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February 10, 1999
a year ago

Shhh... I'm Hunting Houses

I was in an entirely ferocious mood by the time we were done packing everything the night before. I missed Fezzik, as he was so utterly gone, the carpet sales guy was very slick, and managed to sell us the carpets and they'll be put in when I'm gone to Oakland. Though I'm going to have to help John when we get back, in getting all the Stuff put away so that they can actually get *at* all the upstairs. There is our entire walk-in closet's worth of Stuff piled in the middle of our bedroom with all of the computer equipment piled against the far wall for the painters that are going to be in the house for all the interior walls.

The place looks like we're already packed. It looks like we're moving. It *looks* like everything is uprooted and moving about and changing. Tons of Stuff have been pulled out of their dusty corners, shaken, examined, sorted, and some of it thrown away. It's so entirely a sign of what's to come. I had to pull out all the books that were loaners that I could remember and pile them somewhere else, when John boxed everything up. That was kinda interesting.

We didn't get to sleep until far later than I wanted, after all the Moving of Stuff, we had to pack, hammer in something for dinner, and then try and sleep with a thousand things running through our heads. The alarm went off around 4 a.m. as we had a 6 a.m. flight. That hurt. That really hurt, but we got to the airport on time and I slept deeply and well on the plane itself. That was very nice.

We arrived around noon, and it was *sunny*. It was briliant out and sixty five degrees and the clothing I'd worn for Seattle seemed ridiculous. Utterly. The drive from the airport to Boulder was done in full sun, and the open sky was astonishing again, especially in contrast to the tree-crowded and mountain looming vistas of Seattle. The whole of the wide-open sky was filled with light. And the magic thing was that the worst of my mood melted in the light. I am now half convinced I have a touch of seasonal nastiness, i.e. it's been so dark and dank here in Seattle for so long that I'm just getting antsy with it all. The light really, really helped much of my attitude, I think. Another odd iconic factor, human to the extreme, was that I'd also put on my Malakim pendant, something that I've had for a while and that I seem to just derive some measure of courage from simply by touching it and the odd emotional connection I have for that particular choir from In Nomine. Brute destruction of whatever is evil or wrong.

It's an engineering trait, I'm convinced. Give an engineer a problem and they'll do the damnedest things to solve it, if it interests them. And there are very, very strict codes on what's right and what's wrong in a lot of engineering, once the parameters are known. The hard part is the knowing of the problem. A thing that we rediscovered over the course of the five days.

The actual sequence of events was simple. Colleen of Professional Relocaion Operation in Boulder was really, really, really totally cool. She took us everywhere. All mountain properties the first day, all plains the second, a mix of returns and new looks the third, last gasp stuff the fourth, and then on the fifth to houses that we found as well as houses that were under completely and totally different parameters than anything else we'd even thought to look at. She also gave us food recommendations and lots of stuff to think about, interesting professional advise about the housing market and gave us ways to get done the things we really wanted to do.

If *anyone* wants someone to be a relocator for them into Boulder, I'd recommend this company. They're friendly, fast, dedicated, fun, and have a really great attitude. They're really knowledgeable about the area and tremendously patient, in my eyes, with people that don't have a clue what they really want or are doing. What's best is that they just kept questioning us until we got something that we really, truly wanted.

So that was really cool. I have to say that I hated the process, in many ways, though, and liked it for many other reasons. It was, however, a thoroughly stressful situation. But then decision making, for me, can always be a really stressful thing. I like things already decided, then I can just act on them quickly. Though I'll also say that I am glad that I was completely involved in this decision.

I mean finding a house is a bit like computer dating. One significant difference is that there's not really any expectation that one will be stuck with ones decision for the entirety of ones life; but otherwise it's a whole lot like that process. We first got a sheaf of papers, all filled with all the statistics and descriptions of the physical aspects of the house, along with a list of 'extras', i.e. some personality descriptions and coolness factors of each house that was within our price range (Hm... perhaps the analogy breaks down there, but perhaps not, I don't know if there are dating services that also put in how much each participant earns, but I would find that entirely feasible). Then we were told that we had to pick some of those from that pile that we wanted to see.

And, in the end, seeing was believeing.

Statistics do not 'feeling' make, and the match of a house to inhabitants is as much a feeling thing as it is a thinking thing, otherwise we could just enter statistics and find the perfect house immediately rather than spend, as we did ten years ago, a month and a half looking. We only had five days, so we had to start with statistics and the possibilities as we saw them from Seattle.

I thought that after that previous search that we'd know what we wanted much more quickly. And, thinking back on it all, it was much quicker than the previous visit, though on the fourth day, I really, really, really thought that there was no way we were going to find a house in the time limit of the trip. I almost wish I'd kept daily accounts, as the mood swings from day to day were like riding a rollercoaster, and which house we were thinking about offering on swapped as quickly as it took for us to visit the house a second time, or even just think through all the ramifications. The mood swings were deep, wild, and wacky at times as they'd completely contradict each other on subsequent days and thoughts.

The first day was all the mountain properties. Since we presently lived in the woods and forest with water at our backs, the only real place to find all that would be in the mountains. The plains were pretty much without trees or much water and the mountain places were good for folds in the earth that could hide the neighbors of one house from the neighbors of another. So we thought, for sure, that we'd want to be out in the mountains.

We were wrong. It is beautiful up there and out there, but the pain and trouble of going out there to live there, everyday, was far out of proportion to our serene drive around the lake to our house, today. The roads up there are twisty, winding, and longer than there, and they usually ended up in twisty, windy, one-lane dirt roads that had potholes that could have completely swallowed up all our pot holes. There was one house we were looking at that was more than half a million dollars, but the dirt road to it nearly ate our rental car, and they were warning everyone away that didn't have a four-wheel drive. Who would want to pay half a million dollars for a house none of their friends could get to?

The views up there, though, were utterly spectacular, either of the city lights below and the plains spread as far as the eye could see, or of the mountains all around us. One house had a view of a cliff where eagles made their nests, so you could see eagles coming and going each day. Another had a view of the back range, giant white peaks blowing with snow. Another had a forest view, with green rolling gently all the way down to the valley below. You really could see forever from some of these places.

They are entirely beautiful mountains, and I'll admit that I'd love to go up there to visit for a while, maybe build a cabin up there for the summer or something. Just to bask in the sound of the wind through the trees and the snow-capped mountains close enough to touch, and the streams trickling along all the worn canyons. I could do that tricky commute for a month or two, but not forever. Not every day including days when I have to get down for an emergancy or just to get a video or even a take-out pizza.

But one of the houses on Lost Angel Road really, really attracted us. The only problem was that they were asking for way too much money and had had the house on the market for more than two years because they were a bit too greedy. They also had a neighbor that thought that the house should never have been built and life is just too short to go into a situation where the neighbor already hates the existance of my house.

The one that we originally saw on the Web, up on Lost Angel, turned out to be way too weird in contruction for the amount of money they were asking. I wouldn't be surprised if the prices were so high because it takes just that much more money to build the things up there, as material transportation is probably horrendous; but the desireablility of those kinds of houses is just not as high as the ones down on the plains, it's just that much harder to get to them.

The second day was all plains houses. Some big, some bigger, some smaller, most on some acreage and with fairly new construction. We'd decided we weren't going for something older, we'd already done that once, and didn't wnat to go through all the hassle of remodelling what we bought. Until we figured out that most of the houses we saw weren't what we wanted, they were either on the upper range of our capabilities to buy or they had more things in them than we really wanted. They were too posh, some of them with pink marble foyers and plush, pink carpets and gold plated fixtures. There were more, cheaper houses, so Colleen listed them out for us to drive by and look at and see if we wanted to look inside them. So we drove by all of them and listed the ones we wanted to walk through.

By the third day we were looking at the houses we'd said yes to, and by the evening, we decided we would even do with something older, that if we got something cheaply enough we'd have the money, at least, to make it into something we really wanted. There was one promising house, that John and I finally went back to and wandered about at night, shaking our heads. There were so many walls that needed to be moved in that house, finally, that we just realized that it was a totally fucked up floor plan and we'd still be left with a house on a half acre lot when we were finished. That was disappointing to realize.

The fourth morning started with one of the plains houses we'd seen before, and we'd loved how it was built. It was the Southwestern architecture of adobe and a ranch layout, so it was all on one floor. The kitchen was pretty magnificent and it had a little land. It was beautifully made, sunny and well lit with lots of skylights and big windows, and a little bit of a view of the mountains past its neighbors. That was the one disappointment. The other was the cost. It was very expensive for us, though probably about right for the neighborhood and the house itself. Then we did a data search and found out about the restrictive covenants for the neighborhood, there were twelve pages of restrictions and we basically figured out that there was no way on God's green earth we'd be allowed to keep John's Land Rovers on the property. That was disappointing in one way, in another way it was a bit of a relief because we really didn't want to pay that much for a house.

Colleen had other folks to take care of by that point, and so we wandered off on our own, figuring that if we bought something new we might be able to sell it in a year or two, and buy something we *really* liked once we really knew the area. So we started looking for something we could resale, and asked Colleen's office to do that as well. We went out east to look at property out there and see what we could find as there was one new house development that we really liked and thought about moving into. With the prices involved, we could store John's Landies in a place where he could work on them in a heated storage unit with no problem. The only problem with the absolutely brand-new housing was that all of it required about a seven month wait for the house, and, honestly, we really didn't have seven months.

As we were wandering around out there, though, we happened on this private airpark which had its own landing strip, it's own little club house and some stuff for all those there that were involved in flying. The houses were eclectic, mixed, with strange and wonderful architectures. They all had hangers, out buildings, and various structures on their land. It was a mixed lot with some stuff out that people were working on. That was pretty cool. It was the kind of flavor in a neighborhood that we wanted. In the entire neighborhood only one house was for sale. There were no flyers, so we wrote down the address and called Colleen to find out more about it.

When we got back into the office the next morning, there was data on it, and it turned out that it was out in Weld County, the next county over, which is why we hadn't seen it in any of the property searches we'd done. It was exactly in our price range, about the right size of land, and about the right size in terms of floor space. So we went out to look at it, and it turned out to be just marvelous. Eventhough the wind was just howling the house itself stood really solidly, no creaks, no groans, just solid in a wind that blew the realtor down a few stairs and nearly pushed me off some stairs. There were two acres, one of them horse ready, the other fenced for the dog.

There was, however, an offer already accepted for the house, the only problem was that the contingencies on the buyers' house were getting in the way of the buyer actually closing. So they had 72 hours in which to clear all those contingencies if the sellers actually accepted our offer, if we made an offer. We had the money with which to just put down the downpayment in the bank, so we had no contingencies, we didn't need to sell our house to get things done.

So, once again, we're offering on a house that a) we found, not our realtor and b) it's on a house with an offer/contract already on it.

This is going to be a rather amusing trend, if things actually work out.

I can't leave this entry without describing at least some of the food we had, though some of it was pretty minimal at times. The last time we went to Boulder we ate pretty much every meal, which made me entirely bloated for the next month; and while the food was very good, I ate way too much of it. This trip I made sure that while I ate frequently, I didn't eat that much, and what I did eat was good.

Dot's Diner is a really, really cool place for breakfast. It has the oddest assortment of hippies for waitresses and line cooks, but they work excellently together, the banter was really fun. Colleen says that she's brought suits into the place and got some glee from watching how horrified they are by the 'ambiance'; but none of them have ever complained about the food. I got a mountain of corned beef hash under two beautifully done over-medium eggs, John got the country breakfast and it was a mountain of food. I also decided to order the biscuit rather than the toast, and was given this lovely crusty, plopped looking creature with a rich, buttery soft interior. It was exquisite with the raspberry jam you could squeeze from a squeeze bottle.

The Dandelion, I think, has a local reputation for being a touch too expensive and a bit too snooty; but John went in in a t-shirt and shorts and they seated us near the entrance. Not quite I'd expect for snooty. Food prices are about the same as in Seattle for a higher class restaurant, and lower than the Bay Area's. It was a lot of fun having the waiter tell me that I'd make the chef very happy when I ordered my lamb chops rare. The spicy smoked corn soup was hot with the avocado salsa they put in the center of the dish and it balanced the smokey sweetness of the corn well. John got a steak and asked for medium rare, but got his a bit rarer than normal as well. The lamb chops were rich and melted in my mouth with the rareness they'd given it. I now have a real appreciation for the flavor difference simply cooking it completely and not cooking it so thoroughly makes, and I'm not sure I'll ever go back. They did the creme brule perfectly and made my cappacino dry without my even asking. Perfection indeed, for me.

The Buff is a great breakfast place, right near the University of Colorado, build into the Golden Buffalo hotel. It's rustic, quick in service, and extraordinarily accomidating to whatever you really want. It seems that the menu is just the starting place of what's actually available from the kitchen. It was quite the relief to be able to order just half an Eggs Benedict when I didn't want to eat that much, but wanted something delicious, and it came with the egg perfectly moist, the Canadian bacon just crisp around the edges and the muffin happily sopping up the rich Hollindaise. It was quite lovely.

The surprise of the visit was Albo's pizza in Niwot. John and I had been driving around and realized that it was getting to be around 3 p.m. and I was getting really tired and grumpy and near angry with hunger, so we stopped at the little pizza shop. They had New York style Neopolitan type pizza, which means the really thin crust, chewy edge, big slice pizza with plenty of really hot cheese and a nicely zesty sauce. I just got one slice of the cheese in a combo that came with salad and drink, and it filled me up happily. They had the big ovens and used it on the slices, and it really reminded me of Paggliacci's without the yuppy toppings. The same attention to quality, but a bit lower brow. Yum.

Amusingly enough, the one place John and I went to the most often for meals was Whole Foods Market. They're a lot like the local Thriftways, you know, the local chain grocery store that specializes in upper scale foods and prepared foods. Nearly a quarter of the store was devoted to the counters and cases of prepared foods, everything from BBQ to salads, fruit drinks to desserts, and bakery items to a deli with everything from herb encrusted tenderloin to goat cheese. We bought roasted vegetables, tenderloin and John built a salad for one dinner, got cheesecake another night for dessert after watching Shakespeare In Love again, for me, for the first time for John.

We also got to Wild Oats, another local grocery store, while we could and looked around happily. It has just about everything we'd want and a bit more and either would be fairly simple to get to from work on our way out to home. It was very nice to know that there were plenty of good food places that we could use when we got out there. Yay!

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