Friday, September 30

Auf Wiedersehen, University Village

Sometimes it happens that when you finally prepare to leave a place you've been for awhile, you get a little nostalgic and think of the things you will miss about it. That is not the case with the apartment I am leaving behind this week. Instead, once I knew positively that we would be moving, all of the things that ever annoyed me about the apartment and the complex itself became even more glaring and annoying to me. The fact that the garage entry gate often doesn't work, the numerous gates and fire doors of the complex that make navigating sidewalks and hallways with a stroller maddeningly difficult, the way that the halls echo and carry the noise of screaming toddlers and kids, the frustrations of dealing with the laundry room, and so on--all of these things in the past month have only increased my frustration and anxiousness for change. To a certain extent, the degree of my frustration and eagerness to leave what is really a very nice apartment and apartment complex (especially for our budget) kind of surprises me. When Eric and I moved in we certainly considered it a serious upgrade and were very pleased with the perks of living in university family housing--subsidized rent, free internet and basic cable, and a far larger and nicer apartment than we could ever hope to afford in that area on our modest budget.

Times change, I suppose. When Eric and I moved in we were newly married and child free. We didn't need to fight with gates and fire doors while pushing a stroller or strategize about how to get to and from the laundry room with both the laundry and the baby in tow. Also, I think once you become a parent, you become much more focused on things that make your life easier and save you time. Once we had Liam, our situation and priorities changed considerably, and--ironically--the university family housing complex became a less accommodating place for us to live. Granted, it would be an even more inconvenient situation if we were not in an apartment on the first floor (the buildings have no elevators), but we've still become weary of the inconveniences we've had to deal with on a daily basis. Plus, all that aside, let's face it--you become less tolerant of present annoyances and frustrations once you have an end to them in sight. All month long I've had an eye on the calendar, counting down the days, and today September is finally at an end.

Tonight we'll spend our last night in the apartment we entered as newlyweds and now leave as new parents. Oh, I suppose there are things I will miss about the place, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hope that the changes it will bring will be as positive for our family as we think they will be.

Wednesday, September 21

Moving South

As the crow flies, our new home in Redondo Beach is less than twenty miles from our current location in West L.A. Although it may be hard for non-Angelinos to comprehend, this move constitutes a complete regional shift around here. It all comes down to traffic--the congested surface streets and clogged freeways of this city make traveling less than twenty miles an hour-long drive most of the time. I know all of this, of course, but it wasn't until this week that I started to think about our move in more concrete terms, and I realized this change in our base of operations is going to have an effect on more than our commute.

For example, one of my first belated realizations was that we're losing all of our awesome West L.A. delivery options. We currently have a stack of take-out menus nearly three inches thick. Having grown up out in the country where no one delivers, being able to just pick up the phone and order dinner has been one of the perks of living in the city. Alas, we will be saying goodbye to places like Gaby's Mediterranean (my particular favorite) and Chili Thai. Another change will be switching our medical group to one based in the South Bay. Driving to West L.A. for doctor's appointments would turn an errand that should take a couple of hours into a day-long excursion. (Also, I don't want to even think about a late night drive from Redondo Beach to an urgent care center in West L.A. when Liam gets sick.) Other repercussions will be felt in our social lives and circles. No doubt we will see our L.A. groups of friends less, and will see more of those who are located closer to our new place. One other significant factor--if you have lived in the city proper awhile--is that the decision as to whether or not you will go someplace will not be dictated by the parking situation. So many places in the city have no parking, scarce parking, or outrageously expensive parking that it truly is a consideration when you plan to go somewhere. In the South Bay, however, parking lots and free parking abound. I'm sure there are other incidental consequences to this regional relocation that I'll realize with time, but these are the ones I can foresee right now.

As for more negative consequences, the biggest will be longer commutes for Eric and I since he works at UCLA and I work in Malibu at the Getty Villa. Those daily drives to and from Redondo Beach will no doubt take every bit of an hour, if not longer on some days. Still, if you consider we're taking on a longer commute in exchange for eliminating the distance between us and our child care provider, it's well worth it. I'm sure Liam will also appreciate not having to spend two hours a day in the car, and I will definitely appreciate not having to spend four hours a day in the car. As it is I've only been doing it for about a month, and it is absolutely exhausting. Add to the daily traffic stress the stress of packing and preparing for a move on rather short notice, and you have one heck of a frazzled Amber.

We're almost there, though--just a few more days...

Sunday, September 11

California Anniversary

If you've been a long-time reader of my blog, you may recall that September is a month of anniversaries for me. September 9th marked my fourth year at the Getty Villa, September 24th is my wedding anniversary, and today--September 11th--is my California anniversary. Nine years ago today I signed the lease on my first L.A. apartment and began to build a life out west. It's been nearly a decade now, and I can say that most of that time for me was about trying to reconcile my Midwestern past with my West Coast present. (As discussed in my 2009 anniversary post.) Each year I try to reflect and see what--if any--new insights I've gained after one more year. At last, after nearly a decade, I think I can say I no longer feel like an Illinoisan in exile. Instead, after all this time, I feel more of a hybrid status--not quite fully here or there. No doubt the coming year and our move to a more suburban location outside of the strict urbanity of West L.A. will change things. Part of the reason L.A. has always chaffed at me a little is that I can never full reconcile myself to the fully urban lifestyle that comes with living in West L.A. The more I think about it, the more eager I am to get out of here. I think I will like it much better in the South Bay, but we'll see what I have to say about it next year!

Thursday, September 1


There are big changes happening fast for the Wells family these days. This week Eric was officially offered--and accepted--a full-time position as an academic counselor at UCLA. He's been working in this capacity on a part-time basis, but now he will be doing it full-time. Now that he will have a full-time job he will no longer be a full-time graduate student, so we need to move out of UCLA's family housing. The housing market in Los Angeles can be frustrating and intimidating, but a few hours of online research turned up a gold nugget--a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment in Redondo Beach.

Redondo Beach is Eric's hometown and is located about fifteen miles south of L.A. in an area known as the South Bay. Our key motivation to move out of West L.A. is to be closer to the Wells house, because that is where we take Liam for daycare. (His Auntie Heather watches him.) Attempting to make this arrangement work while living fifteen miles to the north in West L.A. has been nightmarish--fighting rush hour traffic for four hours a day (West L.A.-Redondo Beach-Malibu in the morning and Malibu-Redondo Beach-West L.A. in the evening) is no way to live. Moving to a place in Redondo Beach means we can give up this horrible daily traffic struggle, so finding an acceptable available apartment in the area is nothing less than manna from heaven.

There are a few other advantages to this place as well. It is in a building that only has three other apartments, where two other families and the property owner live. Given that the other tenants are young families, it seems like we would fit right in. The apartment is within walking distance of the beach, lets in lots of natural light, the carpets are new, the bedrooms are spacious compared with our current apartment, there are large closets, and the apartment comes with a small garage we can use as storage space. (Storage space is of paramount importance in apartment living, so this is was a big selling point with us.) The sacred triad of big city apartment hunting is accounted for: ideal location, rent within our budget, and plenty of storage space.

While the pros definitely outweigh the cons, there are cons. The building was built in the 1970's, and it looks like the appliances, cabinets, fixtures, etc. have not received much TLC since the Carter administration. The electric stove/oven is small and so is the dishwasher. The kitchen cabinet exteriors and interiors are scruffy-looking, and there is no refrigerator. The bathroom only has under-the-sink storage, the mirror looks aged, and so does the bathtub lining. There is also a large yellowed stain on the bathroom linoleum. These signs of age make for a rough-around-the-edges first impression, but they are not deal-breakers. First of all, we were told we could make improvements at our own expense if we so desire. Second, I think these factors will be less apparent once we move in and add our own homey touches (e.g. a rug on the bathroom floor). Third, more important factors like the location, cost of rent, and accompanying storage space completely trump such cosmetic concerns.

The more I contemplate the idea of living there, the more excited I am at the prospect. The availability of THIS apartment at THIS location at THIS time is a sweet, serendipitous circumstance that has been dropped in our laps, and I can take a hint. So, if the property owner will have us, we will happily yield to serendipity and make this apartment our new home. Stay tuned...