Can’t stop shopping

Running shoes
My new running shoes and new matching top. Total = $71

All these super cheap shoes, accessories and clothing are doing my bank balance in.

Heading out purely for necessities (running shoes) I got sidetracked by some majorly good prices and had to hold myself back with rarely displayed discipline. Although, that was probably just because the parking meter was ticking and fines are not cheap.

I went to Off Broadway Shoes with housemate Devoir as he needed to buy some new runners and since he had no vehicle (and at the time I did) and I had left my old runners at home I chauffeured him there. We parked out the back and my jaw slackened and my eyes shone as I surveyed the massive warehouse with rows upon rows of shoes in neat aisles.

I darted around like an excited child with only 30 seconds to get as many lollies as possible in a lolly shop. I started with the running shoes and I could not believe the prices. They were pretty much all in the $50 – $70 price range. As I walked past shoe after shoe I wondered how on earth running shoes can cost three times as much in Australia.

I exercised restraint and only bought the runners and a pair of beige flat lace-up sandals. However, during a power-shop at GAP a little later, I found a couple of tops on sale and way discounted.

I have a feeling that my penchant for shoes is going to see me purchasing lots more. I mean, when they are at these prices, you can afford to have a shoe fetish.

Tools of the trade

I’m typing this post on my brand new MacBook Pro that arrived yesterday.

It’s taking some adjustment as I transfer from my faithful old Toshiba to this crunchy Apple. I’m discovering things I like and things that I don’t like. I don’t like not knowing how to do simple things, but I guess that’s part of the learning process and I just need to play with it.

Google is proving to be a godsend. Despite there currently being four Mac users in my household, none of them could help me in my lament over the loss of the forward delete button on my PC (the Del button). Thanks to a search, I found a forum that answered my question. Whilst it is less efficient with having to hold the fn key at the same time as the delete key, at least I can still forward delete which is essential in craft of wordsmithing. My housemates thought that was pretty cool.

One of the best things about my new computer is that my blog looks sensational on this screen. The colour saturation is amazing and it looks so crisp. However, I am going to miss the mousepad on my Toshiba with its light tap sensitivity. It is a truly amazing feature. On my MacBook I have to press hard to click on the trackpad, which isn’t as convenient to my semi-double jointed fingers and I feel it could bring on a case of RSI.

I’m thinking of keeping my Toshiba to one side to check emails without interrupting my work on the Apple. Or maybe that’s just because I haven’t figured out how to get my emails to appear on Mac Mail…

Follow up note Wednesday 9 March:
So my friend Ricky came over today and commented on my shiny new computer. He then proved his worth by showing me how to set up the trackpad as a tap to click. So now I have one of my favourite features of my pc available on my mac and I guess it renders one of my gripes above irrelevant.

Follow up to the Bedacle

After sleeping on the not-so-amazing bed and waking up at 5am (something that never happened on the airbed) I figured out the problem.

Unable to sleep on the sagging bed, I pulled the mattress off the boxspring to see if that made any difference. It did. When checking the boxspring in the morning, I discovered that three of the wooden slats were broken. One had even had an attempted fix up with a roll of duct tape. Hmm, I was definitely duped on this purchase.

So I have a few options:

  1. Try and fix the boxspring myself with a visit to Home Depot for some timber slat replacement and some screws. In doing so, I’ll also have to recover the top with a cardboard like cover.
  2. Ditch the boxspring all together and keep sleeping on the mattress on the floor.
  3. Buy a new boxspring.
  4. Buy a bed frame that doesn’t need a boxspring.

All of these options, except for number 2, require time and research.

In the meantime I decided to do something about the aesthetics of my bed and purchased a lovely soft 400 thread count mattress protector and some 600 thread count sheets. So hopefully this means I’ll get a better night’s sleep and also put some good quality layers between me and Sheila’s paint job.


The bedacle

Perhaps I’ve consumed too many American home-style brownies today, but all I can do is laugh and shake my head at the debacle of buying a bed.

I’ve been sleeping on a blow up mattress for a month now, and it’s getting quite tiresome. Those that know me well know that I like to lounge about in bed a fair bit, and that pastime is considerably hindered when there is nothing but air and flocked top plastic beneath you. Feeling on a bit of a roll with all my fabulous purchases of the last week (car, computer, some great garage sale pick ups) I jumped on Craigslist this morning and searched for a mattress.

Now, I’d looked plenty of times, but none of those times was I looking with intent. I had made a couple of ‘going nowhere’ calls about beds and had kind of gotten distracted by my overwhelming need to get a car first. This morning, I narrowed the search to owner only, hoping to find a you-beaut quality mattress and boxspring (what we would call an ensemble in Australia) going cheap. I stumbled across this post:

Beautiful queen double pillow top mattress is in like new condition and is super comfortable. Once you sleep on this double pillow top you wont want to ever sleep on anything else. I have only slept on this bed for less than three months (always had a mattress protector on it) because I moved in with my boyfriend. Mattress is two years old and is completely clean.of stains, rips or funky smells. Actually this set has been in cold storage since january of 2010. I can deliver.

A picture of the advertised bed

The photos of the mattress looked good and the price was nice for a good quality one at $225 for the mattress and boxspring. So I called and left a message for Sheila who then called me back not long after. She immediately went into the detail about the mattress, the pillow top, that it was virtually brand new and had hardly been slept on. She said she could deliver tonight after work if I went halves in the gas and that she would also throw in a free bed frame (here that just means a little metal trolley with wheels on which to place the boxspring). I said bring it on. I proceeded to then document my excitement via Facebook with a series of images of my blow up mattress and my empty room awaiting the new, super comfy bed.

On the phone Sheila had a distinct accent that I can’t place but is what you hear in the movies frequently. It has a Southern twang about it and a gravelly undertone. When I met her at the gate she totally lived up to her voice. She was a little woman in her forties, but with a younger movement about her. Her dyed blonde hair was half hidden underneath her black hoodie and she jumped out of the big white pick up truck driven by her big, goateed boyfriend and proceeded to act a bit jittery. As she opened the door of the truck, a strong waft of cigarette smoke also exited, as though it too had been trying to escape the cabin of the truck.

Gin, J and I helped take the occie straps off the tarp and we pulled out the mattress which was wrapped in plastic. Sheila retrieved a torch from the truck and shone it on the mattress, saying how the reason she wasn’t sleeping on it was “as you can see, my boyfriend’s a big guy, 6’4″ and well, it wasn’t big enough, you know?” She carried on about it for a little while, whereas I was just keen to get it upstairs. I handed over the cash and watched them back out of the driveway, trying a few times to get the big truck lined up down the narrow driveway and closed the gate behind them as they drove home to Santa Clarita (quite some way away).

In the meantime, Gin and J had carried up the frame and boxspring and J helped me carry the mattress up the stairs.

Quite excited to have a bed, I ripped off the plastic and exposed the rough fabric of a not-the-quality-I-thought-I-was-buying pillow-top. We put the mattress on the boxspring and I pressed down to hear a loud creaking as pressure was applied. The mattress certainly didn’t look as though it had only been slept on for three months. Then I saw where a stain had been cleaned. I touched it and my fingers came away white. I felt duped.

How will I sleep tonight?

Adopting a “oh-well-ha-ha-they-got-me-but-at-least-I-have-a-bed” demeanor, I got the hairdryer to dry where I’d assumed they’d just left upholstery cleaner like J’s attempts at cleaning our white couch. Then, as I was making my bed, I noticed another spot on the bottom corner of the side of the mattress where my fingers came away white again. On closer inspection I discovered that they had painted over some scuff marks on the mattress. Who does that? So much for the “completely clean of stains” claim in the ad posting.

So I didn’t get sold the mattress I thought I was being sold but I’ll wait and see how it goes to sleep on tonight. I probably could have got a new mattress and box spring from a wholesaler for only a little bit more, I was just trying to find a good deal, instead I think I was the good deal for Sheila and her boyfriend. No doubt they are at some seedy bar drinking beers and laughing over the money they made off me right now. Do I dare text my displeasure?

For future Craigslist purchases, I must remember to do my due diligence or else the joke will always be on me.

Esmeralda my new green gem

After being in LA for a month, I have finally bought a car.

Me and Esmeralda: the beginning of a great friendship

I won’t lie and say it’s been easy because being in LA without a car is tough. I was feeling hamstrung and completely dependent on my friends who had to go out of their way to take me places. But when I woke up today, I had a feeling that it would be all okay because I had come to a resolution in my head. If I didn’t get a car, I was going to hire one for a week.

Initially I was quite hesitant about driving on the opposite side of the road, however as the days and weeks passed I became a lot more confident and just wanted to get back behind the wheel again. It’s helpful that there is always traffic in LA and also the yellow lines painted down the road are a godsend for staying on the right side of the road.

I can’t even begin to imagine how much time I spent on Autotraders and websites, trawling through car after car, trying to find a good car in my price range of $5000. Disappointed by the lack of vehicles, I even moved my budget up a thousand dollars, but still it was tricky to find something that I felt comfortable with. In the beginning I was looking for an SUV and had my heart set on a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Then when Gin and J got Brandon, I thought I could probably get away with having a smaller sedan that would a) fit into the second space for a compact car at our apartment b) be easier to park in general and c) would be more fuel efficient. Brandon’s big Jeep interior and roofracks could handle anything big and bulky that we would be transporting, so something smaller in the family would be fine.

I moved on to looking at Volkswagens. Mainly Passats and Jettas. I test drove a dodgy, smokey Jetta that a dealer wanted $6500 for. Then I test drove a private sale Passat which I made an offer on subject to it passing a mechanics inspection to my liking. That car didn’t even make it to the mechanic I had selected before it had an engine problem. So I dodged a bullet there. I also found out during my research that there are a number of engine problems with the Passat, for which a class action had been taken against Volkswagen for an oil sludge problem.

Disheartened, I finally did a search on Autotrader for any kind of car. I was that desperate. It threw up a few Volvos and on closer look and internet research, they looked to be a good car. So I called Good Vibes car dealer in North Hollywood this morning to see if the green 2000 Volvo s40 was still on their lot, as I’ve gone to a car yard before only to find the car I wanted to look at had been sold already, so it’s always good to call ahead.

J drove me in Brandon to the dealer and we had a good look at the green Volvo before going to see Steve the salesman. Steve was lovely and let us have a play in the car, checking how things worked, opening and shutting the sunroof, pulling down the split fold rear seats to see how flat they lay, getting in the front and then the back to check comfort levels, and wowing over the seatbelt for groceries in the boot. We then asked to go for a drive and after a Castle moment, the cars being detailed in the yard were moved to get the little green Volvo on the road.

The car was very comfortable to sit in. It felt really solid and safe on the road and it just felt good in general. Feeling rather excited, I decided that I wanted to buy it. We checked all the electrics again and found that the right brake and indicator bulbs had gone, so they were replaced for me without any hassle. I then let J go home while I spent a couple of hours filling in paperwork and organising insurance, chatting to Steve about how he loves the film Muriel’s Wedding, getting the skinny on all the paperwork and learning some new road rules.

Finally, after handing over a big wad of cash (predominantly $20 notes) and swiping my debit card for the remainder of the cost (which came in right on original budget), I got the keys to my new little Volvo. I sat in the driver’s seat and inhaled deeply a few times, holding the steering wheel and wearing a big smile. I adjusted the seat and mirrors, opened the sunroof a little and moved out onto the road. I was underway in my very own car, which is one that I would never have bought in Australia.

Getting home after a good run on the Hollywood Freeway, I even managed to ace a reverse park on the hill out in front of our place to cap off an exciting day. 

My new Volvo has been named Esmeralda. It means emerald in Spanish and my little green gem and I are going to be inseparable in LA.

I see dead people’s things

I’ve never really been good at getting up early to go to garage sales. That and I already had a house full of stuff and didn’t really need more clutter. But I always liked the idea of it.

But with a blank canvas apartment to furnish and make homely, they are dynamite. It also helps that most garage or yard sales here start at the respectable time of 9am, so there’s no rush to get out there to pick over the cream of the crop.

Today we visited three sales. One apartment sale where there wasn’t anything that caught our fancy, and then two estate sales. I’ve decided that estate sales are the best. Estate sales are where the whole contents of the house is up for grabs and most likely a deceased estate. It makes for great shopping.

Roof racks are essential estate shopping tools

The first one we went to in the Hollywood Hills sounded like it was going to be a bit out of our price range, given the location and the heavy accent on antiques and brand names I didn’t know. So we were delighted to find an old wooden writing desk that is perfect for our office space and even more delighted to find that they accepted a price of $50 including some old movie books and Cagney & Lacey poster (down from $65 for the desk alone). We also picked up some wine and champagne glasses so there are plenty of drinking vessels for parties at ours.

The second one was even better in terms of price and range. It was nearby to our place and was a lifelong collection of things. We got there towards the end of the sale when everything miraculously became half price. So we ended up with:

  • a deco style white sofa bed, pretty clean and comfy for $37.50
  • a heavy wooden framed mirror $17.50
  • a print of a Kentucky garden scene in a lovely frame $5
  • a round print in wooden frame $5
  • three cushions $5
  • a vase and wooden spoons $1.50
  • crystal bowl and metal serving dishes $4.50
  • a desk chair $10
  • a clothes hamper $5
  • a chest of drawers – free

Our total spend for the day was $160 and we got some great new furnishings for our apartment. It is such a nice feeling to start from scratch and build things up around you (although we are grateful that our landlord left us a few key pieces of furniture to start off with).

I can’t wait for the next estate sale!

Supermarket fashion

We live in such a cool part of LA.

Day 2 in our new apartment and Gin and I were out and about running errands, buying things etcetera and decided to call past our local Trader Joe’s supermarket on the way home to complement our purchases from the local Wednesday Farmers Market.

It was just on 5pm and the supermarket carpark was busy and so were the aisles. People picked up their daily groceries from the Silver Lake shop which, incidentally, only sells food and not any other type of grocery.

So many trendy types were in there, most on their own. There was only one child that I saw, on the hip of an even hipper mother who looked as though she should be famous, but who had knotted, unbrushed hair. This made me feel better about my knotty, frizzy hair.

Strangely, I hadn’t thought too much about what I was wearing when I left the house. I was still in my clean outfit of black trackie pants, a brown top and black Kathmandu fleece with my lime green Dunlop Volleys thrown on my feet. I looked rather bogan-like, yet rather than feeling too dorky to go out in public, I felt as though my Australian accent cancelled out any bad fashion.

In essence, my Australian accent makes me cool, or at the very least, interesting. That, and I think it also got us out of a parking ticket today!

Essential skills for buying a car…

…are Spanish language skills.

Gin, J and I went on a tyre-kicking tour of LA which took us to Florence-Graham, a predominantly Hispanic part of LA. They were checking out a red 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee listed by Jose on behalf of his mum. I always thought good mechanical minds, or excellent negotiation skills were important in buying used cars, but it seems that so is speaking someone’s language.

After a little test drive, they said they needed to think about it, so we went for a little cruise around the block and found a grotty old car yard called Almazen Kar Sales. We pulled into the lot and got out to have a look around. An old man came up to Gin and said “Hablas espanol” so I came to her rescue and started having a conversation with him about finding a car. He was a little difficult to understand because he was missing quite a few teeth.

When I told him of Gin and J’s limited budget, he got a lady from the office, who could speak a little bit of English but you could tell she felt far more comfortable in Spanish, to show us some cars on the other side of the fence. This woman was wearing tight jeans, a jewel coloured knit jumper and had hair and make up that looked like they’d come straight out of a Mexican boutique like the one called ‘Fancy’ that I went to in Merida, Mexico, last year.

The cars there were really rough, and not as good as Jose’s mum’s car, and a lot more expensive. So we continued our tyre-kick after the lady whispered that we might find something more suitable in one of the car dealers on Alameda Avenue.

So we followed her advice and went to a yard on Alameda where the older gent was very proud to tell me they had three businesses, a chicken shop, a mechanic and a car dealership. They were really helpful in saying that for Gin and J’s limited budget, they would be better off going for a private sale and looking on Craigslist.

Gin and J about to buy a car from Jorge

So it was back to Jose’s to check that the seats folded flat and another little ride around the block. Following this, Gin and J negotiated a bargain with Jose interpreting for his dad Jorge. All this while, I remained in the hire car with Karen the GPS lamenting my own lack of luck in finding wheels. When the girls got back in with uncontrollable smiles at purchasing new wheels, all grinchy-ness left me and I was over the moon for them.

We drove off to Bank of America in order to get cash for the transaction and then it was back to the house of Jose, Jorge and Maria. This time I got out and joined in the fun, which also turned into my interpreting skills coming in handy as Jorge explained what to do if the alarm goes off. Maria (Jose’s mum) came out to write out the pink slip and was relieved when she looked up to ask a question and I said I spoke some Spanish. Because Maria couldn’t write the amount in words in English, I had to do it. I also found out that Maria’s daughter LOVES Guy Sebastian and has his posters and CD, so we laughed about that. Jorge was also quite impressed at my language skills, but that was when he thought we spoke French in Australia and that I knew three languages.

I never would have thought I’d be dusting off my Spanish today to help buy a car for Gin and J, but it was such a great feeling and I look forward to more Spanish conversations.

Loosing ourselves in Walmart

Pulling off the freeway for a pitstop, we discovered a Walmart. I had never been in a Walmart store before, but my web research had told me they had cookware starter packs for $39.99, so I suggested to the girls we go have a look.

Walmart is like a big Kmart. It has lots of stuff, of varying quality and prices.

Given that we are very close to moving in to our new apartment, we headed straight to the kitchen ware section and proceeded to debate the benefits of teflon vs stainless steel, the $39 set versus the $89 pack and measured the skillets for comparison. Eventually we selected a grey 18 piece teflon coated set that came with the deal clinching 5L jumbo frypan with lid.

Then we got excited by sets of Pyrex, found ourselves a crockery set, picked up some chopping boards and a broom and mop (in Aussie green and gold). The only thing we couldn’t find was a cutlery set we liked, so instead we just bought three sets of spoon, fork and knife to tide us over. One interesting observation was that the cutlery sets come with dessert fork, fork, spoon, teaspoon and knife, but no butter knife, which I thought was odd.

We were served by the very friendly George who was very excited when we said we were from Australia and buying things for our new apartment. He was unsure as to why we would be living in Norwalk, but when we said we were moving to Silver Lake and had just pulled off the freeway randomly, he got excited about our new ‘hood and said we’d really enjoy it there.

So our first Walmart experience (coming in at $197.50) was awesome and once again, we met extremely friendly Americans.

Today’s disappointment:
Turning up to pick up the keys to our new place only to discover that there was still so much stuff and cleaning to be done. We are now not moving in until Tuesday.

Celebrity spotted:
Justin Long (Drew Barrymore’s boy) (not at Walmart)

Raising the bar

Gin driving the U-Haul truck in ranch country

Craigslist is like an online Trading Post. It’s where you find all sorts of stuff to buy. Today it was a bar for a bargain.

The bar was a dual purpose purchase. It would form part of props for our short film and at other times grace Ricky’s apartment.

At 7 feet long, the bar was too big to fit in the back of the wagon, so a U-Haul truck was required for the 30 mile trip to Santa Clarita to pick it up. I rode with Gin in the truck on the freeway out of the city into ranch territory. So many horse ranches with the stereotypical white wooden fences lined the road as we struggled to find the address.

After about three u-turns on the windy road (not easy in a big moving van I may add, so high-fives to Gin) we finally found out that we’d been given the wrong address. Thankfully it was only a bit further up the road.

We drove into a small complex of four big ranch houses and met Butch, a retired guy, probably in his early sixties.Not living up to his tough name, he was lean with a silver beard, twinkly eyes and lovely demeanor. Butch used to be a set constructor and built the highway you’ve seen in The Matrix. Some of his old set equipment, a dolly trolley, helped to move the heavy bar from his upstairs self-proclaimed ‘mancave’ above the garage down to the truck. It was still quite a delicate process to get it down the stairs but we managed, and Gin and I proved our mettle to Butch, who had looked surprised at Ricky for bringing some girls to help with the job.

Once loaded in the truck we made our way back into LA where the next challenge was to unload the bar and then find a park in the street. We were lucky in finding an easy park in the street not far away because they can be tough to find, especially truck-sized parks.

Then, the big test was getting the bar up two flights of stairs and into the apartment. With some think-throughs, talk-throughs and just-do-its, we got the bar and a sweat up. Although the last little bit couldn’t have been done without the help of a neighbour who lent a hand at precisely the right moment, while it was in the air and in a pocket of inertia.

But, it looks great and was worth the adventure, although I’m not sure I’ll be volunteering to move it again…