Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Beginnings: Creating a New Kitchen

The original kitchen
When I purchased my condo, I knew that the kitchen was at best dicey, but after I took possession and inspected every nook, corner and cranny the one thing that stood out that needed fixing or replacing was the kitchen. While it was different than other kitchens ... the originals from about 1983, this one had been upgraded ... sorta. The cabinets didn't go up to the ceiling, the Formica counters were now white tile, the stove was deeply scarred with divots in the glass top and rings around the burners that could not be scrubbed out. The old fan was dim, unbelievably greasy and the dishwasher didn't work. So while looking at it, and obviously not very closely, I didn't realize the job I had in store for me. Now I do.
The kitchen down to its ribs
     Since I had done a kitchen remodel before, I more or less knew the drill. If it can go wrong it will. However, since the space is small and cozy for two I realized that I couldn't do much more than replace the cabinets with those that went to the ceiling, put in better lighting, a new ceiling fan (the only one in the entire condo) and since I had a dining room, that left me free to decide what to do with the wall behind the kitchen. That would be a challenge as well.
     I hit upon the idea of a two toned kitchen. White cabinets above the counters and darker wood below. I would select a counter top that honored both colors and settled on white appliances. So we went over the ideas, dimensions and wants with a designer at Home Depot. I had used them before and pretty much knew the steps involved. After several ideas, layouts, etc., my contractor and I settled on a plan. I think he was very happy I didn't use red cabinets below the counters though we saw a brochure that did exactly that. The idea of two toned cabinetry seemed different to me and then Sunday I read in the Desert Sun that this has become all the rage both in the U.S. and Europe. Who knew? I did it because there is no window and without bright lighting, the kitchen is dark. Watching a friend fix dumplings in my relatively dim kitchen now, I realized you need to see where your fingers are when chopping! He agreed as well.
Things look a lot better with drywall!
     A lot had to be done before we could install the new cabinets. We had an electrician put the wiring in for the new fans, and add outlets in the kitchen. There had to be new drywall to replace the open areas that for some reason the cabinets covered. Drywall had to be mudded and I painted the areas that would show.
     Painting became an interesting process. While I was tempted to continue the red from the dining room, I realized that I needed a neutral color for all my red appliances. The toaster, coffee maker, canisters and even the waffle maker. While I looked, I couldn't find just the right tiles I wanted above the backsplash. The way I was burning through money, I figured a charcoal grey, the same color as the master bedroom was the way to go.
Painted drywall on one those areas cabinet couldn't conceal
The base cabinets went in fairly smoothly
     The counter man had come and gone ... measuring with a laser the exact dimensions of the quartz top. A close friend and I discussed these counters and I wanted something to match a strongly veined granite in both baths. He noted though that you wouldn't see the crumbs. "I'm a bachelor," I said. "We are expected to be messy." He demurred and suggested something with far less pattern, more white with subtle veining that would show those crumbs. I guess that means I clean the counter a lot more! However, those counters won't be here until the New Year so I move into an almost complete kitchen. I got red vinyl tablecloths to cover the plywood underlay so we could cook.
   However, the fun didn't stop there. When my contractor started opening the wall cabinets, he noted that the boxes said 48" high. Even though he measured one the number 48 stuck in his mind. Lining up all the cabinets that were supposed to be 42" all he could see was 48." We went over to Home Depot, had them come and get them and then got them reordered again.
Oh my! Those cabinets are huge!
     When I went over the next day to see my designer, he came back to me and said, they were 42", the right dimension. So after calling the contractor he said that would be right so then the dance began to get them back. Finally, after two days of waiting to get them the 2 or so miles Home Depot is from me, I drove my little Mazda CX-5 over and in four trips got them in and out myself so we could continue. Remember now, I must be out of my rental and into my condo by December 31st. Talk about a driven man!!!
     The interesting wrinkle though has been my kitchen item purchases from Amazon of all places. Really! I couldn't find the hardware similar to that on my dining room cabinet, a 5" brushed metal handle. I found them on Amazon for about 3 times less than in a store. Then I didn't see a single sink  faucet I like ... again Amazon. Then the fan over the stove at hardware stores was very expensive. Yup, Amazon again. It seems that you can get just about anything in the world on Amazon and at a much, MUCH better price.
     We didn't lose much time as the back wall cabinets were there and could be installed. The surprise though was that the upper white cabinets were 25" deep, not 12" like the two thinner cabinets with glass in the doors. They offered so much storage that I could even fit wine racks, a small fridge, store bodies! I may have lost the hall cabinets due to the addition of a stacking washer/dryer space but in the pass through to the dining room, there was plenty of storage.
     One other addition to the new wall unit design was the addition of a bar. It was 60" wide, wide enough for two, even three people to eat at without having to mess up the dining room. There is a large space to mount a TV if I want and a cutout to the new four plug outlet that included two USB charging ports!
A place to show my collection of old cameras
    Since I figured that this would be my last resting place living on my own I wanted to make it easy to care for and use! One of the hallmarks was that I finally had a place to display my old cameras. Maybe not antiques yet but some, the Polaroids especially, almost my age now. There is one more treasure I have yet to retrieve, a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic, a prize I snared the day of the Northridge Earthquake for $100 in its original case and holders, flash and meter that you would ever need.
     The hopefully last snag was that the designer, and we watched him do it and even had the printout in our hot little hands, put the sink directly under the A/C duct that I wanted to hide under a cover. When we went to install that cabinet, we made the discovery it wouldn't fit. However, once everyone calmed down we realized
Recreating the duct box and installing the cabinet next to it
that if we changed the wall duct box over to the left, everything would fit. The 42" wall cabinet to the right, and the short 12" high cabinet under the duct box.
     The kitchen is small ... as you can see with the contractor installing the heart stopping cabinet. It will have to be asymmetrical because the sink is not centered either because of the dishwasher. In its own way, the duct box will be centered over the sink with a small cabinet under it.
     Obviously it is not done yet. I put in all the cabinet shelves last night ... the counter isn't there but all the appliances work, we will have water and a dishwasher so we can cook Christmas dinner with turkey and all the fixins'. Cooking a turkey will be a first for me. The rest is easy. If I'm lucky my friend might add fresh, homemade Chinese dumplings! My sister wants me to send her some overnight they're that good!
     The floor is being cleaned today (December 20, 2016) and I pick up a friend tomorrow who will help me over the next week move in and clean up where I am now. I have already moved my studio into the new condo and put a ton of things in the mercifully large storage room that is mine in front of my parking space. One way or another, it will be done. The new place won't be completely ready but isn't that the way it always goes?
     This is a perfect example of design ... how we design the spaces around us or let someone else do it for us. This is going to be my place, my last place when you're 71, so I decided to design it to suit me at this stage of my life. I have been toying with getting a Roomba. I have a black Lab that sheds all the time. I hate to vacuum and well ... it may chase her around the condo at times but at least it would keep the dog hair at a minimum.
     More to come. Will show the results with the counters in place, clean floors and all cabinets installed. For now and until the end of the year "moving" is the key word! Happy Holidays!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Designing The Food We Eat

THE LAST SUPPER by Leonardo DaVinci
You have to consider that the food we eat, each and every day,  often three times a day is something that we design. Each time you prepare a meal, you are in effect designing something. From the mundane bowl of soup to a Thanksgiving feast, food has fascinated man ... and some of the most famous paintings in the world reflect that! Anyone who ever seen THE LAST SUPPER knows that food was as important to the disciples as to anyone. The feelings of breaking bread together are timeless and eternal.
     As I was making bread today, from scratch I might add, it hit me that cooking or baking, is as much an art as painting, writing or singing a song. Food is our sustenance and we ignore it to our peril. Every era, every time in history
They really knew how to eat in the Renaissance!
celebrates food yet many of us seem to ignore that fact. Even fast food, believe it or not, is designed in some kitchen somewhere and then copied like a Xerox copy all over the world. (I might add that in most cases there might be very little difference between the taste of some fast food and that copy of paper). Anyone who has traveled much knows that food is the subject of much of the fine art they see in the worlds greats museums, temples and monuments. Amazingly paintings on the walls of Ancient Egyptian temples still show people offering food to the gods. (Why is it that that paint is still there 4,500 years later and we have to paint our houses at least every 5 years?)
     Even in the midst of the turmoil of moving I had "ripe" bananas ready to be baked and a can of pumpkin puree begging to be cooked. Cook or move that can ... you decide.
Ingredients are out - let the mixing begin!
     As I write this the two - banana and pumpkin breads are baking. As I was mixing the ingredients it made me realize the steps are really no different than getting a painting ready to paint something and then well, paint it.
Banana batter ready to bake
I dug out the trusty cookbook and started pulling the out the ingredients off the shelves and refrigerator. Here, sugar and flour are kept in the freezer because the ants will be all over them before you can even say bug! So the flour, eggs, sugar, spices, oil, mashed bananas and the final addition - chopped walnuts are put together into a mix that hopefully will turn out to be bread. And trust me, anyone that has cooked or painted hopes for success. It doesn't always happen either!!! If you've been there you know what I mean.
The kitchen supervisor
      No kitchen would be complete without a supervisor and my kitchen isn't any different either. There in the middle of the floor, blocking an exit or entrance to the fridge is my supervisor. I guess I could move her but she would be back the minute my back was turned. She is however, a wonderful cleanup crew. You drop it, she'll eat it!
Pumpkin and banana bread, all ready to go!

     After mixing the batter for the banana bread, next came the pumpkin mix. I had never made this before and was amazed at how different the recipes were. They both were to be cooked in the same size pan, same time and even same temperature. Neither is dietetic but really how often do we splurge like this? My friend from Hong Kong loves my bread and specifically asked that I make some for him. Who knows, we might just be able to eat it in my own new kitchen!

The finished product: pumpkin and banana bread!
     The new counters won't be in but as the guy who came to take the final measurements Monday said, get a plastic tablecloth at the Dollar Store to cover the underlaying plywood. Yes, how perceptive is that! For a buck or two I can have the use of the kitchen as the appliances are in, the cabinets should be ... all that is missing will be the new counters. So, as I make my final hurrah in one kitchen, I am looking for to getting to use my new and very
     Here's to all the cooks, those artists of the culinary arts, wishing you much success with the cooking that mark the holidays.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Apology

     In the pressures of getting my condo completed and myself moved in by December 31st, we made mistakes. The biggest mistake was measuring. Yes, the cabinets that we thought were supposed to measure 42" were in box numbers that ended in 48 and that figure stuck in our minds. Even when one of them was taken out of the box and measured we read 48" on the tape. Since all the boxes appeared to be the same height, we assumed the cabinets were too big, that they were all 48". Never assume anything! Remember ... assume means make an ass out of you and me!
     Going over to Home Depot this afternoon, my designer told me that the cabinets measured 42". Asking how tall the ceilings were I replied 96" or 8 feet. Calling my contractor he repeated the ceiling height. I told him the cabinets measured 42" even though the box numbers said XXX48. We all agreed that this would be correct and so, the mystery was solved.
     Visually the number stuck in minds eye and even looking at the measuring tape we saw 48 rather than the true measurement.
     At least we can get the cabinets back and continue to get the condo ready to move into by the end of the month ... the end of the year. My designer was going to contact KraftMaid to stop the replacement order. What was still needed were just a few small things that would make the kitchen look nicer but not be of the magnitude a reorder would take.
     However, there is an apology due and I offer it here. I am very sorry for the confusion. Yet, I also stand by some of my reactions in how this was handled. I do credit my designer at Home Depot for helping us see our mistake patiently and kindly. He is helping us to return the cabinets, luckily not far away, and allow us to move forward.

Alan Krug

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Living in LA LA Land And Wondering How It Will All Turn Out!

     For those of you who don't know, I live in California; Palm Springs, CA in fact. Palm Springs is  a city with a multitude of distinctions ... land of the winter snowbirds, retirement city, Gay Capital of the U.S, home of Modernism Week, film festivals, prestigious art festivals, huge outdoor music concerts, a weekly street fair that closes down the main drag every Thursday night, HOT summers ... the list really can go on and on. That said, I also live in a state that voted 66% for Clinton and hates Donald Trump. As just about everyone in the world knows, California is a liberal, to many, a very liberal state. Bill O'Reilly, the ultra conservative, once observed that the Los Angeles Times should use a hammer & sickle in their masthead, it's that liberal.
     It is a state led by Democrats in both houses of the legislature, the governorship and just about every other office in the Golden State. It is also replete with those elected officials that think they know better than you or I. If they did I might add, we would be living in paradise ... however, we aren't, and they don't know much more, maybe, from the many I have met, less.
     What is interesting however, is the breakdown of the state. In the north from San Francisco to Oregon you have a strong loyal, liberal base. However, in the far more populous south, Los Angeles, it is liberal but moderately so, some might even say shakily so. It is these population centers that wag the dog. As you can clearly see, the majority of the landmass with far fewer people is either moderately or extremely conservative.
     What brought this to mind was an article in the Sunday Desert Sun that, with the media still wringing it hands, wondered how California would bear a Trump Presidency. They observed the actions of Texas where the attorney general of that state filed lawsuits against the Obama Administration daily as a matter of course. The editorial urged our newly appointed attorney general to do the same thing.
     I guess the question remains, when will liberals, and by that I mean the media, talking heads, pundits and those that "know" how to run a political campaign realize, and admit that much of the result of the Trump presidency was of their own making. One insightful article by a renowned journalist admitted the hubris of the liberals including himself. When by chance he ventured out of the beltway to Podunk Iowa, what he heard and saw convinced him in June that Trump had a chance. Why? Because the administration wasn't looking out for them. Democrats were convinced the working class was theirs. Only the working class felt it wasn't being served and protected by the Democrats with decades of their jobs going overseas, a slower than normal recovery had left them near starvation levels. Their hope for a better life had vanished. They took a chance on Trump. You have to realize, that no matter how cheap products are, if you don't have a job you will not be able to buy them. The only winners in NAFTA, the now failed Pacific Trade Agreement and any other trade agreements were the CEO's who would make even more money and the countries that got the jobs exported from here, certainly not the workers who lost their jobs. Watching PBS specials interviewing the workers who had lost good paying jobs many felt that Trump being vilified by both Democrats and Republicans was enough of an outsider who just might actually do what he promised. Certainly the deal he wrought with Carrier saving about 1400 jobs from going to Mexico proves, in their minds, he really does care about them.
     However, it wasn't just a few jaded voters that voted for Trump. Take a gander at the entire United States and see how they voted county by county. All that red is a sobering reminder that while we have more voters in our cities, there is a great disconnect between the citizens of this country. It is the issue that has and may well continue to divide this country.
     Many of my friends still can't get over the election results. There is a sense of foreboding in the Gay community, many of the residents in the valley are undocumented and many of the grand projects of California (Big Brother) seem to be in peril.
The election may be over but the feelings haven't!
     How will it all end up? No one knows. Hopefully, the status quo is broken and finally, as one journalist admitted, its time for everyone to stop talking to themselves and talk to the people of this land. What is needed and done in New York City, the beltway, and just about any large American city is, as we have seen, very different in the heartland. If you are a small merchant, farmer, oil field worker, fisherman, there is a good deal of brokering. The art of the deal is alive and well. Isn't that what Trump has said about himself all along? Once filled with strong blue-collar voters, decades of jobs fleeing overseas has seen our workforce decimated and both parties are held to blame.
    And all blame cannot be placed on the Democrats shoulders either. The GOP has been as intransigent and acting like they know better yet have refused to sit at the table and compromise. If there is any hallmark to the success of the United States beginning with the creation of the Constitution, it was that various political followers 1. talked to each other, 2. learned the spirit of compromise. Nothing is perfect and on this earth nothing most likely will ever be. To move forward you have to do some horse-trading, do a little give and take so that while no one ever gets everything they might want, the country moves forward, both sides give some and get some. As everyone knows, not much of compromise on anything has been done for something like about 16 years. The country has become polarized and it has been become a battle between competing ideologies.
     Watching "60 Minutes" last Sunday was sobering. First Paul Ryan, a voracious critic of Trump says that he is willing to work with him. They are united in undoing much of Obama's legacy.
     The next feature talked about the "Golden Triangle" in Alabama that has had a resurgence in new industries that have slowly begun to replace the ones that fled to China. However, even here the sobering fact remains ... what will we do with all the people when the requirements for any new factory is a fraction of what it was? Fact, a steel mill used to employ around 4,000 workers. The new one, with great pay for the 500 workers is the problem. Much of the old muscle work has been replaced by robots and men and women now sit behind computers monitoring every action in the mill. Industries my be moving back to the US but the job requirements will be far less than before.
     There is a reason robotics are replacing more and more jobs; they can work 24/7, need no breaks or lunch, vacations, health care, 401K plans. Sure they require maintenance but nothing like the numbers of workers once required.
     Education is the key but for what? No one can predict the future but the days of a high school diploma being enough isn't good enough anymore. In fact, even a four year college degree is looking pretty slim to many companies.
     While I can't predict an answer here, I can predict that if both parties don't sit down and talk to each other, work out a plan that protects their constituents, simplifies the daily business of both small companies and their employees there will be even more drastic election changes opening up even more extremes that will continue to polarize the country.
     If there ever was a need to design a plan of action, that time is now! Write your congressman, your senator, any and all of your elected officials. They are to represent you, not themselves. TELL them what you think. Make them hear your voice, not the voices of each other. I tell friends vote incumbents out ... each and every one. When they tell me their incumbent is good I reply, "No they are not. They are part of the problem!" Think about that and let your fingers do the walking over those keyboard keys.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Remembrance of Things Past

First spotted on Farrell & Baristo at 4 am in Palm Springs
     One of the things I must do everyday for my health is walk. Also, one of the things I must also do several times a day, is walk my dog. Should I feel lazy or not be active enough you can bet she will be there to remind me.
     There are the potty walks about the condo complex and there is the walk, a 30 - 45 minute walk I have dubbed the WPP (walk, poop and potty). How do I know its time? Well, first there is the stare. Then she gets closer smiling and bumping me. When that fails a paw touches my knee over and over again until I get up.
   On one of the routes we take there is a memorial to someone on the corner of Baristo and Farrell here in Palm Springs. I assume that someone died in an accident but it been there for several months and includes solar lights that glow when we take our now infamous 4 am walks through the dark desert landscape. Seeing it that first time made me pause and begin to remember how humans remember the past, loved ones, success in war, success of the heart.
The evolving memorial in daylight.
While we usually walk very early ... that 4 am feeding you know ... but sometimes I feed her then crawl back into bed. Occasionally I walk our nighttime route during the day and was amazed at how much the memorial changed from day to day. Clearly someone cared and was deeply missed.
     On a sad note though, today when we walked past during a glorious sunrise, the memorial was gone. Only a few pieces remained scattered across the empty land.
     Why are memorials so important to us? What do they signify? I began to notice shrines appearing in our neighborhood when more and more Asians, many from Viet Nam or China placed them on the ubiquitous fireplaces that every one of the houses had on our street. In the early morning glow you would see red electric lights on a mysterious, to Western eyes, shrine that had little statues, fruit and the ever glowing red lights.
Like Shelly's "Ozymandias", nothing besides remains
Home Buddhist Shrinemore intimate and immediate!
      On inquiry, I was told these shrines kept the memory of past ancestors alive to the living and each light was a person they would pray for. Not all that different from some Christian traditions ... only we usually do that in a church. This is
Memorial Flowers for Princess Di
     When Princess Di died in the car crash the sudden and spontaneous cascade of flowers that appeared in London brought worldwide attention to this phenomenon. Who can forget the days of memorials and scenes of thousands of mourners who paid their respect with flowers? Thousands of flowers.
     Suddenly it became okay for people to create scenes such as this in memory of those that passed ... for whatever reason.

Road Side Memorials are
everywhere today
     Who has not driven along the a highway and not witnessed a scene such as this? In passing you have to wonder what happened, what tragedy was here that caused loved ones and others to return to pay their respect? As we scurry by, I am sure that more than a few of us hope that such a need will not be required for us. Do we slow down just a little? Do we watch the road a bit more carefully? Do we think of those that died here? 
Entrance into Jerash, Jordan
     The tradition of celebrating some event has been with us through the ages. I can remember my visit to Jerash, Jordan. To enter the ancient Roman city, you went through a memorial arch constructed by Hadrian in celebration of defeating whomever lived there at the time. Of course, the effect of such monuments is both inspiring as it reminds us of past victories and the people who won them. Such Roman monuments litter the ancient Roman Empire and have inspired far more modern men to erect them too! Napoleon's "Arc de triomphe" in Paris, the Arch in Washington Square in NYC and the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. All iconic sights that instantly bring to mind where they are. And, I might add, owe their design and inspiration from Ancient Rome.
Memorial to those who perished in the OKC bombing
   Sadly, we only seem to remember the tragedies of life. When I was traveling to Memphis with my daughter with the car we were giving her, we stopped along the way at a variety of places. One was in Oklahoma City. After eating a wonderful meal in an area of old warehouses converted into a trendy attraction of shops and eateries, we were encouraged to see the memorial of those who has died at the bombing of the Murrah Building by Timothy Mc Vie. Since it was Memorial Day weekend we weren't sure of what we would see but we later found out it is open 24 / 7 and that people come to pay their respects rain or shine.
     To not be moved by the serenity of the scene and realize the enormity of the building, the site is in the footprint of the original building, you have to gasp. 168 people died. There is a chair for each and every one, large for adults, small for children, with a light underneath and during our visit a small American flag alongside each chair. The site is marked at each end with a marker that tells the time it started and the time it ended. I cried. Only a minute had passed.
     Across the street, the parsonage of the old Methodist Church was also destroyed. In its place is a stature of Christ, hands covering his face, crying. The inscription reads simply, "Jesus wept."

The 9 / 11 Memorial in New York City
    There are countless memorials to humans, their deeds and often misdeeds. However, for many, especially those living on September 9, 2001, no memorial brings greater sadness than remembering that fateful day when so many died and so many structures came down with them. When I was in NYC before the new memorial opened I just couldn't visit the site. The memory of seeing the second plane hit Trade Tower 1 as I waited for the Super Shuttle to take me to LAX for a flight to Chicago that morning was just too much. I remember walking my dog the next day and looking up startled, and just a little bit scared when a military plane flew overhead.
     There are many monuments and traditions that cover the world ... all designed by men and women that remind us of what has been. To forget them, is to then relive these same events or as the great
Spanish philosopher Santayana said, "Those that forget history are doomed to relive it." Is that what we really want?
Oakland,  CA rave fire memorial
     How many times, how many lives do we have to lose to learn this very basic lesson? Right now we are mourning all those that died in Oakland, CA at a Rave concert because of senseless practices that many knew was a time bomb just waiting to happen. You have to wonder, how many fires, shady prevention practices, do we need to forego such senseless tragedies? Even sadder yet, no matter who is found to blame, no matter how large the fines and long the jail sentences are, the dead will not, cannot be, brought back. There will always be accidents, things that we cannot predict nor protect against, but those that can be and are not is unacceptable. Not today, not ever.
     So to all those people out there that hated and often flunked history, there is a lesson in all of this. Start remembering and stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has.