A shot of our kitchen/dinning room which looks like one of those life-sized dioramas in the Smithsonian that should be titled something like “Rental Apartment in Alameda, circ. 1980.” Behind me on the wall someone thought it’d be funny to put up a Norman Rockwell print (signed litho by the way) of some Pilgrim in the stockade with the words “Ye Glutton” on a sign around his neck – not exactly the thing you want to see while eating dinner.
The stove has those electric coil things which never really works for cooking anything but Campbell’s soups because it takes forever to heat up. Also, the largest of the coils is busted so we only have three tiny ones to work with.
But the strangest thing in the kitchen are these two stuffed roosters up on the shelf. I know they want to put things up there to fill up the space and make it cozy but stuffed poultry? When you look at them up close, as in the shot below, you’ll see that the one on the right is particularly menacing. There’s really not a good seat at the dinning table – you either have to look at “Ye Glutton,” the menacing chicken, or out the window at this weird stone cherub/angel thing that’s placed right outside the window with the plastic ivy.
Living in a one bedroom, furnished apartment, with a pull out sofa bed for the kids, has taught us that small children are not unlike electrons in their observance of the immutable laws of the universe. The smaller the space you give them, the higher the energy. This is our living room at 8 pm. Not much of a place for peace and quiet!
. . . and if feels like we’re still in the First Act! Another weekend of driving around looking at open houses and hoping that the right place will fall in our laps. We’ve narrowed down where we want to live to such a small area that we pretty much know each house on the market there. We drive the streets one last time just to see if there’s some FSBO (we’ve got three internet filters running as well as a buyer’s agent scanning the MLS every morning) that slipped past without us knowing. It’s pretty sad, Tyler now knows what the realtor signs look like and shouts out when he sees one and either Izumi or I will say, “no, that’s the one that reeks of cats” or, “that the one with the psyco neighbors” or, “that one had that weird fishpond thing in the backyard” – we know this market!
Because there was nothing new to look at, we ventured up into the Oakland/Berkeley hills just so I could show Izumi what it was like up there. After winding up and down some narrow hilltop roads with Izumi and Tyler both saying that the cliffside roads were scaring the bejezus out of them, Julia threw up. I guess we’re not going to live in the hills!
This evening, all tired out and a bit punch drunk after being cooped up in the car all weekend, we went to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner. The food was good and the service great but when the kids starting dancing in their seats to a version of “My Favorite Things” played on traditional Chinese instruments (trust me, it sounded odd) we all bust out laughing. We so very much want a place to call home!
Tyler is just full of questions and sometimes he just asks them to see if I’m listening. I have to admit, towards the end of a full day of this, I begin to wane and sometimes throw out random responses to see if he’s listening.
Tyler: What happens if we mix your toothpaste with my toothpaste in the sink?
Me (tired): It’ll blow up.
Tyler (incredulously): Really?? How come it’s not blowing up now?
Me: Ah, well we’re in Alameda, there’s something special about the water here. . .
I’m trying to teach him that when the answer is, “it’ll blow up” that is the code for, “Daddy is tired of answering your questions now, try again later with less urgency.
As we begin to put down roots (no, we don’t have a permanent home yet) I thought it only fair that I create a new category to bring together all anticipated observations about our new home. Here are some snippets:
– Alameda residents are pround of their city. “A small island off the coast of Oakland” is how one person describes it to outsiders. Most of the local publications (there are two local newspapers) refer to Alameda as “the Island” with a capital “I”
– We just got Izumi’s new cellphone (Verizon provides the best coverage on the Island) at a small local store on Park Street and looking at all the signed photos on the wall, I discoverd that this little mom & pop store has provided almost all the Oakland Raiders with their cell phones.
– I’ve become a big fan of Topix’s Alameda page. A great resource for local news and information about the area.
– The Island has a population of 58,000 and used to host a large naval base which was given over to the county in 1998. They are currently coverting the land to a mixture of housing, high-end shopping (someone mentioned a Nordstrom’s), and buisiness parks.
– Alameda is very convenient. A $5 ferry ride takes you over to the Ferry Terminal in downtown San Francisco. Oakland International Airport is only 10 minutes away and is a hub for Southwest and JetBlue, two of the leading discount domestic airlines, Aloha Air also flys out of Oakland to Hawaii. The Express “O” bus leaves from Alameda over the bus lane to downtown San Francisco. Drive 10 minutes East to the 880 and you can loop around North to the Bay Bridge to San Francisco or South to San Jose.
– Alameda has the feel of a small, semi-urban neighborhood in Los Angeles, circa – 1940. There are cute little 15 foot high lamps that line some of the streets. The houses all have really flimsy locks on them and when I asked, they said that the crime rate is extremely low. Put more simply by another gentleman we were talking to, “There are only three ways on and off the Island. If you have any trouble, call the police and there’s now way for the bad guys to get away.”