Sunday, November 30, 2008

on the road again

I've been procrastinating on packing up and moving down to my friend's house all day long. I don't care if all you've gotta pack is a closet. It always has twice the stuff and takes twice the time you think it will.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

warms my heart

Another thing to like about Houston, and this is a southern thing, is that when you walk up to people they say, There she is! even if they just saw you ten minutes ago.

Friday, November 28, 2008

rate my space

Okay, maybe don't rate it.

Wednesday before I left for Austin I had to stop by my new place to post a note to FedEx on the door. When I arrived, there was a man working on the garage, so I was able to go inside using his key. This was the first time I'd been in without the rental lady, aka my landlady's daughter-in-law, breathing down my neck. I took a good hard look around, and boy, some sprucing up is most definitely in order. Suddenly, though, I find myself feeling very lazy, and the thought of painting, so appealing a couple of weeks ago, makes me want to sit under a shady tree sipping lemonade and reading a book. If I paint, I'll have to paint again before I leave. Ugh. But lordy I've gotta do something. I mean, overall the place is okay, but chockablock with character it ain't. Take a look (make way for a zillion pictures, and click for bigger) --

Living room:

This little side space could be a sewing/crafty area:

Dining area? (It's right next to the kitchen so I'm thinking, Oh, why not?):

Bedroom 1 (two closets, whoo-hoo!):

Bedroom 2:



Dated? Yes. But I can live with that. Boring? Yes! But what to do about it, without having to do too much? I'd say the two things I'd like to camouflage, work around, or "hide" (now that I've moved beyond the carpet) are the cabinetry, especially in the kitchen, and the old fashioned, ginormous ceiling fans. All pointers, suggestions, tips, etc, are welcomed!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

with two you get turkey

No homemade turkey, but Bubs and I went to my favorite Austin spot, Hyde Park Bar & Grill. We had drinks and dinner at the bar, then came home and I stayed in while everyone else went to dinner at my mother-in-law's friend's place. I could've gone, but then I would've missed my favorite Thanksgiving day tradition, the nap. Now, a Doris Day marathon. With Six You Get Eggroll just ended, and Please Don't Eat the Daisies is on.

Que Sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. Que sera, sera.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

turkey for you, turkey for me

It's me and Mira, hitting the highway to Austin once again. The Bubs is already there, and I hope he and his mom are prepping the bird for the oven. Have a great Thanksgiving, everybody!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

the windows are illuminated

The move has begun. Today I took some boxes (and sewing machines that'd been sitting in my car nearly two months) down to my friend Anthony's house. Oh, I won't simply be moving from where I am now to my house. No. I'll be moving from here to Anthony's on Sunday and staying with him until I move into my place the following Friday. This means I have to haul all my stuff down to his house in the boonies, including my new bedroom furniture, which I have to pick up from The Guild by Monday, situate whatever I can't leave sitting in my car in his garage, and pack it up again on Friday.

It's like the last leg of a race. My chest is burning, my legs are about to give out, and I just want to rip through that finish line already.

Still, I can see the finish line, which is ever so nice, and if I flip it around and look at how lucky I am I feel nothing but gratitude. I have to do all this maneuvering for financial reasons, and what if I didn't have Anthony? I'd have to hide the stuff in the garage at my new place and hope my landlord wouldn't discover it when we do the walk through. That would make for an interesting move in. Hey, how'd my stuff get in here? I think it's trying to freeload! Officer, arrest this stuff! Nah. I'm sure things would've worked out somehow, but it's a relief to be able to count on a friend.

While plotting and planning and prepping to settle here, I've figured out some things:
  • Houston is not cheap. It's cheap for a big city. That ain't cheap cheap. I'm paying the same amount of rent I would've been paying in Los Angeles. Only I'm getting a 2 bedroom house for it instead of a studio apartment.
  • Living the good life "inside the loop," in the convenient heart of the city, is especially not cheap. My house is what Houstonians call a "tear down." Meaning it's what was a fine and dandy home 25 years ago but now has been encroached upon by dreaded (yet coveted) McMansions, so there's no way to buy it and live decent in it and feel good about yourself. In order to face yourself in the mirror each morning, you'd have to tear it down and build something on par with the rest of the humongousness in the area. Yet it costs a princely sum to rent because of its inner-loop, tony zip code. I could've gotten a bigger, newer house for less money in the 'burbs. (What can I say? I likes me a fancy 'hood. Especially one in a place that's aptly named Bellaire.)
  • This place is crying out for a Trader Joe's.
  • Everyone you meet will be the nicest whatever. The guy I'm buying my bed from is the nicest mattress guy in the world. I ordered a set, then went back yesterday to test it out again, just in case. Of course on that second trip I was armed with all kinds of misinformation I'd picked up on the Internet. Just enough to be dangerous. But Kevin the Mattress Guy took the time to explain to me not only the finer points of mattresses, but his own business model and why he carries the merchandise he does. He did this with a set of mattresses hot on his truck, waiting to be delivered (when I pulled up he was on his way out). I lounged on the floor model of my chosen set, the Lexington Plush, and he explained everything with a smile. When I left, he cheerfully said, See you next time, Miss Carla. I've also met the nicest rental lady from whom I didn't rent but did have a 1.5 hour conversation. And the nicest quilt shop lady with whom I had a 45 minute conversation even though it was obvious I wasn't going to buy anything. (This conversation took place when I stopped at her family's shop, Tea Time Quilting, on a whim after having left the nicest rental lady's rental house. I prayed not to run into any more nice people that day.)
  • Parking is a dream come true. I get what Mister Stevens likes to call "prime time parking" all over the place. I am free to roam the countryside without worry over cash for parking structures or validation or circling the block like a vulture looking for a carcass.
  • There's a high likelihood of throwing a rock and hitting a decent human being. I didn't know S from Adam when I moved in here. Found her on Craig's List. Living in a room in someone's little house gets old real quick, but this experience has gone as best I could've hoped. I leave S and her stuff alone. She leaves me and my stuff alone. When we do interact, it's pleasant. (A far cry from the roommate I had who used to wear my earrings and swear up and down they were hers. Eventually she stole them all and I found them hidden in a bag in her closet.)
  • Like Jay-Z, folks don't knock the hustle. S works full-time, bought this house as investment property, rents out this room, and operates a pet sitting business. The woman who owns my rental house is a university professor, national speaker, and owns multiple properties. Notice anything about Tea Time? It's connected to Jana's Flowers. That's because Jana, the nicest quilt lady's mom, owns Tea Time too.
At the end of the day am I glad I'm here? Are you kidding me? I'm elated. Did you read the part where I said I'll be living in a 2 bedroom house for the price of an LA studio? Or the thing about the nicest people? Really, all I can say is that Houston has been very good to me so far.

Monday, November 24, 2008

everything is good

Getting dressed out of garbage bags and boxes would be a drag. Luckily I've been able to avoid that experience; the room I'm renting came furnished, chest included. When I first got here I had a rebellious moment and didn't want to put my stuff in it. Natalie made me, and when she left having everything in its place kept me from hanging myself, I mean, er, feeling too out of sorts.

Last night I started scouring Craig's List to see if I could find a dresser or a chest before I move, so that I can blow past the bags and again get my glad rags situated quickly. I never buy such furniture from Ikea or contemporary furniture stores. Not to sound 100, but they don't make 'em like they used to, so I look for old/used/vintage pieces. In New York I bought a chest that I dearly loved at one of the Harlem antique stores. I hated to leave it when I moved to LA. I think Mister Stevens is still using it. He says I said he could have it. I say never.

Craig's List didn't yield anything, so I decided to keep checking and go the thrift store route as well. Thanks to the magic of the Internets, I found out The Guild Shop is said to be the best in town. I haven't been to its competitors, but I can vouch that it's fantastic, and today was my day to hit the jackpot.

When I saw this set I my heart fluttered. When I saw the price -- the side tables (night stands for me) were 33. each and the chest was 108. -- it skipped a beat. I want to do eclectic decor anchored by a mid-century spin. These pieces exactly fit what I have in mind. I am pleeeaaased to have found them. A loving wipe down and they're golden. I still can't get over the price, and neither could the store guy who assisted me. Pulling out drawers and admiring the craftsmanship, he kept saying, Boy, you got really lucky today! Every other piece of furniture that caught my eye was at least 300 bucks.

The tables have a shelf inside. Perfect for hiding the prodigious amounts of crap that follow me to bed. The bottom doors on the chest open to three more drawers. Well made. Visually interesting. What more could I want?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

life used to be so hard

It's almost time, y'all. In less than two weeks I'll be HOME. It's been a long road, and a difficult one, and I'm overjoyed that it's coming to a point of rest.

That said, I just know there's something I'm forgetting to do or order or buy so that I can be comfy off the bat. Let's see, I've got:
  • a bed on the way
  • a free TV & DVD player that lovely Charissa, Natalie's other ace boon, gave me
  • a few dishes
  • a pot and a pan
  • dish washing liquid & cleanser & sponges
  • a duvet cover & sheets (oops! no comforter)
  • towels
  • toiletries
  • a cat
  • cat accoutrements
  • wi-fi in the works
  • books & magazines
  • ipod & ihome
  • a microwave
  • a vintage kitchen cart on which to rest said microwave
  • terlit paper & paper towels
  • a broom & a dustpan
Anything I'm missing? Do I have all the survivalist requirements? Can I get by with this list while I work on setting up paradise? Care to add?

ETA: A shower curtain! Genius! Thanks, Carat. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

one down

Had my first Thanksgiving dinner tonight, kicking things off early. S, the woman from whom I'm renting a room, kindly invited me to eat with her and her dad, who drove to Houston with his fiancee and her son. They live in a tiny town a few hours away, and decided that since they were visiting for other reasons, they'd also bring a turkey and celebrate the holiday while here. S's sister and her husband also came. It was a nice family affair with me as a tagalong.

Friday, November 21, 2008

the prince and the pea

Thanks for the sofa comments. :) I'll let you guys know if they meet the plush test when I see them in person. I can't wait to be in my house already. Today I did some mattress shopping and found a set I like. When I sent my friend Anthony a text about it, he recommended I check out his mattress seller before I buy. His seller is a woman who brings mattresses directly to a customer's home. On the back of a pickup truck. Sometimes at 12:45am (as Anthony found out). Her guarantee is that if you sleep on a mattress and don't like it, she'll deliver another one for you to try. She's due to drop off a second set at Anthony's house tomorrow, since he decided the first wasn't quite what he was looking for.

Where she's getting these mattresses, lord only knows.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

gonna fill it up with love

Okay enough of the dark religious cult business. It's time for furniture shopping, decorating, and bargain hunting. I'm about to buy a bed, and every time I see a photo of a pillow-top mattress, I salivate. I've found a couple good mattress deals to go check out this weekend. I also found a place that sells beautiful, affordable furniture. Need to drop in to check out this sofa. And this one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

all three

Hey, Catherine. Hiya. Yes, I did see the CNN broadcast (Escape from Jonestown), and the one on MSNBC (Witness to Jonestown). I thought the CNN one was better. (They're both on YouTube.)

Here's a link to such a sad, touching video interview. I'd post it here but it's so dark and I'm ready to return to happy times! Honestly, the man being interviewed, Stanley Clayton (who was also featured in Jonestown on PBS), reminds me of my brother, and as hard as he tries to contain the hell he's just been through, it's written all over him.

Heather, very interesting point about the information you received versus what we saw here in the States. Here, we have a fascination with the criminal mind, power, and corruption, and Jones was the face of all three.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

we hope we know better

I keep this one filed under my list of weird preoccupations and mild obsessions: Jonestown. Today is the 30th anniversary of the day members of the Peoples Temple drank the proverbial Kool-Aid. When it happened, I was 12, and it shocked and confounded me. It was all too bizarre and frightening. I grew up in the black community, was properly baptized at 12, just like Jesus, and the only white men who regularly had any direct say in our personal lives were insurance salesmen. At 12, the first thing that puzzled me about Jonestown was how a white man lured hundreds of black people to some strange country I had never heard of. As insular as my community was, we didn't have that kind of trust. And when Jonestown happened, I felt plenty glad of it. (I'm sure there's some kind of thesis here, something like, "Jonestown: The White Boogieman in the Black Imagination.)

This impression separated us from them; my black community from the black community who fell for Jim Jones. I took refuge in the belief that neither of my church-going grandmothers would take me to a church like Peoples Temple; they would know better.

I study Jonestown from time to time. Not often, but whenever there's an event that returns the public consciousness to the tragedy, like the Powers Boothe movie, Guyana Tragedy, or last year's PBS documentary, Jonestown, or a major anniversary, like today. Each time I delve a little deeper into the Zeitgeist of the times, the firsthand accounts of the insanity of life in the temple, and the pathology of Jim Jones. I have yet to come away feeling like, Yeah, this could've happened to me or my family, because it's rather like slavery -- was it Eddie Murphy who said people who try to claim that when Massa told them to do something they would've just said "Massa, kiss my ass" had no understanding of slavery? It's easy to look back based on the lessons learned from other people's trials and say how much more self-protective and unerring I would have been. But I can see this basket has a hole in its bottom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

i'll light the fire

LOL! Ellen, you're too funny. Yes, I know not only of tasteless decorating, but also of the bubblegum and toothpicks used to hold it together. I'm surprised no one's filed a class-action suit against home makeover shows. But it's hard to mess up a flat screen TV, or a sofa, or dinette set, ha ha. I figure I might end up with some redecorating to do, but it'd be worth it for the loot!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

such a cozy room

One text was all it took. Sandra says I was born for HGTV (okay, she didn't really say that, but I was!). She's "seriously going to see if they are casting for anything." Please, mother of all saints, let them be. Mama needs a new flat screen and a pillow top mattress!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

you put the flowers in the vase

I'm hounding my friend Sandra, who is a guru of reality teevee casting, to get me on HGTV. I don't care which show. Any that will score me free furnishings and insta-decor will work.

I started my campaign with a text message tonight. I'll bombard her until she either gets me on a show or kills me.

Friday, November 14, 2008

with two cats in the yard

Thanks, you guys! I'm looking forward to moving in and making my countless hours of watching HGTV pay off.

And Mo, you're so right. That Expedit would be perfect! I think I'll be buying another one. Who put the last one together for me? I believe it was young Schmin. Ah, the red couch decision, lol. I keep thinking maybe a red couch might do it this time too. But I'm going to try to branch out.

Whenever I'm faced with a new project, I head to the library to see what the experts have to say. On decorating, they have a lot to say on the level where your house looks like a page out of House Beautiful Magazine (and you start with a structure out of Architectural Digest). And if you happen to own a circular saw, there are quite a few titles that show you how to use it to save money. The pretty-on-the-cheap chorus needs more voices. I haven't looked through all the books I checked out yet, but so far Todd Oldham has the most fabulous ideas; things I never thought of. There's some building involved, which I won't be doing, but there are also some good sewing projects and lots of inspiration.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

a very very very fine house

Since I've been blahblahblah-ing without any photos these last few days, here's the Craig's List pic of my new home. You can see the porch where I sat and signed my lease yesterday, and the "for rent" sign that is no longer in the yard. :)

I got permission to paint and do other sprucing, so I'm planning on some heavy creative decorating coming up, and I'll be posting lots of pictures along the way (thinking of you, Heather). I'll probably need some advice on that, too, since I'm spatially challenged. The more I think about the carpet, which is brand new, the more I think I'll just work around it. (I hate to be wasteful just to be cute.) Actually, I've already grown to like it since I don't have a bed and will be sleeping on it for a few nights!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

done deal

Comments like, Fool, take that house! convinced me to do it, so I did. :)

I signed my lease today, and carpet notwithstanding, I'm excited. I move in on the 6th. I had to act fast today, because a couple came and checked the place out and applied for it. I called in time to claim it.

Thanks again, you all. I fully appreciate every comment offered!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

worth more than gold

Thank you, wise women. Your comments are a humongous help.

One more day. One more day and I will have made the decision. I have a few more places to see in the morning. In the house in question, the carpet is brand new, and whether they would give me permission to ever rip it out, along with making a few more improvements (like you guys suggested) will be the deciding factor.

I'm excited to be so close to having a new place! Who's coming over?

Monday, November 10, 2008


What would you do?

Okay. Major decision time, and I could use a little help.

I found a house here in Houston. The monthly rent is about $150 over what I wanted to pay, but I can swing it. It's not a new house, in fact, it's old (1940s, maybe), but it's in good condition. It's in a great area where the houses average about $500k (look for the shack nestled between two mini-mansions); it's on a lovely street. For the neighborhood, it's a bargain. The previous tenant wrote for the Houston Chronicle, so it's got good writing juju. It has almost everything I'm looking for -- it is a house, it has 2 bedrooms, central air and heat, a yard, a washer/dryer hookup, and pets are welcomed. There's one problem. It's carpeted, and I hate carpet with the fire of a thousand suns. Really, I do.

I once read an essay by Meghan Daum called "Carpet Is Mungers." (She talks about it here.) It's a part of an essay collection, a pretty good one at that, but the anti-carpet treatise is the piece that stuck with me most. Meghan's got her reasons for hating the shag of shame, and so do I. I just don't see carpet as my future, you know, where I'm going in life.

But I'm not yet where I'm going. I've got some credit issues to clean up (I don't need some rental management company digging too deep into my files, I tell you what), Schmin to think about in case he comes to stay with me, and personal safety to mind since I'll be living alone for a while. Shouldn't I be more than happy to sacrifice a hardwood floor in favor of having found a landlord who already likes me, and the rest of my criteria in place?

Please. Help me.

What would you do?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

the hunt

This is the part where I drive around town seeing crappy apartments before I find something good. Let's hope the something good happens by the end of the month.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

mrs. o

The infatuation with the POTUS-elect has returned to admiration, and I'm back to the true object of my affection, Michelle. She's fierce and fabulous, and I'm so happy she's our new First Lady.

At 42, I don't look for role models (maybe I ought to), but I know a good one when I see her. I'm going about my ordinary business -- looking for an apartment, handling work-related situations, taking care of Mira, and so forth -- with a little more hope and conviction. I can't say I'd want to be in Michelle Obama's position, because it's hard to wrap my mind around the magnitude of it, but the grace, pragmatism, and intelligence with which she's handling it is pure inspiration to me.

Now I wonder what big dreams I've backed away from, for fear of the too muchness of it all, that I can dust off and embrace, loving them for the journey alone, no matter where they lead me.

Friday, November 07, 2008

he's even cute when he eats

Oh, Lola. Oh, Christie. Why? Why, why, why did you point me to Barack Obama's Flickr account?

Honestly, all along I could see some passing handsome in him, but I didn't get what chicks (and dudes!) were digging so much. By the time I freed myself from the hypnotized state of adoration the Flickr photos put me under, I wanted to superimpose myself over Michelle.

I mean, come on, in tense moments the man finds comfort in holding hands with his mother-in-law. Are you kidding me? Is there a higher rung of sweetness to which a guy can climb? I think not.

I could have emerged with just a deeper sense of pride and admiration, but I had to go and read Obama's darned about page, which left me laboring under a cloud of romantic delusion. We have the same favorite book, Song of Solomon (look! it's first on my list too!), and he hearts writing and so does I, and Casablanca is his favorite movie. (Okay, it's not mine, but I like it enough to fake it.)

I didn't know what a goner I was until I saw the disclaimer: "I'm Male and Taken."


The one person I've been more excited about than Obama is Michelle. As her BFF, it's so wrong of me to be crushing on her man, but he needs to stop flaunting himself in front of me like this.

Surely this affliction will wear off, as long as I stay away from Flickr, which is going to be hard because I followed Christie's lead and cold friended the POTUS-elect.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

memory lane

I'm with you guys, Oh happy day! I think we're all still pinching ourselves, though.

I'm so having campaign withdrawals. Wouldn't you love to relive Tuesday night?

Best we can do is savor the wonderful photographs that came out of the campaign. Here's one of my favorites, sassy Sasha.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

i am a lazy fart, but on fire

I can't think of a superlative to express what I -- and everybody I know -- am feeling today. Electrified? I mean, WHOA! the day is finally here. Obama handily won Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, a place I'd never heard of and didn't know until this morning is the first place where folks cast ballots in this country. These people haven't voted to elect a Democrat since 19 freakin' sixty-eight, when I was a chubby two year old.

Obama's even delivered a smackdown in the land of ice cream.

The voting lines are unbelievable. Early voter turnout was astounding. And I can hardly believe we're about to have a first daughter with twists in her hair. (And sometimes little Sasha has day-old pigtails, which reminds me of my aunt, who used to go to school with bed lint in her hair.)

Poor McCain. First thing this morning, every news station showed Obama voting at the polling station near his home, Malia standing next to him, the two chatting here and there, Michelle casting her ballot. Then cut to Biden, striding into his polling place hand in hand with his sprightly little 90-something mama, voting, then kissing his wife. Finally, just a little bit ago, hours later, they showed an exterior of the Arizona church where McCain is voting, and Sarah Palin blabbing on after having voted in Wasilla, but no iconic shots of either of them casting ballots. Who does their PR?

Yes, we're electrified. Bubs just called on his way to vote in LA. When I answered, he simply said, Can you feel it? I said Yes, and we laughed a good while.

Now if I can only let go the teevee and the Internets and get up and drive to Austin, where I'll be celebrating the coronation, er, I mean, watching the election returns, with Anne, my mom-in-law, and her very vocal bunch of friends.

It's gonna be a hot time in the Big House tonight!

Oh, and here's a very, very sweet video.

Monday, November 03, 2008

minority report

Oh no! Obama's grandma is gone. The last dramatic event in a season of high drama. Sad, too. May she rest in peace.

Really, it's almost over? I'll soon have to get back to real blogging? And reading through almost two months' worth of Bloglines subscriptions? And maybe making a thing or two? Catching up with friends? Returning my father's phone calls? Welp. I guess regular life ain't too bad.

But, since there's still time, here's a goody. Don't say I never gave ya nothing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

my friends: the musical

I doubt this will stick around YouTube for long, so watch it while you can. It's hilarious.