Return of the Lamb

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According to my WordPress year in review, I stopped chatting at you last February. That would make this blog a great big FAIL, but I’m really just trying to remain mysterious and aloof to you. Is it working? Do you want to know what I’ve been up to?

The reason for my lack of blogging was just plain, hard work. Albert and I spent most of last year fixing up a 1930’s bungalow and guesthouse in North Hollywood as an income property. We were working six long days a week, and afterward just complaining about our sore hands and constructions difficulties, which I decided not to pass onto you. You have your own work problems that I don’t want to hear about either. I will say that the houses turned out beautifully and we have found great tenants.

If you would like to see a before and after video of the property, click the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPLalH_VAyQ

While most of the project was standard remodeling headaches, there is one story worth telling. When we purchased the houses they were in very bad condition and had a foul odor. I’m not sure if it was from the general hoarding tendencies of the former owner or the rotting food left on the stove burners, but it smelled bad. Apparently they fried bacon every morning since 1930 and never once cleaned up, because I scraped about a quarter inch of grease off the top of every kitchen cupboard. We cleaned for months and then systematically repaired and painted every square inch of the property. We had all of the hardwood floors beautifully refinished and immediately covered every inch of them with construction paper as we continued the remodel. We were nearing completion and the house finally had a clean smell, as opposed to a garbage-wet-dog-dirty-crotch-rotten-meat odor.

We get to work one morning in September and find a praying mantis on the garage door. He stays for days, we name him Pedro, and he is clearly watching us. Every evening when we clean up to leave, we set up utility work lights on a timer, so the house looks occupied, and we say goodnight to Pedro. One morning we arrive and Albert goes into the house before I do. He comes out and is wide-eyed as if something very bad has happened and calmly say’s “Don’t freak out, but there’s been a fire.”

I immediately freak out. There’s been a fire! I walk into the house and am overwhelmed by the smell of smoke. Everything looks fine, but it smells like a giant bonfire has been lit inside the home. We walk into the living room and see a large, grapefruit sized burn hole in the hardwood floors. The utility light had fallen off the chair, with the metal cone side down and smoldered all night until the bulb shattered. I walk closer and look down through the singed circle and can see dirt. The light has burned through the construction paper, though the wood, through the subfloor and beams, all the way to the ground. We have a hole in our new bungalow and it smells like a smokehouse!

I am in shock. I am wrecked that all of our work seems completely undone, but I also can’t believe the house is still standing. The old wooden house that is covered with construction paper did not burn down. Worse, we had just removed all of the smoke alarms, which we were upgrading, so it would have completely looked like insurance fraud, had the place gone up in flames. I walk around the house stuttering obscenities like a madman. I am torn between yelling at God for letting this happen, and thanking him for not letting any more happen. I decide to leave God out of it.Somebody was watching out for us though, I know it. My first thought is Albert’s deceased mother Lora, who I believe is always keeping an eye on us. I walk to the garage door and see Pedro, who has been watching us work all week. I look in his little alien eyes and say, “Thank you, Pedro” as he literally sits praying over my house. We get back to cleaning everything again and call our floor guy to repair the floors. The next day, I go to look for Pedro and our mantis has gone. Lora can rest another day.

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