Saturday, July 23, 2011


Still life of items uncovered in the backyard (left to right):
orange lighter
glass bottle, Bartles & Jaymes Strawberry Kiwi
Bud Light bottle caps
jagged chunks of tinted glass
black plastic tube
canned oysters

But before someone had a lunch of canned oysters and Bartles & Jaymes in the backyard, someone else did this:


It's been interesting to see just how much of the sellers' presence remains in the Frankenstein House.  Even in doing really mundane things, I run up against who they were and the choices they made.  Today, it was pest control.  In the ostensibly straightforward act of trying to keep bugs out of my house, I came  face-to-spectral-face with the ladies who lived here for 2 years before I did.  

They were a married couple; both of them were named Mary.  In my conversations with myself, I refer to them as Mary Squared.  

In the process of buying the house, it became clear that:

  1. Mary Squared was dissolving their civil partnership.  This is why they were selling the house.    
  2. Mary Squared hated me.  To them, I was conniving, scheming, plotting.  Everything I did was to get my evil way, to manipulate, to get what I wanted and screw them on the terms of the sale.
Mary Squared's animosity towards me manifested itself in a variety of ways during the escrow transaction, and has continued to impact me in the house.  They left the basement full of their old castoff items, having told their real estate agent they thought I 'might want to use' those things.  Very useful items they left behind included an old desktop monitor, a small bowling ball, a small grill contraption, broken glass, bookshelves with no shelves, and chunks of carpet.  I had to ask their real estate agent to come take all their leftovers away before I moved in.  

Mary Squared also left the house pretty dirty-- this is an actual picture of the actual bag of actual rotting trash they left in the fridge:

my long-suffering real estate agent stood there, holding the bag,

Mary Squared also completely abandoned any pretense of yard maintenance.  When I first saw the house and made the offer, the backyard was charming!  By the time I moved in 2 months later, it looked like this:

Viet Nam

This jungle of overgrowth served as a breeding ground for unspeakable bugs.  Unspeakable!  Garden spiders, black widow spiders, an amazing amount of ants.  I didn't understand the connection between weeds and bugs until I called a pest control company and a representative came to take a look.  He said there was no point in spraying for bugs until the overgrowth had been cleared out.  

So, I called a landscaper.  His crew cleared out the backyard.  A few hundred dollars later, the backyard looked like this:

"I can run around without
getting things stuck in my face now."
I called the pest control guy back. Pest Control Guy blessedly sprayed the backyard, and also sprayed the inside of the garage.  However, before he could do that, he and I had to clear out the garage, because Mary Squared had left stuff in the garage too, and I hadn't gotten around to disposing of it.  

 As I was going through the garage leftovers to separate trash from recycling, I came across-- of all things-- two of their forgotten books.  One was:

oh, hipsters

Just-- hipsters.  Was Mary Squared a hipster?  Or was at least half of her a hipster? (Well, really, the square root)?  This book seems to be a series of graphic novel-style short stories inspired by Belle & Sebastian.  
Graphic novels.  Inspired by Belle & Sebastian. 
For me, Belle & Sebastian inspires zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

(No?  You disagree?  Listen to Piazza, New York Catcher, or The Boy With the Arab Strap.  Are you still awake?  I hear those songs, and I ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.)

The other book was this:

I froze.  I got a little choked up.  Kind of emotional, I showed it to the Pest Control Guy, hoping for...I don't know, a sympathetic cluck, or a 'oh, wow, that's too bad,' or something!  Some fellow human recognition of what the book meant about Mary Squared's intentions for this house.  

But Pest Control Guy was not on that page with me.  I said:  Oh no, look what the sellers left!  He looked at the book, gave me the most blank look I've ever seen, and said: oh.  

He turned around and went back to sweeping.

Ironically, I think the Frankenstein House itself is probably the reason Mary Squared didn't have a family here.  There's so many goofy things to re-do or fix on this house that I think it just wore them out, and their relationship unraveled.  

There's a psychic (?) process to homeownership for me so far-- the process of making the house mine, not theirs.  Taking the home over from the previous occupants seems to be an ongoing process, or at least a more gradual process than I realized it would be.

And so, to exorcise the ghost of Belle & Sebastian, here's one song off the new soundtrack for the Frankenstein House.  I think the house really likes showtunes!  Whether you're in Ruritania, or a dance hall or in Albania...

Thursday, July 21, 2011


What was it that Michael Jackson said about colors?  He wasn't going to spend his life being one?  But he sort of did anyway.

And what was it Ice T said?  I believe it was: Colors, colors, colors, colors, colors, colors, colors.  Which, I mean-- he has a point.

Specifically, a point about paint colors.  Is there a Grey Gang?  A Gang of Grey?  The Grey Geese?  If so, I'd join that gang.  Grey has sort of become my favorite color.  Maybe the jumping in would require me to artfully deploy grey in a sartorial context, or distinguish taupe from green undertones in grey interior paint, or...kill another color with grey.

Because I enjoy grey so much, I thought it'd be a lovely, neutral backdrop for my living and dining rooms, and then I'd derive more interest from accent colors and layers of texture.   Something like this:

thank you, Kelly, for teaching me to search the internets
for pictures of other people's grey rooms!

grey walls!  fun contrast colors!  texture!  it's good.

I was all excited!  I told my brother about my plans.  He said: GREY?  What, because you want to live in a jail cell?  You like bright colors!  Which, I mean, yes, I do.  But-- no.  I will have grey walls.  I know this will come to pass.  It will be thus.

I bought five-- FIVE-- samples of grey paint.  My idea is to paint the living room and the adjoining dining room different versions of a similar grey.  I painted each of my five greys on my dining room wall.  The results are in...but I don't know what they mean.

I's this.  

The grey on the left (the more bluish one) is called dolphin grey.  As my mom pointed out, it doesn't really look grey here, unless you cover all the other greys with your hand.  Then, magically, it does look grey!  I like that one.  But I don't see any of the other greys going with it as the color for the other room.  Also, I'm not totally sure about a bluish grey for the dining room somehow?  But then what kind of grey do I want for the dining room?  I also like the grey at the very top, but I couldn't remember which grey that was.  But then I hear my brother's voice in my head saying 'jail cell,' and I think: does that grey seem a bit cold?  

For good measure, I painted the colors on the living room wall also, to see whether that would confirm my liking of the dolphin grey or the other grey.  But, since I hadn't thought to associate the colors on the wall with their names (except for dolphin grey), I wasn't sure which was the other grey I wanted.  So, I decided to make sure I painted the names of the colors next to the sample areas:

can you spot the animal in this picture?
I think the other grey I like is the PG, which is pearl grey.  I think I don't like the CB grey.  I forget what that actually stands for, but in my mind, it's Cinder Block.  

But do I like any of these greys enough?  I thought I did.  But now I don't know!  What if pearl grey is too grey?  What if dolphin grey is too blue?  The pearl grey might look good in one room with the PM color in the other room.  I forget what PM stands for, so I'm calling it Prime Minister.  What if I had Prime Minister in the dining room and pearl grey in the living room?  Would that work?

To paraphrase Ice T: Questions, questions, questions, questions, questions, questions.  I think I'm going back to get a few more samples to try again.  However, to paraphrase Michael Jackson, I'm not going to spend my life picking a color.  I need to get this done and move on to more pressing issues at the Frankenstein House.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I think one of my biggest fears when it comes to the Frankenstein House is that I am, at base, a special case when it comes to doing it yourself.  Well, myself.  Very very special case, myself.  Myself is one of those people who somehow can't quite figure out what is obvious to everyone else.   When it comes to practical things-- and what's more practical than homeownership?-- I am an irretrievably special case.  I'm turning out to be great at finding and hiring other people to do things for me.  I am markedly less good at doing anything myself.

Today's adventure in special caseness was priming walls for paint samples.  Right now, the living room and dining room are in what I like to call a ketchup-and-mustard scheme; the dining room is ketchupy red and the adjacent living room is mustard-browny yellow.  Not the color combo for me.

So, normal people, they paint.  I imagine that normal people know how to do this?  I feel like I need to take a class or something.   Should it really take three coats of primer  to block out the ketchup and hold the mustard?  I think someone else, a less special case, would have figured out how to do it with less:



I couldn't figure out at first where or how to use the painter's tape.  I used a spatula to stir the primer, because that's what occurred to me.   I inadvertently primed my hair because I started in the middle of the wall, then bent over to get the parts of the wall close to the baseboard:

so so weird that I'm still single...

Tomorrow, back to the paint again.  Today was priming so that I can try out new paint colors on the walls tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I'm sure I'll forget something, or paint myself, or my dog, or inhale a nosefull of paint, or...generally continue to be a Special Case of the Practical Things.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


As I get to know the Frankenstein House better and better, I am learning the names of things.  
Things, I am learning, have names.  
House things, these things, about the house- they have names, you see.  
Names other than 'thing.'  

My home maintenance vocabulary is in its infancy.   Similarly, my vocabulary is limited in other arenas where I have little direct experience-- like birds.  What kind of bird is that?  I have no idea.  Or trees.  Is that a cedar?  a birch?  an elm?  an oak?  If it's a large plant that stands up straight but is not a cactus, I'm out.  I have no idea.  The only trees I can identify with any certainty are jacaranda (because they're everywhere in LA, and so pretty!) and peach (because I have a stray peach tree in my back yard, like this).

Carpets, I found out today, also have names.  Great names!  AMAZING names, delightful names!  I don't know why.  I just know they do.   Or rather, I guess carpets come in series or groups for some reason?  And these groups of carpet families have their family names.  Like Family Feud.  For example, the carpet families that live at Home Depot have names like this:

why, Carpet, that's so...forward of you.  i'm not going to just hop
 in the sack with the first nice carpet I see.

--hey, nice carpet!
oh, thanks, it's from Home Depot's ENRAPTURED II collection.

it's like I...could get this carpet's eyes...

not sure where the sales pitch is here.  think we went a bit off the rails.

In the end, I think I'm most likely going with another big name in carpet: Martha Stewart.  That is the name of a thing I can get behind.  

Update: For the carpet installation experience and finished look, check out the Franken-Carpets post.


Trapped in the Closet,  the multi-volume R. Kelly musical saga full of twists, turns, midgets, and spatulas.  My literal closets are going to take me on a similar roller coaster.  I had a closet-building professional lady person come to my house today.  I wanted her to take a look, assess the damage, and help show me the way to a brighter closet day.  Alas, it didn't quite work out that way.

First of all-- somehow, it did not occur to me to prepare for Closet Lady's visit.  She came, and I realized-- oh! she will need to get to the closet and measure things!  This...may be tricky.  Because I'm not really 'moved in' to my house so much as I'm squatting in it, ignoring the chaos while I get other things settled.

Closet Lady and I started with the large bedroom.  It's large and bright!  And has an amazingly illegal closet.
what's illegal about this?  nothing illegal to see here, move along.
Closet Lady got in the closet, and started measuring and poking things.  I told her it was illegal, and she said they could still work with it.  She tapped on the walls, and said things like 'I don't know what kind of material this is' and 'I wonder why they put this here.'  She also pointed out the rough parts that I hadn't seen, somehow, before, really, or thought much about? like this:
ooops, was this illegal?  

or this?

ah well, laws schmaws.
Yes, that last picture is my hand, trapped in the illegal closet wall.  The inside feels like ...uncertainty.

Then Closet Lady and I moved on to the smaller bedroom, the one I plan to use:
big enough for...midget spatulas.
Pretty fabric!  The walls are made of putty and hope.
What I want to do here is extend the closet across the bedroom wall.  This bedroom is very small, and so I'd like to have as much space and closed-in storage as possible, so that the rest of the room can just be a bed and a few other small things.  I explained this to Closet Lady, and she got inside the closet and started tapping walls.  'These walls are hollow!' she exclaimed.  'I wonder what these walls are made of? They're not real walls, so I wonder what's behind them...but yes, I'm sure you can build what you're describing.'

She continued like that for a while-- tapping, frowning, murmuring 'I wonder why they did this?' over and over.

After she made some notes, we moved on to the final bedroom, which I plan to use as an office, and my dog has already used as a toilet.
hard to be trapped in a closet that has no door
Panicked, I asked Closet Lady if she could oh um, just wait out here in the living room for just a second?  Would that be OK?  I'll just clear up a bit, for just one second, I'm sorry!   I dashed into the room and threw open the windows so that the smell of pee would disperse somewhat.  The backyard has been too rough and full of crap for my dog to spend much time out there while I'm gone, so I've left her indoors all day while I'm at work.  When I forget to close the door to this bedroom, my dog takes the opportunity to add her own designer carpet touches, as it were.  

Once I got the windows open, Closet Lady and I discussed adding doors to this closet.  As we wrapped up our conversation, Closet Lady told me that I need to replace all the carpet in all the bedrooms before I actually contract with her.  I had assumed it'd be the other way around-- that I'd get the closets in first, and then carpets.  Sigh.  The order of operations of home improvements is something that I'm still learning.

So, I went to Home Depot tonight.  Me and Home Depot, we see each other pretty regularly now.  I went to look at several things, but got prices/ideas for carpet.  So many steps, so many things to figure out in the Frankenstein House-- just to have closets.  Mysteries, you might say.  Mysteries, that need to be solved.

He hopped up and said, “There’s a mystery going on
And I’m gonna solve it”
And I’m like, “God please, don’t let this man open this closet”

Monday, July 18, 2011


All of the lights in my bathrooms.  Extra bad, I want y'all to see this:
Sort of like the wall is blowing a spit bubble
This one above is in the smaller 3/4 bath.   
What. On. Earth?  
It's this odd goldy plastickish crystal ball in the wall.

This bathroom is very basic, not much character or charm.  Shower stall, small white vanity,  toilet.  The end.   So, I'm not sure exactly where to turn for inspiration in searching for a new light fixture.  One option might be:

Not that interesting, but maybe better than a spit bubble?  I'm not too sure about this one, actually.  It makes me want to walk like an Egyptian. 

Maybe this next one?

But this one makes me think of children playing Red Rover.  Red Rovering people right into the bathroom wall.  Who wants that?  I don't want that.  Nobody wants to be Red Rovered into a bathroom wall by a light fixture.

Then, there's the light fixture in the full bathroom:

ET's finger, phoning home.  In my bathroom.
This is in the larger, full bath.  This fixture teases me.  Oh, sure, it looks like it's about to make sense, in the context of this very very 1950s bathroom-- this one is porcelain!  It's adorned with little pastel pink and blue accents!  But -- why does it just have the one, giant light finger poking out of it?

This bathroom has a bit more of a sense of its goofy self.  So, options for this bathroom are a bit easier to find, but I still face...decisions.  Like this:

Is that too strong of a statement?  Are the rectangles too much?  I worry.  So for a less strong statement, we have droopy flowers.  Sleeepy flowers!  So so sleepy, little light fixture flowers:

Then, there's the light in my bedroom:

Torpedoes. 1950s pointy-bra boobs. Many possible points of reference.

Yes.  That's the ceiling, and that's the light fixture in my bedroom.  Do I paint over that Sistene Chapel ceiling?  I should, but some part of me doesn't want to.  I realize that is weird.  But this light fixture is cool, and it would sort of go, oddly, with the Sistene Chapel, in a very literal way:

Well, now that I think about that, I don't like it all that much.  I need to talk down the part of me that can't bring itself to paint over the Sistene Chapel.  That part of me that says: Someone put a lot of work into that!  It's disrespectful to slather paint all over it.  That ceiling IS history! 

But...but I don't think I can keep it.  The house has enough, um, history.  I need to make the house a little less weird.  Handyman is, handily, coming next week.  That will help, with the bathrooms at least.  But then there's the rest of the house...might be a while before I want you to see all of the lights.


See also the before/after update post, All of the Lights: The Remix!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


So far, I'm feeling like I need to celebrate the small victories, because there are so many non-victories from which I need distraction.  
For example, I hired housecleaners when I moved in; their first (and only) visit ended in me spending $400 for a half-done job.  I spent 2 hours on the phone with the manager of the company, who ignored my concerns, but did explain to me that:

  •  There are tracking microchips in our coins;
  •  Americans are being spied on by the government, and;
  •  "Everything is NOT hunk-dory."  
She may have been literally crazy.
However--the guy from this company who cleaned the carpets--man, he was amazing!  The sellers left the carpets in an absolutely vomitous state, and this was much reduced by the carpet cleaner that the crazy lady sent.  Less vomitous carpets=small victory!

In this vein, I am celebrating another small victory.  The Gas Man came to light the pilot light for the hot water heater-- and, well, I was very excited.  No more cold showers!  Through my haze of hot shower excitement, I did hear him tell me that 2 things needed to be done to fix the hot water heater in order for me to really use it safely, not burn the house down, not find boiled animals in my hot water heater, etc.:
1.  The wood of the roof is touching the water heater vent, and so part of the wood needs to be cut away so that it's not a fire hazard.  You know, what with that steaming hot vent next to that roof wood while I take showers.  And--
2.  The heater vent needed a cap.  It was just an open pipe sticking up in the air, waiting for rain to fall in, or birds to get in there, or mice to run in and get boiled, leaving me to take my showers in rainy birdy boiled rat juices.

Point #2 broke me out of my 'hot showers again!' reverie.  So, I went to Home Depot.  I stalked one of the employees, followed him, chanting in my head:
ask me if I need help
ask me if I need help
ask me if I need help

He turned around and said: 
--Miss, can I help you find anything?
Yes!  Do you, um, have, like the things that you'd put on top of a pipe sticking out of your roof, like that is connected to the hot water heater, like I think it's a cap?  That it's called a cap or a vent?
--A vent cap?
I think so, yes!
--Sure, follow me.  Do you know what size you need?
Um!  Size.  When you say size, you mean, like...
--Is it a 40-gallon hot water heater?
Yes!  Yes, I believe that.  I believe that it is that, yes.
--OK, well, here are the vent caps: 3", 4", 5", and 6".
OK!  Great!  Thank you so much!

I bought one of each size.  Note to self: before marching on Home Depot and stalking employees, measure things.

To address Gas Man's point #1, I tried to saw the wood away from the vent.  That was extremely unsuccessful.  Somewhat defeated, I moved on to trying the glass slipper vent shoes on the Cinderella hot water heater vent', feet.

First I tried the 5" cap.  It fit nicely on top!

The Torch of Hot Water Heater Liberty

But then, I thought-- should the cap go on the inside of the pipe?  What would that be like?

Turns out, it'd be like this, with a 4" vent cap.

aren't you the cutest little vent cap ever?  yes you are!

I decided to leave it like this.  To me, it makes more sense that it would go on the inside.  And what makes sense to me is really all I have to go on at this point.  At least, until I go back to Home Depot and stalk the employees again.

Mission vent cap: accomplished.  Small victories!