As the year starts I find myself engaged in the first real big home improvement project of my 9+ years of home ownership, the same month as I am on the brink (I hope) of selling my first place.
While this morning, when I met with my realtor, my condo was fairly clean and well organized, now as I type this, I am surrounded by piles and dust from a hard day’s work.
Tomorrow we finish what we started today, then we spackle, sand, and put down primer, perhaps also paint. It will be a long and busy afternoon tomorrow, but at the end my condo will look better than it has ever today.
So back to today – after my morning meeting with my realtor, I then spent the rest of the morning going through three of my last “random” boxes of personal files, business files, and other random objects. As I finished with the last of these boxes (a blue milkcrate which held a rather random mix of papers from 6 years ago mixed with projects from a few months back) the handyman/cleaning man whom I had hired arrived.
Vincent (of the appropriately named “Vincent’s Obsessive Cleaning”) is a very good friend and former roommate of the husband of a good friend of my girlfriend (whose wedding we attended a while back and with whom we spent New Year’s Eve). Today, however, rather than cleaning (other than some light dusting), we decided to spend the afternoon stripping the wallpaper which was (great phrase – was…) on the walls of my kitchen.
I should describe this – it is hard to believe. It was an off-yellow striped wallpaper with small flower details, then topped by a horrible floral border. All laid so badly that (at least on some walls) the seams were peeling and clearly visible.
This had hung on the walls when I purchased the condo, I had always planned on redoing the whole kitchen, however my finances for the past few years as well as time availability prevented ever doing that (plus I really want a gas burner and in the high rise I live in that is not possible). So I have lived with some of the ugliest wallpaper possible for the past 9+ years.
But no more. It is all down, including the underlayers of two other wall papers (which were more like cardboard with a white checker pattern!). Sure, it took us 7 hours, three people, $50 in supplies and a lot of sweat but we go it all down. Tomorrow we get the remaining bits of paper and all the massive amounts of glue.
This evening, after we finished with the stipping for now, Julia and I went to Home Depot, where we bought more there than I have ever before – two gallons of paint matched to the current cabinets, primer, brushes, dropcloths, spackle, sandpaper, a new fire extinguisher, a new smoke alarm, and new hardware for all of my cabinets (which need it – the old hardware looks to be from the late 70’s/early 80’s).
Tomorrow we strip glue and paper, spackle, prime and hopefully paint!
Then, when this is all done, when I have paid Vincent, photographed my clean new home, given away various random items to remove them (office supplies, misc. kitchen items, etc) and can relax, it will be time for me to leave Chicago and head back to Berkeley where I start a similar process in reverse.
There I move into a nearly empty and unfurnished rental – we’ll be ordering a bed and mattress shortly so I can sleep – and then I’ll start finding furnishings one piece and room at a time.
It is a challenge and at times stressful, but also it is exciting and invigorating, somehow perfectly suited to the beginning of a new year. In a few short days I will be in my first new home in almost a decade, and my first home outside of Chicago for over two decades. I’ll still follow the Bears in the post-season (contact me if you want an invite to the Chicago expat’s party on either the 14th or 15th in the Bay Area) and in my heart I will always hold Chicago close, but I am thrilled at all that awaits us in Berkeley and the Bay Area.
My family has many ties to California, it is the state my mother grew up, my grandparents have always lived there (grandmother in Southern CA and grandfather in Northern CA), where my aunt lives and where my parents met. But there is a vast difference between the occasional visit, mostly to relatives or very close family friends, and living there, spending every day there for weeks, months, hopefully years.
It will be a change, gone will be the dramatic shifts of seasons from the bitter, freezing cold of Chicago winters to the oppressive humid heat of August in Chicago, but with my favorite seasons inbetween where Chicago does get great weather. In its place will be real hills and elevation changes, an ocean instead of a lake, and incrediable diversity and beauty all around me. Sure there are many cars and cookie cutter developments in the suburbs but San Francisco and some of the older communities around it (Berkeley for example but also Oakland) have a rich and old history and tradition of their own as well as amazing restaurants, farmer’s markets, artists and activities.
On a professional front there is still no substitution from the easy access and interconnectivity of Silicon Valley. In just over a month there at the end of 2005 I accomplished far more professionally than I had in the past 5 years in Chicago (with the possible exception of pulling off MeshForum). In my short time in CA I greatly deepened and strengthed my relationships with lots of people, I met many new friends, and had a number of exciting opportunities for the future. As these continue into the new year, look here and at my professional blog, piecing IT together for all the details.
Happy New Year and may your year be full of new opportunities, great friendships and opportunities for quiet reflection and engagement.