We bought a house last year in Atwater Village — an old LA neighborhood established in the mid 1920’s that boasts the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the LA area (the Tam O’Shanter) and a massive Costco and BestBuy as well as quaint mom and pop retailers and restaurants on some lovely, walkable (yes! even in LA!) streets. The soil in Atwater Village also happens to be magical: super-fertile ground from having been the riverbed of the LA river before it was controlled and concreted.
Did I mention the house dates from the mid-1920’s — 1926 to be exact, and the old girl needs a little TLC.
Thinking of a house as a living, breathing being makes it easier to wrap one’s head around the never-ending maintenance required in home-ownership. Cause, really, people, it doesn’t end.
I am the gardener/ handy-man/ super and it keeps me busy. I really don’t know how other people do it, except that other homeowners either hire a lot of help or spend a lot of time taking care of their house. I know I do a lot of the latter.
I have been asked recently about what work-out regiment I have been doing to keep svelte. And basically, it’s none other than the housework-out peppered with yoga and hiking. It begins with some letting the dogs out to pee-reps, squats to pick up poop, watering the front and the back yards, sweeping outside and inside, and then a brief reward of morning coffee. And then the day continues…
But with all of the manual labor, comes a profound satisfaction of knowing that this house is truly yours. This is your little piece of earth and this is the home you have built.
D and I learned to paint with some repetitive practice throughout the rooms of the house. I continue to learn how to properly cut back plants and trim roses, fertilize and weed, and select plants that won’t cook in the perpetual sunlight of Southern California. We’ve also learned a lot about legal matters, particularly those involving noise and trees and wildlife.
But yes, even with my over-achieving tendencies, I have to admit that there a LOT of things I just have to hire someone to do: like TERMITES.
I hate bugs. I freak out when a fly touches me. I can’t sleep if I know there are bugs crawling in the room (flashback to when I was 8 years old sleeping in a cot in Manila in my paternal grandmother’s house). I even have a love/ hate relationship with spiders where I pretend to tame them to harvest the flies and mosquitoes that pester the neighborhood. But did you know EVERYONE has termites? No seriously. EVERY Building has to some degree or another or just had and will have termites. They are a fact of life in Southern California in particular the way cockroaches are to NYC multi-unit living.
So we are packing up and cleaning out and clearing out to make way for a tent and some fumes. I think our old house appreciates the spa treatment.