Friday, November 2, 2007


A friend of mine recently ended an email with "say hi to your view for me." Now, I am not so deranged as to stand on my terrace and send a shout out to the Golden Gate, but here is the update on the view, and the house.

Lately, the view has been foggy, which I guess should come as no surprise. After all, fog is a San Francisco cliche, like leaving your heart behind, which I guess could happen if it was foggy enough and you got distracted. What I wasn't prepared for is the fog's many manifestations. Most often, a giant cloud hides the city from view and then gradually dissipates over the bay, so that we look out over a horizonless body of water that fades into white. Meanwhile, here in Berkeley, the sky remains a brilliant blue with not a cloud in sight. If you don't like the weather you're looking at, all you have to do is spin around and face the other direction.

Then you wake up one morning and you're in it. You can barely see your neighbor's house. The cloud is so thick, it feels like some of it is floating around your kitchen. Later, you look out the window and the fog has contracted into a dense white mass, drowning the bay and the coastal areas. Here and there, bridge tips and building tops poke out, like shipwrecks about to go under.

The other day, I was walking the dog when I saw what appeared to be smoke rising from my neighbor's deck. I didn't smell anything burning, so I walked up my neighbor's garage driveway to get a higher vantage point. It wasn't smoke: It was fog, rising up in little patches all around me, under the clear blue sky. Here, the fog can generate itself whenever it wants to, straight out of the ground.

So, yeah. The fog, and the view continue to put on a show, and so far, it hasn't been too cold to sit on the balcony and watch.

As for the house, I'll just quote one of my favorite Richard Thompson songs: "This old house is falling down around our ears."

Right before we moved in, our landlord remodeled what must have been one seriously decrepit and dysfunctional kitchen. He skimped on the contractor and cut as many corners as he could. A couple of weeks ago, the pipe to the kitchen faucet broke loose and water came pouring through the cabinet underneath the sink. Fortunately, we were there when it happened. Upon inspection, the pipe appeared to have been connected to the faucet with foil. When the contractor came over to do repairs, he explained that he had been instructed to reinstall the fifty year old kitchen faucet above the new kitchen sink. Naturally, the landlord ended up having to shell out for a new faucet anyway. As my mother would say, "Le bon marche est toujours cher." Translation: cheap always ends up costing you.

A week after the flood, my husband Mike woke up at 5am. Something, somewhere in the house was making a watery sound like a toilet stuck on flush. No such luck: It was the kitchen sink, again. The pipe leading to the water purifyer had burst while we slept. The new hardwood floor was marinating in an inch of water, and the kitchen was completely steamed up. (The moisture ruined my mouse, but my computer lived.) Mike rushed to open the cabinet doors under the sink and got hit with a high-pressure burst of warm water. Thankfully, the flooding had gone unchecked for so long, the hot water was running out, or he could have been horribly burned. Mike felt around frantically for a shut-off valve and finally found it. Then, he woke me and we made a panicked dash to the basement storage room where all our art and books are stored. We were steeled for the worst, but fortunately all the water had flowed into the wine cellar and the dirt crawl space behind the store room.

Of course, we called the landlord immediately (I think it was about 5:30 am). The contractor came back out a few hours later and installed huge, noisy fans to dry up all the moisture. ( You know you've been screwed when the contractor proactively says "This is our fault. We won't charge you for the repair.") This time, the kitchen floor was soaked through and hopelessly buckled.

Once the landlord and his wife had picked out some new tile, we were instructed to move our stuff out of the kitchen so the contractor could install floor #2. As I knelt under my desk to pick up some papers, I noticed daylight shining through beneath the baseboards. About a quarter inch of daylight. Enough to let in lots of rain (floor #3 here we come), entire colonies of ants and some nasty brown spiders. The house is apparently coming off its foundation. Whether out of arachniphobia or sadism, I instantly notified the poor landlord, who must be starting to feel like Job. Especially since he's got the same bozos remodeling his house in Sonoma. Anyway, we have a new floor now, and the gap between the house and its foundation has been sealed, probably with scotch tape.

In case you're wondering, we are over our fantasy of buying this house and fixing it up - at least until the next really good sunset.

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