Differences

Mar. 1st, 2015 01:31 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I really can't get over some of the differences between Sour Milk House and the Villa Maria house.

-No lawn to mow (too much lawn to mow)
-Wonderful natural lighting (dark and shadowy, but somehow headlights would still shine across my bedroom unless I was strategic about the curtains)
-Quiet (on a busy street with lots of emergency vehicles going by)
-Walkable (almost 100% unwalkable; unpleasant to walk to the only walkable destinations)
-Cleanable lathe-and-plaster walls, hardwood floors (industrial carpeting; old paint that couldn't be cleaned)
-Good neighbors (frat boys and extremely sketchy neighbors)
-Large cast-iron bathtub (terrible handicap shower)
-Window above the kitchen sink (dark kitchen with zero natural lighting)

There are a couple of good similarities:
-Clothesline space
-Room for a small vegetable garden

Last night's News from Lake Wobegon featured a story about a character whose husband suddenly died and who found prospective comfort in the form of some dude from Texas, who showed up in Lake Wobegon and managed to alienate everybody in town in the span of sixty seconds. Those stories are supposed to have an element of caricature to them, but this time the story seemed painfully accurate, reinforcing my sense that I could never go native in Texas.

People in Lincoln seem to universally like living here, and seem satisfied with life here. A percentage of the people in B/CS had that sentiment, but a substantial percentage did not, and was vocal about it.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So, there's one bike shop in town that runs year-round rides. Everybody else packs up for the winter, and you know, I can't blame them. So I rode down to that one shop (Joyride Bicycles) last night to see what this winter Chit-Chat ride is all about.

Firstly. People here are super-proud of Lincoln's in-town trail system, and they're right to be proud. I rode five miles to the shop on a bike path that had wonderful bridge crossings over and under the major roadways. If I hadn't been concerned about making it to the ride on time, I would have paused to photograph some of the sights, like a schoolbus with the top part of a Volkswagen bus on top of it. Riding along the bike path just made me grin.

It sounds like a lot of people out here do what they call "gravel rides," which are basically rides out in the countryside on dirt roads. Four other brave souls showed up for this Monday chit-chat ride, and we set out just as the sun was setting. I should have realized that that would make things get even more COLD, but I wasn't paying careful attention at the beginning. Lesson learned. Vividly. There were some decent hills on the 20-mile loop we rode, and things got a bit dicey for me between the cold and realizing that the granola bar I ate before the ride wasn't providing a sufficient amount of fuel. As soon as we got back to the shop, I purchased and downed another granola bar, a Clif bar, and a Budweiser that one of the other riders bought. Normally I won't touch the stuff, but calories are calories, and I felt WAY better after working my way back out of that bonk. It was embarrassing to show up as a newbie and then bonk like that, although the other riders were extremely gracious about it.

The riders were great. First of all, each person was on a different style of bike, from the 29er to a cross bike to a road bike to me on the Jolly Roger. Second, they were gracious about me being a slowpoke - at different points, two of the different riders hung back and talked at me as I worked my way up the hills. It was so nice to be able to just show up and feel welcome like that. One of the two, a woman, J, regaled me with all kinds of hilarious and interesting stories about her bicycling adventures. She was also the best about giving me more details on other rides that will start up as the weather warms up, including an all-women ride called the Gravel Girls, and a Tuesday night taco-and-beer ride. People who speak my language! She also knows the low-down on other long-distance events happening across Nebraska, and wants to do a century ride every month, so I think I may have a riding buddy already. That was fast. It sounds like she's had a lot of riding experiences like mine - she's often the only woman who shows up for the Monday ride and is the slowpoke chasing after the guys, who are all, "ATTACK THE HILLS!!" and then she rides with the Gravel Girls and the ride is more, "How are you doing? I'm doing all right. How are you doing? We're doing well!" Basically the same sports-psychology I've seen played out over and over again across rowing and bicycling settings.

I don't know if I'll make it back for the ride next Monday. My sinuses got really unhappy after I got home last night, which suggests that the cold weather may have pushed the limits of my immune system. I also need to figure out and get better gloves. My fifteen-year-old Pearl Izumi gloves have been sufficient, so far, for the 1.5-mile ride in to campus, but they're inadequate for 2-plus hours of riding around in the dark in the wintertime. If I can get these factors sorted out, I'll try and go back again soon.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

WELL. I am relieved that's finished. Instead of going to the bike co-op or the meeting of the trails stewards, I bleached the back entry and bathroom. I had two more direct hits, in predictable places (back of storage closet and back of cupboard in the back entry). I think I'll heed the former occupant's advice to not store anything in either space. I think I'll also leave both sets of doors wide open. If I owned the place I'd be tempted to remove the doors entirely. But then again, if I owned the place the back entry would be experiencing much more extensive renovations.

Sweeping the front bedroom yielded more Lego than the furnace intake-they were trapped under some molding.

Unsurprisingly, there are also signs of previously treated mildew in the bathroom, too.

It will be nice to be able to put things in places and leave them there for at least a brief while.

Tomorrow will be the real test, when I get home. The current air quality is such that I don't smell anything while I am in the house anymore. If the sour milk smell persists, I am going to have to retain high levels of vigilance for repeated mildew outbreaks.

rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
No gas leaks last night, and I was able to cook myself a simple birthday dinner of macaroni and cheese from a box, with sauteed carrots, peas, mushrooms, and onions. Oh, and a dab of the delicious jalapeno sauce my mom sent me for my birthday (thanks again, Mom!). I bought some random brand of chipotle salsa from the grocery co-op that was labeled as "hot," but forgot that midwesterners have zero heat tolerance, so the salsa is all smoke and no fire. I sent an emergency message to my friend J to Please Send Halp in the form of peppery goodness, but it will take a little while for him to get a package assembled. I happen to know he has a good collection of dried jalapenos and serranos, plus some really good Korean hot pepper flakes.

Anyway. It also felt good to be back in an office yesterday, working on manuscript revisions. Too much sitting at home makes me anxious. I took the day off from the bleaching project, too.

For those who might want to see a photo tour of the place, plus a handful of photos from the trip up here, click on the photo below.

Side door

I think I'm going to wind up leaving the stuff that's in the storage pod, in the storage pod. It was entertaining to go through and decorate the living room in an extremely minimalist fashion after I finished bleaching it. Even with the minimalist furnishings, it's a comfortable and pleasant space, and I think it will be useful to have the space once I finish the cat test-quilt and start in on the larger quilt.

People keep asking me about what I'm sleeping on. It's one of these roll-up futon mattresses. While it seems like it's on the thin side, it has been incredibly comfortable. I might eventually put a tatami mat underneath it, but I haven't gotten that far in my shopping yet. Using my sleeping bag as a comforter is giving me motivation to finish the quilt. I found the coffee table propped up out back behind the building, so I'm assuming it's free for the taking.

I need to write some stuff about the book I'm reading and about sourdough sometime soon.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Well. I'm in a coffeeshop with wifi and can type on my computer again.

So here's what I learned from the former occupant. She and her family had lived in the apartment unit for a total of five years. In the last year, the ceiling collapsed in the small front bedroom because of water leaking in off of the second-floor balcony. Apparently the landlord took months to even start dealing with the problem. He installed an awning over the second-floor balcony, which now diverts water away from the front bedroom.

In the meantime, she said they also started experiencing leaks in the main bedroom, and in a back closet off the rear porch. She said she wouldn't store anything in that closet if she were me. Advice I'll heed - a benefit of not having all that much stuff. She also said the rent got raised by $200 between the time she moved out and the time I moved in, but I'm not overly surprised - it is a reasonable rate for a two-bedroom unit in that neighborhood. But not a two-bedroom unit with ongoing issues.

My friend DM and her husband moved into a top-story apartment in Washington DC that was exceptionally cheap because of ongoing issues with a leaking roof. I don't remember the details of apartment ownership for their place, but in the time they have lived there the owners managed to scrape together the funds to do a full roof replacement. Still, their hallway smells similarly dank, and they observed some interesting changes to the structural integrity of their walls. And their rent was pretty cheap as a compromise.

There's a big part of me that still wants to make the space work. I spent a bit more time chatting with the next-door neighbors last night, who are also planning on staying until the end of July, and they seem like great neighbors. The guy who lives on the top floor (the only other occupant at the moment) is the brother of the woman who used to live in my unit, and the woman who lived in my unit sounded sincerely regretful of the need to move out. She said her husband's best friend used to live in the apartment next door where the three women now live. That was part of the overall attraction of the place to me - some nearby neighbors, for safety's sake, but not a huge and anonymous apartment building.

The back-alley neighbor is a gem. I introduced myself to her while trying to get the moving truck unstuck in order to ask if she had anything that might help. She didn't, but invited me over for tea, and said she'd been living in her apartment for somewhere around 20 years. It's reassuring to know of a long-term neighbor. She was also friends with my unit's former occupant.

I just wish the landlord were straightforward. The upstairs neighbor gave me a working key to my apartment, after I had asked the manager about whether they had changed locks between occupants. The maintenance man went ahead and changed the locks yesterday, but that's a backwards method of addressing the concern.

After yesterday's bleaching, I can't seem to smell the bleach anymore, but I could still smell the faint gas odor and the lingering rotten-milk mildew smell. Given that the issues stem from ceiling problems, I don't know how successful I'll be at reducing the mildew smell.

I also have this feeling that my first month's electrical bill is going to be insane. The stove is the only gas appliance - the heat's electric. Once I've finished bleaching the front bedroom, I think I'll close it off until spring.

Rage

Feb. 10th, 2015 08:46 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

So. Just as things were starting to seem civilized. The gas guy turned on the gas so I could cook. Two hours later the smell of gas was strong enough that the girls next door called 911 and we had to evacuate (only faint smells in my unit). In the midst of the whole ordeal, I wound up meeting the former occupant of my unit, who had lived here for five years until the health problems associated with leaks and mildew caused her to leave.

I feel somewhat like a fool for renting here, but how could I have really known without having insisted on meeting other building tenants in advance. The former tenant did think I'd be fine for the six months I'm here and spoke fondly of her memories of the place.

rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

The gas man was supposed to come by this morning,  but a few minutes before the end of the scheduled time window the gas company called to say he'd been delayed by a gas leak. So I'm still at home. At least the maintenance man has been by to fix the kitchen light switch and re-key the front and back doors, so the place is becoming more civilized. I also got through bleaching another room, so there are just three rooms to go and they're smaller ones at that. The bleaching is hard work, but this place will be _clean_ when I'm finished.

The only downside is that I'm concluding that much of the lingering mildew smell is in the HVAC system and I forgot to ask the maintenance man about the location of the furnace intake so as to find out about installing an allergen-removing filter. One thing at a time, I suppose.

I was hoping to set up home internet by tethering my computer to the sab-n-dab, but apparently my sim card won't allow it. The data speed here also makes me think I might have to find a different carrier if I want to pursue this option. On the other hand, phone-only internet might be adequate for the long run, once I am going in to work on a regular basis.

So much mental clutter, really.  Don't ask me about shopping lists right now.

I'm still making many a mental comparison between the move-in here versus the move-in in Texas. I am sure that Texas has prepared me in many ways for the whole experience of moving to a city where I know almost no one, but there are still some important contrasts. For one thing, I don't feel trapped in this house in the way I felt trapped at Villa Maria when living there by myself. The neighbor across the street has already introduced herself and invited me over for tea (reminiscent of my most awesome neighbor ever in AZ, though this one has just 2 cats). I've met two of the residents here, so far, and suspect I would have no problem getting a cat-sitter, if necessary.

As with the Villa Maria house, this apartment is pretty large for just me by myself (especially with most stuff still in the pod). But it doesn't feel like the sad dwelling of a schizophrenic. Instead it feels like I am just going for some sort of spare modernist aesthetic. I am concluding that I like living with less stuff, altogether, although I miss a few things from the pod, like the toaster oven.

Bleachy II

Feb. 9th, 2015 06:25 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

Yesterday's stuck-truck saga put me behind schedule on moving projects, so I wound up taking today off to continue. The gas man is coming tomorrow, so I had cold breakfast and no coffee. But at least, unlike Villa Maria, the electricity is on. Nothing like a little perspective sometimes, eh?

Firsr I biked over to Target, as it seems like the most appropriate place to acquire household goods in the Midwest.  I'd been thinking about getting one of those futon couches, but decided to postpone that purchase for now. Instead, I spent all my birthday money on an air filter. I woke up this morning with mildew fumes lingering and a nasty taste in the back of my mouth. Seemed pricey for a pair of filters and a fan, but it's definitely helping with air quality in the little bedroom.

In the early afternoon, I bleached the walls of the living room and mentally empathized with obsessive-compulsive people. That's two rooms down, five to go, if hallways all count as a room.

This place has some beautiful elements, although it hasn't aged completely gracefully.  I could live pretty contentedly in just half of the total space (I don't have anything in the living room or big bedroom at the moment), but it seems like a genteel sort of place, which distinguishes it greatly from the poor, dumpy, stuffy Villa Maria house, which was never that great to begin with.

This place also has a luxurious cast-iron bathtub.

I just hope the pesticide and mildew issues work out. One room at a time. And boy am I glad to have only pared-down belongings during this period while I'm shuffling between the rooms.

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