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Farewell, “Kurt’s Folly”

I haven’t wanted to mention it at all, because I was so afraid of “jinxing it” in this very fragile and uncertain real estate market.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recall that I put the Palm Springs condo — Kurt’s dream winter home that I somewhat sarcastically dubbed “Kurt’s Folly” — on the market back in February. He had really hoped that I would keep it and continue to use it after he passed away last June. He never gave up his conviction that some day our little mid-century modern condo would be worth a great deal more than we paid for it back in 2009.

But it had always been his dream, not mine. I never wanted to be bi-platial, hated having to worry about whichever house I’d left behind whenever I was spending time in the other. Frankly, I was never comfortable with the size of my footprint — who really needs two homes? Not me, especially not now that it’s mine alone.

I had to drop the asking price several times, and I had to suffer through two offers that fell through before we could get through a series of counter-offers and agree on a deal. The third potential buyer, whose offer I received back in mid-May, never flaked out. We closed today, and I no longer own a condo in Palm Springs.

I suppose I should be ecstatic. This is what I wanted, and although I took a big loss overall I at least walked away with a bit of cash. I’m very lucky, in this real estate market, to find a buyer for my condo in a community of predominantly winter and vacation homes.

Yet I’m feeling very blue tonight.

This is one more step, a very big one, away from the life that Kurt and I shared. He loved this place and was very happy here. Together we worked hard to transform its look from tired late-70s to a 21st-century reinterpretation of its original 1961 modern style. We laughed together every time his Garmin GPS announced, in her impeccable Aussie accent, our impending arrival at “Kurt’s Folly at Stinkin’ Desert.” We ate a whole lot of Mexican food and toured some amazing houses.

A friend took this photo of the two of us in our living room in March 2011. Kurt was very sick, but we were both still smiling. That was a good day.

Just before we left it in May of 2011, a few weeks before he died, he thanked me for bringing him back and said that he did not expect to ever see it again…

When I was back there this winter, I took a lot of photos of the sky, the mountains, and the play of light upon them — my ever-favorite subjects. But when I searched tonight for a single photo that captured the spirit of this place, I was drawn to this one from our first winter there:

I’m quite sure that sometime next winter, when I’m shoveling six inches of snow off my driveway and fretting over how I’m ever going to get in shape for running/hiking/biking season again, I’ll look back fondly on Kurt’s Folly.

For now, though, bittersweet though it may be, I’m relieved to have it behind me and excited to be fully home here at last.

One step at a time.

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The In-Between

I’m in the middle of packing and shipping some things, discarding other things, and mentally preparing myself to leave many things behind. Not surprisingly I suppose, in the middle of trying to do all this I got sick with a weird left-side-only ear/throat infection. It may have a physical cause (last Saturday I went hiking in a cold wind with periodic hard rain showers and I do recall having rain driven into my left ear), or it may be entirely due to the psychological stress of leaving this place and this part of my life behind me.

My physical surroundings are in total disarray. Yesterday I took 200 pounds worth of “stuff” to UPS and shipped it home. I’ve done a dump run, and this afternoon I’ll do a Goodwill run. Then I’ll have to figure out how to fit the artwork, electronic gadgets, and things needed en route into my car. My cats, that stuff, and I will hit the road within the next few days, leaving an unsold, mostly furnished condo behind. I’ll probably do another price reduction soon, and then cross my fingers that someone will want it furnished so I won’t have to come back later to dispose of the rest of the stuff. When I go, I want to be gone for good.

As far back as I can remember, leaving a place has been a gut-wrenching experience for me. Even leaving a place that I don’t want to be can be difficult. My choice to do a dissertation about the experience of being in a place was not an idle one; this was something deep that I really needed to understand about myself. Why do I get so attached to places? Why is it so hard for me to go? Why is it that, once I have left, I can hardly bear ever to return?

Once about ten years ago I had the opportunity to move back into a house that I’d loved very much but had had to leave about five years earlier. As much as I had loved that house and that town, I could not go back there. Partly that was because I didn’t want to be the person who’d lived there then, but mostly it was because leaving there had broken my heart and I didn’t want to risk having to go through it all again the next time. It was a house perched a mile high on the edge of a mountain range, overlooking a large portion of southern California. I looked down on millions of people, houses, cars, and lights. On a clear day I could see the ocean. I left it because keeping my job required it. I could no longer do the commute, which was 96 miles each way.

I am leaving this condo because I don’t need it; it is superfluous; it is holding me back. And yet I know what it meant to Kurt, and I know that he truly hoped I would keep it and live the life that he had wanted us to live. So this is me saying goodbye to something more complex and subtle than just another place.

I have other places to go…

It is time for me to say goodbye to this place.

Yet as I’ve said here a few times, this place does have its charms. Want another example? I took this photo the day I tried to go hiking in Joshua Tree National Park.

This was the day after the hike in the cold wind and rain, and hours before I realized I was getting sick. Although I’d expected to see snow and dressed accordingly, I wasn’t prepared for how cold blowing snow can feel when you’ve been in warm sunshine for the past few months. I was out of my car only long enough to take several photos.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since I’ve run, but right now I barely have the energy to walk, so I’m not worrying about not running. I expect to get right back on a regular schedule when I get home.

Right now, I am living in the in-between… but soon… I will be home.

Slow happy post-corporate person

My adjustment to post-corporate life continues, and will be a work in process for some time as I find my way to a new rhythm. Running in the early morning is now completely impossible (What? Set the alarm? Never!). I am experimenting with new venues for a late-afternoon run, but as spring approaches it will become too warm for a long run at any time of day. Last Wednesday I ran 4 miles beginning about 5:30 PM. While the temperature was fine, before the end of the run I was wishing I had worn my reflective vest.

This morning with the change to Daylight Saving Time I thought I’d try a morning run, but it was already 66 degrees when I started out at the crack of 10:30, and well over 70 by the time I completed a 5.63 mile loop through downtown and back. It was a good run, though — I planned it so it was downhill or level all the way back, and I backed off my recent pace by a full minute per mile. Slow and happy works for me.

I figure I’ll get serious about running again when I get home to Washington. My next planned race isn’t until early June, so as long as I stay active over the next few weeks I should still have plenty of time to increase my mileage on cool trails with soft running surfaces in April and May.

I’ve definitely been staying active. I have either run, hiked, or taken long city walks for 14 out of the 16 days since I left corporate life. A few days ago I hiked two miles up the Araby Trail and back. This is a well-traveled, moderately steep but well-marked and maintained trail that winds up to and beyond the Bob Hope house (designed by John Lautner). Most visitors to the area merely glimpse the house from their cars, as a large turtle-shaped structure high up on the hillside south of downtown. I took this photo shortly after passing the house, but I ended up a good 500 feet above it, and 1,000 feet higher than where I’d started.

Yesterday I returned to the Thousand Palms Oasis area and hiked in the other direction, high up on a ridge that was probably an earthquake scarp. This was a more remote location but I carried plenty of water, kept other hikers in sight, and felt comfortable out there. The view was great; I could see several oases tucked into various canyons, and also had a good long view across the valley. I forgot to take any photos, however. Afterwards I celebrated that hike with another date shake. I’m still amazed that it has taken me this long to find out what I’ve been missing! I have now even dared to eat fresh whole dates, although one at a time is plenty. They are not the most visually appealing fruit, but they do taste good.

I have done a price reduction on my condo. It is getting showings and I hear favorable feedback, but I have not yet had any serious nibbles. I am fully aware that this is a terrible time to sell real estate and I’m yet not desperate to sell it, so I am not losing any sleep over it. It will sell in time. I have lots of time.

Meanwhile…

There were no Modernism Week tours for me today, which gives me a chance to revert to the usual topics: grieving, running, and moving on with my life.

I’ll start with running first, because right now I’m feeling sad and I need to think about something that gives me simple joy. I went out this morning and ran a fast (for me) 5k. Spring is clearly just around the corner now; I no longer need to put on my reflective vest and go out before sunrise. The usual dog-walkers were out. I was running laps around some of the blocks so I saw some people multiple times, which is always fun. Yet another home in my neighborhood is in the process of being gutted and renovated. It’s been very gratifying to see residents in this neighborhood continue to recognize the historical/architectural significance of their homes and put the time and money into restoring them.

Next up: grieving. I had to get my tax paperwork organized so I can send it all up to my tax guy in Washington. This meant filling in pages upon pages of forms, on which information and numbers from 2010 were printed. My job was to figure out and then fill in the information and numbers for 2011. This included answering questions like: “Did your marital status change during the year?” YES. And it included zeroing out entire pages that had contained income and expense information for Kurt. This task reduced me, at one point, to crying, shouting, and banging (softly… I’m a pacifist) on the refrigerator door. Let me tell you, ZERO due to death of taxpayer SUCKS.

So what about moving on with my life? Well, I have two more days to work at my corporate job. I have canceled my corporate credit card. I have put in the cancellation request for my corporate cell phone. I have one more project meeting to attend tomorrow morning, and one thing left on my project task list. Then I’ll send an email to selected individuals to provide personal contact information. After that, the only thing left to do is to ship my corporate PC and my corporate cell phone back to corporate headquarters, where I expect they will be promptly recycled.

Today I attended a team staff meeting, during which formal goodbyes were said to me and to a teammate who is moving to another position within my company. It was bittersweet. It seems odd to be wished a happy “retirement,” when what I am doing is not about retirement at all. I expect to be very busy doing everything in my power to make the world a better place, living and promoting my core values of learning, harmony, and wholeness. That’s who I am and what I do. I do not intend to let my talents be wasted any longer.

Today I also sat through a realtor caravan (dozens of local realtors coming through during a two-hour period, doing the 30-second preview tour). My agent was impressed at the turnout and the positive comments on my decidedly mid-century modern condo. Two agents followed up today with client showings, and two more have scheduled showings for tomorrow. This was the first real action since I listed the condo two weeks ago, so it came as a great relief.

I have two more Modernism Week tours to do, tomorrow and Friday. I shall take lots of photos. Then after Friday, with my job behind me, I’ll be totally focused on doing the things I need to do to leave this place behind me and go home. That, and a few self-guided drive-by architectural tours all over southern California. And going out and running every other day or so, because it just feels so danged good.

PS Modernism Week: Park Imperial South

I’m still on my post-race running break — what perfect timing for a thorough enjoyment of Modernism Week!

After the over-the-top spectacle of the Elrod House, my choice for today’s tour was much more down to earth. I visited the Park Imperial South condominium complex. I was very interested in seeing this complex because it was designed by the same architect (Barry Berkus) and built by the same developer (Jack Meiselman) in the same year (1961) as my condo. Park Imperial South is in a quieter neighborhood, and the floor plans, while similar, are larger (3 bedrooms plus den in 1500 square feet versus my two bedrooms in 1100 square feet). In addition, the roofs (and hence the ceilings) are “folded plate” whereas my condo is “post-and-beam” (the roof/ceiling is flat with exposed beams at the ceiling).

The folded plates create striking visual effects outside and inside:

The distinctive inside-outside block walls had been modified by various homeowners over the years, but were recently restored throughout the complex with the help of grants from the local architectural preservation society, an effort for which the complex has earned wide recognition and official “historical architecture” designation. I love the light-and-shadow effects created by these highly-textured walls:

I was most taken by the little things, most of which I forgot to photograph. The similarities to my own condo were in the seemingly mundane details — closet doors, door knobs, the clips that hold the bathroom mirrors to the wall. There were a few larger things as well — the terrazzo strip that runs from just outside the front door straight through to the back patio (destroyed and tiled over in my unit… sigh), and the louvered windows. If you look closely at the center right of this photo you may see the louvered windows:

While the countertop, sink and faucet in the kitchen above have been highly updated, as was true of almost all of the kitchens on the tour, I saw several examples of the original bathroom countertops and faucets (identical to mine). I gained a new appreciation for my “ugly” bathroom faucets, which I’d wanted to replace but had to keep because Kurt and I ran out of remodeling money. Sometimes it’s best just to leave well enough alone.

 I’d forgotten that my tour ticket included a poolside reception with hors d’oeuvres, a band, and an open bar. As the twilight deepened, I looked around and felt a bittersweet regret… this is such a beautiful place and Kurt would have loved this day so much… as well as a renewed resolve to go home and get on with my life.

One step at a time…

Quitting my job, cleaning my condo, and other adventures

It’s been a busy day.

Actually, I didn’t quit my job today. I emailed my resignation letter to my manager (who is several states away) on Monday, but he asked me not to say anything to anyone until he’d had a chance to talk to his manager (who is in a small European country) and come up with a strategy for how they were going to deal with this “problem” that I’m causing by leaving mid-project. The whole “problem” actually began when I told my manager (in a moment of foolish candor) that I was thinking about taking early retirement before the end of the year. His reaction was, basically, “What makes you think we want you around that long? Let me confer with my manager and her manager and we’ll get back to you regarding how long we’ll let you stay.” At that moment the last of the “corporate contract” was shattered as far as I was concerned, and I took the power back by deciding that I might as well just quit sooner rather than later.

My last day at work, and the last day that I ever plan to spend in a huge global corporation, will be February 24.

“Now you know the rest of the story.” When I’ve alluded to big changes brewing in my life, this is what I’ve been talking about. That post from back on January 18 — If I had all the time I needed— was me beginning to create a vision of post-corporate life.

While I’m not wealthy (1%? I’m not even in the 10%), I have been a prudent money manager over 30+ years of big-corporation life. As soon as I sell my condo, I’ll be free of major debts. This is why it is a good idea for me to sell this condo now. I should be able to live comfortably, although not extravagantly. So I’m re-reading Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify.” I’m thinking about how I can connect more fully with my neighbors and my community back home in Washington. Yes, I already have a community garden plot waiting for me when I get home. Travel will still be a priority, although I may not be able to travel first class or frequently. But that’s all right.

I’m coming home. As soon as I can take care of things down south.

Early this afternoon I turned off my work computer and got busy deep-cleaning this condo. I had to wash the floor to ceiling windows about four times. As I’d work through the layers of dirt, I’d discover the fine mist of paint overspray from when they repainted all the exteriors two years ago. I’d break out the paint scraper and then clean again… and again. When I ran out of window cleaner, I looked online and learned how to make my own window cleaner from vinegar and Ivory liquid soap. It works just as well and is much easier on my lungs — I wonder why I haven’t tried this before!

I took a break this afternoon (more on that later) and then continued cleaning well into the evening. Tomorrow morning when the light is better I’ll tackle the floors. Then I’ll pack my cats into their carriers and take them on a “field trip” for a few hours while my realtor holds an open house.

It will probably be a good day to hold an open house. There are 9,000+ bicyclists in town for the “Tour de Palm Springs,” and my guess is there will be bored family members who might stop by. Modernism Week (which is actually an 11-day celebration of all things mid-century modern) is just around the corner starting on February 16, and people are already arriving from all over the world for that.

In addition to the Tour de Palm Springs, there is a smaller affair on Sunday called the Palm Springs Half Marathon. The break I took this afternoon was to go and pick up my race packet. I’ll be #751 of perhaps 1,000 runners (numbers were assigned alphabetically). I can’t wait! I shall be slow and happy — I shall have fun!!

This morning I did my last, short, pre-race run of just two miles. It was a dance with moonset. Here is the view just before I started:

And here it is about ten minutes later when the rising sun was hitting the mountaintop:

Indeed, this place has its charms. But I am not an intrinsically bi-platial being, and I want to come home. I have so many things that I want to do and become there.

One step at a time.

Taper time!

I’ve just completed a one-week break from running while attending to other things. I did a lot of walking, drove a few hundred miles, spent time with some long-time friends, helped another friend celebrate a milestone birthday, and made progress on some of the changes that are brewing in my life. The timing of this necessary running break was good, as it is now “taper time” before the race this coming Sunday.

This morning (race morning minus 4) I was up at 5:45 and out the door at 6:30 just before sunrise. I ran a nice, easy, fun 3 miles before work. I plan to run 2 miles on Friday, even easier and slower if possible, and that will be it. I’m going to walk to the race start (just under a mile away) so I should be settled down and ready to go by 7:00 AM. Although I’ve tried to resist setting a time goal for this race… I sort of did. I won’t jinx myself by telling you what it is beforehand, but I promise not to lie. If I meet my goal, I’ll tell you all about it! If I don’t meet it, I’ll confess. Either way I intend to be slow and happy.

The only hills on this course come early, between miles 2 and 5, and they are the same nearby streets that I’ve run several times while ogling mid-century architectural icons. After mile 5 the course is almost completely flat and my biggest concern will be the temperature. While sunny and mid-60s might not seem hot, hydration becomes challenging in those later no-shade miles — drinking just enough water to stay comfortable and focused but not so much that I’m forced to make a “pit stop” while on the clock.

While I’d like to do nothing but psych myself up for running, my priority for the next couple of days has to be getting my condo ready to show. It won’t hit the Multiple Listing Service until Friday, which gives me a little more time to clean the place before the open house on Saturday. It becomes obvious that this is THE DESERT (or as The Firesign Theatre used to say, “the stinking desert”) when I try to clean things deeply and find sand and dust everywhere. The windows are very dirty and I have to scrape them with a blade to get them clean — the dust seems to be ground right into the glass. I do a window or two at a time and I’m worn out, both physically and emotionally.

When we bought this place three years ago, Kurt wanted so badly for me to love it that he promised to do all of the heavy cleaning. He did a passable job of it the first winter we were here, but didn’t have the energy to scrub the floors or wash the windows. He was already too sick for that much work, although we didn’t know it yet. Last year we were only here for eight weeks in the spring. He was far too sick, and I was far too busy taking care of him, for either of us to worry about scrubbing the floor or washing the windows. So this condo is quite dirty, and I have to get it as clean as I can over the next couple of days.

Of course everything I touch here reminds me of Kurt, and I am emotionally wrenched by the fact that I am here having to deal with this, preparing to say goodbye to this place that he wanted so badly to have.

Tomorrow, February 9, will be eight months since I lost him. Although my grief is no longer so constantly overwhelming, it is still very much with me and these “anniversaries” still have the power to bring me very low. As I look ahead — his birthday in April, a full year gone in June — I know that I still have some very rough times coming even though there are more bright spots in my life these days.

Taper time, indeed! I wonder what it would be like to run a half marathon without excessive stress and exertion during the last week before the race. Maybe someday I’ll have the luxury of a proper training and taper, or maybe life will always get in the way. Maybe this is the way things are for every middle-of-the-pack runner who runs for fitness, or joy, or the hope of becoming strong enough to face life’s challenges. We train the best we can, we adapt our schedule when catastrophe strikes, and we make the best of it on race day.

One step at a time.