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September, 2006:

The Crack House has been sold!

I was a little late picking up Stephanie at the train station yesterday, because I was speaking to the new owner of the house across the street (the one that we have affectionately dubbed “The Crack House”)

For followers of our blog, this is the very house that during the winter and early spring housed the scary young gentlemen who had no visible means of support and drank mysterious substances from paperbags. (The same fine gentlemen who were caught by Stephanie peeing on our garage) Let us just say that we were glad to see the back of them.

I’d been wondering what had been happening with the house, and apparently it has been bought (I didn’t even know it was on the market) The new owner is an Eastern European gentleman (Russian? Polish? Lithuanian? I didn’t catch exactly where his accent was from) He plans on living there, which is really great– it will help cure the absentee landlord thing not be a thing)

When I did pickup Stephanie, we were talking about restaurants, and she said, “We got a new menu from Siam Something” and my heart lept. “Great,” I thought to myself, our neighborhood is changing! The Thai restaurants are moving in!” But sadly, she then corrected my error– that it was in her work neighborhood (in Manhattan) that the restaurant was moving in, not our Yonkers neighborhood. Oh well, a guy can dream!

We ended up at a restaurant last night called Kang Suh– a Korean barbecue place on Central Park Ave in Yonkers. The food was very good, although slightly expensive– we didn’t have the barbecue, but our food in general was very very good!

Kang Suh . . . (914) 771-4066 or 771-4035 2375 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers
Review of their Manhattan branch.

Dinner at somebody else’s house

So last night, while Stephanie was in Tampa on a combined business/pleasure trip (mostly business, but her mom lives in FL, so they hung out for a day) I ended up going to a Yonkers party that was quite nice. My blog buddy Lesley and her husband Stephen had a little belated housewarming, and they generously invited Stephanie and I. As S could not go, I showed up as the diplomat from Southwest Yonkers.

Lesley and Stephen are a little bit younger than Stephanie and I (okay, about 10 years younger) and have a house a little above the Park Hill area. It’s in a very nice green and leafy section of town, which is high up on a hill, so in order to get to their house, you have to walk up a series of steps. It’s got a nice big yard, and is of approximately the same vintage as our house (ours might be a couple of years older)

They are also renovating their house (as can be seen in their blog) and they are doing a fine job. They are doing a lot of the work themselves, and have been living there for almost two years under construction. And they are still working on their bathroom. It gives me hope (and a little bit of fear) Two years from now, we won’t die if we haven’t done the bathroom, so that gives me hope– but it gives me fear that in two years, we still might not have done the bathroom!

They also had to do a bunch of wall and electric renovations, and have done some really nice things. I especially liked their kitchen setup, which had a large tall counter that hides the workspace of the kitchen from the eating area. But they’ve picked out lots of nice colors, had to really redo a lot of hideous rooms, and amazingly have a very similar floor on their first floor (complete with Mahogany border)

One thing that they did which was very cool, is have the before pictures hung up in the room so you could see what it was before. I think maybe next time we should try something like that (you know, at our next housewarming!)

I spent a lot of time talking to Stephen and Lesley’s friends, eating delicious curried chicken and cheeseburgers, drinking beer, wine, and other libations, and had a fabulous time. This was the first time I’d met them in person, and we got along famously. I was there about 5 hours!

Watering the sidewalk in the fabulous city of Yonkers…

As I was watering the sidewalk this morning, I met a bunch of people who liked what we were doing to the house.

Yes, I was watering the sidewalk. Here’s the full story:

Early in the year, I received a summons from the fabulous city of Yonkers, requiring us to have our sidewalk fixed. And in the FCoY, that means that we had to pay for it! Sing out, brothers and sisters! Oh joy! Oh fabulous joy. (Or to get rid of the sarcasm, and to quote Dr. Smith in the show Lost In Space… “Oh the pain, William. The Pain.”

After interviewing countless people (well, okay, four) different people, and getting four very divergent bids, I went with the first person who I had interviewed. (Hmmm… perhaps this should be a lesson.) He had quoted significantly less than the other guys, was recommended by the city of Yonkers, and actually seemed like he knew his stuff. Not that the other guys didn’t, but he knew his stuff, and he was licensed by the city, and he would be ready to go in only a month.

So we settled on a price (which consisted of him giving me the price, and me trying to get him even lower than he had gone, and him saying “This is a fair price.” Which I already knew. But you know, for me, nothing was fair, as this was what is known in the biz as a U.E. (Unexpected Expense.)

(this is a bit of an aside, but I always say to the guy who says “Well what do you WANT to pay?” “Nothing. Does that work for you?” I mean, I don’t want to pay for stuff– I would much rather just take it and maybe they throw in an extra $50 bucks because I was polite or something. That’s how the world should work. People should pay me. Alas, I am not a moviestar!)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. So we negotiated the price, I paid the deposit, and a day after coming back from Colombia, he calls me to say, “We come tomorrow, Mr. Adam” And I’m like fine.

They come the next day and start digging out the sidewalk with 5 guys, a couple of picks, a long metal pole, and a Bobcat. You know, one of those mini-tractors with a big claw/shovel? I have to say that the bobcat was the most useful, and made me want to get one. It can reap a lot of destruction for a little machine. Of course I wouldn’t know how to use it. But should that stop me?

They dig out the sidewalk, and there are TREE roots underneath the sidewalk. Big pieces of trees! Then they layer the big gaping holes. with big rocks, that they then pound down to make smaller, and they come back the next day (A saturday)

By 1 pm, they have laid a huge honking amount of cement, smoothed it down, put little lines it for rain, and it has started to dry. They leave a guy here from 1 to 5 to make sure that none of the local hoodlums write their name in our brand new cement, and by the way, could you water the sidewalk tomorrow?

Apparently, cement that dries needs to be watered as it cures to make sure that it doesn’t crack. My neighbor (a former cement guy from Brazil) told me I need to water it for close to an hour) While it’s definitely true that it seemed to suck up the water like a camel after 30 days out in the sun, I only did it for 35 minutes. Does this make me a bad homeowner? Whatever.

It was definitely a nice meet the neighbors talking point though. I did have one guy who ignored the caution tape and walked on the sidewalk anyway. Perhaps he was green with envy about

Tomorrow they come back to smooth out the land around the sidewalk, to take out the wood that molded the sidewalk into place, and in general to make sure that I’m satisfied.

Which I am. MZ Construction 914-376-3890. Highly recommend!

Back in the land of the toilet seats!

At our recent party, one of our friends commented on one of our high-end innovations– the non-slam toilet seat. He said “This might be the greatest invention ever.”

For those of you not in the know, the toilet seat is designed with some kind of special do-hickey thing that prohibits the toilet seat from slamming down. It is a slow closer. We got ours from Home Depot, Kohler made. The other really good thing is that they are specially designed to be removed quickly for easy cleaning, which is a Very Good Thing Indeed.

Anyway, we have just returned from Colombia (the country, not the University) and can say many fine things about the place– the beauty of the country and the city, the friendly people, the interesting crafts, the inexpensive handmade goods. We cannot say anything good about the local toilets. (This next part is not for the squeamish)

For reasons currently unknown to science, most Colombian public toilets and yes, even some private toilets, do not attach toilet seats to the bowls. I include the international airport as one of those areas. I’m not sure if toilet seats may be considered dangerous, or perhaps it’s to make it easy to spot check for drugs, or to use the toilets for some ancient Pre-Colombian function. Perhaps it’s a cultural difference? Perhaps they feel that it is more hygienic not to sit, (which come to think of it, it probably is!) I just don’t know. What I do know is that the inconvenience of squatting for gringos is surprisingly powerful, and definitely downgrades a country in the “convenient for tourism” department.
And in many public toilets you are required to pay! Even to stand up and pee! (and in a related story, the urinals of Colombia are very small. They are smaller than bread boxes. It’s a good thing my aim is pretty good!… (Was this more information than you requested? I warned you this wasn’t for the squeamish!)

Bad toilets not withstanding, Colombia was a fantastic place to visit. Stephanie and I were there to witness my brother getting married (he’d been officially married in the States, but my new sister-in-law has thousands of relatives and friends in Colombia, and it was imperative that they have a gigantic party there.)

Which they did! Several gigantic parties, actually. We spent 4 days in Bogota, and 3 days in Cartagena. There were 300 attendees, nearly 1/3 of them from out of the country, a wonderful and lavish rehearsal dinner at Andres de Carnes de Reia, a fabulous eccentric steak joint in the middle of nowhere that started as a shack, and now serves thousands of people per night with food, dancing, artwork, drinks, and a kickass band that made our 94 person party rock out (including my brother and his bride ascending a staircase in a makeshift prop balloon, to be feted by everyone, including the mariachi band, and then have sparklers lit up dangerously close to the paper streamers that were hanging low. (Not the only reason this fabulous restaurant could never be duplicated in teh states is the Firelaws. Being a resident of Rhode Island, I was more than a little nervouse about the crowds, the paper streamers, and the sparklers and candles, and the narrow passageways. Happily it all worked out just fine!

It was a massive planning/undertaking for my brother and his bride, but it all worked out beautifully. They arranged buses to take us places, and then a sojourn to Cartagena, the Caribbean resort of Colombia for a couple of days of R and R. We stayed in a beautiful old hacienda that was fantastic! It was great fun, and I definitely would like to return.

Sadly, the weather change did not do me any good healthwise, and I am currently sporting a small sore throat. Which I am combatting by liberal use of Hall’s and theraflu. (and the everpresent Throatcoat tea)