Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sparks and Flickers


The lights had been flickering, ever so faintly, since the day I moved into my Burbank condo.

At first, I thought I might be imagining it. I couldn't see the flickering if I looked at the lights with intent. I only saw the flicker if I was thinking of something else, looking away. 

But the exhaust fan in the downstairs bathroom didn't flicker—that was an audible surge. My ears were more reliable than my eyes. 

Perhaps there is something wrong with the fan, I thought. 

But I did nothing, because eventually I would just replace the fan. It's one of those cheap-ass loud fans people believe masks noises the human body makes in the bathroom. Sure it does, but only to the person in the bathroom, the person wishing to cling to this particular myth. I assure you, the person not in the bathroom is quite capable of distinguishing between cheap fan sounds and biological function sounds. Not because they want to. 

But the flickering seemed to get worse, and once I realized the gurgling from the fridge wasn't actually from fridge at all, but from the nearby electrical box, and it wasn't gurgling but was actually crackling from a circuit, then I became nervous.

I texted the electrician who had installed my ceiling fan and wired in my upstairs ceiling lights, but he is "contractor ghosting" me now. I assume he's busy. That's not the worst, I suppose. His first work was vastly better than the second job he did for me. I wasn't sure I should bother calling him back anyway. 

I looked up the recommended electrician on the HOA docs, called him during a break while I was wandering around Pasadena yesterday, and he said "I'll be there in an hour." I raced back to the #501 bus stop and hurried home. Ten minutes after my arrival, he showed up. 

He showed me the corrosion on the line and tested the microwave circuit. The condo has a giant beast of a built-in microwave with exhaust fan over the stove. I hate it, because it has a sensor that turns the exhaust fan on whether I like it or not. This beast is the likely culprit, with an output of 14 amps on a 15 amp max circuit. I ran it while he tested, and the beast tipped just over the scale into 15 if I ran a few other things at the same time. 

The electrician will come back and install a dedicated microwave circuit down the road, I think, or maybe I'll look for one that isn't a beast, but in the meantime, he swapped out the breaker. 

I'm pretty happy with how this all turned out. Reasonable price, service in an hour, and careful explanation. I think I just switched electricians. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Doorway to the Past

I had been agitating BBF to help me with my old pocket door I'd salvaged from 350 8th Street pretty much since we first met a few years ago. Al H (who did some of the work on my old place) had helped me extract my pocket door, but we were sorely disappointed to learn someone over the preceding century had sliced off a third of it, presumably in order to shove the door back into the cavity and seal off the gusts that came in from behind it. (We stuffed the cavity full of insulation before sealing it up again, but left the 2/3 pocket door in the basement, until I moved, when we then left it in the garage.)

BBF was having none of it.

Where are you going to put an 8x4 pocket door? There's no room for it. And it's missing a third of the wood!

I know exactly where I'd put it. In the cavity of my house that used to have a pocket door, given the worn track on the floor. I'd dismantle the angled semi-arch someone built in the past and restore the pocket door on the edge of the parlor to what it surely was in 1900.

But BBF is the one who would have to help me drive the door back and forth to Dip 'n' Strip and then do the carpentry work, and he doesn't have that old Turbo-style "The more impossible, the more I want to try it" going on, probably because he is not Australian.

He did agree to help me carry it from the garage to my Lafayette house, where he propped it up in the tiny yard.

Then it was my problem.

I had concluded I wasn't going to get the door to Dip 'n' Strip and back. I wasn't going to convince BBF to tackle the carpentry project of restoring the door to its former glory. I wasn't going to convince him to tear out the parlor wall, build a track, insert the pocket door, and do a high-end finish.

But I also wasn't going to throw out the etched glass that survived 87 years in three of the six glass panels. I had a matching one already from when a neighbor dug it out of his door while restoring. If I had four, maybe I could use them in something eventually. At least, throwing out etched glass from the 1930s seems irresponsible. I was determined to save the glass if I couldn't save the door.

I dug around in my toolbox, eventually finding a chisel, hammer, and a gizmo theoretically used to yank up old caulk. I had that because the tub at Yancey's (my rental on Hamilton Park) had DIY tile around it, leaving all kinds of cavities for mold to grow in. I don't know how many times I recaulked there over the years of renting.

I dug into the ancient glazing putty of the 2/3 pocket door, and once I'd find the glazier's points, each side went smoothly. I managed to remove all three etched glass panes without breaking anything.

We moved the old door to the curb on Sunday night, and the trash collectors took it away. I didn't stay home to watch. I couldn't bear it.

My 4th pane was salvaged from this door at 350 8th.


Garage Clean-Out

What could be more fun than laboring over Labor Day weekend?

Saturday, BBF and I headed to the Secaucus tool rental section at you-know-where (big box place with an orange sign), picked up a pressure washer, and headed to my garage in the "Italian Village" section of JC.

To get to the spigot, I'd had to borrow a key off one of the owners of the condos above the garage. He'd sent it to me Priority Mail from Chicago. He is the same guy who gave me "wasta" back when my Kuwaiti company had a storage unit near the Manhattan Bridge.

BBF and I hooked up BBF's garden hose to the spigot, put the pressure washer together, and went to work.

This all worked surprisingly well. Take a look.


There are still oil spots. I have some electrical parts cleaner that gets the oil off easily. Spray on, wipe off with old towel, wham, no more oil. But the toxic brain-damaging odor was too much. If I do that again, I'll have to come back with a respirator.

The garage is ready for a new owner. No more car, no more stuff in the garage, and a spiffy cleaning.

This garage made my nomadic lifestyle possible from 2003 or 4 to 2017, and it's in the middle of an area exploding with real estate growth. Maybe I should hold onto it. Maybe I'll have to if it's hard to sell. How does one price a garage? Are there comps? Not in JC. But it's not a loss if I can't sell it--I can just rent it out then, and cling to my past a little longer.



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Larry the Lamp

Larry the Lamp's Travelogue:

I am a lamp. My name is Larry.

I lived in an antique store in Manhattan until a colleague of Marie's found me and took me home. David later relocated me to North Hollywood when the office moved to Burbank, where I lived until David gave me to Marie in Hollywood. He was leaving, going home to Miami.

In Hollywood, I lived in a vintage building until Marie moved me to Burbank. But her home there was not vintage—it was built in 1987.

I was sad in Burbank surrounded by short ceilings and textured orange peel walls.

Then one day I was sent to Jersey City in two boxes! I took a ride on an airplane and was put on a truck to an 1895 row house with a bay window. Marie will show up soon to reassemble me and BBF will rewire me properly.

I will be much happier in an 1895 house than in a 1987 apartment.

I've had quite a few electric adventures for a lamp, and those are just the ones we know about.








Monday, August 21, 2017

Project Solar Eclipse Here

The eclipse made me seasick for the rest of the day.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Maybe I Should Have Just Paid Someone...

I spent too much time today sewing this textile to a matte and then putting the DIY frame together.

I bought several of these at a market in Brazzaville. Some of you might remember. This and the smaller items went home in a tiny box from the Brazzaville post office, where a pygmy named Benson chatted me up. The wooden TinTin sculptures went with me to Zambia, with its reliable postal system, but I had a big fight at Customs about them when the officials in Kinshasa claimed they were antiques.

I wasn't totally surprised--I'd had this happen in Ethiopia in 2001, but there, I just had to get some paperwork filled out. In Kinshasa, the only way through was by bribe or sheer stubbornness. I chose the latter (actually, the latter chose me when I lost my temper) and refused to move until they finally gave up. I also did a lot of arguing. That was fun. Never argue with officials with guns in airports, unless you are pretty sure you can get away with it.

I didn't expect to still own this Congolese textile six years later--I meant to send it to someone in my souvenir program, but somehow I did not.

I have one like this already in Jersey City. But that one I bought in Nairobi--this is the real thing, Congolese, bought in Republic of Congo.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Small Luxury

You know how you add something small to your life and later you wonder why you didn't do it sooner? Like a mat in front of the sink, to stand on while washing dishes. Or a doormat next to the bed, so you always get the dust off your bare feet right before bed (admittedly, this wasn't a big problem back East). Or changing sugary peanut butter for the real thing and wondering what took you so long.

Well, I recently decided I was tired of using a big colander for my morning berries. I went on Etsy and found this small berry bowl. Profits went to a foster care advocacy agency and my berries are housed in just the right bowl, so all is well in Burbank for now.



Thursday, August 03, 2017

Dinner with Friends

I don't have many favorite things. Maybe reacting to problem after problem on the road in a remote part of a foreign country. Or sitting on a curb in Bangkok eating pad thai after a Thai massage.

My most favorite thing is enjoying a meal with friends who are smart and interesting. I got to do that last night in DTLA, and it's so rare for me to get around to this these days. A great reminder of how I prefer to spend my time.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Food from a Truck (Daily)

No, it hadn't ever occurred to me either. And I love to complain about having only food truck options for lunch daily here in Burbank.

But this turned out to be delicious.