Archive for May, 2009

Walking West

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

After providing Denise with blog assistance for the past month or so, I figured it was time to become a full-fledged contributor. As Denise has mentioned previously, I’m a New York native, but I’m very enthusiastic about our move to San Francisco. I’ve been lucky enough to discover SF’s gorgeous landscape & quirky charms during prior trips, and it’s a nice feeling to be able to trade one world-renowned cosmopolitan city for another.

One of the many things I’m looking forward to in SF is to discover it for the first time as a walking city. To me, one of the sublime & largely unwritten merits of NYC is the ease of walking through the many diverse neighborhoods of the city, and being able to perpetually make new discoveries along the way. It just seems that many times, history & local color are more internalized by walking through the boroughs, rather than passively reflecting out the car window (though that does have its benefits, as well). There’s a unique feeling, strange & warm all at once — when you’re able to see something unusual or discover a new route, alley or landmark you’ve never seen before, and it’s very early in the morning, and you feel like the only person for miles who’s been lucky enough to see this revelation, even though you’re in the middle of a city with over 8 million people.

SF certainly has a reputation for being one of the great walking cities of the world, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage. I’m grateful to have a partner who’s supportive of these endeavors. She’s even gone as far as to procure a SF Biking Map for my benefit, even though I’m not much of a cyclist. This map not only gives a nice, comprehensive overview of the city, but also displays the grades of SF’s famous steep hills. So, not only will we be involved in the adventure of driving cross-country & fixing up an old house, but I’ll be discovering SF’s rich history & varied, colorful neighborhoods, one block at a time.

a treasure map, of sorts

a treasure map, of sorts

the curse of Frederick Walton

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Today, while Mike and I were packing a few boxes, my Pops was chipping away at the linoleum problem in San Francisco. Much like wallpaper, it seems my grandparents had a strong penchant for linoleum. While other people can’t resist the warmth of wood, or the durability of tile, my grandfather became enamored with this almost magical invention of Frederick Walton. He even used it to protect the perimeter of his wood floors that he laid carpet on top of.

Unfortunately, much like wallpaper, removing linoleum is a challenging enterprise. Mad has decided to expose the original wood floors throughout the house (most likely douglas fir). Therefore, Denise’s Pops is working diligently on sanding and staining the floors in the living, dining, and bedrooms before we arrive. So while my pops is removing the linoleum “borders” that my grandfather laid in three rooms of the house, the members of mad will be addressing the rest.

We know your thoughts are with us.

samples of the linoleum found throughout the house

samples of the linoleum found throughout the house

The route is set

Friday, May 29th, 2009

In addition to packing up our apartment here in Queens and preparing to move into and fix up the new place in San Francisco, Mike and I have a cross-country trip to prepare for. Because we have two cars (and two cats), it’s much cheaper (and more adventurous) to drive one of those cars across this great country of ours.

When I embarked on a similar journey with Pops almost five years ago, we initially thought we would pick our lodgings based on when we were tired of driving. That lasted one night. Pops and I were in Ely, Nevada. We were tired, and I was on the verge of losing it. That first day, the cats spent most of it trying to jump ship and it had been a long day. Ely, Nevada, despite a plethora of motels, was not welcoming. There were no rooms at the Best Western, the Motel 6, the Super 8, the Hilton, or any of the other chain-brand motels in town. So Pops, me, and the two cats stayed at the El Rancho Motel. The only thing memorable about the El Rancho Motel is that it was the cheapest motel I’ve ever stayed in ($39 for the night). After that, Pops made sure to plot our course (one that allowed me to take in Mount Rushmore) and made reservations the rest of the way. By the time we got to the Best Western Motel in Cheyenne, Wyoming (in the pouring rain), the hotel was booked. Man, were we glad we had a reservation.

Mike and I want to enjoy our journey, but we also don’t want to linger. We’ll be leaving NY 36 hours after the movers leave (giving us a little time to complete a final cleaning pass), and we’re still hoping to beat the moving truck so we can paint the one room that is wallpaper-free before they arrive. Therefore, we’ve plotted out a very straightforward route with approximately 8 hours of driving per day. And yes, we have already made our hotel reservations.

The mad route

The mad route

One view, or another

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Mike and I are lucky enough to live in a small enclave of Queens that looks nothing like the rest of New York City. Our neighborhood was built in 1906 to resemble an English Tudor village, and even our British neighbor Janey says those designers succeeded. What that also means is that we have a very unusual view out of our apartment. From ourĀ  living room windows (the best feature of the apartment) we have scenery that’s always beautiful yet changes with the seasons. I couldn’t remember what was visible out of my grandmother’s windows. Again, Hall of Fame inductee #2, my brother, came to our aid. While we know that the fog will have a more dramatic impact on what we see from day to day, we’re excited to know that we’ll have a different kind of urban backdrop to enjoy. One of the pictures he took even hints that on some days, when the fog lifts, we might even see a hint of the bay. You’ll just have to keep on reading to find out if that turns out to be true.

Our atypical Queens view in autumn.

Our atypical Queens view in autumn.

Our new urban backdrop, with surprises waiting for us behind the fog.

Our new urban backdrop, with surprises waiting for us behind the fog.

the ennui of kartong

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Before we were a twinkle in the others eye, on opposite sides of this great country of ours, Mike and I had executed many moves. So we’re aware that every move requires cardboard. Of course, in our youth, this is what the loading dock of the grocery store was for. Unfortunately, now that we’re a little more selective with the possessions we hold onto, we’re less comfortable with the concept of our books and stereo equipment sharing space with rancid vinaigrette. In addition, my type A tendencies have reached a zenith (I hope) and I can’t resist the appeal of having the ideal shaped and sized boxes for our various belongings.

Therefore, we made the conscious decision to purchase boxes. Of course, my gene pool does not allow me to pay retail for such items, and Mike, on a good day, can be described as frugal. So to the internet we went–the haven of the unfulfilled researcher. Not surprisingly, Mike and I uncovered a secret cartel of cardboard manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers. No matter where we searched, the price of cardboard items was pretty much the same. We ended up going to a wholesaler in Long Island City. Given the amount we paid for the boxes we purchased, I was pleased to discover that we’re now also a partial owner of the cardboard wholesale business.

At least we didn’t pay retail.


more expensive by weight than gold. . .

Giving up New York living

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Living in New York City is a give and take. You give up personal space and get a level of customer service unique in the states. Every dry cleaner, grocery store, and virtually every restaurant delivers to your door. In addition, we live in a beautiful apartment building with a wonderful staff. Every package is collected until we get home, every visitor is signed in, and we put our garbage in a room down the hall. Mike and I have gotten used to apartment living–we enjoy our organized home and not having a bunch of extra possessions, but we’re also looking forward to not putting our bikes in the bedroom and not using the space under our bed to store miscellaneous items. However, not having the guys downstairs helping us out will be a an adjustment.

the comforts of New York

the comforts of New York

Paper, paper on the wall

Monday, May 18th, 2009

While Mike and I are thrilled and excited about this new adventure, there is one thing that gives me a pit in my stomach. . . wallpaper. I didn’t even realize it until presented with the prospect of living there how much wallpaper my grandparents hung throughout the house. Every room save two has wallpaper. In addition, the last time I tried to remove wallpaper from the house I rented in Berkeley I felt like I was trapped in a Charlotte Perkins Gilman story. I’ve been reading all the techniques and methods for removing old wallpaper from plaster walls, but I know this is going to be a huge challenge. So, if you’ve been on the fence, friends of ours, about commenting–now is our official plea. If you have some magic formula, some incantation that will make all that paper melt away, comment away. If not, a good luck wish is equally welcome.

a sampling of the wallpaper throughout the house

a sampling of the wallpaper throughout the house

Mad about NYC

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Mad is in a unique position–we’re not fleeing New York City. We love NYC–and will continue to love NYC. Mike is a true native-born and raised in Queens–and Denise is the only Californian that both New Yorkers and Californians believe is actually from New York City. Mad simply can’t resist the opportunity to move into a home in another great city that we won’t have to leave–and start a new adventure, all while helping our family in the process. Over the next few weeks, as we finish packing, we’ll use this blog to document some of the things we adore about our current home town. Of course, as good New Yorkers, we’ll also find a few things to lovingly criticize.

One of mad’s favorite neighborhoods is Soho (which is an acronym that stands for South of Houston St). We love the architecture, the cobblestone streets, the fellows who sell bolexes and gucco watches, and a few of our favorite stores (Muji, Pearl River, and Le Pain Quotidien). Mostly, we love the overall sensibility. It will be one of the hardest places to part with, especially because there really isn’t any San Francisco equivalent; of course, we’ll make due with all the great neighborhoods in SF, but Soho has the distinction of being unique.

Quintessential Soho architecture

Quintessential Soho architecture

Introducing the mad Hall of Fame

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Mad has heroes. Not the (not-our-style) NBC fantasy TV variety, but people who improve the lives of mad. Sometimes these are people we know. Sometimes they’re people we’d like to know. Sometimes they’re people who unfortunately we can’t know because they’re no longer with us. Today, we think there’s no better way to introduce our tiny blog audience to the Hall of Fame than with two people who truly deserve it–Denise’s dad and brother.

As mentioned already, things back in San Francisco are less than organized. Mad is not going to go into great detail about the current state of the house in San Francisco, but I don’t think it would surprise anyone to learn that the house my grandmother and aunt lived in for over 64 years has quite a bit of stuff in it. Nor do we think it would surprise anyone to learn that mad does not share the same design aesthetic as Denise’s grandparents. Therefore, in addition to removing a lot of wallpaper (more on that in a future post), there are quite a few items to be sorted through and removed from the house.

Denise’s pops is in the process of doing that right now. He’s working hard to clear out the main floors of the house so mad can focus on removing all that wallpaper, scrubbing, painting, and other improvement tasks. This is a hard job, and he’s doing it mostly on his own (by his own choice) with occasional help from Denise’s brother. So today, we honor these two men by inducting them into the mad Hall of Fame.

Denise's pops, Hall of Fame Inductee #1

Denise's Pops, Hall of Fame Inductee #1

Denise's Brother, Hall of Fame inductee #2

Denise's Brother, Hall of Fame Inductee #2 (he's a little shy)

organized on this end. . .

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
Max the cat taking credit for the packing.

Max the cat taking credit for the packing.

When I moved to New York in 2004, it was for a new job; which means I had about 5 minutes warning before strong men came and packed up my entire place in one afternoon.

Given that Mike and I have one month and 3 days before the movers arrive, we decided to take a slightly different approach this time. We’ve built a database that lists all of our earthly possessions–and as we pack, the database tracks exactly which box an item is packed in. This means I already know that the Joy of Cooking is in box #5. While many might consider this to be a little on the loopy side, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. What makes me feel even warmer and fuzzier is the fact that Mike not only accepts these eccentricities, but he embraces them. This is especially important because, back on the left coast, things are a little more. . . organic. This isn’t surprising, since a member of my family was living in the house since 1943. And while my pops is working away at providing us a slate clean of extra possessions and knick knacks–there’s only so much one man (with my brother’s help) can do in one month and 3 days. Therefore, I suspect we won’t be unpacking every box in those first weeks/months after we arrive. So knowing what’s in box #5 will come in handy when I’m dying to make my killer mac & cheese recipe, or it’s time to roast a chicken (because no matter how many chickens I roast, I like having the book open as a reminder of exactly what temperature the bird should be if I want juicy breast meat). Whether or not it really adds value that I also have a picture in the database of the Joy of Cooking and the other books it shared shelf space with here in Queens will be known only by Mike & Denise.

the infamous database

the infamous database


Monday, May 11th, 2009

Welcome to mad maison! This is our first post, where we’ll be documenting our adventures in cross-country moving, renovating the San Francisco Victorian house Denise’s dad grew up in, and other adventures in madness. The process has just barely begun, with only a few of our possessions in boxes and a date in the not-too-distant future when the movers will show up.

Stay tuned as we share our experiences, frustrations, and triumphs as we embark on what we know will be a fun and fulfilling journey.