Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On thrifting

The haunted wedding dress.
Once in a while I'll check out eBay to lust over danish teak furniture, kitschy avocado green fondue pots and other mid-century modern wares. Last night I had the brilliant idea of trying to find the ugliest framed needlepoint owl I could from the 1960s to hang somewhere in my new house (all we're waiting on is final loan approval!). But there was not one needlepoint owl to be found on eBay.

So today I decided to try my hand at "thrifting" -- specifically for an ugly framed 1960s needlepoint owl or other fowl, but also any other delightfully tacky items I could find. In my neck of the woods, there's a large thrift store that contracts with a major hospital here to accept donations from patients. This thrift store sells these estate-sale-esque items and gives the proceeds back to the hospital. As far as I know, this translates to: A giant store full of dead people's things. Creepy.

I went to said store anyway looking for fun, retro items, but right when I stepped inside I knew I'd made a mistake. Instead of kitsch, there were a lot of sad wares likely once owned by old people. Things like horribly outdated teacups sitting tired in their equally outdated saucers. Once-clear glass figurines of things like little girls, sheep and acorns now tinted to a pale yellow with age. I passed a wall covered in old shoes that were never cool even in the decades they were from. "One dollar a pair," a sign read above the shelves. 

Though I wasn't there for clothing, I passed the "vintage" section and hesitated before pushing a couple hangers apart out of curiosity. Someone's wedding dress "from the 1950s," the tag read, hung in front of me. It was a beautiful dress, the style very in mode for that time period but now passe unless used for some kind of period party or photo shoot. It was the type of dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Father of the Bride. The price? Fifteen dollars. For some reason the whole thing just made me really sad, that a long, long time ago, some woman's whole dreams probably culminated in wearing this exquisite white brocade dress that's now sitting in a smelly thrift store unable to sell for even $15. The woman who once owned it, I'm sure, had passed away already at the hospital. 

After that it was too hard to shop any longer in the store. Mostly because it just felt so wrong to be pilfering through dead peoples' things. Like all those things were haunted or something. Plus, anything I bought would remind me of that Godforsaken wedding dress I saw the same day. And yeah, I know, all antiques once belonged to people who are probably dead, but in times like this ignorance is bliss. Mama doesn't like dead people, and she especially doesn't like potentially haunted goods wreaking havoc in her house.

So I think today was the beginning and end of my thrifting journey. Ebay may need to suffice.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It's been forever since I've blogged and now I don't even know where to begin. I am at a loss. 

Basically I haven't had a free moment in the last month to do...well, anything, much less blog. Every weekend has been taken up with real estate stuff, and that all culminated with this past weekend, where J and I did real estate stuff all day, both Saturday and Sunday. I'm talking 8 in the morning till midnight -- both days. I can't really talk about what it is we were doing since it's confidential, but let's just say we are both exhausted. Oh, and we are also finally in escrow on a house, so the clock is ticking.

After eating dinner this morning around 1am (drive-thru at Burger King, yum!), we crashed in bed. J wanted to get into the office today at 5am (since he brought up home a ton of work he wasn't able to do this weekend and had a mediation to attend today) and he ended up oversleeping till 7am. I don't know how he jumped out of bed and put a suit on because I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a train. After he left I went back to sleep and woke up at noon. And I still feel like I've been hit by a train, or have a college-grade hangover, though no alcohol was involved. 

I feel bad for J since I can work from home in my PJs, but he has to sit in an office all day, exhausted from this weekend.  Part of me just wants to go back to sleep right now. He called this afternoon to say "hi" during his lunch break, and I told him I feel this whole process is like a near-death experience that we've gone through together and will forever bond us. He laughed weakly, since that was all his energy could muster.

Sorry for being so cryptic, but I really can't divulge details. I'm just going to say this: I'm not a religious person but I hope to God we get this house. If not, I'd want to burn the thing to the ground.

Monday, September 5, 2011

This whole real estate thing

"Thank you, Bradley. Don't forget to feed the hounds."
Week 2 of this whole real estate thing has wrapped up and (what do you know?) I am completely over it. For some reason watching other people shop for properties on television seemed so exciting, but then I actually starting doing it and it's not exciting at all. Seriously. Especially when I'm on a tight budget and have to “make do” with what I have (something I don't really like doing). It's kind of like watching that Japanese obstacle course show where helmet-wearing contestants have to navigate crazy obstacles to win some prize at the end. In theory it would seem so fun running across giant rotating foam rollers...until you smack into one and fall below into shallow sludge. This is basically what real estate has been like for me -- all glitter and sunshine and giant foam rollers on the outside, and injury, sludge and public embarrassment on the inside.

So far we've made an offer on one place only to find out after getting approved for a loan that the loan could not be used on that specific unit. Thank you Mr. Real Estate Agent, for doing your job correctly and informing us of these things beforehand. (Mr. Real Estate Agent is another story entirely. One that involves inappropriate flirting (from his end, not mine), black Range Rovers, semi-fraudulent dealings and Bocce ball. Oh, real estate agents.) 

Meanwhile, we've made another offer on a place that's a "short sale with a lender-approved price." Though I did not want to get involved in short sales at all, I really liked the place and decided to offer since it was a "lender-approved price" and all. (Air quotes: mandatory.) My bad. In the words of Antoine Dodson, "You are dumb. You are really, really dumb," Crystal. I am clearly stupid for trusting two people who told me this whole "lender-approved price" thing, because it turns out they were either a.) lying, or b.) completely misinformed. (I have a gut feeling it is option A.) The property is not listed at a lender-approved price, but instead is an honest-to-God, all-American, made-in-the-USA short sale. UGH. 

I am now more irritated than I get when humidity terrorizes my hair because we have to wait for the bank's word on all this, and let's face: They're a bank. They have no motivation to give me a short sale property as they'd make more money on the thing if they just foreclosed. LUCKILY, Mr. Real Estate Agent did something right and put a 20-day clause in our offer contract, so the bank has until September 15th to get back with us. I have no faith in short sales, so I'm assuming this is going to be a no-go. 

J and I are already organizing back-up places we plan to make offers on in case this short sale doesn't go through, and so far we have three, ranked in order. I'd be fine living in any of them since this property is not intended to be a dream home or any sort of forever home at all. We just want a place we can live in for around 3 years and keep to rent out to tenants after we move on to a bigger, more permanent place. Essentially we see this first property as being a long-term investment that will fit in nicely to our overall retirement portfolio.

Anyhoo, I laugh at how naïve I was a mere month ago, when I thought this process was going to be easy. It's anything but – mostly thanks to the layers and layers of bureaucracy between me and my potential home(s). It seems like everyone, from the agent to the listing agent to the bank to the mortgage broker, is all on a different page, which means everyone feeds us a different story. A day or so of this I can deal with, but unending weeks of being fed misinformation is just annoying. In an I-need-a-drink sort of way, times 10. No wonder there was a mortgage crisis in this country. If I wasn't already highly skeptical of the process, I'd eat up all the lines I'm fed and “trust” that everyone in the business knows what they're doing and will guide me accordingly.

It's times like these that I wish I had a butler named Bradley who could do all this work for me. I'd tell him what I'd want, and he'd go out and find it, only bothering me with small details that involve signatures or check-writing. Then eventually he'd hand me a key and that would be that. Bradley would of course be rewarded with a 1.7% bonus and modest housing quarters behind the infinity pool or in the old horse stable and we would all be happy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm baa-aack

So I know it's been about a century since I last blogged, but I touched down in the United States last week and I've been busy ever since. First, let's start with my harrowing journey back home. 

Though I love sitting in airports and people-watching, I'm not a big let's-hang-out-in-the-airport-for-8-hours-waiting-for-our-flight sort of gal. But, for some reason, every time I travel with my family this is what ends up happening. Probably because I'm always the one that pays for my ticket, while they use their airline miles, which they have a lot of. This inevitably puts us on different flights during a single 24-hour period, so here's me hanging out in the Buenos Aires airport for a total of 8 hours waiting for my flight, after my dad, mom and sister all depart hours before me for theirs. 

When it's time for me to check in, the American Airlines lady tells me I'm going to Los Angeles. "No...," I say, "I'm going to San Francisco." 

"No...you aren't," she responds, staring blankly at her computer screen. Luckily I have a printout of my itinerary, which I show her. "This is strange," she says, looking over it. Ten minutes of her tapping on a keyboard and a phone call later and she tells me my connecting flight from JFK to San Francisco is canceled -- and the next available flight they have for me is the following day, connecting through Los Angeles. Ugggh. 

I refuse to believe that there are NO other connecting flights I can snag the day I arrive in JFK, since I'm arriving at like 6:30 a.m. and I reeeeally didn't want to spend an extra night in a hotel (missing J like crazy at this point). So I tell her fine and figure I'll haggle a same-day seat on a plane out when I land. 

The plane ride to New York is long but pleasant since the seat next to me is empty. Highlights include watching Water for Elephants and Arthur, along with making out the Amazon river below by moonlight as we fly over the Amazon. 

When I land in JFK it takes forever (as always) to get through customs, and after standing in a ticketing line for 30 minutes I'm told I have a confirmed seat on a connecting flight at 6pm. I'm equally happy and pissed -- happy 'cause I still get to go home that day, pissed because I have to sit in the airport for 12 hours. The rest of the day is spent watching CNN on the overhead televisions and adding myself to standby lists on each San Francisco flight. A crowd of about 20 shares my plight, and they crowd the standby desk in front of me, yelling at the flight attendants that they need to get on the flight. Flight attendants, unfortunately, are not magicians, and cannot make more seats appear -- especially when American Airlines "overbooked every flight" that day, they say. Some of my standby amigos yell obscenities, a portly French girl begins to cry and shout some pretty nasty French words (as my limited knowledge of French would lead me to believe). 

I sit on a nearby bench taking pictures of this and trying not to laugh. At 7am, wearing the same clothes I wore 24 hours before, I find this all very amusing. No anger is getting any of us on this flight. This fact is apparently lost on these people. After the group parts I walk up to the desk and ask (very sweetly and very calmly because these people are essentially the gatekeepers) whether there is any way at all that I can get on the next flight out at 3 p.m. Attendants actually smile back at me and pleasantly explain the situation, which I nod at and say I understand. The last thing I'm in is a good mood since I'm greasy and tired and missing J, but I crack a few jokes with them and they laugh. The female attendant tells me she'll try her hardest to get me on the next flight, but no promises. I thank her, since that's really all I need to hear. 

One thirty rolls around and I make my way to the other gate, where the standby list has just appeared on the screen near the desk. And what do you know -- my name has been moved up to #2! Score. Thank you flight attendant lady. The standby crowd has joined me in the area, and has resumed yelling at the new attendants at the desk, as though this is really going to get them a seat on the plane. 

Plane pulls up, your truly gets the last seat. Angry people are left yelling and crying at the gate. Moral of the story: You attract more flies with honey.

When I landed J met me at the airport with a big bouquet of pink flowers (love him) and I couldn't stop hugging him. Though I had a  fantastic time in Buenos Aires, after the fourth week I was ready to come home. I missed J like whoa and was having (if truth needs to be told) major sex withdrawals that started about a week or two into my trip. (Whoever said sex wanes with marriage obviously isn't in my marriage, where frequency is taken to almost teenage proportions.)

When we got home he had his anniversary present to me sitting on the couch (it was one of the Kate Spade bags I wanted) and we pretty much did not leave each other's side all weekend. As cheesy as it sounds, I don't know how I lived before J. Sure I had serious boyfriends and I dated casually between them, but no one is like J. He really is my heart. 

Anyway, this weekend will officially be dubbed The Weekend of Real estate. We're going to our realtor's party tonight that she throws every year. She invites all her business clients and friends and serves unlimited margaritas all night. Obviously I am game. Then tomorrow we're going to start touring properties with her. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


This commercial is all the rage right now on television here:

It plays almost every five minutes, and it never gets old. The model is fierce and the song is so addictive. Wish we got Mexico's Next Top Model in Estados Unidos.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Buenos Aires pictures (finally!)

Good example of the Belle Epoque architecture that is so prevalent here.
Old meets new.
The obelisk in the Plaza de la Republica at dusk.
Old meets new, again. This strip of light was a news ticker screen wrapped around a fantastic old building.
A cafe at night.
The colors of these buildings (below and above) were intense.
The walls surrounding Recoleta Cemetery.
Checking out wares at the artisan fair.
A hippie practicing her moves near the artisan fair.
My favorite mime.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beautiful disaster

Written on Sunday, July 10: 

So where do I start? *cracks knuckles*

I got into the Buenos Aires airport today and waited patiently for my sister and mom's flight to get in (they were connecting through Santiago, Chile.) My flight got in three hours before theirs, so I staked out a seat near the arrivals screens and hung out people watching to Paul McCartney (I'm having a Wings moment) to pass time.

Around the time they were supposed to land, half the flights on the arrivals screens began flashing red. I leaned closer and saw that all flights out of Santiago were suddenly "canceled." God damn it. In a foreign country by myself? Totes not a big deal. In a foreign country minus the rent money my mom was supposed to give our apartment's owner, Tomas, when we signed our rental contract that night? Slightly unnerving. (Here you pay all cash for the big things, and so my mom was traveling with a couple Gs for our place.)

Apparently the volcanic ash from that Chilean volcano was blowing past Santiago at the moment and all flights were grounded until the ash cleared and it was safe to fly. When I talked to the customer service desk, which was not really a desk, just a lone room off the back of the luggage conveyor belt that I had to climb over to enter, an impatient Argentine man sat behind a sparse desk inside and told me had no answers, just that all flights out of Santiago were canceled until further notice. 

Unfortunately I had no way of getting a hold of anyone since wifi seemed nonexistent throughout the airport (nothing makes you look more American than wandering around with your smartphone, sniffing for wifi in every corner and orifice of a building), and all of Tomas' contact info was sitting in an email in my inbox.

Finally, five hours after I'd been in the airport, I found wifi and checked my email. Hello six messages from my sister telling me they were stuck and that United was putting them up in a Hilton that night. Sigh. The grease on my face from traveling for 15+ hours felt palpable. All I could think of was taking a shower. I needed Tomas' number, stat.

Thankfully he happened to be online when I signed on, and he told me to leave right away since he'd been waiting for us for hours, and gave me the apartment's address. He stressed he needed the payment up front in full when I arrived, just as the rules stated, but I stressed this was impossible since the half of our entourage with the money was still en route to Buenos Aires. He said this was going to be problem; I said I could look for a hotel if it was. Thankfully something about this statement made him relent, and he said come anyway.

I jumped in a cab driven by a guy named Julio and chatted with him during the 30-minute ride from the airport into the city. Julio was a big fan of Fleetwood Mac, so when he found out I was from Estados Unidos, he put on his "favorite cd" (Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits) and we talked nonstop until he pulled up to the curb of my building on Sanchez de Bustamente in the Recoleta district. He asked if I wanted to go out later that night with him and his friends, but I told him I was exhausted and needed to decompress, which he acknowledged along with his cell phone number if I changed my mind. Oh, Julio.

Tomas was a very kind, older Argentine who empathized with the whole situation. Instead of telling me to find a hotel for the night, he allowed me to stay, unpaid, but asked for my passport that first night as collateral to make sure I wouldn't up and leave without paying. I laughed at even the thought of doing this, but he said he's had it happen before with an American woman and her child. They'd stayed for a week, promising payment every day and on the seventh day they left without a trace or payment. Obviously after hearing this I understood Tomas' plight. 

After showering and fluffing my feathers, I went out for a stroll around Recoleta, grabbed food at a corner restaurant and ate the yummiest tart for dessert at this confiteria called "La Porteña." Most people here don't speak any English, and I barely speak any Spanish, but somehow communication still flowed well through hand gestures and broken phrases. After I got home with a second tart for the road...I realized that my main credit/atm card was gone. 

In the words of Lindsay Lohan, I felt like my heart was going to fall out my butt. I tore through both purses I'd brought flinging receipts and crumpled napkins everywhere, searching in vain for my card until I realized I'd lost it back at the airport where I last used it. Shit. So much for taking it easy. I signed online and emailed J 40 times, telling him it was urgent and that he needed to call the bank asap to put a stop on the card. Which he did, but not before noticing that four charges totaling $700 were made on the card in the last hour. Ughhhhhh. The claims department was closed for the night, but J said he'd call in the morning and report the fraud. 

Flash forward to five days later and THANKFULLY the claims department reimbursed all the money that was stolen, pending our signature on an affidavit swearing I didn't make those charges. While I could barely sleep that evening with the money issue overshadowing my first night in the city, everything was taken care of the following morning and I've been having a great time so far. Lots of shopping and eating with my mom and sis, who eventually caught a flight out. I'll post pics soon!