Monday, April 30, 2007

further updates

I thought it'd be all done by now as of this week.... BUT....

Last Tuesday was the original appointment day with the health inspector after spending 2 weeks hunting her down, how ever she did not show up. I kept calling everyday there after till Thursday, no answer, no calling back. She hit my limit by Friday. I called the main office attempted to change inspector, apparently, it's not an option. My call was forward to her supervisor, after explaining to him about the situation at 9:30 am, I received a call from the inspector herself at 1:30 pm announcing her arrival in an hour. My instinct tells me she's coming with a vengeance. Having a couple of guys there might defuse her a bit I thought, but my contractor was pouring concrete at another job site. After spending 20 mins at the shop, she quickly listed 14 items for correction. Items were passed by the building inspector, we now have to replace and re-finish by her rules. Well, she dumped a shit load of rotten lemons over my face there.

Late last week, I made arrangements to have furniture delivered on Saturday from 3 stores. Due to the inspection incident, I had to cancel them all except one that I picked up on Friday morning. My sis-in-law met with me at an antique store to pick up a Ching Dynasty antique bed I purchased back in Nov. When we showed up, the girl at the store raised an eyebrow, “just the 2 of you?”. Well, 4 ladies dissembled the bed into panels and loaded them up to my truck. The young lady was later inspired by the fact that women can do what our mind inhibits us from doing. Here I was hauling a truck full of furniture down the free way when I got the call from the inspector. Well, I can’t move the bed in as a result, so my sis-in-law suggested taking the whole thing back to her garage for temporary storage. 40 miles later, we were back to her house. Seeing my niece, nephew and my parents shifted my attention from the problems, I was happy to be there with the kids. It turned out the load was too big even for the garage.

Saturday, I dragged the whole load with me every where I went. My girlfriend’s taking a night class at UCLA, a marketing class for the medical industry. A paper is due next Thursday. I hauled the load to her house and stayed there over night to work on the paper. Lemom flower patels rained all over the bed over night, it smelled quite nice. A blessing from a fairy!

Sunday morning, I hauled the whole thing back to my place, some of the panels are too tall to go under the garage door, I ended up parking the truck on the street while I took a shower. Yes, I was paranoid the whole time. I invited a few LA tea members for a preview of the shop at 2 pm. There I hauled the whole thing back to where it was supposed to be 2 days later. The world does go around! After setting everything up and while waiting, I started unloading the tall pieces. My logic was to leave the heavy low height pieces on the truck so I can get in my garage, then unload them when the contractors are there on Monday. Takuro our newest LA tea member showed up and helped me moving, Will and Louis showed up soon after and lent helping hands too. I can’t thank these guys enough for helping! Nick joined us for tea later as well. After tea, I can’t resist the temptation to put the bed back together, so I did and it looks wonderful, covered with plastic sheets.

Today, I arrived at the shop early in the morning, had a meeting with my contractor Marco and Tim the plumber, discussed issues regarding the “corrections”. We decided to find out about what we can get away by meeting the inspector at her office tomorrow morning, Tim will be the spokes person. A couple of guys laid the bamboo floor and put on a second layer of stains over the counters. I went for a ride with Tim to a plumbing specialty store for a new water heater, one of the major replacements. Yeah the effort I put into moving that giant 75 gallon tank inside the store was a waste. Well, what can you do! No one seems to know the BTU equivalence of 18kw electric model. Health department says 80k btu, the manufacturer says 62k. Knowing this is a potential opportunity for the inspector to pick on, we printed the spec sheets for tomorrow’s meeting. Once she agrees to something, she can’t eat her own words later.

Any how, it was an interesting ride with Tim. Tim is a veteran from Ronald Reagan times, met the Reagans 4 times during his presidency at the white house with honors and metals. He seems to be well read judging from the conversation, well aware of world issues, and I found 3 books in his truck. When I first met Tim a week ago, he was a happy camper with a girlfriend. Over the weekend, his gf broke up with him, and that lead to an interesting conversation, rater unexpectedly profound. The subject of living together prior to marriage was the start of the conversation. His point of view is despite the common belief of living together prior marriage prepares you for an emerging marriage, statistic shows other wise, twice of the couples who lived together prior marriage tend to divorce more than ones who didn’t. A conventional old fashion care taker that Tim is, in his own words, explained what the word husband means, besides a woman’s spouse. Husband means a man with duty to make a woman happy, take good care of the people in the house, ensures the family is functioning smoothly. My eyes got a bit watery there. Then he carried on. What is self? The existence of self has no meaning unless you can please and contribute to your love ones. Self-centered which many of are in this society contributes to high divorce rate and self-isolation. What makes a man happier than waking up in the morning, a woman thanks god for a man’s presence in her life? Well… I don’t get to hear something like this with a serious tone much nowadays, or it was just words without delivery of action. It certainly made me contemplate for a while. Goodness in a man has no boundary, not limited by education background, profession, or bank account! Cheers to that!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Update on progress

Counter shelves are done, will be stained tomorrow

All appliances are turn on, all plumbings are hooked

Platform is in form and looking good, will put on bamboo floor and side covers, to be stained tomorrow

I redid the cherry tree at the door, it's now matching the one by the platform (still no camera as of today)

Today, we had an appointment with the health department inspector between 2 and 4 pm. I worked my butt off for 2 days (started working at 4:30 am), pushing the contractors and plumbers to put thing together before inspection, well, no show!!!! WTF!!! Not even a courtesy call to let me know she's not coming. I waited till 5:30 pm, left a message at her office. Of course I can't bitch, I can't even raise my voice, nor that I can blame her for not showing for any unreasonable reasons. This is the kinda crap I have to put up with for the last 6 months. Sure I get upset, but my mind is immune to this kinda shit by now, some times I feel numb, it's better to save a breath, not worth getting all work up for shit that can't be fixed. Things will fall into place at its own pace, that's my motto. A hot bath of Epsom salt with lavender essential oil can rid your body pain and tune out stress. I have been utilizing this regiment every other day if not every day for the last 3 months. I need my sanity!

I also need to remind myself how far I have gone so far:

Jan 06, discovered I want to run a business again

Jan - late march 06, research market, prepare business plan and estimate cost

Late march, start looking for a physical location (estimated 3 - 6 months)

August (5 months later) found this location

December (4 whole months) to negotiate a deal to lock down on a lease. It's nice to be rich, vacancy is not an issue.

December, architect drew up plans for submission to city of RHE and LA county health dept

Mid Jan 07, all plans approved (right on schedule)

2 weeks after plan approval, first contractor (I spoke to 2 months before approval) whom is a church friend of our family friend bailed on the project. Sheesh, can't count on a friend nor a christian, especially a christian contractor whom happens to be a friend's friend. Wasted my time and gave me bull shit excuse. Such a flake! Contacted an other contractor via a friend. He gave me a quote (friendship discount) that tells me nothing but he doesn't want the job. Which was alright. At least no bull. I can handle rejection, but let me know right! Found a logo designing company in Studio city to design my logo, it turned out crappy, I paid $1200 for junk that I can't use.

Early Feb, got hooked up with a neighbor's friend, big time contractor with 50+ union crew members, projects at Disney Land. Another friend of the neighbor who owns a company that install cabinets, offices set ups, cosmetic of remodeling for all the Penski dealerships around the country, who agrees to set up my counters, cabinets, platforms and etc...

Late Feb, Bob pulled a building permit for $1700. 2 weeks later, came back to me with a quote of $38k for only the plumbing portion. Well, that's not going to work, but at least Bob was very genuine and that's just the kind of "high price" subcontractors he knows.

Immediately, late feb, search for contractor information on line, came across Service Magic dot com, I just throw in some job to see what kind of response I get, ding, like magic, my current contractor call me 10 mins later. 3 more called and took them 2 weeks to come up with 3 sets of quotes.

Early March, all quotes were in and I selected my current contractor. Signed contract, scheduled to start working the following monday, scheduled to be finished by March 20. I thought we are still on schedule despite all the delays. Change of contractor is a not easy, I now have to pay $2400 for all the permits again. Bob the previous contractor had to request a refund from the city, I still don't know if he got the money back as of today. I need to give him a call.

Same week, early march, contractor insurance needs to be upgraded to meet landlord requirement, should had taken no more than 2 days, and turned into 2 whole weeks. The first few days, I called for follow ups, didn't hear from the contractor, I panic and thought of the worst that he took my money and ran away. Called utility companies to turn on services, no one has my address correctly. The center is so obnoxious, it has its own address, "the center" instead of # and street where it's on. Water man came and turned on the meter, but the water was not running, he refused to trouble shoot. My contractor found it later. Same thing with gas, meter was on and running, but instead, gas was leaking even nothing's hooked. Service man put a plug on the meter preventing further leak. My contractor took care of that again. Took me a week of research to find a local cable internet provider. Although I knew Cox was the only place, but my address was not registered at their data base, so on their website, I have no cable provider. Equipments were purchased from a couple of vendors, scheduled to be delivered next week.

March 23 midnite, ground breaking started literally, saw cutting concrete floor for proper drainage. 8:30 in the morning, got a phone call from the management office, complaining concrete in the storm drain. My heart dropped to the floor. Fear of having to look for contractor again, what a nightmare that would be. Got my sleepy ass up and arrived to the office to face the devil. It turned out wasn't a big deal, the contractors cleaned up afterwards and no more complain. Same week, started shopping for a sign company, overwhelmingly expensive for an aluminum sign which is required by the landlord. Saturday, Homedepot called me up at 7:30 am, informed of a delivery. It was a Saturday!!!! I dragged my ass up and drove 45 min to the shop. There was the delivery man with a fork lift, on it was a crate of a big 75 gallon water heater tank and cabinets and bamboo floors. He dropped the crate right at my door and left. It's another jaw dropping experience. I called for help, no one's available. Contractor showed up 3 hours later although told me he'll be there in one. I waited and waited, at the mean time, I kept looking at the pile of stuff. Finally I decided to move them inside by myself, the most reliable person is oneself! I got everything else in and down to the giant tank. I then managed to got it stuck in the middle of the door. A shopper stopped and helped me move it all the way inside. I left feeling invigorating. On my way home, I realized my track lights were not in the pile. So a stop at homedepot, the not so helpful "helpers" took an hour to figure out my lights were not included, they don't have them in stock even tough the computer says they do, finally I got my money back and went home for a much needed nap.

End of March, schedule for first inspection, we waited for a whole afternoon, no show. Then I got a call from Bob the previous contractor, he informed me the inspector called him, telling him we over did thing before first inspection. It turns out the city gave him the wrong info, he went to the wrong store (same center), yelled at the wrong people, called the wrong contractor. The point is, Bob was under the impression that I was using his permit behind his back. I had to swear in life of my toes to ensure him my current contractor is legit and we have new permit not under his name, therefore not his liability. 2 days later, the plumbing crew of 4 guys, my contractor and myself waited for the inspector again. Once we spotted him at Pinkberry's, one of the guys stalked him till he entered our door. Hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. First building inspection passed. I was happy as a kitten. Everyone in the center started to talk about my contractor for passing at the very first time, usually take a couple of rounds. The center manager wants my contractor now. Called Gene the cabinet guy to start the job, he was in Arizona at the time and agreed to come by in a week for an estimate. We found out architect made a big mistake. Instead of 72" under counter fridge space, he had down 58", now all the plumbing is finalized and covered back up, all the hook ups are at wrong positions. Fuck is what I said! Plumbing is the most expensive, labor intensive, time consuming and crucial part of remodeling in case you don't know. So instead of redoing everything, we decided to rearrange the equipments which is going to interrupt work flow. That's the world I live in now, every now and then it knocks the senses out of you.

Early April, floors were tiled after the concrete was put back in. Found a sign company and paid down payment. Gene was supposed to come by, but didn't show, called a couple times, he kept postponing. I got fed up and negotiated a deal with my current contractor to build the counters. Sunday, my girl friend and her niece, my sis-in-law helped me paint the walls from 11 am till 6 pm. Girl friends are the best and the most reliable. I stayed till midnite to touch up and put up base cove, get ready for plumbing hook up the following day. The next day, I couldn't even lift my arms. YZ told me that she took pain killer before sleep and she's all good the next morning. I had to take pain killer for 3 days.

First week of April, one of the contractor left for vacation. He arranged his partner to have appliances plumbing hook up and build counters. The partner built a tall ass railing over the platform, looking like a cage, I told him to cut it down, he refused to until inspector comes. He then build frames of counter. Expecting deli case shipment last week, but was turn away because the floor guys said it won't fit through the door. Well, people don't give a rat's ass about you or your timeline like you do. That is just the bitter truth. I had to reschedule the 4th time (a week ago was the original delivery, but the driver got lost twice), contractor needs the case for final counter fitting. Plumber who did the rough plumbing was supposed to hook up the finishing plumbing part, but never show nor return calls. The problem was he thought the pay was for rough plumbing only. Chris the partner got pissed and switched plumber, schedule to start work next week. So now, Chris can't get jack done, he was schedule to finish all those task within a week, turned out he did less than 10 hrs of work in the whole week. I was not happy!!!

Following monday, stopped by the sign company to pick up banner, walked in and greeted by a new face, and informed that he's now the new owner whom knows nothing about my sign project, no money, no paper work, no words, nada. Panic alarm ringing in my ears!!!! Called the previous owner (number provided by the new owner), he actually did answer, and offered a refund or a deal with his friend. I haven't seen a dime so far, just dragging ass.

Sunday morning, I got a call from my sis-in-law, my mom was admitted to the hospital for kidney stone and infection. At that point, my sanity fell apart. I worked hard on letting things go, take difficulties with ease. All of that melted under the pressure of my mom's health issue. I was in the garage crying my eye balls out in the darkness. I felt mentally brutalized. I stayed with my mom till Wednesday morning before returning to deal with matters of the shop. She's released the same afternoon and happy to be home with the grand kids again. Phew~

Second week of April, main contractor came back and found that nothing much was done. He got pissed and smacked a piece wood so hard and punctured his finger. I took maters to my own hand, went home and got a big olde pick up truck, drove to the ware house picked up the deli case flew down to PV on the free way. The contractors took out the door of the entrance and the deli case, smooth sailing, there my deli case sitting inside after a 2 weeks ordeal. Just when I was feeling a little exited about the deli case, contractor point out the case needs condensation drainage, and the architecture plan did not show a floor drain for it. But the health and building department stamped the plan. So I just have to pray that she won't notice during inspection, so I don't need to saw and cut and dig and retile the floor again. Man, I was happy with my architect until the mis-labeled fridge and the deli case issue. These mindless mistakes can cost me an arm or a leg. Building inspector came, it was not even an issue in his book about the height of railing over the platform. The delay was all for nothing. I think Chris was sucking time for other projects, I believe they have 5 projects going on at the same time. Called health department for inspection, no return phone calls, kept calling till Friday, still no contact. What a bitch.

Saturday, I walked in the shop, literally it was jam packed with plumber, granite counter installer, counter builder, my contractor, electrician installing lights, neighbors stopping by, security guard Oscar was nosing around too. Oscar is a very nice guy, he let me pull my big pickup into the atrium to unload the deli case. The place was like London with heavy fog (granite dust). Boy I almost choked. But it was a scene to be joyful for. Things are happening.

3rd week of April, the plumber confirmed by the city that all pipes have to be copper, which was not indicated on the plan by my architect. In case you don't know how much do copper pipes cost, it cost me a couple extra thousands. Another big mistake by the architect. Part of plumbing hook up was done and passed the inspection, waiting for final sign off after health and fire department. Part of the counters are covered and shelved, cabinets are hung up. Called fire dept and scheduled following monday inspection, called health department again and again, finally got a hold of her on Thursday morning (a week and 2 days from first call, shit is right), scheduled for follow tuesday (today) between 2-4 pm. Contractors showed up only twice this week no mater how hard I was pushing. I don't have a gun and can't put one over their heads. Saturday, contractors worked till 9 pm, appliances were still not hooked.

Monday, 23 of April, I went to the store at 4:30 am, Fire department came right on time at 10 am, in and out in 2 minutes with signed approval. He even let me get away with not having to install an extra sprinkler. Yay!! Called contractor for heads up for tomorrow's important inspection, either make it or break it deal. Cell phone network out is the message I got. Panic attack again, the inspection is so important to me, I just can't let this take up more time. Came home at 2 pm, tired as hell and fell asleep. around 4:30 pm, got a call from contractor, schedule for morning work. Well, I can't blame a man at the doctor's office.

Tuesday, 24 of April as of today, came to work at 8 am, plumber got everything hooked up. I ran a cycle on the dishwasher to see if it works, 10 sec later, the floor was flooded with water, OOPS! Tim the plumber found out it was a leaking host and fixed it. Everything else are running as well, ready for health dept inspection, inspector no show!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a biiiiiiiaaaatch!!!!!!!

Boy, what's next?! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I can hear the metal clunging noice when I bite! ;)

This is the story of my project thus far. A lot of uncertainties, a lot of unpredictibilities, a lot of more money here, more money there, a lot of delay, a lot of rent to pay, a lot of things not getting done especially in my way, a lot of waiting for this, waiting for that, waiting for this department, waiting for that inspector. On top of that, a lot of "when is it going to be done?" Oh god, I would puke if I hear it one more time. Patience is golden!!!!! I still don't have a sign. Some times I wonder, just wonder. There are times I feel the need to vent, but most of the time, I am immuned to it all. I still loose sleep over shit like this every now and than, but life goes on, I refuse to get upset for longer than necessary. When life throws a rotten lemon at you, dodge it or eat it up like a proud man with eyes shut. One thing I truly learn to accept is, you can rush and push all you want, if the timing isn't right, it's just not happening. Not to say sit and wait for it to happen, rather do all that you can, yet don't get hung up on immediate gratification. Patience patience and a lot more patience.

Through out the last couple of months, I got to know my contractor Marco really well. He's reliable eventually, it may not be right away, but at the end of the day, he's there and gets things done. I like that he gives me options and sugestions without imposing like Chris. He's doing a lot of little extra fixings without extra charges, he even pay for lunch some times. Either people take advantage of my trust in them, or they want to invest in it. Marco wants to import building materials from China with my help, perhaps in a year once both of our businesses are set to auto pilot. My girlfriend's husband is a contractor in China, was awarded a contract building the current Beijing international airport. Here I just want to live my dream of having a peaceful life style in a good and safe neighborhood, there is the temptation of doing something big. I can't say I am ready for it, but when it's time, I'll just let things evolve on its own course. Those who just want a quick scam of my money, karma will kick your ass! Oh, believe me karma is oh soooo real!!!

Well, all is going to be worth while, this is what I tell myself constantly. The whole experience has turned me to a walking bamboo. Characteristics of bamboo are reciliant, flexible, durable, almost unbreakable. This is only the beginning, there will be a lot more to face in the future, in theathers near me.

Marco end up getting multiple job offers from my job. The nail salon hired him for a tile floor and granite counter job, the management office asked him for a bid on a vacant store, building a new bathroom, a Korean gentleman wants him to retile his floor. My next door neighbor is moving out in July, so who knows, he might get that job too after the new tenant sees what he did to my shop. He'll have my business if I were to build something else.

This turns into a book already, should have a movie made about it. :P

Friday, April 20, 2007

technical or not

As a result of an online tasting, aside of each individual's taste, experience and preference of tea, same parameters resulted in very different outcomes. That raises my question in duration of steeping. Even though it's 10s on paper, does that 10s include pouring in/out time? I think some would clock 10s after closing the lid then pour, which technically speaking adds 5 to 15s to the total steeping time depending on how fast you pour and from what vessel, in turn, can be significant for delicate teas, particularly greens.

My practice of 10s, is from the time the first drop of water touching the leaves to the last significant drop of water comes out of a pot or gaiwan. Which is a quick pour in and out, almost immediately. Steeping time is when tea leaves are submerged in water in whole or partially, to my understanding.

Lately, I pay more attention to the technical aspects of making a good cup of tea, I feel less relaxed about drinking tea. My initial liking of tea was emotionally driven. The mental setting, yi jing 意景 is what I enjoyed the most. Not to say that the quest for science in tea isn't important, it is over rated in the US. All the science proofs, researches and what not circulating in the media definitely generate interest, however it's the kind of interest to seek a magic pill. How many bonding benzene rings are there in a leaf?! I might as well pop a green tea tablet. Although it's all about tea, I personally feel science is clouding the pure tea drinking experience. My tea tastes much better when my mind is cleared of science and skill. After a while, one can establish his own set of skills to make a good cup of tea, it becomes habitual or auto pilot that emphasis can be focused on enjoying the taste, experience, surroundings, companies, etc etc. So if I over steeped a brew, tea is kinda like human, you can mess it up and still be loved!

I remember days when my girl friends and I had little tea gatherings after nice dinners. We talked mostly everything else but tea. That is what tea meant to me, tea is there to enhance our lives, not consume our lives.

The semi-official LA tea club have gathered a few serious tea tastings, I enjoyed it very much. The new friends I made, the generosity of the members, the knowledge I learned from them, the new teas I got to taste otherwise not, and more. In future gatherings I would like it less tea fanatically formally oriented . Yes, I know it's a tea club! Now that we got pass that initial awkward stage, we can drink tea like old friends do, tea is just the glue. Hey gang, love you all!

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Follow up of the progress. The camera is in the "garage" getting a fix up now, hope I'll have it back by next week, so I can take some pictures.

The frames of counter cabinets are up and nailed to the ground, shelves are done, waiting to be stained. Granite counter tops are also done, deli case is set up. I am very happy that the EXTREMELY high railing of the platform is coming down. It looked so ugly, imagine drinking tea in a cage? Yeah, king kong drinking tea in his cage. The contractor was trying to push me to keep it as is even I asked him not to put them up. So we settled on the final words from the city inspector. The inspector's book says a platform under 3 ft, no railing is necessary. I have a difficult time dealing with people try hard to deceive you, sell you false products/believes to benefit their own gain/convenience. Even after I verified with my architect of the building code, the contractor still tried to keep the cage. I can understand the rivalries between contractors and architects, however discrediting ones professional knowledge totally is plain arrogance. Too much beer drinking probably contribute to that kinda male animalistic behavior in the world of construction.

I stayed up till mid night the other day to put up another cherry tree. I am much happier with this tree than the first one. Will follow up with a picture when I have the camera back.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Moving along slowly

Blank Canvas

First cut

Wall frames are up, pipes are laid

Holes are filled, dry walls are up

Floor tiles are done

Walls are painted

First mural is up, but not quite ideal.

Lights are partially mounted, but no pictures to follow through. My NEW camera is broken. My niece knocked it off my hand and broke the lens. I feel the need to cleanse my mantra, there has been series of events happening in my life lately that I have a hard time digesting. You can only take what life throws at you with a grain of salt.