently, but I'm trying to brush up on my skills while I sew through some of the fabric I've been hanging onto for so long. Luckily, my friends are having children at Duggar-like rates (collectively, not individually); I can always claim that my baby-gift production requirements pushed me into it. Infants: It's all their fault!

Anyway, it's nice. Maybe I should be outside more, but I'm enjoying having a new home and spending time in it.

I just thought you should know.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Last Monday, I missed a phone interview with the California Employment Development Department. I don't know what happened to the pre-interview notice they promised me; I do know that when I got back from my New Year's Eve Trader Joe's run, Mary from the State of California was disappointed to have missed me. The phone number she left was unstaffed, and their email told me to call the main line. This, I now know, is the first rule of the California Employment Development Department: Don't miss a phone call with the California Employment Development Department.

Nine days and about a hundred phone-dials later--I literally called twenty-eight times yesterday--I still haven't gotten through. Sometimes, the system is up-front with me: I dial, please call back later, goodbye. Click! Other times, it leads me on. "Welcome!" it says. My heart beats fast. I have my reference number handy. Five menus and my Social Security number later...please call back later. Goodbye. Click.

This is like the worst radio call-in contest ever.

Rumor has it the system maxes out when the on-hold wait gets longer than ten minutes. Which, okay. Let's think about this. First of all, this is a phone system for every unemployed person in the state of California. A ten-minute hold line is something you have for a popular dentist in a small town, not the social safety net for the most populous state in the union. Second, I'm a big girl. I have a phone with a speaker function. I can be on hold for more than ten minutes if it means I don't have to spend a week of my life calling this phone number. Give me twenty minutes! Half an hour! I can be on the phone all afternoon if it means you'll start sending me the benefits I applied for.

What will I do, you ask, while I wait my turn? Well, I'll search job websites. Futz with my cover letter. Sing along with your hold music. Memorize that message about Congress extending benefits. Make scrambled eggs. Watch "30 Rock" reruns. Catch up on The New Yorker. Clean my bathroom. Clean my kitchen. Clean my living room. Make sure my professional website works. See if anybody's visited my professional website. Make my bed. Check Facebook. Decide what to make for dinner. Make a grocery list. Knit. Write a thank-you note. Write a note of ungratefulness. What does it matter what I do? At the end of it, I will have spoken to someone. The social safety net will have triumphed!

Some day, EDD, I hope we can do these things together.



Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Reality Day

I would like to propose a new holiday. I like to call it Reality Day. Or the Day of Reality. Or, ooh, the Festival of Reality! Whatever we're calling it, Reality Day falls on January 2, unless January 2 falls on a weekend. Weekends go against everything Reality Day stands for.

You may have noticed that today is January 2.

Happy Reality Day!

Here's the thing: until shortly before Christmas, I had a job. It was a good one: I sat in a small, messy room, surrounded by people I liked--people I like, actually, present-tense--and wrote scripts for a comedic educational TV show/DVD series. In the middle of December, my company's financial tether ran out. I was laid off, effective immediately; I arrived at the office at 9:15 and was home, with my lunch leftovers and the fake hipster glasses I'd brought in for a sketch, by eleven.

I decided to embrace the time off. Nobody's hiring the week before Christmas, let alone the week after, so I declared my Winter Break, college-style, and applied myself conscientiously to the task of relaxing. I hung out with my parents, who are local, and with my brother, whom I don't see that often. I stayed up late with friends, playing games and drinking wine and talking, and slept in accordingly, unless I had brunch plans. I celebrated Christmas. I went to my family's cabin and read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in front of the fire. I celebrated New Year's Day with friends and fried chicken and a mini-road trip toward dinner, watching the sun set behind the hills as I drove down Highway 101.

That was yesterday. Yesterday was Winter Break. Today is Reality Day. On Reality Day, we wake up to emails about job prospects and unemployment insurance. We brush our teeth before eleven a.m., in accordance with tradition. We ritually update our resumes and polish up our websites. We call the unemployment people, with the eager expectation of being on hold. We eat the celebratory meal of salad. We get stuff done, because that is the nature of this Reality Day holiday, and we are nothing if not enthusiastic about the holidays. ANY holidays.

It also bears mentioning that I'm days--hours, maybe!--from closing on my very first home. This is the exciting end to a long process; my offer was accepted in August, and now it's January, and if you want to talk about wallpaper or window coverings or my vision for the living room,  I can oblige you allllll daaaaay lonnnng. I'm already planning the housewarming party and daydreaming about sunny afternoons reading on the back patio. All of these happy new-home things are coming...AFTER I've scaled the mountain of paperwork, packing, cleaning, move-scheduling, electrician-calling (what kind of person, I ask you, installs a thermostat on the side of the heater?), address-changing, landlord-wrangling work. This work is not, of course, a surprise. We have hurried up and then waited, and hurried up and waited, and hurried up and waited. (Mortgage lenders also take Winter Break.) And when does it all begin? Reality Day! Hurrah! Here's some newspaper! Let's all pack something fragile!

I realize that I am not the only one celebrating Reality Day today. Millions--billions?--of people around the world are walking into cold, quiet offices today, trying to remember what exactly it is they're doing there. They're removing the holiday music from their iTunes to avoid the confluence of Shuffle and Bing Crosby in June. They're finishing up the last of the See's candy and sweeping up the last (they hope) of the Christmas tree needles from the living room floor. And this is why I think Reality Day should be afforded holiday status: we're gearing up, we're ritualizing, we're collectively adjusting. It's a thing. We're all doing it together anyway; why not build a holiday around it?

Or maybe I just want one last day to celebrate before it's really January.

Happy Reality Day.

Monday, August 20, 2012


The place where I live is under construction. It's been like this for a good six weeks now: no parking because of the scaffolding in the driveway, strange men peering through my (frosted) bathroom window the second the clock strikes 8:01 a.m., water off water on water off water on, bang bang ping whack whack whack ka-THUNK. This weekend, all of my windows were plasticked over and taped--they're painting the outside of the building, which I think/hope is the last stage of all this--so that it felt like a space capsule. No air, no view, except the sunset through the plastic (see above). It's all necessary, I think; the building is pre-war, and now it has a new roof, new windows, new plumbing, new landscaping, a few freshly renovated units, possibly a new skylight in the foyer (was it always there, and I never noticed?), fewer dead or dying trees hanging around, and a new coat of paint. Good job, building! Now, I would like my parking spot back. 

The good/ironic news is that, with any luck, I won't be living there much longer--I'm trying to grab the very tail end of this low housing market and buy a place. I've already gotten and given up one house, a sweet brick cottage that I loved until the home inspector told me that, among other things, it was going to fall down in an earthquake. Today, my stomach leaps every time I get an email: I'm waiting to hear about an offer I made on another place, a lovely flat--that's what I'm going to call it, my "flat"--just four blocks from where I live now. It's probably unwise of me to say so much so early, but I'll just tell you that it's big and sunny, in a great neighborhood, with a beautiful shared yard. Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Trip to the Playground

This is a draft I wrote here last fall and never finished: 

I went back to LA this weekend.

(I feel like I forgot to tell you all so much about LA. I moved there just about a year ago, and moved back to the Bay Area nine months later. It was not at all what I expected--so much better, mostly--

The most surprising thing about LA was, after nine months, how much I liked it there--I fully believe that moving north to my family, my friends, my cat, and a pitch-perfect writing job (with income!) was the obvious right choice, but I also think LA will always mean a little bit of fun and magic to me.

I've long thought that my ability to prioritize the fun of LA over the soul-sucking drudgery of LA was directly related to my loosey-goosey relationship with supporting myself through the industry. I was poor there, interning part-time for a production company and teaching SAT prep courses to pay the bills, but I had it pretty good. I worked on a major lot; my production company bosses were real, working producers and treated me like a person; I didn't become an overnight success, but I wasn't hating life in hopes of landing my dream job, either.  It wasn't sustainable--in fact, my job in San Francisco surfaced just as the "human happiness vs. professional sacrifice" conversation was coming to a head--but I was able to live there and work there without succumbing to my very worst fear: sacrificing my professional youth for a professional future that wouldn't happen.

Now, LA is like the Land of Zero Responsibility: I go there and I have friends, and memories, and places I love--but I have no obligation.

It was strange and exciting going back. I have the hardest time believing I was there for so long--I have far too many memories

Reading this now, even unfinished and with a nonsensical final phrase, I love it. It's all the things I always want to say about LA. It's the truth about a short, weird period in my life, and I'm glad I was able to get it down somewhere.

I visited LA again a couple of weekends ago and felt the same way about it. A lot of people have terrible, soul-deadening experiences there, and maybe it would have gotten to me eventually, but as it is, the LA of my memory is mostly a land of the golden hour, of fire pits on the beach, of sangria in mason jars, of late-night pie (or French toast sandwiches with chocolate, peanut butter, and bananas) with friends, of sleeping late and floating in the pool with a book. Especially now that my responsibilities lie elsewhere, LA is a playground. It's nice to have a playground, especially one where the other kids are nice and we sometimes watch Downton Abbey together in our jammies.

Again, I'm not sorry I left. My job here is about a thousand percent better--weirder and more fun--than ninety-nine percent of the jobs I could have gotten in Hollywood. That's what we call a lot percent better. Here, I have people. I have a cat. I have a church that loves me. I have an apartment of my very own, which I will someday decorate like an adult. Here is great. Here is now. Here is within a half-day's drive of the playground, which is also nice.

Let's do lunch, LA. I'll have my people call your people.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year

One of the best things about living in California is that, on the second of January, the following things can happen: t-shirt weather; a hike to the ocean, with waterfalls; snacks with friends on the cliffs above the beach; whale sightings at sunset.

Happy new year, everybody.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

12 of 12: September

12 of 12! Welcome. Credit and thanks to Chad Darnell for a) inventing and b) hosting! Onward.

7:11 - So so SO much more awake than I would like to be.

8:10 - Sherlock surveys the scene and keeps the stuffed mice under control. It's good to have him around. (For safety reasons, you know.)

 1:05 - Baby shower leftovers: fancy mac-and-cheese and chicken-apple pigs in blankets. Lunch of champions, obviously.

 1:06 - There are a lot of weird off-brand chihuahuas in the world, but Coco here is not one of them. She's awesome and adorable, even when she's trying to charm me out of my pigs in blankets.

 1:35 - Scenic 3rd St., Dogpatch, lunchtime.

 6:20 - Driving into the sun, headed to the Mission...

 6:23 - ...where I drive UP Dolores St....

 6:24 - ...and back DOWN Dolores St.

 6:25 - The actual mission. It's super pretty.

 9:45 - Home from (sadly unphotographed) dinner, and deciding I need to refresh my Neko Case collection. As one does.

 10:02 - Sherlock helps.

 10:20 - So, you know how everybody says this show is great? They are not lying. IT IS GREAT.  You should watch it.

Happy September, everybody.