Del Boca Vista vs. mid-century modern

In May, Martin and I met my mother, Uncle Joe and cousin Ali in Palm Springs. It was the perfect combination of poolside lounging, eating, hiking, tennis playing, scoping out real estate of the rich and famous, visiting art galleries, hiking and riding around under the beaming sun, top-down in Joe’s convertible.

(There was also a now-classic line from my mother. Driving by the massive wind farm outside of Palm Springs, she asked, “What makes them spin?” and then wondered if they were solar powered.)

But one of my favorite parts of the trip was finally getting to see Joe’s condo, which is by far the most fabulous condo in the history of fabulous condos. He bought it 5 or 6 years ago, gutted the whole thing (minus the fireplace) and rebuilt it with bold, bright mid-century colors and modern concrete floors throughout.

OK. So you know how you always want to see before-and-after-photos? (C’mon. You do. Everyone does.) Well, staying with Joe was like a real-life before-and-after. Martin and I crashed at a condo two doors down, which belongs to an old lady who now lives in a nursing home. The two units had the exact same layout and the exact same fireplace. Aside from that, they could not have been any more different.

It was like mid-century modern meets Del Boca Vista. Behold:

And a few shots from the trip:


So… this happened

We got married! The wedding was awesome in every way possible. Here is a small selection of the more than 900 wonderful photos our photographer took. Photo credit: Bryan Rupp Photography

Hiya Grandma


“Who’s this?”

“It’s Laura.” My phone conversations with my grandmother invariably follow this pattern.

“Oh, hiya Laurie!” She babysits for someone named Laurie, and that confuses her a bit. I have come to learn to respond to any variation of Laur-. “How are you? Are you in school? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I’m done with school, Grandma, but I have a boyfriend. I’m living with him in Oregon.”

“Are you getting married?”

“Not yet.”

“Why not?

“Oh, I’m not ready yet,” I always say. “How are you?”

“I’m good. It’s nice to hear your voice. I miss you very much,” she says. “I have to go—I need to take a shower now, I love you!”

My grandmother must take a lot of showers because every phone conversation I’ve ever had with her has ended in one. I don’t think she’s trying to avoid me—it’s just that once we’ve exhausted the school and marriage topics, there isn’t much else to do but bathe.

She’s 89 years old, and a lot of the things she says don’t make a whole lot of sense. She has intense fears of highly irrational things—driving in the dark, being a passenger in the car in the dark, staying home alone, small rodents, big rodents, medium-sized rodents, rain, being in the car in the rain, being in the house in the rain, knowing it might rain, suspecting precipitation of any sort, etc.

Regardless, her quirks are often quite endearing. She’s famous for leaving before she arrives—I remember one Christmas morning, she arrived at our house and her greeting words to my mother were: “Elaine, I’m leaving at 3:00 so we can get home in the light”—and while this makes it rather difficult to plan anything, its reliability is kind of funny. Uncle Joe has great stories about her aloofness and most of them are pretty damn hilarious.

And so I’d like to share this one with you. Uncle Joe called me the other night to say hello, and he passed the phone over to Grandma so she could add her greetings as well. I missed the call, and all for the better—I was lucky to catch this one on voicemail. Because a transcription would do anything but injustice to it, I’ve uploaded the audio clip for you all to listen to on your own time. It’s hard to tell here whether or not she’s being cheeky or just confused (my guess is confused), but regardless it’s funny and I’ve been getting quite a chuckle out of it over here:

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Random bullet points

I’m feeling the need to update this blog despite my complete lack of decent material. So—I present you with a few bullet points of random material:

• Yesterday I went into my neighbor’s apartment to let out the dog and pig and discovered that Girdie the Potbelly had located and ingested an entire bag of Pixie sticks, assorted candies and Tongue Splashers gum. You remember that stuff? The gumballs “paint” your tongue, so if you eat a red gumball, your mouth looks like it’s bleeding. If you eat the entire package plus two dozen Pixie sticks, well, your mouth is a deep shade of purple. Despite her sugar binge, Girdie was still hungry and proceeded to go outside and eat the birdseed that had fallen from the feeder.

• I really have nothing to say. WTF? This is rather boring.

• My mother, uncle and family friend Bev arrive in T minus four days. Have already mopped, cleaned behind the refrigerator (that one was easy since we got a new refrigerator and I had to move it anyway) and begun checking obsessively. Still to go: cleaning the walls and ceiling, painting the spare room, grooming Chelsea, dusting the moldings. Good thing they’re staying in a hotel or else I might just move to a new apartment entirely.

• Once, my family was on vacation in Cape Cod and my brother, mother and I went on a bike ride into town. My mother decided that even though it was probably illegal, we should ride on the sidewalks to avoid the traffic. Natch, right in the middle of town a cop pulled us over. “Oh shit,” my mother said, under her breath but loud enough for everyone to hear. “It’s okay,” the officer responded, “I’m writing you an ice cream citation.” Turns out that the town was trying to encourage helmet-wearing by giving away free gift certificates for ice cream sundaes at Friendly’s to all bikers who were caught wearing helmets. “Besides,” he continued, “with small children I’d rather see you on the sidewalk anyway.” Nice.

• On Saturday, I walked my neighbor’s dog over to the hardware store. On the way back, a woman in a wheelchair pulled up along side of me and said, “Honey, let me give you some advice. This corner is a major dope area.” Um, what am I supposed to say to that? It was the middle of the day and it seemed perfectly safe to me. “Be careful,” she went on. “They have guns and they’ll stop at nothing.” Another woman on the street with a couple of little Yorkies walked up and said, “Oh, I’ve been walking these streets for years and they know I’m mean enough to take a picture!” Okay, WTF? I never realized photography was considered an act of maliciousness, especially to gun-wielding drug dealers. Briefly considered making a sign that said, “Back off! I have a pencil in my purse!”

The Sugar Thieves

I’m in Colorado! Skiing with my Uncle Joe, Uncle Paul, cousins Marisa and Ali, and my mother, who decided last minute to be here as well.

Apparently, before I arrived, there was a bit of a sugar shortage in the condo, so naturally my family devised a plan: they would steal the sugar packets from a restaurant. Everything was set: Marisa, who was sitting in the most clandestine seat of all, obscured from the view of other diners, would be the one to pocket the sweets. Paul would be the lookout. Everyone else would just be acting normal.

Well, Paul didn’t seem to notice the waiter coming around the corner, because just as he showed up at the table, Marisa was dumping the entire contents of the sugar packet holder into her purse.

The waiter looked appalled. “Did you just steal my sugar?” [Edit: according to Uncle Joe, the waiter was not appalled, but rather was very gracious. My apologies for misrepresenting the feelings of said waiter.]

“Yes,” said Marisa.

“Well, I guess you won’t be needing this anymore,” said the waiter, removing the sugar holder from the table and walking away.

After the meal, my family headed to the door, and on her way out, Marisa overheard the waiter talking to his coworkers:

“Yeah, can you believe that? She actually took all of it!” he said.

So, it wasn’t exactly a $92 million bank robbery, but we do have about 92 sugar packets.

And the lease is on

Since my arrival in Portland, I’ve been sharing a room with my boyfriend in the basement of a single mother’s house. The rent is cheap and the mother and son are very nice, and that’s great, but a tiny little room in the dank and dark confines of a basement is less than desirable. Couple that with the resident cats, who hate Chelsea, and various other rules and requirements that rival my mother’s, and suddenly you’ve got a living situation that needs to change.

The woman from whom we are renting, who we will call Stella, actually asked us to find a new place due to the fact that her cats no longer feel welcome in their own home, because even though Chelsea is deaf and so out of it that she has hardly even noticed her little furry enemies, she’s still managed to make their feline lives a living hell. This news hardly comes as a shock to me—and I can’t exactly pretend that Chelsea has been the best roommate: she regularly helps herself to the cat food, she scratches loudly on doors that do not lead to rooms she’s allowed inside of, and just the other night she chewed up Stella’s hand-sewn Alaskan fur slipper.

So for the last few days, Asa and I have been searching craigslist and newspapers and community bulletin boards for cheap one bedroom apartments. We hadn’t been having too much luck when we found a posting that sounded too good to be true: a cheap two bedroom with hardwood floors in a really funky neighborhood and dogs are a-okay. So we drove by to check it out.

The apartment was located in a U-shaped one-story building with about eight other apartments, all of whose front doors opened out to a nice little communal grassy area. Two residents were out on the lawn playing fetch with their greyhound. They welcomed us, told us that they were happy living there and that ten dogs lived in the building.

Sense of community: check.

The door to the prospective apartment was unlocked, so we decided to let ourselves in. The floors were in the process of being redone—they were unfinished but very much made out of wood. The kitchen, painted a deep crimson, featured only a stove, but looked like it would make a small but pleasant space when finished. The main living area was painted in the same color green I’ve always wanted to paint my walls; the smaller bedroom was a happy yellow and the larger one was a purplish-grey (this will have to change—we’re thinking orange instead). The ad had boasted that not a single wall was painted white, and it was the truth.

Hardwood floors and brightly-colored walls: check.

It had to be a ruse. How the heck could this apartment be so darn cute in a such a darn cute neighborhood with one more bedroom than we need and at a price we could actually afford? There must be some downsides, we rationed, so we mulled them over: “It doesn’t have a gas stove,” said Asa. “The big bedroom is painted an ugly color,” said I. “It’s a little bit further away from the school shuttle stop,” said Asa, “and we probably will have to drive to the grocery store.” And that was best we could muck up. So we called the landlady and left a message (is ‘landlady’ an un-PC term? Shall we use something less gender-specific? How about ‘property owner’? That sounds so sterile. How about ‘landperson’? Good enough for now, I guess).

Sense of disbelief: check.

The landperson responded in less than an hour. I told her that we had looked around and were very interested. “Great!” she said. “If you’re interested, I’ll tell everyone else that it’s rented already. I’m so sick of getting all of these calls and emails about it.” We set up an appointment for the next day to look at it again with her.

The feeling that this must be too good to be true: check.

And then it got even harder to believe. We met with her yesterday—she was the nicest landperson I’ve ever met. She charges no application fee, she doesn’t do criminal records or credit checks (“I always say, you have to trust people. If you can’t trust them, then you shouldn’t be renting to them,” she explained), she didn’t mind that neither of us currently have a steady job as long as we’re looking for one, and she said we could pay month-to-month unless we would prefer to have a contract. Plus, covering the walls of the big bedroom with a healthy dose of bright orange was fine with her—just be careful with the floors, she requested.

A renter’s dream: check.

The apartments we’d seen in the last couple of days had made me start to think that you just sort of have to throw in the towel at some point and take something a little less desirable than your dreams had envisioned. You want hardwood floors; you get carpeting. You want a smoke-free building; it turns out that the last tenant was a chimney and the stench still clings to the walls like a kindergartener to his mother’s leg. A first floor apartment would be ideal; the basement is the reality. The ad says “close to the light rail system”; you have to drive to get there. The monthly payment is cheap; the move-in expenses cost as much as three months’ worth of rent. I was getting closer to the point of sacrificing—”This nasty old carpeted apartment is cute enough and it’s as good as we’re going to get,” I was starting to think—when we stumbled across this place. Asa doesn’t like to settle for anything less than exactly what he wants, and I’m glad we held out. If the biggest sacrifice is an electric stove, I think I’m willing to throw in the towel and sign the lease.

A renter’s dream come true: check.

The only perceptible catch is that we can’t move in until the apartment is done with the repairs. The landperson said she thought that would be by next weekend, and maybe I’m just a little more of a skeptic, but it seemed like a heckuva lot of work to accomplish in one week. A lot of work, but not impossible, and plus, we don’t have to move out of our basement hole until the end of the month, so we have some time to spare. Besides, it will take us some time to pick out the perfect shade of butternut squash orange to paint our walls.

Can you tell I’m excited? Check.

I’m not actually listening to the Rent soundtrack but I thought it would be an appropriate choice for today’s post. I don’t even own the Rent soundtrack, however, I would like to point out that my fabulous Uncle Joe took me to see Rent at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City one February night back in 1996. The show was still in its preview stages with the original cast, and I don’t know how, but Uncle Joe scored some pretty darn good seats—if my memory serves, we were in the fifth row and just left of center. It was the most awe-inspiring thing my 14-year-old eyes had ever watched. And now, almost 10 years later, I’m still awed by everything Uncle Joe does—and I’m hoping he’ll come out to visit, wink wink, because I sure could use his decorating expertise for the new place.