Saturday, January 30, 2016


I ended up renting to a friend whose husband, twin babies, and two cats had outgrown their one-bedroom apartment on my old block on Eighth Street.

I closed in May 2015 during the last weeks of a massive work project, and since then, my house has gotten 21 new windows, new light fixtures, new locks, a brand-new tankless heating system, a new water heater (I could've had the heating system do this, but it didn't happen in the right order so I didn't know this was possible until too late), new bathtub fixtures, decorative stained glass off eBay, picture rails, a new roof hatch, some new stairs and new kitchen cabinets, appliances, backsplash, and new kitchen plumbing and electrical outlets. We also created a laundry closet with a gas dryer in a cubbyhole in the second-floor bathroom. Oh, and I had to convince the ground-floor tenant to leave. I had to give him some financial incentive, even. It's almost 100% certain that wasn't actually the "loan" it was couched as.

MK has done a ton of painting, sanding, yardwork, moving, and meeting with heating and window guys, while BBF started with grinding an old bicycle skeleton off the fence back in May, did a lot of that other stuff I mentioned, and finished with a custom windowsill and some kitchen moulding the morning the renters moved in.

We didn't mean to finish quite so suddenly this weekend, and MK has to go back and paint the kitchen and a few other details on his mid-winter break from his teaching job, but we lost the previous weekend to the snow, and that meant an unexpected race to the finish.

I arrived on Thursday morning, used a Zipcar for a Home Depot run on Friday (my car is snowed in on First Street), did a lot of moving things and cleaning things while BBF did the skilled work that required someone who actually knows what they're doing. MK joined us early Saturday morning. A TaskRabbit spent three hours cleaning on Friday while I changed doorknobs, pulled plastic off of appliances, and moved things into my little downstairs cave.

The cats moved in while we were still working. I had a last-minute shellac explosion. We forgot one bit of kitchen moulding and some touch-up paint on the top-floor landing. I asked the new residents to paint the doors themselves. Kitchen windowsills have never been painted as quickly as they were on Saturday morning. "No, don't sand. Just paint it." I have no idea how to get all the nasty old laminate out into the trash other than a little bit at a time.

I have stucco guys scheduled to work in the spring. The back of the house hasn't been touched in what looks like decades, and the down spout is astray. And my little cave downstairs is only started, but my amazing helpers who stuck with me all the way through deserve a few weekends off to catch up on other things.

I have probably $10k in credit card debt to deal with, property taxes to appeal, and I need to get everything out of storage and into my little apartment, not to mention a line of new comics to launch and a department to oversee. But I'm giving myself a little rest too, catching up on things, taking BBF to the Grand Canyon next month, and not relentlessly texting MK for a while. I have super-nice, responsible tenants and my house will be used the way it should be used, by a family and cats, who will appreciate the newly varnished windowsill that gets the afternoon sun.

Here is a gallery of photos of the house right before the new tenants moved in.

And as soon as I catch a breather, I bet I'll start scouring the real estate ads again. Maybe I can find another place. Because, you know, everyone needs a hobby.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Something About Snow

I hear there was some weather back home.

Monday, January 18, 2016

At the Observatory

Up at the Observatory on a Saturday afternoon.

Or, as a friend put it, selfie stikh.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Great Unveiling

Here it is! The new kitchen. And here is a link to the whole process.

Monday, January 11, 2016

More Kitchen Progress

I love the new backsplash.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Building a Jersey City Kitchen

When I bought my house back in May, I thought Well, the kitchen is okay. It's fine for now.

But then the more I looked at it, the more I hated it. When I'd moved into my last condo, I'd changed the knobs and that had made the kitchen okay for a while. But this wasn't okay. The kickplate was warped and deteriorated. The doors were grimy, the hinges loose on some. Everything was permanently filthy, and scrubbing improved this, but everything was still kind of disgusting. And like in so many Jersey City older kitchens, there was a giant refrigerator dominating the room.

I asked Best Boy Friend if we could change the kitchen. He warned me not to—kitchens are expensive. And so I thought, okay, we'll leave it. That lasted a few months. I got the oven repaired, asked MK to use the hair dryer to pull out the gross old contact paper and paint the worst offending door.

It was less gross, but still gross.

A few months later, I tried again "What if I just changed this and didn't move any plumbing?"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Heavy Lifting

When I bought my house, it had an ancient all-in-one washer/dryer in the laundry alcove off the second-floor bathroom.

Which is better than nothing, except I couldn't figure out how to open the door on it. 

"Jenn used to do it with a butter knife, but I just went to the laundromat on Communipaw," my tenant volunteered. 

MK couldn't get it open either, and when I called the one specialist I could find for this off-brand, he said "A piece of advice on that model: Throw it out." 

I dug around on the holiday sales but missed them all because I was afraid to commit. Could I get them up the stairs? The old unit was only 22 inches wide. Nothing I could find was quite that compact. 

"They can always lift it," said BBF (Best Boy Friend is super-smart about this sort of thing). 

But I missed the sales, I thought when I went back online to look at prices. Then I found a loophole--the LG models were disguised as Kenmore models at Sears. I bought them. They look great. They are huge. 

The phone rang on delivery day. "They aren't allowed to lift them over the banister," MK said. "They want to know if you still want to accept delivery." 

"Yes," I answered. I didn't know how to get it upstairs, but I knew smaller units were useless. My new tenants have two babies. Children create dirty laundry. 

When I arrived in my house and looked at the washer and dryer sitting in my living room, I had a twinge of panic.! But there must be a way. 

I thought for a while, back to when I'd had to drive Babcock to his storage unit at U-Haul. It was a container that was taking his stuff out to his new home across the country. As MK and I had sat there in the car while Babcock rummaged in his container, I'd noticed a gaggle of men standing by the entrance to U-Haul. 

Day laborers. Hourly guys, looking for pick-up work. 

"Let's try them," I said to MK now, a year or so later. "You do the talking. You're a big guy. They'll take you more seriously. You look like you can actually lift something." 

We drove over to the Tonnelle Avenue U-Haul. MK got out and choose the two largest men out of the line-up. He negotiated and brought them over to the car. 

Marcus and Augusto were lovely people--both nice, strong, and clever. I can't say it looked easy, but between the two of them and MK, they lifted the washer and dryer up over and the banister and up the stairs. We then had to drive them back to U-Haul, and the entire experience would've been easier if I didn't live in an 1895 row house with tiny stairs and huge banisters, but at least it's done now. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holiday Eviction

"I'm sorry--I'm being the Grinch here, but I need to renovate your apartment for myself and rent out the upstairs. Can you please move out?"

I felt mean, but my tenant knew it was coming. We'd talked about it before. He wanted to stay--who wouldn't, for $550 a month?--but it was inevitable. I didn't need four bedrooms for myself, but I needed one. 

The mother-in-law suite on the ground floor would be just right for me as an East Coast base while I stayed in Los Angeles for work. 

Somehow, he found somewhere, a share in Queens. I had to give him extra money for his move, but it was worth it to simplify my situation. Technically, it's a loan, but I'm skeptical.

I wasn't sure when he was moving out, but there would be at least a week in-between his departure and my arrival. I had ordered a few packages to my house--a used iPhone off eBay and a mini-fridge for the mini-apartment--but both were scheduled to arrive after Christmas, when I'd be there. 

When I got a notification on 12/23 that my 73 pound package had been "left on stoop," I was more than alarmed. I sent the former tenant a note. "Sorry, I'm already in Queens!" 

(The last I'll hear from him, I imagine.) 

I called MK, who had to be in Westchester in a few hours. He hurried over to my house, and was in a bad mood by the time he got there. The Light Rail had been packed with holiday shoppers going to Newport Mall, and he'd had to give up on it and take the bus, which took forever. 

He called me when he got to my house. He was pissed. 

My former tenant had left his security gate and door wide open, and left empty boxes and rubbish all over. 


But MK dragged in the mini-fridge and locked everything, then went to Westchester. 

When I got home a few days after Christmas, I went downstairs to survey the damage. 

He'd left, among other things, various pieces of a lighting kit, a skateboard, several frames, a ton of empty boxes, lots of books, a sack of coins, old magazines...I recycled the magazines, took the books to the resale shop, and put a bunch of stuff in the basement. After six months, I'll toss it. 

We dragged a few pieces of old furniture to the curb, and I got to work scrubbing old plastic and rubber off the bathroom floor, while MK prepped for painting. Things could have been a lot better with my tenant's departure, but they could have been a lot worse too. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heading Home for the Holidays

I bought my ticket to the East Coast on August 1. It's not like there were any surprises...I was going one way or another.

But I did hedge my bets and got the ticket for midday on Christmas Eve. No matter what was going on at work, I'd be out of there by midday on December 24. And I bought it to travel to Dulles Airport, near my mother's. Say she decided to go elsewhere for Christmas--I'd still be close to the train to Newark from there.

I didn't anticipate United changing the schedule to an earlier departure between August and December. If I had bought an earlier ticket, I might as well have bought a redeye for the night before. I couldn't go to work on the new schedule. I had to go straight to the airport in the morning.

But I'd bought my ticket out of Burbank, near my office. Which turned out to be the smartest thing I could do a for a heavy travel day.

Hollywood & Whitley, waiting for the 222 bus to Burbank Airport
I caught the #222 bus from the base of my street, on Hollywood Boulevard. It goes up over the hill straight to Burbank, and on to the Burbank Airport. The Burbank Airport is never crowded or unpleasant. Getting on a plane there on Christmas Eve was easy-peasy.

I connected through San Francisco, and my mother picked me up at Dulles right on time.

I head back up to Jersey City tomorrow night, where Jim and I get to build my kitchen. Well, Jim gets to build my kitchen. I am actually pretty good at stuff like that, but I'll be all thumbs with a pro working next to me. It's probably best if I just stick to assisting. At least, the project will go faster. When I work alone, I have to keep stopping every step of the way, so I can go watch YouTube videos on the next step.

Happy holidays, or rather, happy one more holiday to go! This has been quite the unexpected year in many ways. I'll have to check back in before New Year's.

Flying out of Burbank on Christmas Eve day

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Straight Outta Hoboken

Capitol reminds us of a certain 100th birthday.