Wow, what a month. I feel like my 33rpm life has been stepped to 78 by some maniacal DJ. Stop the ride, I wanna get off!
For those of you who haven't been getting my newsletter <http://web.archive.org/web/20001213184000/http://www.punkwalrus.com/list.html>
(hint hint), you haven't lived until you have seen how this Life of Punkie has spun like a drunken ballerina with a score to settle. Let us
begin with the house... shall we?
Of course, my ears are still hidden by the piles of boxes, which have only changed because they are in a different place. We moved a few miles south from Reston (new home of the Nazi party renamed the RHA) to the wilds of Fairfax. And it's a different animal, let me tell you. We live literally (as it to the word) behind a gigantic shopping center. Our back yard is one fence away from getting Marshall's goods delivered to our tomato patch. They aren't noisy except when they are, and I get up at 6 am to the sound of dumpsters being emptied into what sounds like a NASA launch pad exploding. Then come the trucks, which roll like a convoy of materialistic goods so opulent, it would kill a Buddhist Monk. They do this all day, and they aren't really noisy after the morning, but once in a while I think the Eiffel tower fell apart right onto my deck.
The house is really big. It's bigger than any house I have ever lived in, that's for sure. Once in a while, a DC-3 drops off supplies to the guest room in case some people get stranded there. Ha ha, just kidding (it's a Boeing 727). Luckily, it has two kitchens, or the caravan getting my D&D books to the storage area would have starved to death. We have four bathrooms and five bedrooms (three of them so huge, we're renting one of them to Fed Ex Storage). We have an Olympic-sized rec room, with a new 61" projection screen TV and soon a pool table. I plan on going into a coma there someday. Our large deck is suitable for entertaining guests, or landing bombers in time of war. The main feature that makes people go ooh and ahh is the guest bedroom, with its own kitchen and bathroom. We have a line of people who have hinted they want to rent there, but we have to politely laugh in their faces while pointing. Seriously, we can't rent it out because of local zoning laws. Please stop calling us. The shower smells funny anyway.
We had rented back to the previous owners, and before we moved in, we had a final walkthrough to see what they damaged. Thankfully, they left most of the house clean, but they did some weird things. They left some items like a toilet bowl with geraniums (I am not drunk), and a busted TV. They also left several bikes and pieces of furniture in the shed to get later. Oh did I mention THEY REMOVED THE DEN FLOOR? Yes, in a move that stunned even the inspector, the downstairs den had the floor stripped to the cement. Hmmm, I'll take "Put that back or you'll never get your deposit back" for $1000, Alex. He put back a vanilla gray vinyl floor, which still makes this den smell of glue as I type this.
We ordered new furniture and some of it arrived looking similar to the models in the store. I got to assemble the majority of IKEA stuff, which is actually fairly well made. It's very light, so I am skeptical about how long it will last, but we shall see. The move itself didn't go so bad, but the usual crap happened. The first bad part about moving is the changing of the utilities. You have to do that in advance, and luckily for us, we had a lot of advance time to do so. And believe it or not, they actually installed my phone lines in ON TIME, despite the Verizon strike! How about that? And not only that, the tech was friendly and spoke English! I fainted on the spot. He also accidentally drilled a hole in my house to the outside, and felt so bad about it, he got approval to install my stuff for free. He patched the hole, and I got free stuff installed! Wowsers, as Inspector Gadget used to say. And yes, he was really the Verizon guy, and the lines did work, I thought of that, too. I was later told they went off strike a week before we moved in, and since we booked for the change months in advance, they actually came out on the day they were supposed to. This is lucky, because from what I have seen at work and friends who are moving around the same time, they won't have phone service for weeks. The cable people came out on time, too. They screwed up, but instead of being rude and distant, they honestly seemed to care that someone on their team screwed up. The problem was, when the cable guy came, we didn't have a TV in the house yet, so he couldn't test his setup. Then when we hooked a TV up, we got a dead signal. So we called, and they said no one turned it on. So they did, but all the channels were screwed up. So they sent someone out to fix the whole mess, whereupon we apparently had cable installed backwards, and we don't have to pay for cable for this month. Gas, electric, water, and trash were pretty simple, no one had to come to the house except to read meters.
The second bad part of moving, and IMHO the worst, is packing. You never have enough boxes. We went through maybe 200 or so boxes, and still ran out. We were packing stuff in the Microwave, trash bags, and rubbish bins. What is that a spare pillow case? Don't fold that! I have some towels that can go in there... And no matter how far in advance you pack, and believe you me, I had 3 months, you will never finish. It's some sort of asymptotic curve in time and space. And all this time, stuff you need is in some box somewhere. You could label the hell out of a box, and you still won't find half of what you look for. And as resources (like pots and pans) begin to dry up, you begin to find creative ways to deal with what's left. Need a plate? Packed, and we're running out of tape, so don't you dare reopen it. Use this crockpot lid instead. Just flip it over. It rocks too much? Wait, put it on this old towel, that should stabilize it.
The third part can vary in pain. The farther you have to go, the worse the pain. I used to work for a company that sold durable furniture to military families. I heard horror stories that range from senseless damage (one guy lost his furniture when it was dropped from a crane off a ship and fell 200 feet to the cement dock below) to theft ($6000 in rare Toledo swords stolen on a nonstop trip somewhere between Durban and Miami) to bureaucratic nightmares ("Sorry, your furniture is on a ship not authorized to offload cargo near your city."). My own family growing up had all kinds of problems moving, and our move from Palo Alto to Washington, DC involved finding lost and unlabeled cargo that Bekins moving service let us find ourselves in their storage warehouse. But I am lucky, because we have found some movers that at least locally are really good. Reston Movers have moved us twice, and both times that have been very skilled and friendly. Not a thing was broken or lost.
Then comes the unpacking. This goes in four stages. First takes only about a day where you unpack the prime essentials. This is usually
food-related items like flatware and dinnerware and you also unpack most of your clothing. The second stage is unpacking things just so the box is no longer in the way. Most of your stuff gets unpacked this way, and can take up to a month. The third stage is unpacking stuff that you only need seasonally, or are really unimportant. This may take several months. The fourth and final stage is stuff that never gets unpacked because you don't really know what to do with it. My old D&D books and our combined record collections haven't been unpacked since they were packed two addresses ago. I just open them now and then to make sure they are still there, and I occasionally find a surprise, like a hat I forgot I had, or mail I had never opened. Hey, they really *did* send me a bill for that... back in 1995... wow.
You have to get used to a new house. There are always things that you discover only *after* you are settling in. I found out my new house has no doorbell. There is no electrical outlet in the master bathroom. The phone jack is on the wrong side of the wall. Was this hole always here? Hmm ... that ceiling fan is awfully close to the bunkbed...
My cat's didn't take to the new place right away. Artoo didn't care, he loved exploring. Storm was freaked out, though. Oreo took it the worst, and actually hid behind the downstairs toilet and pressed his head up against the corner of the wall in fear. It took him days to get used to the place. Ahfu loves his new fenced-in yard, which I mowed for the first time ever last week. The yard isn't bad, it needs a
reseed-and-weed, but a good mowing did it wonders.
But I have mixed feelings about moving out of my old place.
I had a fairly good landlord named Mark. He was nice and polite, and took us in despite how badly the last place we lived in was about us
leaving (we were contemplating suing them over rotten floors, no A/C, faulty plumbing, etc.). This last house we living in for 4 years, and
didn't give us any problems until the last year. A lot of stuff went wrong. The 25-year old heating system died. All the hot water taps were beginning to leak. I had to replace some of the toilet tank plumbing twice. Squirrels ate through our ceiling into my son's room. Ants ate up the main supporting beam in the front, and the lack of gutters caused an overhang to rot and fall off. We had an agreement with Mark that all repairs under $50 we'd do ourselves (for discounted rent). I did a lot of those repairs, including rebuild the garbage disposal, fix the fridge shelves, replace burners, repair the ceiling around the attic, and some odds and ends including minor electrical work and plumbing. I didn't mind so much, because that was part of the agreement.
In the meantime, Mark decided to get out of the landlord business and sell off all his houses. He didn't sell ours because of our contract,
but made it clear we had a year to move out. He then lived in Europe for a year. He was getting more and more upset about all the major repairs that suddenly occurred. I'd say he easily spent about $6000 last year in repairs. Part of the problem was that he kept hiring these goons who had to come back and fix what they had repaired. They put things on crooked, left a mess, and generally broke stuff, including all the plumbing in one wall. Our downstairs toilet never worked again.
Towards the end, Mark just gave up. Originally, we were moving out the 8th, but had the house until the 15th to clean up. On the 7th, Mark told Christine that we had to be out and cleaned up and out of there by the 10th because he was bringing a Real Estate Agent to look at the place. So we had to work double-time to get everything cleaned and well ... it wasn't a perfect job, to be honest. But it was a damn good one under the circumstances. Floors cleaned, carpets steamed, bathroom and kitchens spotless. But sure enough, he wasn't happy with some items, and said he'd charge me with a cleaning bill off my deposit. We told him we originally had ten days shortened to two days to clean, and then he denied he said we'd have to be out by the 10th. But now it was too late, I told work I could work this week because I didn't need it to clean my old house anymore. On top of that, he was telling Christine one thing, and me another. I started communicating to him via e-mail so I could document what he said, and then he changed his story again! ARGH!
I know this is commonplace. I know 90% of my friends have never gotten their deposit back from any rental agreement for whatever reason. It
still pisses me off. I told Mark I wanted a copy of any bill he got that he took off my rent so I could show it to my legal team here at work.
On the flip side, my new house is pretty nice. Of course, you always find some problems you just never think about until you live in a place. We have no doorbell, for one. The cats and the dog have created a geographic logistics problem of where to put the catboxes and cat food so the dog doesn't get at them. The dryer needs a new vent duct. The front storm door needs a spring hinge. Fireplace needs cleaned. We are missing some blinds and window screens. We badly mis-measured the rec room's width when we got new furniture, and now we have a recliner we don't know where to put (we got two, can only fit one). We're going to make sure the pool table fits before we get it. The week before, Christine and our friends Sara and Jeni helped paint the rec room from an annoying brown paneling to a mottled blue-and-white paint job that makes the rec room look like you are in the sky with clouds. It was a 180 degree improvement, and really lightened the place up.
The previous owner left us a lot of stuff for storage until they move into their new home, including bikes, furniture, and some large trash
items like a busted toilet (that's used as a flowerpot, no joke!), a broken TV, assorted small furniture, and a non-working lawnmower. This
was a sort of an agreement on both our parts that we'd let him keep his stuff here for a few months, and he'd let us use the lawnmower, hoses, and a giant ladder, which we do need. I'm not using that shed until next spring anyway.
Oh, and add to this, Christine got a new job. She starts a week from today! Yay, now we are a two-income household again.