On a Sunday morning some weeks ago, our Broker tells us she just listed a house; needs a lot of work; there’s somebody out there who would probably buy it.
“We want to see it,” Ebrahim says.
Danielle drives down Agua Fria through the working class neighborhood on the west side of St. Francis (the opposite end of town to the affluent Eastside of Canyon Road’s fancy art shops and Plaza), past trailer homes and trucks parked in empty lots and chain link fences, mailboxes with numbers spray-painted on. She drives past what I call los manos de maize house with a wall-size mural of black and white open hands offering Indian corn with kernels the size of your head. Then past an ancient adobe with Our Lady of Guadalupe and her day glow thorns painted miraculously larger than the cracked wall. Just past the organic doggie treats store and Agua Fria nursery is the house on the left with a hundred ceramic Marias and bald San Franciscos with plastic roses climbing bathtub arches. Next street is Camino De Guadalupita, a dead-ended cul-de-sac. In a row of nine little stucco townhomes, all adobe-dun colored with shared walls and just enough space in the narrow driveway to squeeze a pickup truck. Not yet on the market a 945 square-foot dive. In the puke yellow tiny back bedroom is a single bare mattress on the floor: bras and t-shirts are still draped from wire hangers in the doorless closet. Carpeting looks like it came out of doghouse. In the other bedroom a broken candelabra dangles half detached from the ceiling. In the linoleum-floored kitchen, the refrigerator door is open, mold spouting on the sweating enamel. It smells like mildew and burnt toast. Boo looks at me. He can hardly stand it. I look at him, wait a beat.
“I want this,” he says. “This is exactly what I want. This is perfect. It has everything we are looking for.”
My shoulders lift towards my ears. Would that the cracked linoleum outdated kitchen? The dark green living room and its dark orange-painted kiva, greyed curtains hanging half off the bar? The tiny bathroom and a mottled shower stall? The blue dry-wall blocking a converted garage from any access? The vacant lot full of scrub brush across the street? I straighten my back and we go to our apartment to talk it over.
I listen with my heart for this project my Boo wants to do. Then we call our Broker back and ask to see 512 again. With me squatting on the fireplace, Ebrahim makes a low offer as is (factoring in the cost of a major remodel). The seller—Dennie? Dollie? —probably so happy to get rid of this trashed place without having to fix anything, accepts it the next day.
After the closing on February 16, 2018, my Demo Guy pulls up the filthy carpet, tears out the rotting linoleum, rips up tile and mortar, crowbars off baseboards and molding, unhinges the doors and, once he gets going, rips out the entire l980’s heavy over-cabineted kitchen. We call Restore Habitat for Humanity who comes for the moldy fridge, broken dishwasher, and cast iron sinks. We save the two by fours for a building project, all the hardwood doors, and cut the molding into kiva-sized kindling.
After tearing out the sheetrock in the garage and fixing the door with brackets and an ancient pulley system, Ebrahim repurposes the oak cabinets from the kitchen, refitting them into a corner workshop. He is so into his process of measuring and cutting, I could have been in Mongolia. One time, I open the door and yell, “I’m your wife! I’m part of this project too!” I didn’t think it registered, then, his voice from the garage “Jode! Come here!”
I hustle like I used to do for Dad when I was a little girl. “Hold this board” he commands. Bossman. I hold the 2×4 with my French gel manicured nails as he rips it with the skill saw.
I buy a pair of smarty “demopants” at Goodwill for $9.99 and order a l2 foot dumpster. It’s delivered by a huge semi and squeezed like Noah’s Ark into the length and width of the little driveway. We half-fill it with refuse which can’t be reclaimed. I lurch around on my good leg, tossing in the non-recyclables. Now denuded and swept clean, the tiny house seems huge to us, and her structural walls very sound and thick.
We celebrate with an invite. I buy champagne and unpack my most beautiful flutes to toast the concrete floors and empty rooms. Meredith brings salt and bread. She has a house in Santa Fe and my forty years friendship with her from my college years is the energetic magnet for me landing here. My broker team-member Brett comes in and we pop the champagne. From across the street comes Teena, transplanted from Boulder, too, who teaches cranial sacral therapy at the Santa Fe School of Massage not far away at the end of Aqua Fria. I see she may help me heal from the Mongolian trauma that still grips me. Two bottles in, Teri and Andy arrive, bringing Lebanese falafel, hummus and tabouli. We set up a board on two upended drawers left from the kitchen, share food and toast to our find.
We’ve landed in a neighborhood where I feel I belong, as in a Dakar quartier or Thaba’Nchu township or Bangalore hobli. It’s raw, inspiring both of us with this project of transformation, documented in the blog post gut posted on 6/27/2018.
We gave notice at Los Pinones and, on the apt date of April Fool’s, we’ll move into 512 Camino de Guadalupita, Santa Fe, NM, 87505.