In Which Tess Longs For A Home of Her Very Own

Catch up with the first part of Tess’ house-hunting series here.

House Hunting

Part Two: Living Alone

by Tess Lynch

little house

The other night the old owner of our condo stopped by unexpectedly. I felt a little embarrassed, since we hadn’t cleaned and were lazily eating Trader Joe’s mini quiches without napkins on the living room floor – well, really embarrassed, because we were also watching Intervention and I was sitting amongst like ten different empty glasses, and had In n’ Out on my shirt – but seeing her was really nice. She complimented our cats, said she hoped we’d enjoyed our place, and was just as pleasant as when I remember buying this place from her.

zulu home!

Two of our neighbors escorted her over to our door, and told us they’d be sorry we were leaving, that we were “sweet kids.” It was so nice, it made me sad to leave our bright green walls and really awesome bathtub behind.

I remember leaving my first apartment in Providence, where I was so excited to be living alone and had an ancient claw-foot tub, and then there was the second place, in Wayland Square, where I used to be able to walk to the grocery store even in blizzards, and where I spent all of one summer once just because I had spent my TGI Friday’s tips on a wall-unit air conditioner, and could eat Brigham’s ice cream (truly the worst casualty, for nostalgia’s sake, of the recession) in bed to stay cool.

I’ve been trying to save myself from being too bittersweet and like someone’s old Irish grandpa who hums “Oh, Danny Boy” all day, I’ve been concentrating on the following:

Image from Domino Mag: Small Spaces

There’s something incredibly divisive about the idea of living alone. Recently, a friend of mine made the brave decision to leave Los Angeles in the near future – where we’d gone to high school together, where her family lives, and where she currently lives with her sister in a really, really damn cute apartment (atrium!) – for Chicago, and was thinking of living alone. She was kind of excited, and I got excited for her; living alone for four and a half years was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Rosy Little Things: The Little House

I wouldn’t trade my current cohabitation for anything, but living alone does have its downsides.

For instance, having to invite people over any time you want to hang out seems weirdly formal and as though you need to ply your guests with some kind of food, drink, or exciting recreational drugs.

You really can’t have more than one pet, because the amount of time you would need to put into taking care of them, were it just you and the animals, would make you resent them.

And, of course, the “cooking for one” triple-bummer of

  1. having to both cook and clean up afterwards,
  2. unavoidably making way too much food, eating it all, and not wanting the leftovers but feeling horribly guilty about throwing them away anyway, and
  3. refusing to use silverware because no one is watching and there’s really no reason not to just use your hands to “pick” at a chicken, but then having this weird out-of-body vision of yourself as a person who is kind of disgusting.

Not that that’s really disgusting. It’s just walking the line between informal and disgusting. That’s all.

Solitude: you are a delight

But back to the good stuff. Living alone – like learning to drive, taking tequila shots, appreciating the importance of tipping waiters well, and balancing your checkbook – is a rite of passage the value of which cannot be overstated.

When I first decided to give it a whirl, I was a freshman in college and at the end of my rope trying to get a “psycho single” because, even after changing roommates (thank you Molly Lambert!), I found I couldn’t sleep without a Sominex and a really stiff mixture of $11 vodka and Crystal Light. I started working at Ben and Jerry’s to get a place off-campus (reality check: $7.50/hour won’t pay your rent), worried for a couple of months about my decision to move a mile away from everybody murdering my social life, and bought a futon at the Salvation Army.

I won’t lie: it was very strange. There was no one around, and since we were only a few months into school, I didn’t know enough people intimately enough to invite them over all the time. This actually ended up being great, because it taught me how to make friends even though there weren’t people constantly offering up their hanging-outage.

It’s kind of empowering: you have no plans unless you get your ass of your futon, clean the bits of chicken off your shirt, and make plans. Otherwise, you’re just hanging out with yourself.

Which brings me to the other great thing about living alone: learning how awesome it is to hang out with you, because you are your own best (sometimes only) friend. And I dig not being able to do that, because my quality of life has drastically improved since I have lived with Peter, but that’s also because I love him.

Even though I love my friends, I wouldn’t want to live with them, because it’s too easy, and I’d worry that when I moved out, I’d never want to see them again. Or the other way around. But maybe I’d worry less about that because since I’ve lived alone before, I know how totally rad I am to hang out with. I am the only person I survived living with for more than 10 seconds. That must mean I’m mad chill.

Anyway, thinking you’re mad chill is something that has no price. And nothing teaches you that like flyin’ solo. So, if anybody out there is thinking about it, I’m telling you that you should sacrifice the bedroom door and find yourself a great shoebox and make it your own.

Tess Lynch is the contributing editor to This Recording. She lives in Los Angeles. Her highly influential and important blog is here. Her tumblr is here.

portrait of the author looking pouty

CHERRY BLOSSOM GIRL

“Playground Love” (vocals by Gordon Tracks) – Air (mp3)

“Clouds Up” – Air (mp3)

“Bathroom Girl” – Air (mp3)

“The Word ‘Hurricane'” – Air (mp3)

“Highschool Lover” (theme from The Virgin Suicides) – Air (mp3)

“Ghost Song” – Air (mp3)

“Empty House” – Air (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

Cheney got wicked mad.

Dan Murray and Hotel Chevalier.

A win is a win.

In Which Tess Discovers That There’s No Place Like Home

House Hunting

by Tess Lynch

Part One: I Want To Live In These Homes

You know when you see someone at a party, and you think, “Oooh, who’s that? They’re looking fly.” Then you go talk to your friend, and he knows the person you’re looking at, and he says “Oh, I know that dude, I saw him at [your favorite band]’s show,” or “Oh, sure, that’s the girl who has sixteen four-week-old Golden Retriever puppies and wants to meet people to have over to stare at them,” or “Sure, that’s my friend Jack, he knows how to fix everything and eats cheeseburgers every day.”

My point is: you think you’re in love.

Anyway, then you talk to Jack or Sally. And you forget about the puppies, the burgers, the promising concert tickets. Because it seemed too good to be true, and now you know that it was. They kick their puppies, they only eat burgers at the Polo Lounge, a friend dragged them to see the concert promising it would be a lot like Coldplay. You give up, but you’re sad to have done so, because they coulda been a contender.

This is how I feel about LivingHomes.

LivingHomes are pre-fab, designer-architect single family homes with major LEED approval. Everything about these houses seems amazing: they give you no choice on saving water, since the runoff from your water-use (i.e., shower drain) goes to water your landscaping, which is drought-resistant anyway; low-e glass windows and doors (which insulate to reduce your heating and cooling costs, but are large enough to let in a lot of light, lowering your artificial, energy-eating lamp use); they even use renewable or recycled materials for flooring.

Steve Glenn, founder of LivingHomes, used a Lego metaphor for his concept. Cute, but Legos are cheap, and LivingHomes, though using a construction model which supposedly cuts down on building costs (they claim a quicker building process than traditional, non-pre-fab homes, as well as a comparably low $185/sq ft – $275/sq ft price), are not.

it doesn’t get cheaper than a lego prostitute, unless you’re into lincoln logs

With few LivingHomes completed (one in Brentwood is on the market, and I’m not sure when the Joshua Tree (admittedly way less expensive, then again, it’s in Joshua Tree) development goes up for sale – the website says spring 2007, but my calendar says that that was more than a year ago), the only way to get one is to buy a plot of land and build your own.

Which is cool, because you can design your house with the add-ons and floorplan that you like, but which also sucks because, HELLO! Everybody’s broke! And that leaves you homeless for a year in a shitty market that just keeps getting shittier!

When the WIRED house, which is a Ray Kappe-designed LivingHome, went on the market last year, its list price was $4.15 million. Since then, it’s been revamped and re-priced and is offered at $3.75 million. The comments on Curbed LA regarding this bit of news are sort of in line with what I’m thinking – if this is a pre-fab house, with lower costs to build the damn thing, why in God’s name is it this expensive? There is no pool, no real yard, and with that much glass in a location where the houses are clumped together, no real privacy.

Thinking about who would buy this house is difficult. Take a look; at 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, it’s meant for a family or Citizen Kane. Now take a look at this comparable home, also in Brentwood, with an extra bedroom and extra quarter bath, a pool and spa, and a yard – its list price is $3.795 million, and you can’t see into it.

If I were a person interested in getting a house to raise a family in, or just to show off about, I think I’d go with option #2.

But I’m still loving the IDEA of LivingHomes. This is why I think their business model could have used a bit more thought. Who would take an active interest in saving money on a cool house? Who cares about the environment enough to forego a running the water when they want (the faucets in LivingHomes are the “little light that senses when a hand is underneath it and only then will it run” variety) and learn to love succulents instead of grass? Who grew up liking the retro-mod style of Urban Outfitters and shunning big, dark, old Victorian architecture? The answer: the generation that is now ready to buy its first homes.

Ecospace Prefab Garden Studio: Way Cheaper Than A LivingHome

Say LivingHomes had been marketed to us, instead of Steve Jobs. What about instead of being introduced to us as a pre-fab mansion that also happens to be environmentally conscious, LivingHomes were offered as uber-eco-friendly Maltman Bungalows (which have almost sold out, with only one left on the market)?

maltman

If you could get a 2 bedroom, 2 bath single family home in Echo Park, Silverlake, Pasadena – anywhere conceivably commutable from the greater metropolitan area for $200 per square foot, roughly $100-300 less than many houses on the market in L.A., wouldn’t you?

If you were buying a house, wouldn’t you want to save money and feel pious, like when you drive your Prius, you snob? I would.

Pre-fab was designed partially to make homes more affordable. The economy sucks, and the housing market is crashing, and while some pre-fab/modern pre-fab options are available for cheaper than LivingHomes, I think it’s a crying shame that a supposedly eco-friendly company should neglect a grass-roots approach to marketing their shiznazz. If your aim is to make an impact on how we, as a city or a society, think of our energy output and offer an aesthetically pleasing alternative to an energy-guzzling model, then why not make it available to all us shmoes, instead of one big glass hulk sitting in “prime Brentwood”?

I’ll never get offered a free LivingHome now. Damn it.

Tess Lynch is the contributing editor to This Recording. She lives in Los Angeles. She is also coincidentally the emperor of ice cream. She tumbls here.

portrait of the author during a glorious period

THE END OF YOU TOO

“The End of You Too” – Metronomy (mp3)

“Radio Ladio” – Metronomy (mp3)

“On the Motorway” – Metronomy (mp3)

website

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What Molly found amusing.

Viva La Oral History Of The State!

Relive the glorious of our childhood!

In Which Tess Is Mad Fly Like Ice T

You Should Probably Coco

by Tess Lynch

Fuck Soulja Boy! Eat a dick! This ni–a single handedly killed Hip Hop. That shit is such garbage man. We came all the way from Rakim, we came all the way from Das EFX, we came all the way from motherfuckers flowing like Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube, and you come with that Superman shit? That shit is garbage. Hurricane (Chris) take them fuoking beads out of your hair ni–a! Man up. You ni–as is making me feel real fucking mad about this shit.

– Ice T, the paragon of strange line deliveries on SVU.

The POINT is to CELEBRATE my FAVORITE COUPLE of ALL TIME: Ice T and Coco.

Coco happens to be a Playboy model, and she is crazy about Ice T for all the reasons you’d assume. And, of course, she has a lot to offer as well. But the real thing is that Ice T takes his moniker (real name: Tracy Marrow) from one of the illest pimps to ever write a series of 99 cent paperbacks, Iceberg Slim. Does that mean he automatically deserves to be dating a Playboy model with giant hooters? Yes.

However, as a serial monogamist (relatively speaking), he deserves her because he knows how to treat a woman right (that’s a guess).

He also served in the army, and hated it, like a lot of people who serve in the army; has had a successful film and TV career even though he’s quoted as saying “I can’t act, I really can’t act” in the Brent Owens documentary Pimps Up, Ho’s Down; AND HE WAS IN LEPRECHAUN: IN THE HOOD. I mean, come on, the man is sort of actually the most awesome person I’ve ever heard of. He has taken all of my ambitions and achieved them.

Coco, also known as Coco-T, is herself a blogger of sorts, raking in 2,000,000 hits a week on her site. She’s a dancer, has guest-starred on SVU (cute!), and once won a $10,000 scholarship to attend Beverly Hills Studio with Hilary Swank and Jessica Alba.

Coco and Ice T competed against Melissa and Joan Rivers on Celebrity Family Feud June 24th.

Tess Lynch is the contributing editor to This Recording. Her blog is here, and she tumbles here.

DAMN IT FEELS GOOD TO BE A GANGSTA

“My Baby” – Ice T (mp3)

“Pimp or Die” – Ice T (mp3)

“Walking in the Rain” – Ice T (mp3)

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Alex went for Neil Gaiman.

Danish reminded us of all of 2007’s good songs so far.

Molly shone a light on British country-rocker Ian Matthews.

In Which We Revisit A Moment Alive And Lost

This is the second installment of guest contributor Yvonne Georgina Puig’s 3-part series on visiting her grandmother in Houston. You can read part one here. The third part is here.

Couple On Beach

Couple on Beach by Alex Colville

Are You My Granddaughter?

by Yvonne Georgina Puig

Hedwig Village, where I grew up in Houston, is not in fact a village.

It is .9 square miles of flat, wooded neighborhood, set among three other similar and indistinguishable “villages.” Oma lives in Piney Point Village. I went to elementary school in Bunker Hill Village. My mother used to teach in Hunter’s Creek Village. I ride my bike to Oma’s house through these “villages” and note, in the eight years I’ve lived away, how little has changed. The woman two doors over still stands in place on her front lawn, watering the St. Augustine and peddling gossip. Teenagers in jacked-up F-150s still run the stop sign outside our house. The parking lot of St. Cecilia Catholic Church down the block remains dutifully at capacity on Sunday morning.

These villages comprise a community where good ol’ boys with questionable Enron ties share property lines with gray-beards in khaki jumpsuits, where quiet modernist gems….

Good

… are leveled in favor of monuments to the marriage of new money and poor taste.

Bad

This is not the neighborhood to which Oma and my grandfather, Opa, moved in 1954. This is a place made vulgar by lack of nuance. Oma’s modest brick house, once one of many modest brick houses on a shady cul-de-sac, will soon be sandwiched by towering faux-Tuscan boxes. She reconciles this notion of progress by shaking her head rhetorically when she opens the door for me, “What are they doing out there?” she says.

Today she is confused. “What day is it?” she asks. “I’m such a zombie. I’m so mad at myself.”

Mornings tend to be this way. She sits on the couch, leans forward, rubs her temples, scolds herself. “I’m so vervalant,” she says. Loosely translated as “ornery,” vervalant is a word Oma uses often to make light of her situation. Watching her, I see that she understands her mind is losing hold of things that she knows, even at her age, she should remember. Beyond this, I’m not sure what she makes of it. I imagine the Proustian disorientation of waking up in an unfamiliar room, believing it at first to be familiar. The fog of sleeping too late. But for Oma the room rearranges itself only the slightest bit, the fogs lifts but leaves behind a mist. In the mornings, she doesn’t want to move, she doesn’t want to speak. If I ask how she slept, or what she ate for breakfast, she waves her hand and sighs, “Past history.”

We listen to audio her parents sent from Holland to Houston in the fifties, back when long-distance phone calls were glamorous. The tapes were a way for them to hear one another’s voices without the expense. My great-grandmother, Over-Oma we call her, sounds far away on the recording, in time and distance. She speaks Dutch, laughs, asks questions of my young mother in English; her voice is kind.

Though she has listened to these tapes before, Oma seems astonished to hear her mother’s voice. “My mother!” she says, “So sweet.” My great-grandfather, Over-Opa, takes his turn on the tape. I barely understand a word, but his low voice is magic. Oma’s brother, Bert, tells a funny story. These are the voices oldest and most familiar to Oma, and we are in the room with them. “It makes me sad,” she says. But she doesn’t want to turn it off.

Over-Oma begins to play Chopin. The song is muffled and haunting, a waltz. “I still see her playing,” Oma says, running her fingers over a ghost piano. Oma is saddened by these memories, but she is also momentarily pulled from the stress of forgetting. Do these years seem closer to her than the present? The saddest and strangest part is that the future, with its necessity for context and pattern, is lost. I move forward, and Oma is thrust back. I close my eyes and see her suspended over a great funnel, growing darker as it narrows. I reach for her hand, and pull her out just in time.

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In Which We Invite You And The Whole Gang

Send Lawyers, Guns And Money

by Tess Lynch

Strawberry Letter 23 – Shuggie Otis (mp3)

Usually, every day or so, I look at real estate listings online because my one real goal in life is to own a house. When I was a kid and not reading Christopher Pike novels, I was usually reading a book called Mandy (not porn, why does it sound like porn?) by Julie Andrews Edwards (= the same Julie Andrews you’re thinking of). Its eponymous heroine was an orphan who found a little cottage and moved in all by herself, “embarking on a clandestine domestic fantasy;” again, I must stress, this is not porn. This is Julie Andrews! Edwards!

Scenic World (Remix) – Beirut (mp3)

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