Thursday, May 2, 2013

An End to Fancy Camping?

When we first moved into our house in the District, Abby and I joked that we were "fancy camping," what with our one working electric outlet and our daily trek to the basement to use the shower, and our lack of central heating.  More than eight years later, we have found ourselves "fancy camping" once more.  Only this time, the hardships are the lack of television, Internet, and a kitchen sink.  Lo and behold: this week.

Up until Monday, I had been holding out hope that some cable company would come to our rescue.  You see, our neighbors all have cable.  That's because, well, they live in 2013.  Unfortunately, Dewitt Drive separates the historic from the pre-historic.  That's because while 9615 Dewitt Drive, across the street, has their choice of Comcast or Verizon, 9618 Dewitt Drive, us, is left in the dark ages.  No wires cross the street, aboveground or underground.  And although a conduit runs from approximately 250 feet up the street over to a location near our parking spots, it is empty.  Just like when we found out last year that our house was "eligible" to have public water supply access, but didn't actually have a connection, we found out this weekend that we are "close" to having cable companies accept our money in their exorbitant pricing schemes, but no proverbial cigar is anywhere to be found.  So on Monday night, after a fruitless meeting with Comcast, I officially gave up on cable.

Therefore, enlightenment.  Yesterday we got a FedEx package in the mail with our new Clear Internet equipment in it.  Clear is a provider that gives you Internet from cell towers, and doesn't require any wiring at all.  We unpacked the box, plugged in the receiver, scratched our heads for a moment while our computer told us we weren't installing something correctly, then noticed the web was already working in the background.  Yep, not even one button to press: Internet.  As a gift to ourselves, after we put the kids to bed, we officially sat down on the couch for the first time in the new house and watched an episode of our favorite British TV Game show, Q.I., off of YouTube.  And there was much rejoicing.  (For those of you who are interested, Clear is $50/month, and you can even take it with you when you travel.  You basically make yourself into a wi-fi hotspot for up to ten devices, which is great because we have a lot of things that want to hook themselves to the Internet, like our thermostat and likely the security system we haven't gotten yet.  Another thing that wants to hook to the Internet is...)

Television!  Today: Dish Network.  Nope, sorry, DirecTV.  (I always get them mixed up; it's the "D.")  After I called Clear on Monday night, I called DirecTV and scheduled an install.  They assured me that, despite our weird angles and the fact that the main NPS building overshadows the house, we'd be able to get perfectly good coverage.  Last week in Buffalo, when I realized satellite service may be in my future, I talked with my cousin Jenny about it, and she assured me that she had never lost coverage before-- and she lives n Buffalo, where there's this thing called "weather."  So we asked DirecTV to come out today, and of course Abby has a migraine.  But she was a trooper, because she knew it meant television was en route.  We had wanted the installer to put the dish on the side roof, above the first-floor bathroom, because it would be out of the way, but it needs to face in a southwesterly direction, and the house would block it there.  So the main roof was the only option, but as with everything here, there are considerations.  So I called the property management company and asked them what their satellite dish policy was.  Kwame, the property manager, told me there's actually an FCC regulation prohibiting prohibitions on satellite dishes, but that we should put it in the least conspicuous place possible, and not on community property.  Bonnie, from Save Our Seminary, said she didn't know of anyone else who had a dish on the property, but she also didn't know of anyone whose request for one had been denied; she also quoted the FCC regulation.  So we are now the proud owner of a satellite dish, located at the far eastern corner of the roof, where it can't be seen at all from the front of the house, and where it's partially obscured by the 100-year-old yews in the yard.  And I've already set the DVR to record Parks & Recreation.  Again, about $50/month, so $100 for cable and Internet, which would have been $139 with Comcast... whenever they decided to lay the lines.
Our new faucet.  All that's missing is water.

The entertainment hole has been filled now, but there are a few other holes that have been missing.  Namely, when our counters were set a few weeks ago, some holes were left undrilled.  The countertop guys came out for the install and asked Abby for the faucet we'd be using in the kitchen, so she handed them the box.  Only more than a week later, when we took the faucet out of the box, did we realize that, um, the faucet had never been taken out of the box.  Only one hole had been drilled, and it was a three-hole faucet.  I called the countertop people and got a definite attitude from the manager.  So I made Abby call back, because no one dislikes Abby.  And what do you know: we now have the proper number of holes drilled for our faucet, and should have a completely functioning suite of water-using fixtures in our kitchen by early next week.  And not a moment too soon, either, because washing dishes in a bathroom sink is truly disgusting.  I don't know why that is, actually, because it's not even like we're using the upstairs bathroom much, since the door to it only went in this week, and the shower's still doorless.  It's just that when you're cleaning out a pot that has cheese and tomato sauce stuck inside of it, and it's all going down the drain in your brand-new ultra-modern sink, it doesn't sit right.  One thing I'm sure of: we'll make very, very good use of the dishwasher once it's hooked in.

The dishwasher, pre-spacers
The dishwasher, by the way, does not need to be replaced.  Phew!  We had thought there was an issue because of the large gaps separating the dishwasher from both the cabinets on either side of it and the counter on top.  But when the guys came back to finish cabinet installation, fillers magically appeared on the sides.  Granted, the cabinet installation is still not completed, not the least of which is because the gap between the dishwasher and the countertop remains, but at least we know we don't have to buy a new one.  As for the cabinets, they're now all in.  The problems are very minor now: one door is solid, but was ordered to be glass; the drawer pulls were not attached; and the space above the dishwasher needs to be filled.  The fridge needs to be leveled, which is less the fault of the cabinet installers and more the fault of us having put the kitchen on a slanted surface (that used to be a porch).  Also, having bought "supercabinets" for the corners, convinced the inserts would allow us to use more of the space in the corner cabinets to each side of the range, we realized very quickly that the supercabinet inserts actually preclude us from using the back third of each cabinet.  We're going to try to return the inserts, but at the very least we'll be removing them from the cabinets and just using basic shelving.  We'll totally deal with having to bend down and stretch to get the less frequently-used stuff hiding in the back if it means we're not wasting so much space in the first place.  Oh, and our contractors have to raise the range hood, because they apparently think we're about three feet tall.

Our kitchen as it stands today.
The cabinet to the right of the range hood should have a glass door,
and the range hood will be raised significantly.
As for space, we are bouncing back and forth between thinking we have way too much or not enough.  I think it's because as we put stuff away, we see the empty boxes and think, "wow, there's not much left to unpack!"  Then we go to another room and realize, "wait, there are kitchen boxes stored in the library.  Crap."  And more boxes shift to the rapidly filling cabinets.  I think in the end, we'll be just about right, with maybe a bit of extra room, but not too much.

My doorbell!
It goes "Brrrrrrring!
As for other new stuff, we've now got all the doors installed.  Except the one for the storage area, which we swear we ordered but is not here.  So we'll have to buy another one.  But there are no doors sitting around anymore, waiting to be installed.  About half the trim is in, but none of it is painted.  That is going to be a huge, immensely boring undertaking that I'm totally going to pawn off on Abby if I can help it!  The misplaced door hardware has been corrected, and I realized the deadbolt on the back door was not done incorrectly-- it just works that way.  It's a keypad doorlock, which is awesome because it means we don't have to give anyone a key if they want to come over when we're not here-- we just give them the code and they walk right in.  I love it, because it's fantastic when you have your arms filled with groceries.  And speaking of awesome: my doorbell has been installed!  No one has rung it yet, though, because even though our house numbers have also gone up out front, still nobody can find our house.  I constantly have delivery people wondering where we are.  "I'm on a traffic circle, and all I see is a big building and a green house."  Duh, look at the numbers on the wall, blind guy!

Our main goal now is unpacking.  Because once we unpack, I really feel we can do landscaping, which I desperately want to do.  Oh, and because it will then feel less like "fancy camping" and more like "living in a house you've owned for 23 months already."  Abby and I had a bitch session while washing dishes in the bathroom last night, and went over all the reasons we were unhappy with the house.  My unhappiness has already been expounded on in this forum, but is generally concerned with my not wanting to have had a "fancy camping" experience in this place.  Hers, though, can be compared to watching that show on HGTV where they show people what their house would look like if it were rehabbed with an unlimited budget, but then they just go out and buy stuff from flea markets instead; yeah, it's way better than your old place, but you had so much more in your head.  Once we're settled, I'm sure it'll keep getting closer to that picture in our heads.  But for now, I'm looking forward to using the Internet, watching the television, and washing dishes in the kitchen.  In other words, the end of "fancy camping" for good.
The new up-lighting in our Great Room.  Decidedly NOT fancy camping.

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