Archives: California

This should be an image of a nice pergola, not text.

WHILE work on the cottage is temporarily stalled waiting for permits, etc… I thought I’d show a little back yard project I started shortly before we took on this extreme rehab. Our current back yard is pleasant enough. But unlike our front yard which is shaded by two mature trees, there’s only a tall pine in the back which provides little cover from the afternoon sun because of where it sits on the lot. The space is a little small for a second tree and I’m too old to wait for one to grow anyway, but I’ve always imagined […]

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This should be a lovely picture of wooden roof trusses.

IF you read the previous post you know that the garage was in pretty bad shape. My goal was to reuse the frame and pad. After making some decisions on the exterior, I also determined to leave the original redwood siding. It’s in bad shape, but I’m going to sheet the whole garage in a board and batten style, leaving the redwood siding underneath. More on that later. The roof was in terrible shape, the rolled asphalt had served about three times longer than it was ever meant to. The planks were rotting and couldn’t be reused and I […]

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This should be a cute drawing of a leaning cat.

WHEN our wayward cat takes a dump it’s a prolonged affair. I know most cats are fastidious but Cosey’s burial rituals would make the builders of Giza blush. Her large plastic box shakes and echoes with banging, digging and scratching. The sounds of construction will stop for just a second only to resume with renewed ferocity. Having scraped every Trader Joe’s pine pellet into a near-perfect pyramid she emerges, City of the Dead complete. How does she collect every granule to the center and exit the box leaving the gravity-defying mound unperturbed? It’s a mystery. But I will share […]

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This should be a photo of a big cedar tree.

HELLO! I’m back. I’m sorry if the site has seemed a little dead. I should’ve mentioned in the last post that I was going to hold off on updating for a few weeks to let our friends at Hometown Pasadena — who are mirroring our endeavor — catch up a little. Sheryl and I have been making progress, but it seemed like a good time to pause as we worked out our floor and site plans to begin the permits process. More on that later. Our architect, a talented friend who shall go unnamed for now (her firm discourages […]

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This should be a small photo of Monty Python's Holy Grail.

Roll away your trash today. Early trash collectors WE had to dispose of a few tons of concrete and drywall to get our project started. Sheryl had informed me that Pasadena only allowed certain haulers to work in the city. This came as a surprise to me because Pasadena is usually so easy-going about those things. It’s hard to tell in text, but that was sarcasm. In actuality if they had the inspectors to spare, I think Pasadena would tell you that your piss is the wrong shade of yellow and doesn’t match the Batchelder tile above the toilet; […]

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This should be a photo of a little red wheelbarrow.

WE’VE been tied up getting elevations and site plans drawn, taking measurements and reading books. I’ll actually do a post in the next week about the books that Sheryl and I have found the most useful and inspirational in this first step of our little home-building journey. But wanted to keep posting, so here’s one about trucks, wheelbarrows, roll-offs and a dude who will take your scrap metal away for free. If you’re pressed for time, you can probably skip this one, but don’t go crying if someone at a party asks you where to get the cheapest wheelbarrow […]

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This should be a drawing of a can.

Mold that reminded me of frost on a window. WE began skinning the interior of the house today. I enjoy this part. It’s fast work if you don’t mind a little dust — and, in our case, quite a bit of mold. Mold can be beautiful to look at. Contrary to what some dishonest mold remediation specialists will lead you to believe, it’s relatively harmless — unless, like my wife, you are allergic to it. While no one wants it in their house, it’s often only skin deep and can be killed easily. The real problem is stopping the […]

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This should be a photo of tiny mushrooms growing from the floor.

SO we haven’t made much physical progress this week because of the rain. We’re also trying to get up to speed with a general plan to submit to the permit office but we’re still working out the basic layout of the house. Our dining room table is deep in books about plumbing, framing, contracting, craftsman homes… We’re going to start skinning the interior this week, so Sheryl and I did another inspection, and took some measurements and photos. Here are some lovely mushrooms that are growing in one of the bedrooms. The attic access is from the exterior. I […]

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This should be a shark warning sign.

I DIDN’T see Mark as much over the summer. He usually didn’t bother me when he was on a binge, and this one was epic. In six months he managed to drink, pop, smoke and plain give away every cent of his sixty grand. He lived like Scarface. Hell, he lived like a banker. But as the money dried up, he dried out, and reality hit Mark like a square of shingles. He finally brought up the subject of his finances to me. It seemed that shortly after mortgaging his house, he managed to lose his government assistance. If […]

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This should be a picture of a tarp covering a roof.

ABOUT a week before closing, we were getting hit with heavy rain. The Realtor called me to say she could unlock the house so we could look for leaks and attempt any repairs that would prevent the already-bad condition from getting worse. Along the side of the house, I found a big blue tarp that had blown off months before. It was still in good shape, so I rolled it up and prepared to climb on the roof to reattach it before the sprinkle turned to a downpour. Mark had bought the tarp about four years earlier. I remember […]

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TO recount the series of events that lead to our buying this particular little, red bungalow in Pasadena, I have to go back almost 35 years. The youngest son of the owners at the time was about 16. His weakness for drinking beer and riding motorcycles fast met up one night with another driver’s habit of not looking for small flying objects before changing lanes. He clipped the car going about 100. Miraculously he stayed on the bike and was able to coast it to the side of the road. Sometime before falling off the bike and passing out, […]

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This should be a photo of three dudes from Pasadena.

THIRTEEN years ago, Sheryl and I moved into a little bungalow on a corner lot in north Pasadena. One of the more unusual features of the property was a large rusty bird pen constructed from 2 1/2″ steel pipe, lumber, tree limbs and heavy screen. The pipe frame roughly formed the outline of a cube, about 9′ in each direction, give or take. At the base, the pipes were embedded into a concrete pad that would, were it not for the eagle’s nest, make for a lovely patio. The tools at my disposal were a small propane/oxygen torch, a […]

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Karma and the Cottage: Part 1

TONIGHT we received a phone call from our Realtor Jackie Watamura — the hardest working Realtor on the East Side — with the news that the deed on our new house recorded. By "new house" what I mean to say is "90-year-old cottage with collapsing roof, severe water damage, uneven foundation, no electric or plumbing, with busted out windows, that has become the de facto residence of most of the neighborhood's feral cat population." My wife, Sheryl and I were, of course, ecstatic. This evening ended almost a month of research, offers, inspections, faxes, notarized signatures and a flurry of banking that resulted in the liquidation of all of our retirement accounts and stocks. The process began on the last day of December, 2009, a Thursday. I got an email from Jackie informing me that the tiny, dilapidated house across the street from mine had become an REO and was being offered for a very short time by Fannie Mae. She knew that I had a history with the house and was telling me in hopes that I might know someone who wanted it. I kinda did... I ran from my garage "office" into the house to drop the news on Sheryl who, to my surprise, shared my enthusiasm. I called Jackie to get the scoop: Fannie was taking offers for one day, Monday, cash only and we had to show proof of funds. If Sheryl and I were thinking of diving in, the pool had just gotten about 20 degrees colder. We took a couple hours to calm down and think about it, then I picked up the phone, "We want it."