Home: April 2007 Archives

Boy This Is Strange

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The move is complete.

I moved to my new condo on Saturday. Everything went fairly well. I rented a U-Haul truck, and begged some friends to help me move. Brad, Chris and a co-worker at the bar, George, helped me move.

Over the last week, I took care to box as many items as I could. I also set aside a ton of items that fell under my golden rule, "Have I used this in the last year?" The items that I haven't used included an old snowboard, 3 old PCs (out of 6 PCs!), softcover and hardcover books, old pc games, pc stereo speakers, an old dart board (with Grateful Dead wall-protector that is put between the dartboard and the wall for protection from errant darts). I hope to have a gate sale next weekend if the weather olds out. Whatever I can't sell, I probably will trash.

The new condo is in disarray. The contractor has been working on my place, and the changes look like they will be great, but they aren't 100% done. The glass wall is down, and in its place is a sheet rock wall in dire need of a paint job. The closets are expanded, without doors or shelving - so I can't hang anything up. condo 019.jpg
The kitchen is basically empty, and my beer/soda sits in a cooler with ice. The appliances are in boxes and there are no shelves, cabinets or sink. My old toilet is still leaking but functional, and my new toilet sits in the living room. I don't own a shower curtain, so I have to contort myself to avoid splashing too much water on the floor (I should have a new one soon).

I think it will be at least another week, until everything else, besides the kitchen, is done. So all that delays my painter. Chris painted the bedroom, and I think it looks outstanding. The ceiling is painted white, and the walls are a nice shade of green. Unlike the previous owner who decided "EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE BLUE" with the room, Chris was smart about making the trim & window ledge white, and it really "pops" when you walk in. Unfortunately, Chris told me that he doesn't want to paint the rest of the condo until the contractor is done with his work. He feels that if he paints it now, that he will be doing double work because the contractor still has things to hang, saw, spackle and build which will create more work for the painter to fix touch ups and hand prints.

My air conditioning/heat in my bedroom is dead, along with the airconditioning in the family room, due to the kitchen construction knocking out the thermostat unit. The weather has been fairly nice. I don't look forward to a heatwave, however.

Good news? Well, my internet works. My Tivo is connected and cable TV is working. To me, that was probably the #1 thing I need in my home. Life without that connection to the internet or having TV only lasted for a few hours between my move yesterday and today. It was a long 12 hours.

Someone commented on my blog a few weeks ago about how moving to a new section of Hoboken would bring about new places to explore & experience. They were so right. I really do feel, in a way, like i'm in a whole new town. Like I know i'm in Hoboken, but when I think, "Ok, I need Windex" - I don't know where to go. Oh, at my old place, i'd walk 4 blocks to the A&P. That is about a 13 block walk now. 5 blocks from my new place is the CVS on Washington & Newark. When I think, "I need a 6 pack of beer" I don't take the 1 block walk to Garden Wine & Liquor Store and talk to Phil. Now I have Hoboken Discount Liquors on Willow and Newark or Hoboken Vine at 400 Newark.

There are stores that I have been poking around this weekend and knew *of* them, but never bought anything. I went to Luca Brasi's on Thursday (got the Chicken Parm Hero) and Friday (tried the Fuget Aboutit Hero). Both were very tasty, and the Fuget Aboutit may have been even better than Vito's Hero. It was one of those moments where I am eating it and thinking "Damn, this is SO good."

I also have been to Legal Beans. I have passed by there numerous times and it was always packed. I went there for brunch last week, and then for brunch again today. Didn't have much today, just some fruit, an everything bagel with cream cheese and a "zombie" chocolate/espresso coffee. Very cool vibe to the place, I absolutely see this becoming my #1 place to eat. It is 2 blocks from the condo, and the prices are great. Reminds me of an old-school diner with a new-school eclectic motif. Met Molly the waitress there today. Should be on a first name basis with everyone there before summer, I will bet.

Also checked out Sobsey's Produce today on 1st and Bloomfield. It is sort of like the red-headed step child of Garden of Eden. It has a very nice range of fresh fruits, vegetables and off the beaten path condiments, but i'd walk an extra 3 blocks for GoE.

When we moved in Saturday we got Filippo's pizza and a 12 pack of Yuengling. Holy shit! Great crusty 'za. I was planning to eat at Leo's Grandevous, but I went back to Filippo's last night, grabbed two slices, some seltzer and a fresh made cannoli to watch The Soprano's.

My goal this week is to zero in on the cabinet and countertop situation. I have two people working on it from different stores, and my main problem is finding the time after work (I get home at 6:45pm) to race out to the stores and look at the shelving. I may have to put it off until Saturday, but every day I delay are more days that I am without a kitchen. Then again, this isn't something I want to rush, because to me the most important component of the construction work will be the kitchen. I don't want to skimp on cabinets and then be disappointed in what I purchased.

Whirlwind

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Things have been...hectic lately.

A quick list of things I have had to deal with:

1. My air conditioners. When I bought the place, and did the inspection, 2 out of 3 wall mounted air condtioners weren't working properly. One was dead, and the other's heat pump didn't work properly. The 3rd was ok. So when it came to close, the owner credited me money to fix the A/C units. I spoke to his repair guy, after the close, and he told me it would cost "x" amount to fix the A/C unit, and "y" amount to replace the broken one.

I wasn't credited for the "y" amount by the seller, just an "x" amount which was supposed to cover the costs. I called my lawyer, Tom Foley, who started to look into it with the other lawyer, emailed me: "We can assert that the Seller was aware of the condition and intentionally misrepresented that it was in working order."

While that was going on I did some research of my own. I checked the serial number of my A/C unit (52SQD307301AA), and googled it. After a bit of work, I found a site which I could plug in the old unit serial number and it would provide me with a compatible "modern" serial number (52PQ-307-3). Then I googled the modern AC and found out they cost about $650 (taxes/shipping included).

That $650 cost was about a fraction of what I was credited at the time of sale. I was pretty psyched, I could get 3 brand new A/C units (with heat pumps) and be set. Things were looking good.

Then I called a Carrier authorized dealer. I explained that I could buy the units and if someone could install them, what would it cost? All we were doing was taking out an existing unit, of the same size and shape, and slapping in a new unit. Couldn't be THAT hard. What would it cost? $300? $500?

The guy was nice, but was like "Oh, you would need 2 guys for that and it could take a couple of hours. Including a guy outside on a ladder. Probably about $2,000 for the job."

I blurted out, "$2,000 dollars?! What are you nuts? We are just taking an old one out and putting a new one in, should take about 30 minutes, max!"

He was nonplussed about it. "Hey, you need a trained refrigerator technician there, not some handy man. That's what it costs."

I hung up the phone and I was deflated. I was thinking I could get in 3 new A/C units and maybe pay some guy like $300 bucks for an hour or two to just put them in. I was now getting worried, the whole buying the house thing wasn't so great now. This was starting to become a Money Pit (more on this later). Fuck.

In times past, I usually dealt with my problems on my own, but I was getting a bit desperate because I was watching my funds drain a lot faster than I expected. I have become a check writing machine. Painter. Contractor. Cabinents. Stainless steel appliances. New couch, chair and ottoman. This was all starting to add up, big time. My original estimates were very naive. The money I set aside for the upgrades simply wasn't enough and I already was working on two mortgages - one was 80% of the principal and the other was 6% of the principal (I put down 14% in cash).

One thing i'm proud of is that I was relatively debt-free, aside from paying PSE&G back $100 a month for the next 50 months (a special shout-out to Kristen and Jon who agreed to pay me back, and I hope Karma is a boomerang to those roommates who refused to pay me back).

I thought about just getting a credit card with 0% APR for 12 months and spread out whatever I needed to do. But I also wanted to bang out that second mortgage as soon as I could, too, and not put myself into more debt.

I may have gotten lucky. My mom knew that my brother-in-law was handy with things like Air Conditioning. She called him and he called me, assuring me that this wouldn't be that hard to do, since the A/C units are already in place. He would come up one weekend with my sister, and the kids and replace it. I ordered one unit today, for the bedroom, and if that goes well I will order two more at a later time.

2. My mailbox. The owner was also nice enough to forget to have a mailbox key at the close (the owner lives in London now, so he wasn't at the close, nor was his lawyer). The last few days has been Mailbox 101 for me. I first went to the Post Office at River Street and asked the manager there what I needed to do. He told me I just had to get a locksmith to pop open the box and replace the lock. While talking to him someone was Hoboken Locks (6th and Washington) was walking behind me and the manager said, "There's a locksmith right there!"

I spoke to the guy, and he said "Hey, its easy. You can pay me $67 and I'll open it up and replace the lock. Or, you take two screwdrivers and do it yourself for $7."

He gave me a basic explanation of how to do it. Now for those that know me, i'm pretty good with computers but pretty lousy with anything "handy" related. I just have the worst luck. But this was pretty easy, I quickly popped open the mailbox and removed the old lock. I went to the ACE hardware store on 1st. I bought a lock set they had for mailboxes. I was feeling confident. I put the lock in...

...and it wouldn't close.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

The old lock was at the ACE hardware store. I threw it out when I got the new lock, thinking that this was a done deal.

I went back to the hardware store. I glumly explained that I needed my lock back and went into their trashcan, digging for my old lock. Fortunately the trashcan was only filled with paper products, and one coffee cup. I found my lock after about 2 minutes. It was a bit embarassing to do this in front of a line of people behind me.

I compared the two locks, and the locking latch for the new lock was different than the old lock. I figured I could try to use the old latch with the new lock, and went back to my condo. That didn't work either. I returned the new lock to ACE and went down to Hoboken lock to see if they had a locking latch similar to the one I had.

Hoboken Lock was closed on Saturday at 2pm, and by the time I got there it was 2:30. They were closed Sunday. I had to go there Monday to get the new lock. What a waste. It was a solid 2 1/2 hours of my day with me trekking up and back to ACE hardware three times.

3. Cabinets are expensive. I know nothing about cabinets before I bought this place. I figured a decent set would cost about $1,500-2,000 since my kitchen was relatively small. Boy, was I wrong. My contractor and I priced out two brands, and both came back from $3,000-4,000 without granite or the sink. FUCK. My old kitchen is GONE. Everything is ripped out. The cabinets are gone. The appliances are gone (except the fridge). The new appliances are coming on Friday. I'm still working with my contractor on this and already priced around with other places, like Home Depot, and their prices were even more expensive than what the contractor priced.

I closed on my condo Thursday, and I now own my own property for the first time in my life.

People have been asking me, "So are you excited?"

I wrote about it before, I love a lot of things about the condo, and its potentional, but right now it isn't a HOME. Yet. I have a lot of work I need to sink into it. I have minor construction to complete. I have to paint the place (notice that the word "PAIN" is in "PAINT"). I have my appliances on order, and I should get them in about 2 weeks. I have to move, and today I made arrangements for a U-Haul truck and boxes. I'm going to have to cash in my chips with one or two friends to see if they can help me move. Matt, I'm looking at you, buddy.

I think once I am done with everything, the condo will be gorgeous. I just hope I have enough money to cover everything. I have a budget, and have to pick and choose what gets priority in upgrades.

Hey, funny thing happened Thursday. I was mid way through signing my life away, and entering the wonderful world of debt when my lawyer and I started to talk about Hoboken. 040807d.jpg
I was telling him everything that I loved and hated about Hoboken, and he mentioned how he was running for office in the 6th ward...

Hey, I live in the 6th Ward?

Oops. My lawyer is Thomas Foley. For whatever reason, I didn't make the connection between all the great information from Hoboken411 and the fucking emails I have been getting from him for the last 3 weeks. Yes, I can be dense. Want to know how dense I am?

I told him I wasn't voting for him.

Sorry, I explained, but Bill Noonan is my guy. Known him for years. Trust the guy to run this town in a fair and honest way. Isn't connected with the "Old Boys Network" of Hudson County. I know he will do what is right for his ward and what is right for Hoboken. I told Tom Foley this, to his face, simply explaining that I don't turn my backs on my friends. Thomas was gracious and cordial about it, and I immediately felt bad for being so blunt with him. Then again, I did give Thomas well over 1,000 reasons why I could be honest with him, since he was working for me.

I sincerely hope either Thomas or Bill win. Thomas presents some great ideas also and I already like the guy. I wish that Bill and Thomas just weren't running against each other in the same ward against Angelo “Nino” Giacchi. Nino is well entrenched in the 6th ward, and I hope either Thomas or Bill just consolidate their effort to overthrow the Hudson County Political Machine.

I finished signing about 100 documents and left the office to check out my new pad. I bought a 6 pack of Yuengling, sat in my empty apartment and drank a few beers in celebration. I started to sketch my kitchen with a Home Depot kitchen kit, which has graph paper and cabinents to pick out. Man, I suck at that. I must have measured each wall about 10 times (no, it wasn't the beer) and then would add up the size of the appliances and counter top and got different numbers. It was frustrating. My friend called me, and we decided to have dinner at Four L's.

Four L's was previously known as Favia. I never went into Favia before, but I knew of their menu which had light dishes and pizza for a calorie conscious consumer. They completely renovated the restaurant, and truth be told it looks a lot like Mikie Squared! Here's a shot I took of it on Hoboken St. Patty's Day:
040807c.JPG

We sat down at a high top table for two, and ordered some drinks. They have a good wine list and lots of drink specials each day. On Thursday, select wines were $5, and we were there during happy hour which had discounts on martinis and beers. I ordered a glass of red wine, and my friend ordered a martini.

We tried the crustini appetizer, which is toasted italian bread, topped with meatballs and smoked mozzarella. The bread was entirely too hard, and nearly impossible to chew without breaking a tooth. I even showed the waitress how difficult they were even to cut with a knife. We ate 3 out of 5 of them and just didn't want to try to down the last two. I was disappointed in it, and in some ways I was hoping they would have comped us the appetizer. We did our best to eat it, but the bread was either stale and then toasted, or fresh and over-toasted. It was edible, but it was like a battle to down.

But my disappointment turned to pleasure when I got my burger. It was topped with mozzarella and roasted peppers. I added some A1 steak sauce, and it was heaven. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, I devored it. The french fries were ok, but not as good as Mikie's sweet potato string fries. I only ate a few of them. My friend got lobster ravioli, and also said they were delicious. I was going to order that dish if she didn't order it, but I have a thing about both people ordering the same dish at a new restaurant. I want to either try or hear from others as much as I can about a new place, to find out if it is worth my "restaurant rotation".

Do you have a "restaurant rotation"? I do. I have certain places that I will eat at in Hoboken on a regular basis. Here's what I usually eat at:

Indian - Karma Cafe. Usually I get this delivered, rather than eating there alone. Karma is pricey, but love that Lamb Korma with naan bread.
American - Court Street. Great place to sit at the bar, read a Hoboken Reporter, and eat.
Sushi - Maru, of course. Go to the liquor store a few doors down, grab a silver 20 oz can of Sapporo for $3.50 and prepare yourself for the best fish in Hoboken (sorry Sushi House, Sushi Lounge and Robongi - I have tried your restaurants multiple times and Maru is consistently superior).
Chinese - Precious. Again, I rarely go there alone, and usually get it delivered.
Steak - none exist. I go into the city and eat at Strip House, which is heavenly. I'd go to Peter Lugers, but going to Brooklyn is far too annoying for me. I heard good things about Frankie and Johnnies, and in my 13 years I was there once, was disappointed, and didn't return.
Italian Deli - Ok, I know it isn't a restaurant, but I have to say that Vito's is great, but I have a strong feeling that I won't be walking 8 blocks at my new condo to get a Vito's hero. Anyone know if Luca Brasi's is good? It is a few blocks from my new place, and looks like my kind of italian deli.

That's just a sampling of the places I frequent? What are your favorite Indian, Chinese, Sushi and American restaurants?

Weekend Sick and Condo Update

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It's sort of hard to blog when nothing exciting is going on. The weekend was 'blah'.

I saw Dr. Messishi on Friday, and he was a very nice man. He was thorough with the exam, and put me on Cipro, an antibiotic. Also took some blood for some tests, too. I called out sick for bartending, because I wasn't sure if I would even feel better by Saturday night. Also, i'm not a big fan of people who work in the service industry who work while sick. I understand that people want to make their money, but if they are sick and passing it along to your customers they are being selfish. People should think about others over themselves in that situation.

Spent Friday night in. Spent Saturday night in. Spent Sunday night in. Mostly watching tv and playing on the computer.

I took care of my new parking spot on Saturday. It is actually kind of sweet, since it is across the street from my condo. It will be really novel to have my car so close to where I live for once. Only problem is that the parking is tandem, but the lot owners said that a single spot should be opening up in about 2 months, with no price difference. Also they noted that people who live at the condo on Newark get first priority for parking at the spot, so it is something they said I could transfer if I sold my unit, which I think is great. It *is* a rental, and it *is* month to month, so you never know - in 6 months the owners could sell the lot to someone building a new high rise residential unit.

I should be closing on the condo this Thursday. Remember the whole 750 sq feet vs 650 sq feet? Bad news was that during the process I found out that the square footage was wrong. But good news is that I was able to negotiate a lower price because of it. I saved quite a bundle!

I'm excited about closing on the condo, but also dreading it.

I'm a simple guy. I sort of enjoy stability in my life. Makes things easier. When my life becomes unstable, and i'm doing a million things at once, it simply becomes annoying.

Once I close, I have to get a contractor to do the work that I want. An entire wall of the family room is glass. I have to get him to rip that down. I have to modify two closets. I have to basically axe the entire kitchen, removing the cabinets, appliances and take down a partial wall. I'm sure permits will be needed. I don't know a soul in city hall, and cringe at how long it may take to get a permit (advice would be helpful to anyone in the know).

That will take a week if not longer. Then I got to paint the place. I thought about doing it myself, but honestly, I don't want to do it myself. I have no desire to spend an entire day with a case of beer, 2 pizzas and inviting a few friends over for a "painting party" or something. I don't know *how* to paint properly. I don't want my new place looking like something out of a college frat house - it looks that way now, with the garish color choices the guy before me chose - i'd very much like a pro to take care of it.

Ok, while that work is getting done, then I have to go to Home Depot and choose new cabinets and countertop. I went to Home Depot last week to look. It was...a bit overwhelming. There are like a trillion choices. I know basically what I like, but don't have a firm vision for what, exactly, I want. I did see another apartment at 300 Newark that had the "look" similar to what I wanted for the kitchen. Only difference is that I was thinking of going with a darker granite. I'm not a huge fan of the hanging lights above the breakfast bar, but do like the ceiling mounted lights, on a fader. I have to find out how hard it will be to construct that, i'd very much like something like it designed for the kitchen.

Once the reconstruction, painting, cabinents are done, then need to get the new appliances and some new furniture (couch, chair & ottoman and kitchen table).

Once those are done, need to then see how much money I have left, and design the closets with EZ Closets. Its a pretty impressive website, you can build your closet online, and design a closet with shelving, cabinets, drawers, laundry basket, and hangars depending on the size of the closet.

Then, when i'm done all that, I need to see how much money I have left over and see if I can do anything about upgrading the bathroom, too. I have a strong feeling that the bathroom will have to wait.

I'm sure a lot of people love designing, planning and building their dream rooms. This would be fun if I wasn't also working on a timeline.

See while all this is going on, I have to also move out of my apartment. I told my roommates that i'd be out my mid-month (April 15), and they have a new roommate lined up. I told them yesterday if they could extend that out to April 22. I'm still not even sure if that will be enough time. The "major" work that needs to be done is the kitchen and painting. Once that's done, I can move in and take care of the appliances, furniture and closets.

If I didn't have the timeline, no problem. I have a contractor, who was a referred to me by my real estate agent, and he is coming on Thursday (after I close) to look at the place, and give me an estimate on the work. I already got a quote from a painting company ($1,900!), but i'm going to stop around to see other prices (know anyone? mail me!).

I hope with the 3 day weekend, it will give me some time to work with Home Depot to design a new kitchen. Then I have to juggle the contractor, the painting and the cabinet install. Not fun.

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