House Tag

So far I’ve spent my sec­ond day of fur­lough catch­ing up on var­i­ous items around the house. I need to get back into the habit of writ­ing here a bit more fre­quent­ly. I keep think­ing of things that are worth post­ing, but nev­er actu­al­ly sit­ting down to do so.

A bunch of exte­ri­or work is being done on my home right now.

  • Chim­ney caps, tuck-point­ing and new flash­ing;
  • Rot­ten sid­ing replace­ment;
  • Glass block win­dows added to the base­ment;
  • Gut­ter repair; and
  • Some patch­es to the foun­da­tion.

Our reg­u­lar guy doesn’t do exte­ri­or work, so I had to track some­one else down. Since you can find any­thing on Craigslist, I put up an ad. I got a bunch of respons­es, with the usu­al range of gram­mat­i­cal errors and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. I respond­ed to a few of the like­li­est and only heard back from one.

The guy came out to take a look at things, with two of his bud­dies. They were all wear­ing ragged and torn clothes, and one of the guys was more inter­est­ed in eat­ing as many peach­es as he could from my tree. Main dude said he’d get back to me with an esti­mate with­in three days. He kept try­ing to get me to tell him how much I’d be will­ing to pay, which is a huge red flag. Ten days lat­er, after one unan­nounced return trip and fur­ther phone calls where he kept try­ing to find out how much I want­ed to spend and kept try­ing to give me prices piece-meal, he final­ly emailed me his esti­mate. This esti­mate only cov­ered the cost of mate­ri­als for one of the items on the above list. Need­less to say he didn’t get the job.

Mean­while, I received a response from a gal around my age who just moved from Port­land, OR. She came out, took a look at things, some mea­sure­ments and pho­tos, and got me an esti­mate with­in a cou­ple of days. She’s done his­tor­i­cal restora­tion work and has the nec­es­sary tools to get the job done. My chim­neys are repaired and the foun­da­tion patched, the glass block has been ordered and from what I’ve seen so far, she works both effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly.

Inside I’ve been paint­ing the new doors we got a cou­ple of months ago and touch­ing-up var­i­ous Bram-smears.

My ten­ant upstairs is mov­ing out this month. This means I’ll be out the sup­ple­men­tary $450/month that was quite a help. Thank­ful­ly Debbie’s now a full-time teacher, so her addi­tion­al income will help off­set that. Her broth­er might move in upstairs and just pay for util­i­ties, and I plan on work­ing with him to tear off the wall­pa­per and do a lit­tle bit more ren­o­va­tion up there as well. Once it is paint­ed, the elec­tri­cal is upgrad­ed and there’s new car­pet, I’ll prob­a­bly be able to get at least anoth­er $50/month on the rental price. It’s a 2 bed­room, so $500 is a pret­ty good price, I think. I could prob­a­bly do bet­ter than that if the bath­room wasn’t the size of a mouse turd.

Speak­ing of which, I’ve killed 4 in the last 24 hours.

Second Arson & Neighborhood Still Good

While I was watch­ing the Celtics/Bulls game, some­one set fire to the aban­doned build­ing just cater­corner from me on Holm­den Court (the alley behind my house). Either the fire start­ed back up around 3am or the arson­ist came back to fin­ish the job because the street was clogged with fire trucks. This is the sec­ond arson less than a block from me in two months, and the fifth (that I know of) with­in half a square mile from me in the last 2 years.

These last two were both “aban­doned” hous­es with squat­ters in them. Rumor has it that the bank who owned the house behind me (which was slat­ed for demo­li­tion) had the house set aflame so they could recoup as much from the prop­er­ty as pos­si­ble. Rumor also holds that some kids set the fire, or, less like­ly, some­one set fire to keep warm.

The house had been aban­doned since I moved into the neigh­bor­hood and over the course of two years it was peeled like an onion and pit­ted like an avo­ca­do. By the time whomev­er set fire to the place set fire to the place, all that was left inside the struc­ture was some crazy-look­ing linoleum.

Now, there are quite a few seri­ous prob­lems that are touched on direct­ly or tan­gen­tial­ly in this post:

  • Habit­u­al Arson
  • Fore­closed Homes
  • Squat­ters
  • Folks steal­ing sid­ing, wiring and any­thing of val­ue from aban­doned prop­er­ties
  • Crazy Linoleum

and one very good thing. Thank you Cleve­land Fire Depart­ment, you guys are great.

While the arsons are trou­bling, there is much that is great on my street and in my neigh­bor­hood. I have new neigh­bors who are ren­o­vat­ing the home next door to me, and the chil­dren who appear to own the house cater­corner from me on Holm­den Avenue are fix­ing the place up quite nice­ly.

The new Buhrer Ele­men­tary school one block away is near­ing com­ple­tion, and I just found out, will be remain­ing a Dual Lan­guage School. Now if only Deb­bie could get a job as an art teacher there, all would be set. How­ev­er, find­ing an open posi­tion in the CMSD isn’t the eas­i­est.

Two Days

The last cou­ple of days have been great. Good weath­er after a seem­ing­ly end­less win­ter does that, I guess. Fri­day I got to work from home for the major­i­ty of the day since we were shoot­ing a video for the Sol­id Waste Dis­trict about the prop­er ways to dis­pose of latex paint. The night before, my new neigh­bor need­ed to bor­row some elec­tric­i­ty and end­ed up giv­ing me a whole bunch of ancient paint to use for the PSA. The labels on the cans are pret­ty cool:

Ancient Paint Cans with Cool Labels

The shoot went well and I end­ed up hav­ing to bust ass back to work in order to give a pre­sen­ta­tion to a bunch of folks about using our Con­tent Man­age­ment Sys­tem. Slept with the heat off and the win­dow open for the first time in sev­en months.

This morn­ing Abra­ham woke us up at 6:30 and after he’d had a bit to drink we watched the sun­rise and learned about out­side. He loves touch­ing trees and look­ing at how huge they are. He doesn’t like grass; it is too prick­ly.

I spent most of the day shirt­less in the back­yard. I tore up a cou­ple of peach trees using my bare hands:

Peach Trees I uprooted with my bare hands.

I also cleaned out the shed, turned the soil over my tiny gar­den, and got every­thing plant­ed. The all-toma­toes-all-the-time patch last sum­mer has been reduced to two plants. The rest of the space is occu­pied by a bell pep­per, basil, chives, oregano and cilantro.

My garden

I had beans & rice for din­ner on the porch, and after the lit­tle guy goes down for the night, I’m going to eat some choco­late-peanut-but­ter ice cream on the porch.

My porch still needs a rail-mount­ed beer-bot­tle open­er. Speak­ing of that, here’s a list of oth­er things that I need to do around the house (in no par­tic­u­lar order):

  • Remod­el Kitchen
  • Till & resow back­yard
  • Dig up one more peach tree and replace it with some­thing that will pro­vide shade
  • Replace rot­ten sid­ing
  • New gut­ters
  • Paint the exte­ri­or of the house
  • Fin­ish bath­room
  • Get cov­ers on roof & chim­ney & get the flash­ing checked out.
  • Fix base­ment plumb­ing
  • Get a cov­er for the AC & get it hooked back up to the fur­nace.
  • Get new screen doors
  • Refin­ish front door
  • Bring wiring up to code
  • New win­dows
  • Doors rehung

Refinancing… or Not

A month or so ago I stopped into the down­town Fifth Third to inquire about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of refi­nanc­ing my mort­gage. Now that rates have dropped I fig­ured it was a good time to test the waters. I was told that I’d have to pay into the mort­gage a bit more before I was eli­gi­ble, but that I’d get a call when it was time. A few weeks lat­er I get a call from a Fifth Third branch office about com­ing in to refi­nance my mort­gage. The per­son who called me proved impos­si­ble to meet with. We played phone tag for a bit, and when I final­ly sched­uled an appoint­ment, I showed up to dis­cov­er that she’d just sat down with some­one else, and could I please come back in an hour or so.

I end­ed up sched­ul­ing an appoint­ment with a fel­low down­town and met with him the oth­er day to final­ly talk about refi­nanc­ing. Turns out it is a $350 appli­ca­tion fee crap shoot. With the way hous­ing prices have tum­bled in Cleve­land, it could cost me sev­er­al thou­sand dol­lars, up front, to refi­nance. My house could be worth 20% less than what I paid for it. Zil­low esti­mates that my house is worth $7k less than what I paid for it, which would mean I would need to pay 5 or 6 grand to refi­nance to a low­er rate.

The upside to this is that it will take me a bit to save up that kind of cash, and in that time, rates might fall even fur­ther. The new mort­gage will like­ly have mort­gage insur­ance though, so fig­ur­ing out how much mon­ey I’m real­ly going to save in the long run is going to be quite com­pli­cat­ed.


With all of the stuff I’ve been up to late­ly, doing a bit of writ­ing has fall­en by the way­side. Work on the house is still incom­plete, but has slowed down because what remains isn’t crit­i­cal quite yet. Once all of the paint­ing is com­plete, and I’ve man­aged to get all of the doors rehung, there will be pic­tures.

I’ve gone to see The Dark Knight, which was the first time since Abra­ham graced us with his pres­ence that Deb­bie and I man­aged to get out alone. I went to the zoo, where the boy and I became an exhib­it to all of the women around when Deb­bie went to the restroom. I went to Whiskey Island on Fri­day after­noon for a pic­nic, took a walk by myself to get some alone time with nature, watched swal­low bug-catch­ing, a swal­low-heck­ling ori­ole, and played with a ground­hog for a lit­tle while.

Last Mon­day my office was one of the three Coun­ty offices raid­ed by the FBI and IRS-CID as a part of their inves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion by Coun­ty offi­cials. Appar­ent­ly they came over the inter­com and told folks to go to the can­teen [which is what every­where else is called a lunch room]. The design room keeps the over­head speak­er turned off because we’d rather not lis­ten to the best in soft rock from the 80s, 90s and now, so I didn’t hear the announce­ment. I hap­pened to be both on my com­put­er and on the phone, both no-nos, when the FBI knocked on the door. I’d already man­aged to tell Deb­bie every­thing she need­ed to know to get the scan­ner at home work­ing though, so it was no big deal.

I went to the can­teen, where every­one else was, and filled out a sheet that asked for basic infor­ma­tion and job duties, and then got to take the rest of the day off.

Abraham's TreeWhen my mom rolled up here for the 4th of July, we plant­ed a tree for Abra­ham. I had a tree plant­ed for me when I was born as well. I even wrote about it for Young Authors, so you can read that here. Although that pic­ture is from a month ago, Abra­ham is already much big­ger, I’d say near 12 pounds. He’s start­ed smil­ing and chuck­ling a lit­tle, and I can actu­al­ly sort of play with him now. The only rough part is that when I’m at work he’s in his best mood, so when I come home I get to inter­act with him for the part of the day when he’s at his worst. It gets frus­trat­ing at times.

I got sea­son tick­ets to the Notre Dame foot­ball games this year, blessed be my mono­gram. I don’t know that I’ll be able to get to more than one of them, how­ev­er.

The weath­er has been won­der­ful, and today looks as if it will con­tin­ue that pat­tern. Din­ner is a dai­ly choice between eat­ing on the porch or watch­ing some old school Mup­pet Show episodes. I recent­ly dis­cov­ered that I can get Mr. Wiz­ard on DVD as well. Abraham’s going to talk to folks at school about these crazy shows that aren’t on TV any­more and no-one is going to know what he’s talk­ing about except his teach­ers.

I haven’t been to a rock and roll show in for­ev­er. It hurts.

Home Updates

Although I’ve tak­en the last two weeks off of work to spend time with Abra­ham, I’ve also been doing [and hav­ing done] a lot of work on the house. I’ve been work­ing on the room that you enter from the front door. For lack of a bet­ter term, I call it the par­lor. Here are some pho­tos:
Parlor Painted.
Parlor Painted

I paint­ed, put down quar­ter-round, replaced a pane in the doors to the bed­room, and paint­ed those too. The plas­ter need­ed some seri­ous patch­ing but that was done awhile ago. I’m hav­ing quite a bit of con­tract­ed work done on the bath­room and get­ting a clos­et expand­ed. One of the small rooms is dis­ap­pear­ing to make this hap­pen, but it is cer­tain­ly worth it. Dur­ing this process we’ve found some paint­ed-over hand-made fix­ture gems. Here are some hinges:
Stripped of their paint [and orig­i­nal black enam­el, unfor­tu­nate­ly]:
Stripped Hinges
And restored [thanks to Rus­toleum]:
Restored Hinges
The win­dow sash­es have sim­i­lar paint-encrust­ed met­al­work, and I’m still work­ing on restor­ing the orig­i­nal door­bell [you can see the paint-encrust­ed ver­sion and the emp­ty spot in the pho­tos above]. The door itself is prob­a­bly going to take a week or two of work itself. I’m not look­ing for­ward on the con­stant remov­ing and rehang­ing of it.

There will be pic­tures of the bath­room and clos­et when they are fin­ished.

Rationed Space

I’ve lived in this house for almost a year and I’m still not moved in. The work on fix­ing the place up con­tin­ues, and tomor­row the embiggen­ing of the bath­room and clos­et [to the dearth of the tini­est bed­room] begins. Since we’re in the process of paint­ing the entry room, this means that 4 of the rooms can’t have any­thing in them right now. It will be 5 if we don’t man­age to com­plete the paint­ing and quar­ter-round­ing of the entry room by the time the big room by the kitchen is ready to have the floor­ing put down.

We’re pret­ty stressed and cramped, liv­ing in two rooms with the floors cov­ered in crap from the oth­er rooms, and the kitchen. We’ll have to go upstairs for most of the bath­room needs. Plus, an immi­nent emi­nent like a thief in the night baby on the way. Com­pared to the hec­tac­u­lar hec­tic­ness of our cur­rent lives, being set­tled in with a fin­ished house and a fin­ished baby seems pos­i­tive­ly cro­mu­lent.