Dallas Weekend: Sunday, 15 August 2004

The Second-Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

She answered the door even as our realtor was fiddling with the electronic Supra-key, squealing in delight and then explaining that she was happy to see us, and was opening the door to let us in and then leaving. “Take as long as y’all want, sugah,” she told me in her thick voice. “Just lock up before y’all leave.” We had seen pictures of the house – so cute and charming from the outside – but we waited until she had left, taking her hair, nails, and lips (all of which had been tinted the same color as the dark cherry wood floors) with her – before we looked further than the entry.

On the net, the house was charming – gas lampposts in a woodsy front yard, cute brick house, lovely pool. We’d seen the frou-frou decor, but nothing prepared us for the reality. Everything was mauve and crushed velvet, gilt and lace and cherry wood and crystals. Chair-rail – to – ceiling mirrors filled the entry wall and the opposing wall in the dining room. Faux mauve marbelized wallpaper covered the walls, and there was more swag than anyone ever needed. Scarlet O’Hara could have clothed the cast of Gandhi with the amount of fabric that was draped on every window.

The kitchen was nice, blue/gray/mauve tile and counters, the rooms were nice – master and study down, game room over the garage (with wet bar and pool table), four more bedrooms upstairs, each with it’s own wrought-iron bed right out of a bad western-movie brothel, each with it’s own special niche and altar to Our Lady of Perpetual FrouFrou. The Realtor whispered, “All the window coverings stay,” and I stared at her, and asked, my voice trembling, “Dear God, do they have to?”

Truly, if it was stripped down, and repainted, and the chandeliers had all the crystals removed, it would be an utterly charming house. THe back yard is sweet, and shady, except where the pool is, and there are just enough trees, but….it’s never been wired for cable, ever, and all the hallways were extremely narrow. Extremely. Sarah Winchester would have felt uncomfortable in those hallways.

We lingered a while, partly because we liked the layout, and partly because we were so dazzled by the glitter and swag, and then moved on to see more houses. Here are the highlights:

  1. Giltin Drive, Arlington – the house had potential, but their realtor was clearly incompetent, or they’d have been told to clean the carpets. So much stuff was in the chairs and the house smelled strongly of dog urine, that even though we liked the layout, we were turned off by the house.
  2. Wisteria Drive, Grand Prairie – It looked so cute from outside. Inside, the downstairs was nice, but the yard and pool were sadly neglected and the upstairs, well, it had six bedrooms, but the two that were split apart as a master suite – 200 square feet each – had no bathroom, and the medium-sized bedroom at the far end of the house had the master bath. Also, there were holes in the walls.
  3. Cantrell Street, Grand Prairie – One of my favorites, it’s two blocks away from the community park in its subdivision (Westchester), even though the formal dining room’s been made into a study. The master bedroom is on the first floor. A bridge, that looks over the front entry on one side, and the family room on the other, connects the other bedrooms, two on one end the other two, plus a bathroom on the other. Fuzzy doesn’t like this one, because they had roof work after a hail storm, but its one of my favorites.
  4. Starbridge, Grand Prairie – It’s in the same subdivision as Cantrell, but near the library, not the park. Also, I like the name. It has an actual study, which is nice. The formal living and dining room are really one large space. The master bedroom, upstairs, is HUGE, and lovely. The covered back porch is much like the back patio we have here in San Jose, except that there are ceiling fans. I came close to making an offer on this one, then stopped and looked at Fuzzy, and said, “We want to sleep on this,” which I think was wise. We don’t want to move again for a while.

After this house, we took a lunch break, going to a place called Mac’s where I found the note that people wearing firearms would be refused service to be amusing. The grilled ahi tuna with wasabi mayo was fabulous. After we ate, we saw some more houses:

  1. Lands End, Arlington – The first of the properties near Lake Arlington, this was vacant. We liked it, but then we saw the seller’s disclosure and structural report. Scary.
  2. Little Pond, Arlington – Another lake property – well priced, but there were people there with family and friends, and an inspector, and since they were clearly about to make an offer, we peeked in and left. Also, it smelled funny.
  3. Lake Tahoe, Arlington- we didn’t get to see it, but Mary Lou went and took pictures and did a sketch for us, because it was accidentally dropped from our list. We really WANT to see it, and part of the reason we’ve decided to wait to make a decision, is so we can.
  4. Chestnut, Arlington – It figures that the only house I really really didn’t like Chris does. This is a funky single story, remodled to the old patio is a solarium. The back yard is a bowl, and the pool is at the bottom. But the bathrooms haven’t been updated, and it seems dark and depressing.

And so, we’ve been narrowing things down to a list, going from 23 to 6. Hopefully, we’ll make a decision soon. In the interim, we’re renting corporate housing for a month. Just to give ourselves more time.

Dallas Weekend: Saturday, 14 August 2004

One is cuter than the last…

According to Christi Stephens, the very nice Coldwell Banker agent with whom we toured houses yesterderday, most people see 6-8 houses in a day of looking. If you’ve never gone through this process, you may not understand how tiring it can be. You drive from house to house, get out, wander through, and, if you like the place, spend several minutes picking it apart. “I’d replace the carpeting,” you muse aloud (if the owner isn’t home, and sotto voce if she is). “That swag curtain simply has to go.” And usually, also, no matter how much you’ve researched and culled your list of prospectives, there are a couple that sound promising, and turn out to be utter trash.

Knowing all of the above, you will have a better understanding of the level of exhaustion and overwhelmedness that Fuzzy and I had last night upon returning to our hotel (which, yes, we got lost trying to find, again). After all, we had barely slept the night before, and then had been up at six, gotten lost getting to Coldwell Banker (our own fault – we listened to the directions from the concierge instead of following our instincts), and I was temperamental from female stuff. And then, we saw something like a thousand houses yesterday…or maybe it was thirteen. Either way, it was considerably more than six or eight. And each one was cuter than the last.

I cannot guarantee that the following is in order. But here are the highlights.

  1. A 3-bedroom house that was very nice, but had no yard. And since it also was a true 3-bedroom, was too small.
  2. 4549 Jenning Drive, Plano – This is a sweet house. You can tell when you walk in that the owners love the house. It’s a 2-story traditional house. The floors on the first floor are mostly tile or pergo, and the upstairs is carpeted. Master bedroom has his&her closets separated by a mini-entertainment center designed for maximum comfort while watching tv from bed. Pool was pretty, but needs serious cleaning. There’s a lot of wood paneling, and I was afraid the rooms would feel dark, but they did not. Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, and 2nd full bath, as well as a central living area. For most of the day, this was to remain our number-one house, whenever Christi asked us to rank them.
  3. Around the corner, was a vacant single-story on Nevada. The rooms were huge, and this was our number two for a while. The master bedroom was in the front though, and I didn’t like that, and some of the rooms were too big, while the secondary bedrooms were practically cubicles.
  4. Next was an ultra modern house in a sea of neo-traditional houses. This is the one on teakwood that we pointed some of you toward. I knew within two seconds of walking in that the owners were Asian – black marble fire place, sleek track lighting, upstairs one of the bedrooms as big enough to be a second master, and both bathrooms were as big as small bedrooms. It was extremely monochromatic, with brush-painted tone-on-tone walls, and it was nice, if oddly misplaced, but the plumbing seemed to be done on the cheap, and we got an ‘off’ vibe from it.
  5. Cardinal Drive was a house that I’d wanted to see. People I’d shown it to on the net had agreed with my description of it as retro-hunting lodge, but in person, it was more cottage than cabin. Very cute. Nice flow. The rooms all formed double figure eights, but the back yard was too much pool and not enough yard (yes, there was a dog run, but still), so while we kept it at a strong #2 for the next while, we ultimately downgraded it.
  6. Next up, two huge tall houses, one on Grinelle and one on Nottingham. The first had plastic gerbera daises set into the ground. It was nice, but too much open space that served no purpose, while the rooms were not that big. Friendly dog, though. Nottingham was vacant, sponge-painted in Tuscan gold, a warm glowy color I love. It was a livable house, and we ranked it behind Cardinal.
  7. We next moved on to a development called Stoneridge Ranch, a planned community with HOA dues of $600/year, that get you into the golf club, beach club (white sand and a man-made lagoon), and parks, including a lake with paddleboats. The country club is a separate membership. The first house in this neighborhood was a single-story 3 bedroom, with a see-through fireplace that flipped to a game room as big as the living room! It was lovely, but not our style (I could see my parents living in it, or the Golden Girls).
  8. But the next house WAS our style, and was another of our picks – 209 Ledgenest Drive. Also in Stonebridge Ranch, this house is one of two that we’re waffling over. The entire first floor is white ceramic tile. The formal dining room is painted slate blue. The kitchen is cobalt. The master bedroom is sea-greenish-blue, and all are on the first floor. The yard is nice, with enough room for the dogs, barely. The pool cleaner was flipped over in the water, and kept attacking us – but it felt good because by that time, the day had gotten quite toasty. We could be very happy in it.
  9. Wren Cove was not our pick, but was another in Stonebridge Ranch. A FSBO, this is my favorite from yesterday. It’s only got three bedrooms, but there’s a game room, formal living room, and formal dining room, and the yard is perfect. PERFECT. The pool and deck are off the kitchen, and then the yard circles around the deck, which has terraced planters at the back. There’s enough room for a play structure and still a ton of green space. Even though this house might be a bit smaller than we’d dreamed, it’s incredibly livable. I love it. (It’s my number one, and Fuzzy’s number two. Ledgenest is his one, and my two.)
  10. Another one I can’t remember the name of. It’s not in Stonebridge Ranch, but ElDorado. It was lovely, if a teeny bit beyond the price we’d agreed on. And I liked it, but not as much as the previous two.

By the end of the tour, we were hot, sweaty, and exhausted. We said goodbye to Christi, and then made our way back toward the hotel, pausing, not for the coffee everyone expected of me, but for gelato. Fuzzy had raspberry and some variety of chocolate; I had violet and peach. Yes. Violet. It was good.

This morning, we’re off, as soon as Fuzzy gets showered, to Ft Worth and Arlington, for more houses. Aieeee!

Dallas Weekend: Friday, 13 August 2004

5:06 AM

It’s not even dawn here, but I can’t sleep. The mattress is fine, but the pillows are too small surface-area-wise, and while they’re thick enough, they’re about as firm as a layer of poly-fill batting wrapped around a brick. I woke up hot, made Fuzzy lower the A/C, and still couldn’t sleep, and the Actifed I took at 1:00 AM, before we finally went to bed, neither helped my sniffles nor made me drowsy, so here I sit dehydrated, achy, cramp-y (because we can’t have a trip without Aunt Flo coming along), and too wired to sleep. However, the hotel book says there’s a café in the lobby that serves Starbucks stuff, and it opens in half an hour. Things are looking up.

We left yesterday with plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush. I wore thongs (as in flip-flops) as shoes, and packed my Tevas, because thongs are easiest to deal with at security. I was wired then, too, and babbly, which, I’m sure drove Jeremy and Fuzzy nuts, because both were in reading mode. Even though the act of sitting in a plane to get somewhere is a barbaric way to travel (efficient, but still barbaric), plane flights still make me giddy with delight. Travel is FUN. Experiencing new places is FUN. But anyway, back to the thongs. Despite having been up since 6:30 AM PDT when we got to the airport around one, I was still in giddy seven-year-old mode, so having to pad through security barefoot struck me as amusing. Cuz, you know, rubber flip-flops are a threat but Fuzzy’s Colorado hiking sneakers (which he did not have to remove) are not. Perhaps the reality is that the guy staffing the sensor has a fetish for women’s naked feet.

But anyway, we didn’t have to rush, and enjoyed mocking the guy who arrived at 1:00 for a 1:30 flight and was lectured on heightened security (which, you know, has only been the case for THREE YEARS now, so I can see why it might be shocking), and arriving at the airport with enough time. Way to lecture, American Airlines. We got water and chocolate, and I picked up a Nora Roberts paperback, breaking my self-imposed book-buying moratorium out of necessity – I’d finished my last Darkover novel in the bathroom an hour earlier. And we sat at our gate, until, just before our boarding call should have been announced, they said there was an equipment failure, and they GAVE OUR PLANE to the earlier Dallas Flight, and made us wait for a new one, bumping our 3:21 wheels-up to 4:30. Now, we could have joined the rush of people demanding to be moved to the flight that was leaving as soon as they could manage it, but we didn’t have a connection, so saw no reason to. Our only plans for the night were “pick up car, eat dinner, sleep” and an hour wasn’t going to affect that in the least.

Of course, at 3:50, they bumped us back to 4:50 take-off, but by then it was too late to care. And it worked in our favor, because so many people had opted to be re-routed in order to make connections, that our flight, which was originally full, wound up being only about 2/3 full, which meant we had a whole row to ourselves. More room is NEVER a bad thing.

We finally got on the plane around 4:45, and then they changed the flight path twice to avoid flying directly through storms. The result of this was that as we cruised through the deepening twilight over New Mexico, and later Amarillo, TX, on approach to DFW, we skirted around three or four different lightning storms, and I put my book away, turned off the work light, and enjoyed the light show.

If you’re not squeamish about flying, being on a plane during a lighting storm is really amazing. It’s nothing like the fingers of light, or gentle flashes of light, that you see from the ground. Last night, we flew OVER a fluffy cloud formation that had lightning inside. Imagine a cloudy snow-globe lit from the inside with pinkish yellow light surges that formed highlights and lowlights in the clouds, and that’s what it looked like. As if the most delicately tinted cotton candy was being lit from within. I thought of Jeremy, and a recent conversation we had about summer storms in the Midwest, as I stared out the window. At one point, I considered dragging out the camera, but even in night-shot mode, the angle necessary would have required the window of the plane to be open. Oh, well.

We finally landed at 10 PM local time, and while I can’t complain about the brief trek to baggage claim, I have to do some obligatory whining about the wait for baggage to start coming out of the chute. I guess the gorilla was asleep. (Seriously, I know that the real reason for the delay is that our late arrival meant that we’d missed every connecting flight OUT of DFW. As DFW was our final destination, this didn’t affect us, but, anyone going on to anywhere except Tulsa, last night, had to have their baggage re-routed to a flight the next morning, and then the Tulsa baggage had to be loaded onto that plane, first. But at 10PM, when you haven’t had anything to eat all day but a machiatto, two glasses of juice, half a liter of water and a chocolate bar, whining is allowed.)

While waiting for our single bag to appear on the carousel (it was one of the first two, at least) we discovered that our hotel is actually in the Dallas airport. As in ATTACHED to the very terminal in which we were standing. We could have walked to it, but I’d arranged for a car rental, so we spent another 40 minutes walking to the shuttle, riding it to the rental car center, doing paperwork, picking a car (we’re driving around in a gold Impala this weekend. It’s so QUIET), and then, because in my food-deprived state I mis-interpreted the directions that Qiana the Alamo agent had kindly provided, getting lost and un-lost getting to the hotel, and seeing quite a lot of the backstage of DFW in the process. Finally, we got to our room on the 25th floor (for those interpretations of 25th floor that are equivalent to “five floors above ground level, but numbered creatively”) of the Hyatt Regency, ordered room service and extra towels (because I use one towel just for my HAIR), and tumbled into bed.

And now, here I sit, hot, even though the room is NOT hot (I know this because the surface of this desk is cool to the touch, it’s just hormone-induced internal combustion), distressed because Jeremy said Zorro was barking nonstop, which means he’s really upset (he’s NEVER, EVER done that before. Usually when we leave him with someone he wanders around looking hopeful and pathetic, but silent.) and I heard him on the phone, and it made me feel horrible for leaving him, and bad for Jeremy and Leon having to deal with it, and anxious because I want to start looking at houses NOW, and at the moment nine AM seems like EONS away.

The alarm goes off in an hour, and breakfast will be delivered 30 minutes after that. I’m trying to decide if I should crawl back into bed and rest a bit, or if it’s late enough to shower without annoying the neighbors (yeah, I worry about that, in hotels) so that at least I’ll feel cleaner. I can handle being tired, crabby, and hungry, but I hate not feeling clean.