Fourteen Days in September / by Brian Beck

We arrived back in Pasadena on the Sunday before Labor Day.  I knew that the kids would need a full day of decompression before starting school so we left the schedule open other than trying on backpacks, setting aside clothes for the morning and maybe a dip in the pool (time permitting).  We did little else, and after three months that belong to the ages, the last day of summer passed peacefully.

The alarm went off Tuesday morning at 6:40 and the next hour and a half was pure chaos. Missing socks, no cereal, missing combs, pictures in the backyard.  One might expect that having both kids finally going to the same school at the same time would produce some synergies but it hasn't worked out that way.  In some ways, it's worse--it's the same madness, but now it runs in parallel.  We managed to be on time for the first few days but have slipped back into the old rut.  Notwithstanding the fact that all the clocks in our house are set almost a quarter hour fast, somehow we're still late.  I know we're not alone, but it's still demoralizing.

The first Friday home was special though.  The Indian Princess tribe in Samantha's class have been doing an annual boat trip to Catalina Island the past few years but I've either been too busy or too distracted to focus on it.  Samantha let me know in no uncertain terms last year that I let her down by not taking her, so this year I righted the wrong.  It was a pretty amazing three days.  We both had a fantastic time, but I'd venture to say I at least had as good a time as she did.  Without the tunnel vision I had been experiencing, I dove into the mai tai's as deeply as the gorgeous blue water east of Avalon.  It felt good.  Very good.

In contrast, the past week has been all business.  When we moved into our house in Pasadena five years ago, it was a merger of two lives--our pre-children existence on the westside of LA and our slimmed down, ex-pat life from London.  The shipment from London arrived first and on the following day, we were reunited with the items that had been in storage in LA.  The movers didn't do us any favors, in some cases emptying the contents of carefully cataloged boxes into massive piles.  When I realized the disaster that was unfolding, I had them deposit all the boxes in the driveway and sent them on their way.  From there, we moved what remained into various hiding places and in some cases, into corners in plain sight.  They have remained there for years.  Of the two of us, I'm the one with the artistic eye and Quimby has pleaded with me for years to focus my energy on sorting the mess and decorating our house.  And so finally, this past week, with no viable excuse, I decided to stare down the iron curtain of cardboard.

When I take on a project, I'm relentless.  Monday and Tuesday, I ripped our family room apart, filling and emptying boxes, filling our trash bins and stuffing the trunks of both cars with Goodwill donations.  Several pieces of furniture went to the curb (they were gone within an hour--LA can be a weird place that way.  The mystery movers will collect just about anything you put by the curb, sometimes within an hour, and I've never once seen them).  It was a ruthless purge Stalin would have been proud of.  I spent the whole day Wednesday at various furniture stores texting pictures of pieces to Quimby for her approval and bringing a smile to the faces of more than one salesman.  And then, shortly after dinner, I bought paint, rollers and brushes and got to work painting our family room.  After cutting in and two careful coats, I dropped the roller at 4:15am.  Thursday featured a run to Ikea (a hateful place) and more organizing.  And this weekend, between the Tyson-Holyfield bouts of my children, Quimby and I installed light fixtures, organized books, moved rugs around the house and directed the delivery people.  It was a lightning offensive, shock and awe, and I can say that one room is more or less done.  My running joke for the past few years to anything house related has been "I don't know, I just sleep here."  It feels good to finally live here.

Avalon Harbor from the Keli Kei.  iPhone 6.

Family room before.  I had already cleared out eight or nine boxes from the lefthand side of the frame, so it doesn't fully capture the state of decay.  iPhone 6.

Family room after.  It's not totally done--there's still a box or two that will be removed plus some junk on the credenzas that need to be dealt with, but it's more or less there.  Next up: entry, then kitchen, guest room and guest bath.  The kitchen and bath will take more time because there will be some demolition involved.  Nikon D800, 24-120mm lens @ 24mm, ISO 2000, f5.6, 1/20th sec.