It must be Summer – Remodeling Project

The indulgent smile of one well schooled in the long arc of his wife’s expensive hobby – remodeling.

Those who know me well know that there are few things that make me happier than the occasional expenditure of time, energy and resources in the pursuit of a re-beautified space. Renovating has always been a creative outlet, and one which provides me great serenity (in the end). There are a lot of ways to relax on your summer vacation. Some people go to Nevada and gamble. Yes, I recently went to Nevada and gambled away $40.00 in the ‘reverse ATM’ as our son calls it. But I didn’t enjoy it, nor do I make a habit of it.

Yes, perhaps I was spending too much time at work from the looks of this photo.
Even Martha Stewart accessories and new towels didn’t make the bathroom look better.

My vice is far more expensive. It begins with a simmering dissatisfaction, percolates through online research and virtual selection of materials way beyond my means, and ultimately concludes with a beautiful new and more or less affordable room. I have spent months creating a board on Pinterest about our 2nd bathroom, which now sports 1′ white 80s ceramic tiles, a dingy wooden cabinet with a cigarette-scarred 80’s swirled plastic sink surround, massive mirrors and a medicine cabinet that refuses to close. It swings open to reveal rusty shelves and random shaving accoutrements, and taped inside, a goofy picture of the three of us backstage at the Canon Theatre during the run of The Vagina Monologues, from late 2001. Centered over the huge mirror more suited to a dance studio than a guest bathroom for the over-50 set, is a wounded four lamp fixture, one of the lamps permanently dark due to someone’s (sheepish looking writer) overzealous winding of the light bulb. It’s shade is a beacon in the world, bleating, “Failure!” every time I use the bathroom. You can be sure that a smaller mirror features large in our renovation plans, as well as a smaller light fixture which will be centered over the new modest mirror.

The second biggest impediment to my serial remodeling fever is lack of time. Life and work get in the way. That, and the fact that with this project, we will ostensibly have finished all the necessary work in the apartment. So I was a bit nostalgic, when we went to the Cosmos Flooring store today to select the tile for our last remodeling project. We had plans to meet Melvin, our contractor there, and the store opened at 10:00AM. We arrived at 9:50 and the door was open, so we went inside, greeted enthusiastically by a white toy poodle and a mahogany colored pug, both of whom threatened to trip Jimmie. We went in and while we waited for Melvin, Tim, one of the sales people, helped us to look around.

This wood-like porcelain tile is a beachy grayish blue shot through with veins of gold.

My Pinterest board had a lot of white tile, carera tile, rustic cabinets and polished chrome fixtures. The issue with this second bathroom is that the floor butts up against the cork tiles of the entryway. I was interested in whites, grays, and blues in color, but was very aware that the gold of the cork would be challenging to match.

The first tile I saw was the one we ultimately went with. (I’m telling you, I think I have a gift). The things they do with tile these days! This is a porcelain tile, which is designed to look and almost feel like wood planking. It is fantastic. I looked a little silly removing my sandals and “walking” up the board. There was another similar sample on the floor and I padded appreciatively over that.  TMarthaStewartVanityhe blue matches the Martha Stewart “Sharkey Gray” vanity that I chose at Home Depot. Don’t judge me. She did her time.

The wooden baseboards in the current bathroom design were swollen when the last denizen of our apartment moved out and some of her friends yanked out the washing machine, hitting the overhead sprinkler and flooding the floor with 8-24 gallons per minute, leaving the baseboards misshapen in spite of subsequent paint. So we will use the 4″ by 40″ tiles above to create a tile baseboard to replace the existing one.

Next, Tim guided us to a board with  8″x 2.5″” subway tiles in glossy white, and similar tiles in ash blue, a band of which we will use in the tub/shower enclosure. I think it was about this time that I took that photo of Jimmie, sitting patiently, watching me mull over the proper grout color and spacing. By now, Melvin had joined us, and we were ready to write up the order with Tim. Best to sit down in moments like this; it is predictably shocking when you hear the numbers. IMG_4749 IMG_4748

So, we start next Wednesday with demolition phase. Don’t plan on visiting us next weekend; you would be sorely disappointed with the accommodations.

One of the main reasons for the remodel besides the previously mentioned condition of the bathroom, is the fact that the original tub is the least comfortable tub ever constructed. Sitting in the tub is a little like sitting in a coffin. It is 5′ long and is almost square where the sides meet the bottom of the tub. In the last 7 years I have taken about 10 baths total. I know that that is laudable given the current drought conditions in California, and in fact, as we began serious discussions about the renovation, we talked about whether it was environmentally greedy to include a tub. I remember saying to Jimmie,

But what about the grand babies? We have to have a tub for them.

This was, by the way, way before there was an actual grand baby in our thoughts, or even in our son’s thoughts. So, good thing that we were decided to include a deep soaking tub for me (and the grand babies).

To be continued…

Wet Hair at the Hollywood Bowl

photo 1Last night we headed out to go to the Hollywood Bowl because I had been given comps to see “Hair” by the sound designer, my colleague Phil Allen.  All day it had been kind of overcast and cloudy, but really really hot.

I knew that the Hollywood bowl was going to be like Mount Everest for my 87-year-old husband. But karmically, things seemed to be falling together neatly. On Friday, at work I had to call a student to find out if he had the units to do a lighting design this fall. Kevin has been working as a parking attendant at the Hollywood Bowl since the age of 14. Please don’t think less of me because honestly, I didn’t call him to take advantage of this fact.

But when I did reach him, he told me that he could help me out with parking. He said he would put my name on the list, and that I should drive up the hill to Lot A and look for him.

We left the apartment at 6:00. I had a beautiful basket full of poached Salmon, a lovely quinoa salad, and for dessert, berries and some brownie bites from Smart and Final. I was feeling very, very Martha Stewart.

We got to the Hollywood Bowl and it was a complete cluster f–k. I didn’t know what lane to get into, because I literally hadn’t come to the Hollywood Bowl in five years, and the cop was pointing me to turn left when I need to go straight ahead. I said to him “My names on the list” and he waved me into the right lane, after admonishing me with a good natured retort: “We can’t read minds, here! Have a nice evening!”

I got to the bottom of the hill.  I said “My name’s on the list.” (Surely the sweetest words in the history of theatre.) Sure enough, miraculously, it was. We drove up the hill and Kevin was there and  said “Park right here,” pointing to his left to an area which was clearly not a parking spot. 

I unloaded my husband’s  walker, and gave the keys to Kevin and we walked into the bowl. 

We were now standing in front of the black macadam  Mount Everest. A rise which is probably 50° and my husband turned to me with woeful eyes and said, “How far is it?”

I looked down at the tickets and I could see that we needed to go about hundred feet further up the hill to the entrance. People were walking by shooting me dirty looks for bringing somebody with a walker on this hill.

Some kind Bowl usher helped us and pointed us to the elevator which eliminated 20 steps up. We took the elevator up and went our way up the longest handicap ramp in history. Now were on the flat area between the seating heading towards our seats. It was still  really early and the boxes in the Bowl were full of happy picnickers but the upper levels were still pretty empty.

We got to the entrance to the seating area where we needed to leave the walker and my husband looked up and said “What row are we in?” Again, woeful eyes.

I was thinking, ” Yeah,  it’s a great idea to come to the Hollywood Bowl as the last event in one’s life.”

We climbed, my husband holding onto the backs of the benches and we finally got to row 11. We sat down on our Hollywood Bowl blanket  and I opened the basket for dinner. Things were looking up.

Two pretty girls were sitting in front of us who asked us to take their picture. I did and they then took our picture, too.

photo 2It was only about 6:30 and the show was scheduled to start at 8:00. Two other people I knew came to sit down next to us because they, too,  had been given tickets by our friend. We were very jolly. The show began. It was magical. We were having a great time.

After intermission, I felt the first drops of rain. The chatter amongst the audience as these drops began to fall and intensify in frequency and weight rolled through the audience so  that the show could have stopped for all we were aware. 

I was trying to cover us up with the little blue cotton shawl that I had brought to put across our laps so that we wouldn’t get salmon on  our pants.

Pretty soon, one of the actors came out and said-“Don’t leave! “We’re bringing you ponchos!”

Keep in mind that here were 17,000 of us sitting in the audience. I thought, Yeah, and I have some swamp property in Florida….

My husband’s  hat was drenched.

I couldn’t stop laughing with Annie Wareham who was sitting to my right, her hair beginning to plaster itself to her head. The irony of being in the middle of a 3 year drought in Southern California on the one time in 5 years  we had attended a show at the Bowl in the midst of what was becoming an enthusiastic episode of rain was too much. Show? What show?

I think it was somewhere around this time that the purportedly naked people came onstage, because I completely missed them. 

One of the girls to my left, a former student USC,  was wearing a USC poncho. Good planning, Sara! Her friend got up and offered to bring us ponchos and disappeared. 10 minutes later  this goddess of mercy came back with the ponchos and handed me a flat packet with two inside. And just like were instructed to do on the aircraft, I helped my husband on with his poncho before putting mine on.  Oh no, it’s the opposite, right?

Now Annie and I were taking selfies to text to the sound mixing area which we could see was tented with a poncho or clear tarp under which Phil had a flashlight and was mixing the show. Which, miraculously, was proceeding apace. Those poor  wet actors. To their credit, they used this event to unify the audience so that by the final number, “Let the Sunshine In!” we were all singing at the tops of our lungs. The audience filed out of the bowl, chatting amiably with each other, in love with the performers, each other, the rain.

It was the best time I’ve had at the Hollywood Bowl in years.  After the show, we waited for a lot of the people to leave and then we made our way back to the car.  Kevin was waiting and pulled the car around right to us. I gave him 20 bucks. And that, I think, was our last trip to the Hollywood bowl.