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June 2003

Designing the TV table
and Stereo Cabinet!

Sunday June 1st , 2003 – The bedrooms face north east so I awoke to the sun rising at my feet, WOW, what a cool apartment.  Time to start cleaning the Vicente Lopez apartment and turn it back over to our landlords.

Monday June 2nd , 2003 – The architects met us at the apartment with the carpenter who would be building us our custom desk for the office.  I wanted it built with a shelf in the rear to run all the cables and wires, and have little doors in the back so you could access the rear of the computers.  There would also be a special drawer for the scanner and hanging files.  Ron had drawn up the plans in postscript to give to him and he was making notes on it for the things I wanted.  It is so awesome that you can get everything hand built here for less then buying something already made from a store!

I really liked the job the carpenter did on the bed, the door to Ron’s CD rack and our front entryway, so I wanted to ask the architects if the carpenter could build us a stereo cabinet and a TV table, so I drew up some plans.  I had an idea for a TV table that has a curve to the front of it, the architects designed an interesting curved marble counter in the guest bathroom and I really liked the idea of an irregular curve.  I wanted the front doors to follow the curve and didn’t know if the carpenter could do it, after speaking with the carpenter and showing him the plans, he said, “No problem!”  Then I said, “How long will it take?” and he said, “15 days, more or less”, we know what this means; 3 weeks!

                 Basic design and dimensions for the carpenter                        We have speakers to go in the top sections

                  Rear of stereo cabinet with access                          TV table, from the front it looks square but
                holes for the speakers and ventilation                       there will be a curve to the front and the doors

                        View from the top and rear                 An approximation on the curve I had in mind

The moving company offered to come back once to pick up boxes after we had unpacked everything.  In the streets they have people who go through the garbage every night collecting paper and cardboard for recycling, I was considering putting the boxes on the street for a recycler, but you don’t realize how heavy cardboard is until you lay it all flat and stack it.  I decided to let “Crown” come back and pick up the boxes. 

June 3rd 2003 – Ron went back to Santorini’s to sign the order for our furniture.  He came back with a new swatch of leather that they wanted to use on the kitchen chairs.  I didn’t like it as much as what I picked and I asked him to use the leather I picked and stop trying to switch leathers on me!

My aunt Cindy sent me an interesting editorial article that I really enjoyed on “the war”entitled “Is there anything left that matters?”

Is there anything left that matters?

Before "the war" started Ron and I were very divided on this subject, I'm the liberal, socialist democrat and Ron is the staunch, conservative republican.  I use to call these our hot tub discussions because after sitting in the hot tub with a brandy, talk seems to head the way of problems of the world and society.  However, it got to the point that I couldn’t bear talking about “the war” without feeling physically ill and forebode discussions during meals and when meeting with friends.  Having this sabbatical I’m currently on has provided me a lot of time for self reflection.  I’m no closer to self realization, just have more time to think about things.

Just this morning I stepped out on our balcony, 19 floors up with views all around, steaming cup of coffee in my hand, and thought, “WOW, I’m on top of the world!”  I then looked down at the beautiful church that is a ½ block away, and there was a line of people waiting to get into the soup kitchen to get something to eat.  What a contrast!  Here I am for a moment, stepping out into the morning chill to view the world and marvel at my good fortune, and there just outside my front door are people waiting for something to eat.  I suddenly felt very petty. 

Wednesday June 4th, 2003 - A friend sent me a cute joke in Spanish that I sent to Dana and Manuel.

Una viejita le dice a su marido:
¡Hola, cariño! ¿Qué tal ha ido en tu partido de golf?
Bien, estaba dando buenos golpes, pero mi vista está tan mal que no veía donde iba la pelota...
¡Claro, si tienes 78 años! ¿Qué esperabas?, ¿Y por qué no te llevas a mi hermano Santiago contigo?
¡Pero si tiene 85 años y ya no juega al golf!
Si, pero su vista es perfecta. El puede ver donde cae la pelota.
Al día siguiente el marido se lleva a su cuñado Santiago a jugar al golf, tal como le recomendó su mujer.  Golpea, y la pelota sale disparada.
¿La has visto?, ¿la has visto?...
¡Sí, claro que sí!, responde Santiago muy contento.
Bueno, ¿y dónde ha caído?
Puesssss, ... la verdad ... ¡Que ya no me acuerdo!...


We were having our first celebration in the new apartment tonight, we ordered furniture but it won’t be ready for a month so we thought this was a good excuse to crack open a few bottles of champagne with a few friends amongst all the boxes and debris.

The day started out busy, first with the painter, there used to be several but now with only details to be taken care of, there is just one.  I have been pointing out areas that needed touching up and he has been taking care of them.  One area, however, was the front entryway.  I pointed out some very noticeable flawed areas and he made an attempt to fix it by swiping it with a brush.  Every time I walked by I looked up and made a “Hmmmpfth!” sound.  Finally I thought, “We’re paying this guy and when he leaves I’m going to have to paint it myself.”  I thought this was pretty dumb so I told the architects, “I’m really sorry, but that’s the first thing guests will see and it looks like crap!  Please redo the entire entryway ceiling!”  They said “Of course!”  I knew this would involve a mess as the painter first has to sand the entire surface and then paint, this always puts a fine coating of white powder on every surface of the apartment. 

After he finished sanding the guy showed up to replace one of the broken panes of glass on the balcony, this involved the workers walking through the fine white powder in the entryway and making a huge dust trail through the apartment to the balcony, sigh.  They removed the glass panel which gives you a very eerie feeling being on the 19th floor.  Our cat Scarlett ran to the edge to investigate and I nearly had a heart attack as she peered over the abyss, “OK cat, in the office with the door closed, NOW!”

The carpenter showed up and started working on our glass block bed.  He’s almost finished and it looked great, but today he was staining the wood with a type of varnish that was so strong it made your eyes water and your nose burn, I kept telling him to open the windows, but he wouldn’t do it, maybe he got high off the fumes, or maybe he didn’t want dust or dirt blowing in on the newly varnished wood.  It was gorgeous however, the carpenter does amazing work.  Our other cat Loretta was hiding in the closet and I was really worried that the fumes would hurt him, it was that strong.  I finally had to go pry him out of the closet and put him in the office with Scarlett.  You know cats, they never like being put anywhere that wasn’t their choice.  Loretta let out a long HOOOOWWWWLLLLL in protest that sounded like we were trying to skin him alive.  What a baby! 

The carpenter was also working on some trim for the guest bathroom and putting some finishing touches on Ron’s infamous CD racks (another long story).  Why the carpenter just doesn’t do one job and get it over with I’ll never know, he just jumps from room to room.  He started a power saw going in the kitchen as I let out another sigh as wood shavings went everywhere and mixed with the fine white powder from the painter.

Next the guy from Whirl Pool appliances showed up to look at why my new oven wasn’t working properly and install the dryer above the washing machine.  When he first showed up a week ago he had the wrong kit to mount the dryer above the washing machine.  The installer didn’t think it possible that they would send the wrong mounting kit with the washing machine and proceeded to try and force it.  This sent Ron buzzing about saying how incompetent the guy was, I kept saying, “Let the man do his job!”  Ron will never let anyone do their job, he insists on putting his nose in everyone’s business and telling them how to do it.  However, this time Ron was right (GASP!) and the installer finally agreed that the kit was wrong and he’d be back.  That was a week ago and he was finally returning to finish the job.

Another carpenter showed up to fix some of the wooden slats on the floor.  They had previously sanded the original floor, then polished and applied a protective plastic sealant.  The wood is in a kind of checkerboard pattern of 5 strips about 5 inches long, by 1 inch wide, the next group over is turned 90 degrees, then the next set below is turned 90 degrees, to form a larger block of 4, each smaller block of 5 turned 90 degrees from the adjoining block (does this make any sense??)  Some of the wooden strips were damaged and they just applied some wood putty to fill it in.  There was an area right in front of “MY” bathroom that had 4 damaged strips and right in the entryway of the kitchen that had one damage slat.  These were high traffic areas that every time I walked by I said, “That looks terrible!” so I mentioned it to the architects.  This carpenter was replacing the strips which involved getting downs on his hands an knees with a really nasty looking cutting blade, something that Anthony Hopkins would use in one of his slice and dice movies.  He dug up the pieces, sending more bits of wood shavings in the general vicinity, replaced them, then sanded them down flat (more dust), then applied some plastic sealant.

I knew we were having a few friends over that night and I didn’t expect the house to be perfect, but it was looking absolutely horrible by this time.  I had to start cleaning.  Argentine’s have an interesting way to mop floors here, they take a heavy, thick rag, soak it in a bucket and then push it around with a big squeegee.  Everyone seems to do it, so I had to try it.  I first tried to sweep the dust up, but that was just causing dust clouds so I just started wiping up the floor with my rag and squeegee.  I’m sure the workers were thinking, “They can afford this nice apartment but can’t afford a maid for 7 pesos an hour?”

The WhirlPool guy fixed the oven and finished the washing machine telling us not to use it for 2 hours (like I’m about to start washing clothes right then!), the painter left, the glass pane installers left and that left only the carpenter who was still going from room to room in exasperation saying that he has too much to do.  I continued to try and clean the apartment and was actually making some good progress.

Our friends were set to show up around 8 pm and it was now 5:40, all of a sudden the guys showed up to finish the stereo and DVD player installation.  They were scheduled to arrive 4 days before this, but this is Argentina!  They started the installation saying that they could run some wires around the perimeter of the room to go to the speakers they installed on the walls.  I said, “Remember this conversation we had 6 weeks ago, about how to design the system, you ARE NOT running wires along my new walls.”  This caused a few anguished looks as I’m sure he remembered the conversations we previously had, I called the architects to ask where the speaker wires in the wall were for the DVD player.  Luckily they happened to still be in the building and came up to talk to Ismael, the installer.  Lots of rapid Spanish ensued with lots of hands combing through hair, giggling coins in pockets, shuffling of feet, trying to remember what was supposed to happen, and who’s fault it was that the speaker wires weren’t installed.  The architects pulled some plans out of their briefcase and it appeared it was Ismael’s fault the speaker wires weren’t there yet.  Luckily the architects had the channels already in place in the walls, so Ismael will just have to get wire to pull the speaker wire through.  He said he would be here at 9:30 am the next morning to complete the job, yeah, right.

Our friends showed up, we had some champagne and some cheese and crackers and everyone ooohed and ahhhed over the apartment, IT IS a very cool apartment and I love showing it off!

Wednesday June 18th , 2003 – In the old apartment there was a pass through window between the kitchen and office area that was very handy for passing cups of coffee to me.  In the new apartment the office is now the farthest room from the kitchen.  Ron would curse every time he tried to bring me a cup of coffee because he would always spill some.  When Ron worked at Nasa Ames Research Center a hundred years ago he told me a story that the coffee room was very far from the work area, so you always wanted to fill your coffee up to the rim because it was so far away, however, then it was hard to carry your coffee to your work area without spilling it.  He said there was this really nerdy girl researcher with Coke bottle glasses who devised a tray on hanging wires to carry her coffee, in this way the tray would pendulum back and forth as she walked but the coffee would swing naturally according to gravity and never spill a drop.  I made some kind of a groan, knowing Ron was thinking about another crazy project.

He built his little hanging tray to carry my coffee and he was grinning like a Cheshire cat every time he came in saying, “See?  Didn’t spill a drop!”  This looked very silly but I couldn’t help trying it out myself.  To my amazement you can walk as fast as you like and the coffee never spills.  When Ron sees me using it he gives me a little, “See?  Doesn’t that work great?” remark.

Friday June 20th, 2003 – Our new desk and cat litter box arrives.  Ron had the idea to put the cat box outside on the balcony hidden in a garden seat that would house the litter box.  There was no good place to put the cat box inside where there was good ventilation and it would be out of the way, so this was a great idea.  I told the carpenter I wanted it to look like a nice piece of furniture and it turned out fantastic.  Now I just have to teach the cats how to use the cat door to get outside.

        The desk turned out beautiful!  Here it is just installed.          The cat box is also a beautiful piece of furniture

More Cat Box Pics

The architect also did an excellent job on the desk, looks beautiful.

With all the computer stuff, need to straighten up a bit

Monday June 23rd , 2003 – Our new dining room table is delivered, WOW, it looked great!  We had seen a table at an Italian store that I loved but it was $8,000 USA, I laughed when they said the price, they said, “It’s imported from Italy!”, like that is supposed to make it worth $8,000 dollars.

One day we were walking down Arenales street when I looked in a small store and saw a dining room table I liked.  We walked into the store and the table was very similar to the Italian table, Argentines are great at copying designs and reproducing them.  The table was very cool and only $3,800 pesos with a 5% discount for cash.  They said it would take 20 days to build (this was a month ago), but it was finally being delivered. 

The workers brought it up the service elevator and it looked very heavy.  The table is glass and has end pieces that pull out to extend the table when you want, the end pieces pivot up and then slide together to make the table one continuous table.  Now we just need my dining room chairs with my custom design.

The end pieces pull out to make the table larger

The end pieces then pivot up to make them the same height as the table.

Then you slide the end pieces in to make one large table

Thursday June 26th , 2003 – It’s winter time now, we’ve lived here 2.5 years and I still can’t get used to winter in June, just seems weird.  I was walking home from the gym and I stopped waiting for the traffic light to change, I looked down a rainy Sante Fe street and thought to myself, “WOW”, I just love this place, it’s so romantic, the architecture is so wonderful, everywhere I look it feels like somewhere far away, I’m constantly reminded I live in another country and I love that feeling, it feels like I’m always on vacation, I hope I never lose that.

Friday June 27th, 2003 – A friend of mine went on an across the USA motorcycle trip and I documented his adventures for him on a website  Russell would email me daily updates and I would update the site for him for friends and family to know he was ok.  Russell was back in Buenos Aires and wanted to pay me for doing the website for him, I was a little uncomfortable asking him to pay me and suggested a donation to the Ronald McDonald House here in Buenos Aires.  Christiane Bolsenbroek volunteers her time to this wonderful organization and I thought a donation in Russell’s name would be wonderful.  Russell also thought this was a great idea but also said that he would take me out to dinner at a restaurant of my choice.  Our friend Diego is friends with Maria, the owner of a small restaurant that is just fantastic, so when Russell suggested dinner I talked to Diego and asked him to set up a special dinner for us at Maria’s restaurant.  Maria’s restaurant usually has a price fix menu, but she will prepare special meals paired with wines by her sommelier on request.  Diego talked with Maria and she suggested two wonderful menus of 80 and 120 pesos per person, each paired with the best wines.  I emailed the 2 menus to Russell and asked him to pick one but he told me to make the choice.  Silly boy to leave this decision up to me when he’s paying, when food is involved I will always go for the more exotic, so I chose the grand tasting menu.

Grand Tasting Menu

1) Amusse bouche: Rabbit
2) Trillas (Diego said they also call them "little salmon", it's a pink little fish).
3) Shrimps
4) Swordfish
5) Duck
6) Cheese
7) Ice cream
8) Dessert

Russell picked us up at our apartment and gave me the donation for the Ronald McDonald house and then we walked to the restaurant 6 blocks away.  We arrived before Diego but Maria greeted us affectionately and seated us at a table nearest the kitchen, assuring us that Diego likes to be near the kitchen so he can socialize with Maria and her staff.  Diego arrived and there were hugs and kisses all around as each person came out to greet us.

Diego told us that he said to Maria, “Don’t make the dinner like you’re a Jewish mother feeding her family, keep the portions small!”  The food was amazing!  It was like making love for 4 hours, at the end we were totally satisfied, but not stuffed or uncomfortable.  We walked home at 1:30 am in the cool winter night, the streets still filled with people out on a Friday evening.

Sunrise View, this is the view from the bedroom each morning

Monday June 30th , 2003 – With the apartment almost being completed, we had to excuses left for putting off our Spanish classes.  Today was the first day of trying a new instructor, Hugo.  Like any new program I’m sure it will take a few times before we settle into a routine, the first class bounced all over the spectrum as he was trying to get a feeling for our abilities.