Sunday, December 28, 2008

Status - Dream House

I haven't been able to write about this for a couple weeks and I'm not really sure why. It's interesting this blogging you know. I have to be able to express in words what I feel and want to say but sometimes the words will not flow about a topic, perhaps because I either want to forget it ever happened or maybe it still bothers me, not sure. But now, I feel I can speak of this now.

As I'm sure some of you have heard we put an offer on the dream house referenced in the blog posts below. The house is owned by a recently famous (young and blond) actress. It was her bachlerette pad before she was married recently. She will remain nameless in this blog. The offer was summarily rejected without a counter offer. They deemed it not a serious offer and I was insulted, for a moment. I suppose when money is no object you don't really have to be realistic about the value of your property. Our offer was not out of line with today's market conditions but alas.

A friend of mine who has seen the dream house aforementioned put the comparison of the two houses into perfect perspective -- Our current home is the "BBQ house" and this house would be the "cocktail house". Truer words have not been spoken. The comment has stuck with me since it was made and has caused much reflection on my part. Do I want to give up the BBQ lifestyle? Are we no longer BBQ types but cocktail types now? Who are we now?

Our friends and family are aghast that we would want to leave our current home. They say how wonderful it is, well appointed, and whatever else tickles their fancy about it. A home is where you hang your hat, a place you make your own and is a reflection of who you are and often what you stand for or believe in. After much thought about the BBQ versus cocktail point I realized that whatever house we live in it will be made into who we are. Just because some blond bombshell actress thought it was her party house doesn't mean it would have been our party house. Sure, I mix a mean martini but that doesn't mean that we are party animals entertaining every night serving only the finest wines and cheeses and we never BBQ. hmmmmm well maybe we've started doing that this year......weird.

I suppose it all doesn't really matter because it isn't our house. Somewhere out there, there is a house for us. The perfect house. A house we will make our own. Until then, we will live in the BBQ house and continue to enjoy it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me.

This morning at one minute after midnight I was wished happy birthday. Another year older. I couldn't be happier. These few short days in Edmonton with my family has been enjoyable, relaxing and crispy cold. I feel the happiest I've been in months. Perhaps it's the attitude around here.

People in Edmonton are out shopping, buying things, talking of the future in a positive light, going out to dinner and living life. It's a dichotomy from the current attitudes in Los Angeles and the United States in general for sure. In Los Angeles I felt stifled, muffled almost, and somewhat depressed. In LA where everywhere you turn there are empty houses, for sale signs and all conversations focus on the value of our 401k's (or lack thereof), the stock market, interest rates, and how long it will all last. Malls are empty and sales people chase you around the store like a pack of desperate, hungry dogs. Restaurants you used to go to are gone and the future looms like a big black crushing rock weighing down your every thought. I'm getting depressed just writing about it.

I will enjoy my time here away from the reality that is America's deep recession (or depression as some may say). I will no longer cling to fear that has become the only driving force behind every policy and decision that the USA makes. I will live my life and be damn happy doing it. Today is my day. It's a National Holiday in Canada for crying out loud.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Playdoh is so much fun!!!

Sienna, Krystal and myself work on our Playdoh skills. Auntie Dena made some rockin' penguins with Grace and I made lots of worms which Sienna promptly cut up.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Waiting in Line for Santa

It's a hard day when you have to wait in line for 3 hours to see Santa. But oh, so worth it.....

Monday, December 22, 2008

In the Air Today

I had an early flight to Edmonton this morning, 6:30 to be exact. I'm flying on my last 50,000 miles of United Airlines. The end of an era to be sure. The end of free business class to Europe, the end of security bypass lanes, the end of quick, personalized checkin, the end. But a good end.

In today's modern world of air travel one must check in via the internet 24 hours ahead of time. It's just a necessity now or your line at the airport will be worse. If that's possible. I checked in last night on and was greeted with a plethora of questions. Of course, there was the usual, enter your passport, nationality and all that usual International stuff but now there was more. How many bags are you checking? Wow, do I really have to decide that now? I haven't even packed yet! Apparently I do because I have to pay for each one and if I pay online I save 3$. Whoopee!!

Then I was presented with an option of paying $ 40 to go in the "Premier" lane. This would allow me to basically go into the shorter security lane. I used to be able to do this all the time when I flew regularly and was United Premier Gold. Now apparently, I have to pay for it! Another option was if I paid an additional $ 80 I could get double the air miles. $80!!! Are you crazy?

So, if I would have paid the $ 40 I would have saved probably 30 minutes in the security line this morning. Was it worth it? Who knows. I have made it to Denver this morning and am anxiously awaiting a delayed flight to Edmonton. Wish me luck and wish all the travellers stuck all over the US of A luck as well. God speed and good weather.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lessons Learned

Life is full of little lessons. Some are painful, some inconvenient and some life changing. This lesson was inconvenient and chilly. About 6 weeks ago Dena smelled gas in our house and had figured out that it was our gas fireplace. She shut off the valve and the smell dissipated, problem alleviated. I called the gas company to come out and check it and also adjust the pilot lights on our 1940's vintage O'Keefe and Merritt stove This is a free service that they do.

The gas company came out and it turns out the old valve that we don't really use to turn on the fireplace was leaking even in the off position. It was leaking at 0.3 cubic feet per hour. For the record, a pilot light can use up to 1 c'/hour. So, the leak was very, very small. There was more than enough air circulation both above and below our house to disipate the gas. We couldn't smell it and a gas leak detector was required to even know there was a leak. Now for the lesson. If you suspect a leak and it is not an emergency, call your plumber, not the gas company. Obviouisly, if you smell gas, shut it off and call the gas company. That's my disclaimer. But if you've shut off the gas and wish to call your plumber, that would be best.

The Gas Company, when detecting any sort of leak, is required for safety reasons to shut off the gas. I understand that but they also lock the shut off valve so that only they can turn the gas back on. So how are you supposed to get it fixed? Their answer to that is to have your plumber shoot compressed air through all the lines to test it. This can be damaging to the pipes and the pilot light mechanisms and is usually expensive. The gas company doesn't care, they are just covering their collective asses.

We spent the night with no heat on a very chilly night in Los Angeles. We managed to survive and get our plumber out on Saturday to fix the faulty valve. The gas company responded within an half hour to turn on the gas but we were cited again for another safety violation. This time for not having our fireplace flue permanently blocked open. Doesn't that sound silly? Why would I leave it open and let the cold air in when I'm not using the fireplace?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Topping off Another Project

At our highest building under construction today we had the "topping off" party. This is a tradition in construction - you have a breaking ground ceremony and you have a ceremony (aka party) when you put the final piece of steel or concrete in to "top it off". This doesn't mean the building is complete, but it is as high as it's going to get. It was quite a media event as it symbolizes a major step in the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. Mayor Villaraigosa spoke, a couple council members, Laura Diaz was the MC and Jimmy Smits handed out the major safety awards. After giving a "Union" shout-out, Smits joked with the workers in the audience. "I'm in a union. It's not as good as yours".
Here is a picture of me getting my hard hat signed by Jimmy Smits (of NYPD fame and also the owner of the Conga Room, opening downtown tonight). He was quite gracious in mucking for photos and signing autographs.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

When Dreams come too Close to Reality

Three weeks ago Dena and I were driving around one Sunday looking for open houses. We had a plan of certain houses to look at and stumbled upon one not on the list. We went in, just for the hell of it. It was spectacular. It was a dream. It was way over our price range. It was perfect. I was ruined.

Since then the economy has further worsened, if that was possible. We've researched, met with financial advisors, consulted mortgage bankers, talked with realtors, researched market values, and watched property prices drop. Time has passed and still we can think of nothing else but that house. It turns out after all our research and crunching numbers that possibly it isn't just a dream.

Today we are going to see the house again. We are taking our tape measure, our realtor and our hopes. What happens when a dream gets close to reality? What if we make an offer? What if they don't accept it. What if they do?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Charitable and the Bizarre

The other night we went to a fundraiser for Bosnian orphans. It was being held at a restaurant and they promised dinner, drinks at no charge, if you donated. Dena, my favorite philanthropist, was all in so off we went.

The event was in an small little restaurant on the west side. We walked in and immediately stood out like sore thumbs. We weren't blond, we didn't look like Martina Navratilova and we didn't speak an Eastern European language. Well I thought, at least there's food. There wasn't much of that and what was offered was a little different. Some sort of potato pastry thing, some dry salami, feta (?) cheese, bread and carrots. An interesting combination to be sure. Well I thought, there's alcohol.....and off I went drinking bad wine on an empty stomach. I'm sure you can imagine where that ended up.

I can say that we ate, we drank, we donated and then we went our for Ethiopian food. What can I say, I was hungry. As a parting piece of knowledge that I did learn about Bosnian orphans, is that they are not allowed to leave the country so people in that country are adopting them and using them as child labor.