So you think you want hardwood?

We made that mistake, too, and here’s the first installment of pictures and a heap of words to document the drama.

We’ve been wanting to get rid of the beaten-to-crap, never-was-very-good-in-the-first-place carpeting in our house for a long time, and this summer we finally decided to do it. We got quotes for putting in more white oak hardwood flooring (to match what Jon put in the music room, to match what was already there in the dining room) in the living room, staircase, and upstairs hallway. After that we planned to replace the carpeting in the three bedrooms. As much as we like hardwood, we both liked the idea of carpeting in the bedroom, mainly because putting bare feet down on kitty litter crumbs in the middle of the night is nobody’s idea of a good time.

About a month later, we decided to go with the bid from Victoria’s friend’s company, and we scheduled the job. It was to start Wednesday, 11 July 2007, and finish up sometime around the next weekend, 21-22Jul. We were pretty much going to have to move out of the house once the finishing work began, since we wouldn’t be able to walk on anything between our bedroom and the front door. The first step was to take delivery of the wood on Monday, 9 July.

On Sunday, 8 July, we were reading the New York Times and drinking (apparently way too much) coffee when we realized we were being idiots. We’re replacing carpeting that’s less than ten years old not just because we like hardwood better (who doesn’t?), but because our carpeting looked like hell. Eight years of hairballs, boy cat expressions of antisocial sentiment through the urethra, puppy incontinence, dog barf, wine spills, food spills, and all manner of whatever comes into the house on the undersides of paws, shoes, and boots had pretty much trashed our carpeting–which, again, had never looked too great to begin with.

Also, a few months ago, we’d begun sliding down that slippery slope known as Oriental Rugs. Our friends Jon and Kyla (yes, Jon the artist behind my kitchen) threw a “rug party,” where a friend of his from Turkey was showing literally hundreds of Turkish rugs of all styles, eras, sizes, and prices. They live in the Russian River now, in the tiny village of Monte Rio, and Victoria and I went up for the weekend. It was a chance to catch up with friends over great wine and food, and the next day on the way back, we’d pick up a mess of oysters in Tomales Bay and fresh cider in Graton. Our black lab, Candy, would have a chance to cavort with their labradoodle, Sam. I’d play a kiddie concert with the Marin Symphony on the way home. We’d have big fun. We’d do everything but buy rugs.


We forgot that part.

We drove home with four new (to us) Turkish rugs. One huge one had particularly caught both our eyes as being a good candidate for the living room–it was the usually hodgepodge of a million colors, especially reddish ones, that you expect, but its background was sort of pistachioesque somehow. We also liked a slightly smaller one that came off as purplish, and similar purplish medium one. Then we noticed a runner of unusual design that would be good for the hallway to our office after we do that remodeling job (which will be a subject for a future blogging, once we get around to doing it). While we were taking a closer look at these, trying to decide whether we’d buy any, Candy plopped herself resolutely down on the mediumish purplish one and refused to budge, clearly expressing her wish that we purchase it for her. (She was to have a tumor surgically removed the following week, and Dad speculated that she was picking out her own get well present.)

We left with all four.

So, back to our coffee that fine Sunday morning… We were having to completely move out of our house anyway, and did we really want to move out of each of the bedrooms AGAIN to have carpeting put in? Our hardwood and tiled floors all look fine. Our carpeted floors all look horrible. Why, exactly, did we think that the prosective new carpeting in the bedrooms was going to fare any better? Wouldn’t those nice, cleanable Turkish rugs be a better idea? Wouldn’t it be better to do the whole darned house while we were at it?

Well, of course it would be!

So we call our friend Jane to announce that we’re moving in for at least two weeks (“Is Tuesday good for you?”), we do what we can that day to finish moving out of the living room, boxing up all our books and CDs and so on. Monday, Erin welcomes the first big load of wood, which the guys load into the music room. Victoria calls Allison at The Floor Show to ask if she can deal with our sudden scope creep. After work, Erin goes off to play chamber music for four hours (octets featuring a clarinetist who’s visiting from Italy). V hears back from Allison: the answer is “probably… I’ll look at it first thing tomorrow… and can we start tomorrow instead of Wednesday?”

Yipes! V goes off to get another heap of boxes, including five wardrobe boxes for the three huge closets we suddenly might need to empty out. We meet back at the house to panic. Who wouldn’t? It’s Monday night. I prepare the stereo/TV cart for moving, which is to say I unplug about a thousand cables and jam them all into a box, and then I get Victoria to help me move the BATV (which stands for Big Ass TV, of course) down to the office where it will be least vulnerable to clumsy movers and floor workers. Except that when we get to the top of the little living room staircase, V trips on the hardwood that’s stacked in the music room, falls, lands on her wrist, and (we learn Wednesday) breaks it. We leave the TV there at the top of the stairs for the movers to deal with tomorrow.

Now we’re panicked and half crippled. Great. We have to move everything we own by tomorrow, maybe, we’ve barely started, and I’ve broken my girlfriend?! Not good.

V takes half a pound of ibuprofen, straps on an icepack, and soldiers on. We jam clothes into the wardrobe boxes. The nice guy at U-Haul has kindly sent closet rod thingies that are about half as wide as the boxes, so I improvise and use the dowels from our closets instead. We set out the stuff we think we need to take with us to Jane’s house, and then we collapse in bed.

Tuesday dawns early, with Allison arriving at 9 to look over the new turf. Tim arrives shortly after that and starts demoing the living room, and our mover guys Manuel and Juan arrive a few minutes later and just barely get our furniture out of the living room before Tim starts wailing on the carpet. V and I are simultaneously directing the movers (“Your mission is to fit everything we own into the dining room, kitchen, two bathrooms, and maybe a deck or two. Go!”), answering Allison’s questions, jamming more of our bedroom stuff into boxes, and continuing to panic. Allison sees that we’re both wrecks and advises waiting with the bedrooms. I propose that we move everything we can fit into the space available, prioritizing the master bedroom, and if we have to, we’ll have the rest done after we move back in. Allison shrugs and agrees, asks us to let her know how far we get, and flees to safety. We put the cats in the safety of their carriers, and we usher Candy into the office so she won’t help quite so much.

About four hours later, V and I have somehow boxed everything in the entire upstairs, and Manuel and Juan have somehow crammed it all into the bathroms, the tiny deck off the master bathroom, the larger deck in front of the master bedroom, the hallway leading to the office, and the dining room. Well, heck! We didn’t even start using the kitchen! We could have done the office, too! (But that’s to be another story for the future.) We call Allison and declare victory, run out for burritos, and then move to Jane’s in Sausalito. Since V’s wrist is throbbing, she can’t drive, so we have to cram two adults, four critters, and everything we need into my car.

As soon as we’ve unpacked for our two (or will it be three now?) weeks at Jane’s, I need to put on pit black, grab my horn, and turn right back around for the night’s opera. I drive to Oakland, buy self-adhesive wrapping tape for V’s wrist, grab something to eat, and meet my carpool to Walnut Creek. After the opera, I drop off my carpool, drive up to the house, and get my office stuff. I work from home, and for the next few weeks I’ll be working from Jane’s home, which means I need to take everything I need to her house. Fortunately, I travel so much that packing for a few weeks of work from a remote location isn’t much harder than unplugging my laptop and throwing it into a briefcase that already has everything else I need. I also take a few minutes to wander through the freakishly empty house and take pictures of all our worldly goods crammed into bathrooms.

The rest of that week is surreal. V can’t drive, so she can’t get to work in Berkeley, and she’s pretty much at my mercy. Wednesday morning I worked in the morning, and that afternoon, we drove to Berkeley so V could go to the ER to get her wrist checked out, and I went to buy groceries and check on things at the house. She learns that she’s broken it, and she emerges from the hospital with her arm splinted and in a sling. We stop by a medical supply place to get a wrist-shaped ice pack and drive “home.” Thursday I have an all-day business trip to San Jose, returning home at 9pm to a very frustrated V–my poor extravert has been home all day with nothing but furry critters for company. Friday, we make a trip to an orthopedist, where she’s put in a cast; happily, though, now she can drive, so we go to the house to look around and get her car, and she drives “home.” I plug my laptop in at my home office and work for the afternoon, amidst the chaos of sawing and banging, and that night I play another opera. Somewhere in all that, we also measured our closets and got to work figuring out how we’d refit them after we move back in: the stupid planks that currently support the shelving and rods will need to be removed to put the hardwood in, and we see no point in putting them back.

We recover over the weekend. Jane has fled to Seattle for a family baby shower. We spend Saturday touring closet stores, settle on an Elfa system from The Container Store, and spend a bunch of the day designing it, and then our friend Rhett comes over for a dog walk and dinner. Sunday I run off to yet another opera while V holds down the home front.

Week 2 is a little less surreal. Able to drive again, V returns to her usual work schedule. I play the last of the operas on Tuesday night. Jane is home and we start hanging out together and getting into the rhythm of our temporary large family. Tranquility is disturbed Wednesday: Gjetost has some kind of horrible mouth infection and needs to see the vet; fortunately, she responds well to a ton of meds (if not to the twice-daily ritual of slurping down more meds).

Weeekend 2, I have a flurry of Saturday errands in the East Bay, including hauling a car full of Elfa closet stuff up into my office; back in Sausalito, Candy takes V on several walks between loads of laundry; Jane is off in Berkeley doing dancerly stuff. Sunday we’re the picture of domesticity: the three of us go off to a farmer’s market and trap all kinds of great stuff for dinner and come back to work the Sunday NYT crossword. At some point I start getting antsy and make Jane unpack her living room; working together, we managed to complete that job in about an hour, and now it’s time to make dinner.

Here we are on Wednesday of Week 3. I’m on day 3 of a nasty cold and feel like crap, but that pales next to our having just resolved a tricky problem: we can’t move back in until Saturday. Or maybe Friday. Jane has only one guestroom, and she has a houseguest coming Thursday night, who may or may not be able to deal with cats. Jon and Kyla have invited us to the Monte Rio, but Jon’s deathly allergic to our cats. Jane thinks about sending her guest to a hotel, but everything in the area costs a fortune, so we look at moving ourselves into a hotel back in Berkeley. Those cost a fortune, too, of course, and only the really icky ones will take our four critters. Fortunately, Allison decides we can move back Friday, Jane’s guest says she loves cats, and we have a Goldbergian itinerary of a solution: Candy and Victoria and I pack up, clean up, and move out to Jon and Kyla’s on Thursday afternoon; we stay there Thursday night; Friday morning, we come back for the cats and the rest of our stuff; finally, the whole menagerie drives home to meet the movers Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile back in Oakland, things are looking pretty good! V took some pictures of the floors after their first two coats of polyurethane on Monday night, and they’re gorgeous. Even though we have no baseboards and its becoming increasingly clear that we’re going to need to paint soon, the house is immeasurably improved by the hardwood. The floor guys were to have put the fourth and final coat of finish on Tuesday, and today and tomorrow they’re installing the baseboards, which they had been pre-finishing down on the driveway starting last Friday.

Once our furniture is back in place and all the boxes are sitting in the rooms where they’ll need to be unpacked, I’ll need to start demoing our closets and installing the Elfa system, so that Victoria can move our clothes back in. I hope we can manage most of this on Friday, because on Saturday I need to pack for a flight Sunday to Salt Lake City. With any luck, my one-armed V will unpack and put away some of our boxes while I’m gone. I’ll get home late Thursday night, and Friday we’ll welcome a house guest! Fortunately Kathy has been through some remodeling herself, so we think she’ll be patient with the boxes and general disorder she’s likely to confront.

When we move back in Friday afternoon, the polyurethane will have been curing for only three days and will still be somewhat fragile. This means we need to put down a bunch of rugs to keep gritty shoes from damaging it, and for about seven more days, we have to be really careful. Candy will need to wear dog-boots when she’s in the house, or else her claws would make little dents and scratches in the finish, so we’ve gotten her a spiffy quad of red dog boots at REI and have been having her practice in them on her walks. We think she looks fabulous in her sexy little red shoes, and so do all the neighbors. She’s being a good sport about it–almost as good a sport as Jane has been, putting up with our sudden and prolonged invasion–but she has her doubts. Whenever we first put them on her, she doesn’t seem to remember how to walk and instead prances uncertainly until she gets distracted by a retrieving dummy or tennis ball. This, of course, had to be captured on video!

All in all, we’ve had a pretty good experience, and we can’t wait to see the results and take a mess of After pictures to post here, but it’s been a whirlwind of an adventure, and we’re not done yet.

Be a patriot, don’t buy fireworks!

It makes me completely nuts to hear fireworks going off around here, living as we do in a neighborhood whose entrances are all prominently marked “CAUTION: FIRE DANGER ZONE. FIRE DANGER TODAY IS !”

What are people thinking?!?!

It was only 15 years ago that hundreds of houses burned and a bunch of people died from a wildfire in the neighborhood started by idiots playing with fire. Not just “those other people” but people we actually know lost their houses, their houses’ contents, their lives as they knew them, everything.

It was only a few weeks ago that another big grass fire started in the exact same spot and bloomed into a three-alarm fire and 24 hours with helicopters hovering and fire crews monitoring.

Sure, in theory there are safe ways to play with firecrackers and all those other so-called “amateur” or “family fun” fireworks. I even know most of those safety tips, having misspent some of my youth in this sort of pursuit. I also know that even the safest people have accidents and make mistakes. I’m in that count, too. You have duds that land in the grass instead of going off in air, only to blow a shockingly long time later. You have those whistler things that for some reason crash into the trees or grasses while still lit instead of flying off into the sky. You have just about anything set to go off on a patch of pavement, only to see an unexpected puff of wind whisk it away into a patch of something flammable. Lots of things like this go wrong, and I’m talking about the people who are behaving prudently!

And then there are all the idiots who do stuff with fireworks that is just so darned stupid they deserve to get their fingers blown off or their eyeballs blown up, and unfortunately there are shockingly large numbers of people like that, too.

Regardless of how “safely” people play with them around here, they’re not being safe–they’re being stupid. In a fire danger zone, it’s just plain stupid to seek entertainment with little combustible units.