• Justus Hayes

I'm back!

Updated: May 11



I probably should have mentioned this in a previous post, but we moved house on May 01. We are finally fully extracted from the old place, having gone there yesterday to pick up our old, piece-of-shit barbecue and meet with Jimmy, the landlord's representative, to get the damage deposit, turn over the keys, and walk away. Whew!


We really lucked out with this new place, looks like, although it is still early days. So far so good. As you might know from an earlier post, our previous home had become a kind of low-grade hellscape due to the relentless and extreme noise from our upstairs neighbours. I'm not going to go down that road here, but I will summarize by saying that it was like living under a Japanese game show with contestants aged four and under. And one that ran until 10 pm most nights, which is bad news for a guy like me who gets up at 3:00ish on the daily. The new place is blessedly, reasonably quiet, prompting Lisa to remark a couple days ago that she felt like she could relax for the first time in a year. I concur.


The kitchen, getting there
The kitchen, getting there

The new place, where I now sit keeping half an eye on got-up-too-early-Rowan as he schemes to get more Timbits out of the kitchen, is so convenient as to be improbable. I have described finding and getting this 3 bedroom basement suite almost miraculous, or whatever the secular version of miraculous is. Very, very fortunate.


We were in a real quandary at our old house. We'd been there for five years, and while that basement suite had some physical drawbacks it was pretty great in a lot of ways. The small backyard was very nice with trees, bushes, and some lawn, not to mention the 60 or so potted plants I was growing back there. A twelve minute walk to the Skytrain, close to parks (including Byrne Creek Ravine Park with its 212 staircase). A ten minute drive to Rowan's school. A middle-class neighbourhood on South Burnaby's South Slope.


Our funky hallway leading to the kitchen
Our funky hallway leading to the kitchen

About two months ago, our landlord arranged for me to meet with him and a translator; he is Chinese and has limited English. He let us know that he was going to put the house on the market. He was very sorry, we had been great tenants, he was going to try to find a buyer who wanted to keep tenants, he was going to make letting us stay for a year a condition of sale, but he had to do it. The market was so hot that he had no choice.


That put us in an interesting position. The aforementioned war zone upstairs had made us think about moving for a long time, and even more recently as the kids had stopped being quiet at 9:00 pm and now were up to and past 10:00 regularly. Rowan was starting to show some negative psychological reactions to the screaming and thumping, it certainly wasn't helping Alex, and my sleep was starting to suffer. Lisa seemed to bear it the best, but she was also out of the house more than anyone and usually stayed up late, so that's not too surprising.


The problem was that our rent was unusually low, and the rental market had also gone crazy. Searches of Craigslist indicated that a 3 bedroom in our area was minimum $1,600 a month, plus utilities. We were paying $1,128, utilities included. Offerings were meager at $1,600, too - most were around $1,800. We simply couldn't afford it. It made me wonder then as I do now, how the hell does anybody afford to live in this town? Working full time at about $25 an hour, I was bringing home almost $3,000 a month when I was working at the GNW Scene Shop. $1,600 plus utilities is around $1,800. Plus internet, plus phones, plus ICBC, plus gas, plus plus plus.


Small bathroom, no tub
Where's the tub?

On Sunday, April 11th, Lisa prompted us into a more active search for somewhere to live after a particularly foul Saturday upstairs, showing me a few ads on Craigslist. The first of these was for a 3 bedroom basement suite somewhere in our area for $1,200 a month. I texted the landlord, it turned out she was having viewings that same day and that a time slot was available. We went over to have a look and meet her, finding out that the house was only about twelve blocks away from where we currently lived. I brought a blank cheque just in case we needed to leave a deposit. Good thing, too, because we walked away with the promise that we would be the new renters and a receipt for $600. I felt a little badly for the young couple waiting in the driveway as we left, no doubt wondering why we were taking so long.


The new place is located a mere twelve or so blocks away from where we used to live in an unusual Burnaby neighbourhood, a pocket of businesses (lots of automotive shops, body shops, transmission rebuilds, etc) that look like most of them were built in the 70s. It's about six blocks wide and two deep with us roughly in the middle. The house we now live in is surrounded on all sides by businesses, which is weird but good. It enables our smoking, something that Lisa always felt guilty about doing at the old place, which is subjectively good and objectively bad. But if we're going to do it, at least we aren't pissing off Joan across the alley.


Rowan finds joy with a hose and a spray gun.
We will be spending a lot of time back here this summer.

The house was built in 1941 and in half-decent condition, narrow but deep so that it presents as small when seen from the road. Ed, Maria's husband, runs a landscaping company and so the yards are well kept. The backyard is particularly great, a sizable oblong bordered by cedars, hedges and the garage, with a bit of garden at the far end. As mentioned, we have a three bedroom apartment in the basement (basements work best with Rowan's heavy foot). The ceilings are low, but we are short. It's bigger than the last place and definitely feels roomier, although that's partially at the expense of storage. The finishes are acceptable - tile and worn laminate floors, decent drywall. Ed gave everything a coat of paint and spent some time fixing small issues before we moved in. The biggest drawback is that there is no tub, just a shower stall. A massive blow that is the very definition of a first-world problem. We will cope.


Rowan does his pumpkin impression.
Rowan does his pumpkin impression.

Our luck kept running good, because the new place was empty before we moved in and the old place had nobody lined up to move in after us. The latter changed when the people upstairs decided to take over the basement, but I worked it out so that they wouldn't get possession until May 04. That meant we had access to the new house ten days before the move, and access to the old place three days after the move; a more ideal set of conditions for a move is hard to imagine, especially given that the two house are a three minute drive apart. Being the house husband that I have become, it fell on me to do the bulk of the packing of boxes and then driving them over a couple of times a day. This front-loading of the move was invaluable, as it made the actual day doable. We had decided to not rent a truck and instead use Lisa's brother's pick up, which meant many trips with the big stuff; if all the boxes had been included, it would have been impossible.


Lisa was in charge of the clean up and last-minute packing on the day while I did the driving. She hired a co-worker and her boyfriend, Leah and Ben from Germany, to help with the clean - always a brutal chore that I never want a part of. We were also helped by Lisa's brother Jason, and cousin (I think?) Aden. Alex contributed a lot, too, I'm happy to say.


I'm going to pack the hell out of that storage room
I'm going to pack the hell out of that storage room

By the end of the day, everything inside the house had been removed except for some random bits of garbage, cleaning supplies, and Alex's Ikea captain's bed. I told myself we were in pretty good shape, but I failed to account for just how much crap I had outside. Almost all of the potted plants had already gone, but there were still four huge plant pots, a portable closet I kept gardening tools in, a dead barbecue, a bunch of junk stashed beside the house and in the carport, an ornamental pond filled with old wood, a large concrete frog, and more. Not to mention the steadily growing pile of garbage in the alley, composed of stuff from inside the house. Plus mowing the lawn was my responsibility, and the lawn had a good first-of-the-season shag going on. I was meeting Jimmy and the landlord's parents (he was out of town) on Sunday at 11:00 for inspection and damage deposit, so we arranged to hand off Rowan to his grandparents for the day (something that made each of them happy) and returned Sunday morning along with Ben and Leah.


Rowan's specialized bed had already been disassembled by me the day before, a lengthy and somewhat grim procedure, but Alex's bed remained, and I was very grateful that Ben and Leah were willing to take it apart and put it back together again in Alex's new room. Lisa and I tackled our respective tasks, and before I knew it they had arrived.


The old place: Not what we wanted to see every day
The old place: Not what we wanted to see every day

We did a walkthrough. I pointed out the window in our bedroom I had broken (long but entertaining story) and the folding closet door that Rowan had broken, the only real damage we had done to the place. Then we had a look outside, and I confirmed that all the outside stuff would be gone and the lawns mowed by end of Tuesday (gave myself some wiggle room there). That was agreed upon, but Jimmy let me know that our upstairs neighbours were taking over the downstairs and also that they wanted the original window security grates reinstalled. We had taken most of these down almost immediately because they were ugly, industrial-style steel grids that evoked prison and convenience store equally. Also, the neighbourhood didn't warrant it. We've had a couple gang-related murders in the past six months, an unusual spike, but b'n'es not so much. Regardless, if they wanted them up, I would put them up. We all metaphorically shook on it and they left.


The remainder of the day was full and productive. The garbage pile grew, Alex's bed pieces got moved and reassembled, final bits of interior cleaning were done, and some of the big and/or heavy outside stuff got moved. We returned to the new place for our second night.


Rowan's room and his sensory reduction bed
Rowan's room and his sensory reduction bed

Our experience of our new home was very positive the first couple days (and continues to be) with one notable exception - Rowan steadfastly refused to enter his new room. His bed hadn't yet been put back together so it wasn't an urgent issue, but it was weird. He also refused to enter the apartment at all the first couple of times we came over. Odd. He has pretty much gotten over all this, but even so last night was the first night he successfully slept in his bed in his room. For reference, I am updating this post on the morning of May 9th.


Ok, much to do on this Sunday morning, including joining Rowan on the couch and watching the latest episodes from Luke and Sarah's Off-Grid Life, The Indie Projects and OKPortugal. I'll be back to finish this up soon.


***May 11***


While our routine is getting back to normal, I'm finding precious little time to get things done on this site and other digital work because of the demands of a just-moved house. Unpacking is, I think, more enjoyable than packing - there's something very satisfying about deciding where everything goes and creating a new physical environment from scratch - but it is also seemingly never ending and always filled with the limitations of space and storage. Ah well, I'll get it done. I did manage to get myself up at 3:30 this morning so I have about an hour or so before I have to start thinking about making lunches. Now, I can try to wrap this up.


The above takes us to the end of Sunday. One of the last things I did on Sunday was make some calls in an attempt to find one of my carpentry friends who was available on short notice to install the security grates for me. It turned out that Jessie, a carp at the GNW Scene Shop where I used to work (still do, on call) was both available and willing, so we arranged for him to show up at 9:30 the next day. I told him I would pay him $100 no matter how long it took (I was thinking a couple of hours, tops), because that was how much it was worth to me to get that job off my mind. Plus, he and his wife have a new baby and I knew he had been taking a lot of time off from work.



Almost full
Almost full

The next morning, I drove the truck over and dug out all of the security grates from deep in the carport. Then I began loading the back with garbage and recycling. The canopy was still on, something I had decided to do because of the threat of rain during the move that, thankfully, never materialized. It meant that loading all that crap was a particularly unpleasant game of Tetris, though, especially the large pile of 3" wide and 8' long strips of rubber board I found under a burst Ikea bookshelf in the triangular concrete pond. We had never filled the pond with water, having stashed this garbage in there and letting it cover up with leaves and vines. The whole thing was in a corner of the yard we didn't tend to use, and besides was a spot where our upstairs neighbour had stored a bunch of car doors and tires. All of this is set up for my deep chagrin and disgust when I pulled up the last of the swelling bookshelf panels and found the rubber board, this is a type of skin ply that is especially bendable, in other words floppy. This floppy mess had been rotting away in there for about four years, and was now a black, moldering mass coated in black slime and decomposing organic debris, and riddled with worms and bugs. I even saw a centipede at one point. I did not have gloves.


The living room, giving a sense of our low ceilings
The living room, giving a sense of our low ceilings

Jessie arrived by 9:45, I got him set up, left him the keys, finished loading the truck, and drove out to the Vancouver landfill by 11:30. This turned out to be fairly stressful due to the fact that I absolutely had to be done by 2:00 so that I could drive back from Delta to Rowan's school in South Burnaby to pick him up. I had never been to the landfill before, they had moved the entrance I had driven by a hundred times and was relying on rather than GPS, and there was a huge lineup when I finally got there. It all worked out, though, and I got out of there in plenty of time despite my tendency to catastrophize.


Time to wrap this up.


By the time Tuesday rolled around, I still had the mowing and a few other things to do, but I was ready when Jimmy and I met for the last time to deal with the damage deposit and turn over the keys. He toured the interior by himself, taking photos, while I waited up by the carport, smoking. While he was inside, the screaming started up again. It was only about a 5 out of 10, but it still filled me with a measure of satisfaction to have someone connected to the landlord actually hear a bit of what we had been going through. Validating; I guess I still need that.


We received the full damage deposit back, which was a little surprising. Jimmy and I parted very amicably, with the understanding that I would be back by the weekend to pick up the fridge that was sitting in the carport, the very, very last thing we had to get out of there. Abe, Lisa and I returned on Saturday to do just that. Boom. Done. Now, the unpacking.





















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