alOha : )
Can't believe we're actually starting this thing ! We've always wanted to do a blog, but just never seemed to have a quite moment ... not that we have one now, but with the launch of our new project, we feel the need to introduce ourselves, and a toasty fire has been lit beneath our bee hinds. We've done so much filming, writing and photography together since we met about seven years ago. We have albums from our travels around Asia, buzzing down byways on motorbikes, hospital visits, giant swimming lizards, curbside eateries and fending off thieving temple monkeys.
Here's a little sampler !!
Insane vegetarian food on the 2nd floor of this place : )
We spent a year working on the Winnie and living on the curb in front our our friend Jereme's house. It was in a pretty sketchy part of Long Beach where police were always raiding the thugged out neighbors and Mariachi music blared from Pupusarias, but that's why we were able to get away with so much ... like wrapping the Winnie in painters plastic during a 3am rain storm (we had just pulled all the seal out of the roof without consulting the weather channel first...whoops) We worked late nights in our little box, running power tools by flash light, wrenching the engine apart, almost never leaving our parking space and narrowly avoiding street sweeping tickets and nosy cops who would have loved to learn that we weren't in fact living in the house but on the street.
(which is illegal btw : )
Our time working as street vendors on the infamous Venice Beach boardwalk yielded a whole cast of inspiring, and sometimes inimical, characters who were stranger than the 310 pages of fiction that we were selling.
This is my old book booth - the signs were chalk boards, so I could change how they read depending on my mood ; ) Good times. We'll have to do a whole post of the many signs and some of the ridiculous things I yelped out into the crowd that actually got results. Btw - the book was written based on a nightmare that cast me as the chased and the hunted ... if you don't like dramatic, mind bending tales, it's probably not for you.
Here's my little seaside princess with her hand spun wears.
People loved Juwels jewels : )
People loved Juwels jewels : )
Selling off all our stuff and living in the Winnie is just a chapter in the many lifetimes that we've lived together, and even that small chapter could be (and someday will be) a great little book. So as I fluff the sheets for all our new, and rapidly found, readers, in the last stages of fulfilling the large demand on our little candle company, I'm tempted to say ... Ah, we've gotta wait. There's too much to say, and there's no time to say it right now, so back into the vault with the whole Winnie episode. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
But as you can see from the pictures below, we can't help but want to give people what they ask for, and we've read many comments and messages from people saying that they can't wait to see more of our renovation and current Winnie Girl, so here she is, naked to the world and open to interpretation. There are still so many more pictures that we need to mine off of old hard drives, and we can't give you all the words that we'd like to right now because (luckily) business is busy, and bizzee bees we be, pouring ourselves into these little objet d' art and finding a place in homes all across the world. Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and Australia ... it's amazing how many midnight messages we get from afar requesting shipping quotes and special listings, and we love the idea of our pieces proudly standing on shelves and mantles across the globe. And being the urban settlers that we are, we're hunters and gatherers, and the Spring is here, so this blog will have to be a work in progress and a bit of a guilty pleasure while we sew our seeds. We'll be posting a mix of the past and present here, but for now, let's set the stage : ) Shall we...
So here's our little mess.The funny thing about this whole project is that we never intended to do what we did...or at least not to the extent that we did it. If you've seen our "welcome friends" blog, you know that the Winnie wasn't half the ruin that you see here when we bought her. In fact, we probably never would have had the confidence to buy something gutted with the idea of totally rebuilding it. We're weren't carpenters or plumbers or welders or mechanics. I actually had the original owner of the Winnie hire a friend of his to bolt the toilet back into place before we traveled up north to buy it. Hold on ...toilet flange? Wax ring?? Flushing - water - leaks ... no, no, no, it ain't me, babe : ) Ironically, we would later tear out that little plastic toilet which reeked of ...well, you know, and we'd replace it with a fancy porcelain bowl we scored on Ebay. Many other things would have to be done in that bathroom and the rest of the place, and since we couldn't afford to pay anyone to help us, we had to learn or make due. We did a lot of learning.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and the only necessities we thought the Winnie required from the pictures we'd seen online was a little paint, a tune up, and maybe some different flooring and new curtains ... But once we got back to Long Beach, after breaking down and becoming stranded on the curb were we'd signed the title, crossing the Golden Gate bridge and miraculously a few hundred more miles home, we realized that there was a LOT more work to be done.
We'd set out to do one basic thing, and once we'd get in there and our hands were dirty, we'd realize that ten other complex things needed to be built up or replaced first. Behind wood paneling, there was dry rot. The wall beside our kitchen table wasn't even attached to the floor, and you could see the lines in the road zipping by below. Leaky tanks, broken water pipes, the entire bathroom floor was moldy and crumbling away. Termites needed to be fogged out, rust killed, and it leaked everywhere ... "Well, we're in it now. It's all pulled apart ... if not now, when?" That would become the mantra that kept us going. It was a mind numbing amount of work just to get the band aids off and clean her wounds. And keep in mind that we had just returned from our honeymoon, with seven hundred dollars to our names, no apartment, and a storage unit packed like a well-played game of Tetris.
Juwels' sweet sister Lily (God bless her soul) picked us up from the airport and let us crash on her couch for the few weeks that we thought we'd need to give the 'ol Winnie a polish, but as weeks turned to months and our place was reduced to plywood , Styrofoam and butcher paper, we packed our bags and moved out of Lily's beautiful beach house and into the dusty box on 7th and Ghetto. She said we didn't have to go, and everyone thought we were crazy to move into the Winnie in such a state of disrepair, but we had decided. I remember having the conversation and saying, "Monday we move into the Winnie ... this is our reality, and we need to own it."
Scribbled on the plywood counter top - no doubt, most of that was change...
I remember the day vividly - the day we moved in - it was the middle of summer, hot, and as we snuck our bulky bags in through the Winnie's narrow door careful not to let the neighbors see, the Winnie never seemed so small and hot and inhospitable. We had no toilet, shower, refrigerator, or curtains ... We didn't even have a mattress and wouldn't spring for one for another couple of months. Instead, we ran all the old blue bench seat cushions in series over a piece of plywood on the skeletal box that would much later become our couch. Juwels feathered the area with her down comforter, sheets and all. It was so tiny that the first night we stayed there, I fell out of bed twice. I pulled down the crow's nest bed over the steering wheel, and tried to sleep up there, but for some inexplicable reason I broke into an itchy spell as soon as I settled in. I think I slept on the floor that night, and later we rigged a way to make the bed a little bigger. I remember waking up the next morning and thinking ...we did it. The birds were chirp chirping, and the sun was out, and we had just slept the first night in our new reality.
We thought the Winnie would release us from that old ticking time line of our past lives where we lived to work, and nothing ever seemed to get accomplished besides a narrow survival. It was a juggling act across a tight rope, too dangerous to look around and don't you dare look down. Believe it or not, a middle class existence is a hard thing to maintain as a full time artist. We couldn't split up and sell our time as links in the chain when our purpose and passion was to create things for the world to enjoy. The linear grind is behind us, and now we're holding hands and spinning in circles, sick and dizzy at times, but always laughing with our bare feet on the grass and the blue sky above.
We never could have taken a four month honeymoon with our cement box back home. And honeymoon doesn't quite describe the theme of our trip ... spiritual journey, maybe ... pilgrimage, last meal?? We had the recently purchased Winnie in storage back home, and this was sort of the final hoorah before planting our flag in the next chapter. Asia was interesting, a decompression like a popping balloon. Juwels had her wisdom teeth cracked and pried out of her mouth in a Bangkok hospital, romantic, right?
Yes, she had been in pain for months back home where they wanted two or three thousand dollars for the job, so for $480 we penciled the surgery in just between "massage" and "river boat ride". They don't do anesthesia in Thailand ... not for wisdom teeth at least, just a single shot of Novocaine which Juwels protested that she was immune to. I rubbed her feet while that God awful drill screeched. She looked like a well fed chipmunk for days afterward, and I lied in bed with her and read her books in place of conversation. This was around the same time I discovered all the great vegetarian restaurants on my solo city strolls. I felt so guilty with each bite, gulp. I'd end up in the hospital in the same few weeks as well ...more of a surprise in my case though. We'll tell that story later; it's a little odd, and... we hardly know each other now ; )
Leaving that tick-tock to the 1st of the month with all the stress and payments was the best thing we've ever done. Nothings perfect, and many times we've howled at the moon, but we're alive and full of wonder.
Not sure who started this, but we scribbled so many little messages behind walls, on beams and all sorts of random places - affirmations of the adventure ahead, love and goofy babble.
Another great thing about this life is that we were extra focused on being sustainable. We've always been considerate of our Mother, but this was an extra challenge. We have to carry our own water, and make it last as long as possible. Our Winnie's fresh water tank is eleven gallons shy of an average single shower in America, which swallows 50 gallons of water per use. At first this seemed like a stretch to conserve and use water so sparingly but with a meager 39 gallons of H2O we dialed in our methods, and made it stretch for six days between two people - showers, dishes, toilet, everything. We developed ways to reuse dish water for flushing the toilet, or watering thirsty plants. Every resource is limited and valuable. And when we need more water or need to get rid of the water that we used ... how is that to work ?? We love these challenges and came up with responsible creative solutions to live off the grid in suburbia.
(We'll get back to that later)
We couldn't afford this at first, but shortly after moving off our friend's curb, we sprung for a 110 watt solar panel. I did the research and climbed up on the roof right in the beachfront parking lot to set us up to solar. After that, lights, music, water pump, computer ... everything was tied directly to the warm California sun, and we've never had a shortage ; )
Converting the engine is the next dream ... someday we'll burn French fried fuel as we cross the States ; )
To the left is where our shower would soon be rebuilt.The shower had leaked in the past, and the whole floor had to be taken out. Also, the bathroom floor was mostly bad, so we tore that up as well, bye bye linoleum : ) For a little while, there was no bathroom floor at all, just a huge hole leading to the street. We used to get freaked out that somebody was going to crawl under the Winnie in the middle of the night and pop up at the foot of our bed like some zombie from Thriller. We put a couple scraps of wood over the hole and piled tools on top. "We need to rebuild that floor, soon."
In the final bathroom, Juwels took it upon herself to learn how to weld copper pipes, so she could put the toilet on the right where the sink was and put the sink and vanity on the left."I don't want to look straight down the Winnie to see the toilet," She said.
Juwels was the one who kicked the ascetic energy into the project. At first, I thought she was going overboard, building her dollhouse, or her "palatial playhouse" as she'd later call it, but as time went on, I got wrapped up in it and mused many design concepts myself. "Hell, we're only in here once..."
The wall opposite the couch had a big window, but we needed someplace to install our tall closet, one of the few relics that we'd bring along from our past lives. So we decided rather than boarding up the window from the inside and creating an eye sore from the outside, we'd put up some fake curtains, so everything would look normal from the street. Outside, it just looks like the curtains are drawn, but inside it's actually walled off. hee hee hee.
This would become a theme: keeping up appearances from the outside, since we were going to be secretly living in the Winnie on the streets, we had to make it look like just another parked vehicle. A little crack of light through the curtains or speakers that weren't insulated right could lead to notes from angry rent-paying neighbors or a clubbing on the door by the police - we'd end up with both anyway ... but just fewer and farther between. At times the pounding of your heart was as loud as the police baton on your door at four am.
Bang Bang Bang ... "GOOD MORNING !!! L.A.P.D."
"Don't ... make ... a sound." I whispered to Juwels beside me in the crow's nest.
I could almost hear her smiling in the dark. But I, for one, was terrified ...
After we had walled off our window, we regretted how much space we lost between the window and the wall ... "The aisle could have been 4 inches wider.." But a friend suggested that we could carve out some of that space by building a recessed spice box., we jumped on the idea and would later boarder it out with a lovely resized frame that we found in the craig's list "free" listings.
We saged out almost every nook and cranny of the Winnie. All new constructions got a blessing and a puff of sage smoke protection. There was a lot of weird energy in there when we first got her. For one: the guy that we bought it from sort of fell into the Winnie when his health went bad and he was forced to leave his apartment. Many desperate and nauseous days where probably spent there, stumbling around and praying for health. Also, the people who were in it before him were a young couple who were into heavy drugs. As we were told, they crashed around San Francisco on their Fear and Loathing trip, drew all sorts of strange things on the walls and drove around with the tub full of water. The girl finally moved back in with her dad when the boyfriend overdosed one night ... I asked if it had happened in the Winnie, and of course they said no. Later, while taking apart some cabinetry we'd come across a photograph of the couple, a syringe, and some aspirin and condom wrappers. Burn sage burn. (For anyone who may not know, sage is used by Native Americans to clear bad energy and spirits.)
Here's one of our indoor chop saw excursions
- imagine walking down a residential street at 10 pm and hearing a muffled
Zzzzert come from a dark and lifeless motor home.
Did the world know that we were inside building our ark.
I can't help but think of an Arm and Hammer commercial when I see that pic up there to the right ... ha ha ha.
Out with the old and in with the new : )
This is the old wok that we found on one of our last days in Viet Nam. We scoured markets all over SE Asia looking for a little bowl to be our sink, and then there it was, in a tiny shop that sold nothing but new woks ... and then this one antique wok. We almost lost it because I wanted to bargain ... I think it was only like $18 dollars US, but I swear the lady kind of chuckled as she said it, so the dance was on. In the end, the pecking order was established, and we happily paid her the few hundred thousand Dong.
Juwels was so freaked out when she came back in from cutting a piece of wood to find me sawing the handles off. We had both been avoiding it, because it could only be done once, but then I decided to just jump in there and start hack sawing away ... it came out seamless and we were even able to match the blue-green patina with a salt and vinegar mixture : )
We decided to rebuild the bench seats because the old ones were poorly made and falling apart. We hadn't yet realized that we were creating our own world and had just copied the original design. Later on, after we had gained some confidence, we took the new/old bench seats with its thick and protruding top which would jam into your back and redesigned it anew. Juwels free handed this Transylvanian flowing shape. Once again, we left the cuts for a while for fear of messing it up, and then one day when Juwels was out at Home Depot, I took the jig saw, closed my eyes and made the first cut ... somehow it came out perfect. Juwels was elated and partially horrified when she came home and saw what I'd endeavored.
"Good job, baby. But please let me do the rest!!" The learning curve was quite rapid once we got our building bearings and this was just one of many things including major structural walls, bookshelves etc. that we be built, tore down and then rebuilt. "We're only in here once." Juwels had a little bit more building experience growing up with a jack of all trades, builder, inventor father. Her childhood go cart and treehouse building projects would come in handy in our adult combination of the two ; )
Juwels wanted to reface the cabinets - I put up a fight on this one ... mind you were were about 8 months deep at this point, but then somehow she convinced me that it wasn't that much work and could probably be done in a day or two ... it took two weeks : ) But I admit, they do look better.
After much wondering, ally scouts and craig's list searches the mystery of what would be become our kitchen table was discovered at our local goodwill for a paltry $13.99. Needed a bit of love to rid of the indecorous chesire cat effect. And it's wooden wings were a little to big for the space so we performed a leaf augmentation ; )
Building a sturdy new bedroom for our partially functional fridge.
(It would later find itself in a tall heaping recyclers truck in the
Venice beach parking lot ... Hello ice chest.)
Good thing we tore up that linoleum eh? Look at our bathroom floor.
Eeek. What a rotten mess.
A view of where the shower used to be ... that's our gas tank and the waste water tank down there.
Yep ... just as fun as it looks : )
Jereme and Juwels standing in the hole that used to be the bathroom. He's teaching Juwels how to sweat copper ... he's a general contractor. Lucky break, huh : )
I pulled our soon-to-be bathroom vanity out of a dumpster. It was stuffed in head first and destined for the landfill. Juwels was inside the house on the computer, when I came in and said,
"I got you a present!" She loved it. I knew she would ; )
Scored this old 1920's french door off the craig's list "free" column. Came out of an old Venice beach house ; ) We wanted to disguise our old and indecorous fridge so we cut this big beauty down to dwarf size and made a gallery space of it for Juwels' photography ; )
Enter ... the archways: The Winnie has three steal beams that run up the walls and across the ceiling to keep the walls from tipping over or the roof from caving in. They were covered in this yellowed cracking plastic, so we decided to dress them up in a thin wood veneer. One of us made a comment about how it would be cool if we built arches leading from the walls to the beams...I think it was me, and I wasn't serious, but before I knew it, Juwels was sketching one out and had the saw fired up. Now there's arches everywhere. I think maybe we are crazy ...
The original bed over the plywood floors ...
I can't see for sure, but it looks like Juwels even has a little bed skirt setup.
I can just hear her now,
"I don't like seeing under there with all those loose wires and everything." Ha!
If it was just me, I'd probably have a sleeping bag atop layers of cardboard.
Every screw and tack hole, seam and awkward texture would have to be floated over with
plaster and then sanded smooth. There were hundreds of them.
plaster and then sanded smooth. There were hundreds of them.
This is our Arabian Queen of Arches ; )
Talk about multi tasking. ha ha ha. We actually drove around the block to avoid the street sweeper like this. Good thing we didn't get pulled over for a seat belt violation! hee hee hee ; )
More soon to come from your resident artists ...
Thanks for reading!
Peep the sneak peak below of our present day Winnie.
We'll give you the formal tour soon ; )