The long, slow winter

This has been one of the warmest Michigan winters I can ever recall, but the days are still short, the nights still long, and the pace still slow.

External electrical wiring

The wiring is... less than classy. But it works.

Things are progressing, albeit slowly. We’re finding a new work/life/renovation balance; having this giant new project has understandably thrown us all for a bit of a loop and we’re all discovering a new rhythm.

Our electrician is still working on the upstairs outlets. I’m not extremely thrilled with the compromise that has to be made (essentially, we could either take walls down and make new runs or run external wire harnesses that look more appropriate for a corporate cubicle wall than a Victorian home). The cheap option had to win out; our renovation budget is not unlimited. For now, we’ll have to deal with ugly wiring in our bedrooms until such time as we can revisit the idea of doing electrical properly. Think 5+ years.

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Empathy for intruders

We had our third breakin this week. At this point, the intruder didn’t even take anything. After some walking around and some basic investigation, this is what I surmise:

The intruder hopped the wooden fence in the backyard. Footprints didn’t come from the alley, they came from the east, along Calumet. The entry point is the same point that it has been which tells me that this is probably the same person doing the intrusion.

Only one footprint (a left footprint) led from the fence in back up to the brick porch. This means that the jumper possibly twisted an ankle and hopped up to the brick wall.

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In hot water

Or not.

The boiler

Ut eius anima requiem in pace

The plumbing project has had its ups and downs. With the help of our awesome contractor/plumber/handyman Andy Davis, we’ve gotten the core plumbing runs connected. We now have modern (and more importantly, not-worth-stealing) PEX pipe runs from the basement to the first floor bathroom and kitchen. We cut off some unnecessary galvanized pipes in the basement, capped off what we don’t need for now, and generally got a grip on the cold system to the point where if we need to run some water during construction, we can do that (although the drain isn’t fixed yet: Waiting on power for that).

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Taking the good with the bad

Often, when you read about all the “moving to Detroit” hype, the optimism flows like hot butter down a biscuit. People will stress and emphasize how amazing, how wonderful, how beautiful Detroit is.

While all of that is true, there is also the elephant in the room: People try to overcompensate for Detroit’s downfalls in their writing. It’s almost as if by pushing how wonderful everything is, they can hide the negativity.

It’s only natural. How else are we to be expected to make the best of a bad situation? We’re fighting a war of perception with people who desperately, for one reason or another, want us to fail.

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The excitement around the new house is high. Our whole family has been energized. The kids are excited to clean and contribute to their new home. Nicole is finally going to have studio space of her own. Lincoln will get the tower bedroom he’s always wanted. We’ll have new neighbors, enough projects to keep us busy for years, and lots of new experiences and friendships.

But right now, I’m sitting home alone. Home. My house. The one I bought in 2004. The one that represented the culmination of my adult working life, my hopes and dreams with my then-wife. The place I bought to raise my kids in and get a little bit older in. In 2004, life looked very different, and I would not have even been able to imagine what twists and turns my life was about to take.

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Our adventure begins

Well, it was an ordeal, but Lincoln closed on the house yesterday.

Today, we began our new life by heading over to clean up some trash and secure the premises.

We pulled up to the house and got out of the car; within seconds a bubbly older lady peeked her head out of the house across the street, and with great hope in her voice, asked, “Did you buy that house?”

When Lincoln said, “Yes”, she screamed and bounded out of her house, arms raised in jubilation, ran across the street and threw her arms around him. Mind you, this is a total stranger.

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” she bubbled. She turned and threw her arms around me.

“Hello. Thanks!” I managed, even as she squeezed the air out of my lungs.

She introduced herself as “the neighborhood’s grandmother”, told us about her family, her dogs, her cats, the neighborhood, the neighbors, and kept telling us how lovely everyone was and what a great neighborhood we chose. She is a transplant from Oregon.

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The history of the Sullivan House

The Sullivan House, Detroit, MichiganWe have a friend, Sarah, who is a librarian. She is extremely excited about the house, and she emailed me today to let me know she has started research for us.

She discovered from the Detroit Public Library that the house was owned originally by Daniel Sullivan and that it was built in 1899, and that the address used to be different. Apparently Detroit redid their addressing scheme in 1920-1921.

The closing is scheduled for Tuesday. Today we visited with an electrician to get some estimates of what we’re getting into. While there, we discovered that some previous tenant was clearly interested in the history of Woodbridge in general and the house itself.

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The one in Woodbridge

While I was in Vegas covering CES for a week, Lincoln and Nicole went house hunting. From my perch out in the desert, I followed along with their adventures via text message and phone calls.

They kept mentioning “The one in Woodbridge”. From where I was sitting, nothing really got me excited, so I was a bit aloof. I looked at the MLS listing, and it said “one bathroom”. I looked at pictures and it looked like it was falling apart. I wasn’t excited, and I couldn’t understand why they kept talking about it.

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Visiting the Dequindre Cut

Dequindre Cut winter 2012

I visited the Dequindre Cut once back before the City cleaned it up and opened it to the public. Like much of Detroit exploration, it felt dangerous and fun because it felt off-limits, while at the same time feeling comfortably safe. I felt that even if I ran into hoodlums or street artists, they would at least share the common bond with me that we were both in a forbidden place, trespassing. We would, at the very least, both be Detroiters.

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Finding a hub in Midtown

Interior of Thistle Coffee in DetroitStarting a search for a new home from scratch, in a new neighborhood, can be intimidating at best. It’s a daunting process. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know what streets to drive down, who to call, where to start looking. You need a home base to start your search.

We had tried driving randomly and aimlessly around Midtown and Woodbridge just to see what we could see. We didn’t find a single For Sale sign in Midtown and a depressingly small number of them in Woodbridge. I knew that there were houses available, but didn’t know where to start.

Rewind back to June of 2011 for a moment. I am friends with Yelp’s Detroit community manager, Annette. She was helping out with a sponsorship for Expo Icrontic (a big event we throw every year to celebrate the Icrontic community), and wanted to meet up. She suggested a new place that had opened up in Midtown, Thistle Coffee Shop.

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