It's 5:30 am, and I'm up. Kind of. The white electric glow of the laptop is zapping the last few strands of sleep from my brain.
Really, I've been in a haze of consciousness for an unknown period of time -- maybe another hour and a half. (Oh wow, I'm suddenly famished.)
(Toast and egg and fresh OJ in hand now.)
My point: it's Tiling Day.
The boys are meeting at 7am at the store to begin laying down slate. (Click to see the process & pictures.) Of course, what you have to remember is that the tile didn't magically appear; we had to choose it and buy it. And you know what happened with the paint.
Also, the decision to lay down tile came about, oh, on Friday. And we want to get it all nice and done before the LADBS (Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety) comes and inspects it next week. (The good* news is that they stamped our construction permit. Amen.) Luckily, Elliot found out from one of his boys that somewhere on Slauson Avenue ... somewhere downtown... there was a mecca of tile shops. (Slauson is 20 miles long.)
So come Saturday morning, we whipped out our treasure maps and puttered down to the one spot we knew there would be a store: the Slauson Cermaic Marble and Tile. This turned out to be an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow painted concrete building, the kind more often seen hawking used tires or strangely tender tongue burritos. We pulled up in front of a house with at least two chickens clucking around their front yard and a little girl staring at me from behind the white iron picket fence. The store itself was a good start, but all of the stand-out tiles were "special order" -- i.e. would take one or two weeks to ship, which was no good for us. So we bought a few sample tiles to play with and moved on, following mysterious directions from the thick-accented salesgirl. Along the way... we hit the jackpot.
I no longer have any idea what that store was called, which kinda gives away the fact that we ultimately didn't buy their tiles. But it was huge, and we enjoyed a moment of victory as we identified a kind of earthy, gold-and-red-mottled tile that had enough friction (don't want our fancy lady customers slippin' in their Blahniks and Choos) and... and... addressed all the other scientific (porosity is a favorite) and health-inspection-code specs that Elliot will thoroughly, meticulously inquire of the hapless vendor. And enough of it -- 500 square feet -- was in stock! We still wanted to actually see the tile in the store, though, so we bought one ($2.89) and happily climbed back in our car-turned-heated-oven, not even caring that we never found a single additional tile store, let alone a mecca.
My lesson that day: just how incredible the temperature difference can be between the beach and East LA -- a 10 to 20-degree difference in the summer. I literally got into my car roasting, dehydrated and sweating, succumbing to using air conditioning on the surface streets, and got out of it almost shivering at the cool breeze and marine layer (check out how thick!).
My lesson the next morning: if it's too easy, it ain't over. The tile was still beautiful, perfect for our store. Except -- and I'd had a creeping fear about this -- it made our golden-red, salvaged-urban-pine, hand-crafted (by Stefan) tabletops disappear into mush. It made our front door, also pine stripped of its red Chihuahua paint, look as oddly pale as a scrawny British boy from some rite-of-passage, dive-into-the-lake-while-terrified scene in a boarding school or summer camp movie. And... I thought it would really, truly clash (yet in a subtle way) with our whole exterior paint. My vote was for the dark slate we'd picked up, because it brought out the beauty of the wood -- it's just that it felt silly to be covering up the same colored polished concrete floor with such a similar-colored slate. Though we have our reasons.
Sooooo... cut to yesterday morning. I traipsed over to meet the boys at Bourget Flagstone Company, which fortunately has been in business since 1947 right around the corner from where we live now. Walking in, I half expect all this natural stone, all the sample flooring laid out like the Ancient Egypt section of the Met or the patio of a mogul's pied a terre in the Sunset Hills to be completely unaffortable. But... it turns out not. (The bulk of the cost is probably labor, to create the beautiful patterns.) I fell in love with Mystique Green, a pale green slate that really brought out the highlights in our table (we lugged it with us this time). Then we picked Ming Valley, a dark grey slate with streaks of rusty red, to lay down as kind of a pathway leading from the patio door and across the store and down the hall to the bathroom. They were both suitable for commercial restaurant use: tough as nails, low porosity, and flat enough not to cause that annoying unevenness in the table and chair legs. We were set, we were done!
Except the Bourgets didn't have quite enough in stock of the damn Ming.
You couldn't imagine what we went through after that, trying to find another slate with which we could supplement the Ming. They were too soft, or with too many crevices, or naturally embedded with iron, or... I mean it was endless. Finally I had to leave to start my day job: I'd had my say, and it was now up to the boys. All day I got calls from Mark: "Remember the 'Golden Ray'? How about that for the path and 'Beijing' for the tables?"... "Hey, we're at this other place in West LA now, check out the slate on their site..."... and then, at last: "Ok, we're going with the Beijing and the Kashmir. Coming back to get the RAV so we can go get the slates back at Bourget."
That, my friends, brings us to... Tiling Day. Stay tuned.
*great, glory-to-God hallelujah hallelujah!