Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tea and Thorazine

The new Andrew Bird album Noble Beast is out, and it does not disappoint. To listen to the first track go here:

Noble Beast

I first started listening to Mr. Bird when I moved to Ithaca and there was a swing dance revival that busted out all over the place. He was playing with the Squirrel Nut Zippers then, and I totally dug his righteous fiddlin’ and sweet wistlin.’ Years later, he went solo with his own band, Bowl of Fire. Now he is just Andrew Bird. He is still righteous.

The following is an online quote that I remember reading about one of Mr. Bird’s more fascinating songs, Tea and Thorazine (on the album Oh, The Grandeur!):

Tea and Thorazine sets the mood for the rest of the album which tends to stray from the vigor of "Candy Shop" and delve deeper into Andrew Bird's dark world of the mentally disturbed. The tune is slow, with eerie fiddle sounds to set the tone of a horrific mental institution. In the liner notes, the usually private Bird gives some insight into his inspiration- his brother is Autistic and spent some time in an institution where he got his art supplies taken away by some bad doctors.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fried Chicken Livers

Edgemont house is not to be mine. Fannie Mae came down some, I went up some, then we both sort of dug in our heels. No regrets. Moving on. Am putting the house buying on hold for a couple of months so that I can recover from the initial shock of almost owning a house. Plus, class starts tomorrow evening and I need to concentrate on that right now.

Today officially starts day three of a week-long vegetarian experiment that I have embarked upon. This all started when Kansas Slim’s brother told him about giving up meat for two weeks. Slim decided to follow suit. This was announced on the same night that I arrived on Slim’s doorstep with two rib eye steaks (no, it was not the sight of the steaks that reminded him of his brother’s endeavors)…I didn’t do the best job cooking those steaks that night, probably because I was feeling so much carnivorous pressure from the thoughts of possibly showing friendly support of Slim by giving up meat myself. I mean really, why let a friend face that kind of pressure all by themselves? I am aware of how difficult it is to give up something that you enjoy. I have tried a couple of grand gestures of Lenton surrenderings, and have failed miserably. Like the one time, in Ithica, when I gave up armpit shaving because lots of the young women who lived there were carefree and happily harry-pitted. It looked natural and low-maintenance, so I gave it a go. Even now, eleven years later, I still wake at night, bathed in a cold sweat, having relived in my nightmares the horrors of that week and a half I went sans Daisy shaver…make no mistake, I shave my pits religiously now.

But we’re talking meat, not armpit shaving. See, I also tried giving up meat once. It was back in 2004, and I was working at the horticulture school in Golden, CO at the time, and I intended to give up meat for a whole month. After about two weeks, I ended up giving up the giving up of the meat because I was doing manual labor and had zero energy with which to pick ax and shovel, and I felt it was all due to my dietary change. I just couldn’t do it…

So, I decided that since I am not doing much manual labor these days, I might be able to swing a week of vegetarianism this time. Yesterday, Slim and I went through some cookbooks, and talked about the meatless dishes that we already enjoyed on a regular basis. Then we decided on a menu for the week, loaded up our cloth bags and headed to Wal-Mart to purchase what foods we would need in order to have an herbivore’s chance in hell. The following is the list of contenders, some of which we went ahead and made last night to store up in the fridge:

Broccoli Salad-pictured above.
Pita Salad-bagged salad w/ feta and Kraft Zesty Italian dressing.
Black Bean Tacos w/ Salsa
Falafel Burgers-tofu is the main ingredient.
Indian Curried Potato Wrap

I have high hopes this time. I have yet to be hungry, and may actually be eating a bit more in order to offset the psychological stress of knowing that I am purposefully avoiding meat. I woke up craving fried chicken livers this morning though…they’ll have to wait until Friday…

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wanted: A Place To Hang My Hat

So, with the world’s smallest homebuying budget (pre-approved for an amount that is within my terribly realistic and below-poverty-level, but with good credit, means), I began about three weeks ago looking in earnest to purchase a home. After having to shell out what seemed to be millions of dollars in rent in my past life, I felt that I should put my money to work for me by buying instead of renting. I came to this conclusion after having compared the average cost of a single-family home here in Gadsden to Denver. In Denver, a single-family home of approximately 1200 square feet starts at around $275,000. Here in Gadsden, AL, a single-family home of the same size can start at $85,000, or even less. Why would I pay rent if I could build equity?

My first intent was to find something old and bungalow-ish (my favorite type of home), in the downtown area, something near the Catoes, Johnson’s Food and the liberry. I had a bitterly disappointing start with the old Greenwood home on Newton and Turrentine. From the outside, the Greenwood home looks charming and well-built. Once inside, it becomes evident that it is a first-time homebuyer’s nightmare. Too much work, work that would include things like ripping up asbestos tile in the kitchen, taking out an entire house of old wallpaper, replacing the roof that has been leaking so much that the back bathroom’s floor has buckled (meaning some interesting structural damage), replacing what appears to be the very first prototype of a modern central A/C unit, painting the entire inside and out (work that I am not opposed to, as I enjoy painting, but the outside shingles were also made of asbestos), tearing down the barely-standing “garage” that is full of black mold…etc, etc, ad nauseum. My realtor, Judy Hamil of Bone Realty, was very forthcoming when she warned me that I would probably have a difficult time finding something in the downtown area to suit my needs; if I could afford it (did I mention that I have the world’s smallest homebuying budget but pretty high old-school standards?), it would need significant work, which translates to significant money…if I could afford it and it didn’t need work, it would probably not be in a safe area…how sad to hear those words uttered out loud. I had been afraid of that being the case, but hadn’t really wanted to hear that it was, in fact, true.

So, I begged Judy to not knock herself out scouring her listings for me, especially considering my budget, that I would do the research and make a list of homes that I was interested in seeing by myself. With the help of Kansas Slim, we found a couple of places in the downtown area, and one really intriguing foreclosure in Alabama City. Now, Alabama City is my second area choice for living in Gadsden. I love the history of that area and I love the old Mill Village construction of the homes. Looking at the listing of this particular house in Alabama City, I couldn’t determine where it was located. There was not an address, and I didn’t recognize the house (when I first moved back to Gadsden, I was determined to find something in The Village, as I loved the idea of living close to the rodeo grounds, the old Victorian mill supervisor’s homes and, most importantly, Big Lots…so I drove around that area a lot back then). I assumed that the house was in an area that I was not interested in living…you know…Deliverance country...up near Hinds Road (cue banjo music)? But, after putting his super-power reporting skills to work, Eric discovered the address to said home, and we went up to investigate…and am very glad that we did. After first being confused at the orientation of the home (the road runs along the back-side of the homes on that street because the old road ran on the other side of the ravine), we saw enough of the place to know that it was on the list of homes to see with Judy. As a matter of fact, it moved to the top of the list of homes to see with Judy.

Last week, Judy met me at the little craftsman bungalow in the Mill Village. Kansas Slim was there to witness. Sadly, and happily, the Village house ruined me for all other houses. Please see photos on Eric’s and my Flickr sites:

Judy showed me three more places within my price range in the downtown area after having shown me the Village bungalow, and I couldn’t help but compare them and notice that nothing was built as beautifully as the Village bungalow. I made the list of pros and cons…I had Eric, my dad and Kris go through it again with me to make sure that my eyes were seeing what I thought they were seeing…and I made an offer Friday evening. I am now waiting for word. There are lots of things that I’ve left out of this blog about the house, about my homebuying research, about my four mortgage pre-approvals (had to get the best fit for me), about deciding on which home inspector I would use in the event that my offer was eventually accepted, about my lists…lists of pros and cons, room-by-room prioritized lists of things that need to be done, frightening lists of financial things (earnest money, closing costs, pre-paids, on and on)…I wouldn’t want to bore you all. But I’m sure that if I get this house, it will all come out in the end, because I can’t talk about anything else. All I am capable of talking about right now is THE HOUSE. Which makes me impossible to be around. The Catoes have told me that it’s okay, that it’s normal, and that all of my friends have been through something like it before, and that everyone will understand (THEY-the Catoes-are especially understanding…right now the they are redoing their entire kitchen, this after less than a year of living at The Parsonage). My, oh my, but when it rains, it pours.

So, everyone please wish me luck, pray for me, light a candle for me, or do whatever it is you do. I know that it’s gonna be what it will be. It may be my time to own a house, it may not. We’ll see. I’m certainly getting an education in the meantime. I’ll keep you posted. And keep the Catoes in mind during the kitchen redo. I am looking forward to future parties in that new kitchen.

Reading: Amy Sedaris’ Hospitality Under the Influence (because she is my entertaining guru) and Harry Potter’s School Books by J.K. Rowling (a Christmas gift from the Robinsons).
Listening To: My own random thoughts about THE HOUSE.