Sunday, April 30, 2006

No Place Like Home

Place: Texas Roadhouse
Lunch: 10oz Ft Worth Ribeye (medium well), chili (with cheese and onion), rice, water

The server sucks. The bar-like atmosphere sucks. The country music sucks. But the steaks are awesome. What are you going to do?

The "Parade of Homes" happened this weekend. This is not an actual parade...they don't stick a bunch of houses on wheels and drive them down the street with half-naked models throwing candy out the windows. It's not even the "Street of Dreams" every city seems to have where a development with six-to-ten dream homes are constructed and shown off for a $10 admission fee. This is an overglorified open house covering 75 properties located all over the metro. There's a couple of clusters where a dozen or so homes are within a couple of neighboring developments.

I decided to check out some homes. I'm not in the market. It's just something fun to do. And it's free, so why not?

Trying to find the homes proved to be a challenge. The map isn't even close to accurate. It has dots indicating homes south of a main thoroughfare that are actually several blocks NORTH of said thoroughfare. One home was mapped significantly northwest of another I looked at, but imagine my surprise when I happened upon it a block west and two blocks south. I even tried Googling some of the addresses to get more definitive information ahead of going, but alas, these addresses were apparently too new for Google to know.

Anyway, I managed sixteen homes...three which weren't even on the official tour. I visited two others that were closed. I didn't find my dream home (I've already found that plan), but I found some interesting ideas. Homes are listed in the order I toured them.

Home #61: $419,900 - Second favorite home of the tour - I wanted to see this one because it had "cherry stained maple woodwork", and I thought that sounded cool. It was cool. The space over the garage was the master bath and walk-in closet. The walk-in closet was as big as some of the bedrooms I saw in later homes. The place wasn't perfect, but it was neato.

Home #64: $534,900 - Third favorite home of the tour - Easily the nicest decorated home of any I toured with extensive wainscoting, really nice light fixtures, and cherry and granite. I had problems with the layout, in particular the size of the master suite walk-in closet and the dimensions of the family room off the kitchen. And why does everybody insist on sticking fireplaces where the TV would go? The guy showing it was very interested in comments about the house. When I said something positive, he'd say "Thank you!" And when I'd say something negative, he'd nod and look thoughtful. Picture the Iron Chefs when the food critics are analyzing their dishes. That's EXACTLY what this guy was doing. EXACTLY.

Home #57: $349,900 - The only thing I remember about this home was looking out a bedroom window at an elementary school. Children. Ewwww. One of the homes had a double-sided fireplace between the kitchen and the family room. It might have been this one.

Home #63: $509,900
- This is next door to #61, but it wasn't open when I went to the first place so I ended up backtracking. It's a main floor/basement configuration with cathedral ceilings in the main area, which is essentially one big living room/dining room/kitchen seperated by wall dividers or cabinets that don't go to the ceiling. The master suite is right off this area. The other bedrooms are in the basement. I don't like the basements of today with their windows and walk-out amenities. Just seems like big wasted space that's easy to break into. But most of the homes I viewed had them. I still don't get why it was one of the most expensive homes I toured.

Home #62: $428,000 - This actually ended up being a three-home tour because the realtor also had the listing next door and a third three houses in the other direction. She opened them all up, unstaffed, and just invited people to go through them. The wood floors had wider planks and a light color that gave them sort of a country feel. I'll have to think those into my dream home. The second home had a big space divided into the living room, dining area, and kitchen. The kitchen looked extremely small in comparison to the rest of the space. Walking from the living room to the kitchen felt like walking the expanse of Nebraska to get there. This house had a nice loft office area though. I don't remember anything about the third house.

Home #67: $210,900 - This was a "model home", meaning it was a fully furnished model designed to show off the builder. It was the crappiest quality build on my tour. It had those faux laminate countertops that are supposed to look like granite, amongst other things. The master suite not only didn't have a whirlpool tub, it didn't have ANY tub. Just a shower. One of the door handles practically came off in my hand. You get what you pay for. The highlight was the dining room, which had a beautiful sort of mustard yellow color. But I would have gutted the kitchen immediately.

Home #65: $144,900 - Townhouse. The advertised "large kitchen" was a tunnel parallel to the two-car garage. So it was large but uninviting with no windows or personality. I guess you could say it made use of the available space. I guess.

Home #66: $184,990 - Townhouse. MUCH nicer than the first. Kitchen and living room were essentially one big great room, which I love. It had a sunroom off the back and a massive finished basement, which as I've noted before, I find annoying. A family was all but closing on it with the realtor in the kitchen. Their little girl followed me around like a puppy as her mother yelled at her "Be sure to show him the master suite!" The master suite WAS much nicer than I expected it to be.

Home #72: $125,000 - Row house. A row house is a townhouse with the garage on the back side. That's as close as I can figure.
The girl showing it didn't seem to realize she was part of the Parade of Homes. She was sad I wasn't actually buying. There was a guy sitting at a desk in the garage whose cell phone went off three times in the ten minutes I was there. The home was cheap in that it had a small apartment-like kitchen (similar to the quality of Home #67, which figures because it was the same builder) and no whirlpool tub. But it was also one of the only places I toured that had walls painted something other than sandy beige. The back wall of the living room/kitchen was brown and looked really good with the cabinets and countertops. The master bedroom was slate blue. I would have taken it over several of the other places I looked at.

Home #73: $135,750 - A cookie-cutter townhouse that was LOCKED! Nobody there. Pricks.

Home #74: $380,000 - Favorite home of the tour - The ad said "Mission-style" interior and they were right. Lots of arches and rounded corners with creamy and dusty tones. The woodwork was awesome. The space between the kitchen and garage entry had a large built-in wood coat rack and cube shelves. The kitchen was beautiful. The backyard was enormous. "It opens up to a park," said the realtor. "There's a bike trail coming through eventually. No other homes will ever be built back there." If I WERE in the market, this is one I'd be looking at.

Home #12: $144,500 - The actual Home #12 apparently sold, so they moved it to an unfinished home in the development. By "unfinished", I mean it was empty kitchen cabinets, no bathroom fixtures, nothing. But the development was interesting. The homes are designed to be more traditional. They take up a smaller footprint, they don't have fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, or master suites. They just have regular bedrooms and regular kitchens and regular family rooms with nothing oversized. They're just simple houses.

Home #5: $104,900
- Condo. This turned into a two-home tour becuase the realtor took me through two units...a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom. Condos are like nice apartments. No exception here. The upstairs units were cheaper than the main floor. That would be awesome for the person living below me and my down-firing subwoofer.

Home #13: $209,900 - This was the same builder who built Home #67, and was seemingly the same build quality, but was MUCH nicer. Lovely kitchen with birch cabinets stained to look like maple. Nicer light fixtures. And cheaper! Golly.

Home #6: $129,900 - Some sort of duplex/row house/townhouse type deal, which was LOCKED! Pricks.

Well that was fun. I was surprised that none of the homes I visited were doing any new construction techniques or using anything like Geothermal heating and cooling. Standard wood frame construction, standard furnaces, standard light bulbs.

I guess if I ever move, my dream home will have to be built from the ground-up.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wendy Has Left the Building

Place: Taco John's
Lunch: Four hard shell tacos, one Potato Ole's bravo (no tomato), water

Ahhh. The miracle of Taco Tuesday.

On the drive back to the office from lunch, I passed an abandoned Wendy's. Wendy's relocated to a new store not exactly nearby (it's a good two or three miles away) about three months ago. This store is empty, the signage has been removed, and a big sign in the window indicates where to go for the new location.

Yet the car in front of me in traffic is pulling into their parking lot.

As I look to see where he thinks he's going, I spot two MORE cars in the drive-thru lane.

They're just sitting there, as if they're waiting for somebody to take their order.

I've never given people around here credit for being terribly bright, but this takes the cake.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Barefoot in the Park

Place: International House of Pancakes
Lunch: Sourdough bacon cheeseburger melt, onion rings, water

I used to date a girl who couldn't say the word "pancakes". It usually came out like "paddencakes". And it frustrated her to no end. Not to mention the Denny's waitress.

But I'm not having pancakes today.

Server Jenne (with an E) is a clicker. Whenever she is moving, she is clicking the release cap on her pen. Clicky clicky clicky clicky. You can tell exactly where she is in the building just by listening. There she goes...Clicky clicky clicky clicky...

I went for a walk on a breezy day earlier in the week. We have a paved walking trail behind my office...sorry...building which houses my little cubicle where I dwell with the other cubicle dwellers like cattle waiting to die...which routes around some soccer fields, connects with a neighborhood sidewalk, then connects back. It's a twenty minute circle, basically.

So I was walking and suddenly, I felt compelled to take my shoes off. To walk barefoot.

I have no idea where this impulse came from.

But I went with it.

I walked the rest of the trail barefoot. It's a completely different sensation walking barefoot on cement (and grass...I walked off the trail a bit).

It was simple, yet it was different.

It's amazing what one little change can make in one's life.

It's another breezy day today.

I should buy a kite.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

New York Doll

Place: Arby's
Lunch: Two roast beef sourdough melts, one chocolate shake

It's a brand new Arby's! Like we SO needed another one. We have so many stupid Arby's in town that I actually drove past one on my way to THIS one.

Ordering ahead of me are some lady, her mother, and her child. They're not talking about sandwiches so much as her back problems. "I'm TRYING to find a good chiropractor," she says. "Something's wrong with you," notes Mom. Smiling Counter Girl is far more patient than I. Then Stuffy Counter Girl appears at the second register and asks "Hafe you beed helbed?" She's "stuffy" because she has a SERIOUS head cold. Anyway, I order.

"Did you wabt two beef abd cheddar or one beef abd one hab?"

"Two beef and cheddar."

I ended up with my food faster than Mom, Grandma, and Child.

The decor is a lot of reds, browns, and beige. It's almost the 1970's all over again. That would be cool if companies started using seventies decor again. Brown wood paneling, orange and yellow plastic...

"New York Doll" came out on DVD yesterday. It's a rockumentary about Arthur "Killer" Kane, the bassist who never moved on stage. It culminates in the band's 2004 reunion show. The Dolls inspired and set the wheels in motion for dozens of bands and artists over the years. Pretty much any fan of Kiss or the punk movement should be familiar with the name.

I caught it in its limited theatrical run. It's one of the best rockumentaries I've ever seen. I can't recommend it highly enough. So the DVD was a must-have.

Best Buy's website indicated my local store had it. So I swung by Best Buy yesterday over the lunch hour. Remember the last time I went to Best Buy for something?

When you walk in the door, the big new releases of the week are usually in displays up the aisle toward the DVD section. This isn't exactly a big release, and as I expected, no New York Doll in the big displays. So I headed to the DVD section in back and checked the "new releases" section. No New York Doll. It's not even listed on the banner of releases for the week.

Not a good sign.

So I looked in the regular DVD section.


So I went to the music DVD section, a seperate area up front by the CD's.


So I went back to the new releases, thinking I missed something.

Still nothing.

That's when a Best Buy employee asked if he could help me find anything.

"New York Doll. It's supposed to come out on DVD this week."

"New York what?"

He's clearly never heard of it.

After a brief explanation about it being a documentary about the rock band, he headed for the computer to check inventory. Computer Inventory indicated it didn't exist.

He tried alternate spellings. Nothing.

"Do you know anybody who stars in it?" he asked.

"It's a documentary about the rock band," I say (again.)

He then pulled up the Best Buy website, where I was able to show him a picture of the DVD cover and confirm they should have it.

So he tried searching for it as a music CD. JACKPOT. They supposedly have four.

"It's in the music DVD section," he said. I've already looked there, but okay.

He went with me. It's not there.

He headed to the back and came back out about five minutes later.

"I can't find it anywhere," he said.

So I thanked him for his trouble and headed out, about 20 minutes after I entered the store.

On the way out, I came across a display of seemingly random DVD's near the cash register.

And there's all four copies.

So I grabbed one and took it back to show the guy, so when others come in asking about it (and they will), he'll know where it is.

He came back to the front with me to see where they were, and was much appreciative.