This afternoon I dropped by an open house at a condo. It was the gentlest possible getting-my-toes-wet; the place is literally two and a half blocks from my apt, there was nobody else there except the realtor guy (who said hello, told me to ask if I had any questions, and then ignored me, which was exactly what I wanted him to do), and it gave me a chance to sort of try out the process of looking at a place without any stress.
I learned some things. Like that 1180 square feet isn't necessarily a lot, especially if one of the bedrooms is particularly large. And that "loft bedroom" refers to an open space bordered on one side by a railing overlooking the living room; I kept expecting there to be another room, because what they were calling a loft bedroom had no privacy at all. (I've been in other condos with a similar layout that had a real bedroom-with-a-door upstairs, so I think my expectation wasn't totally unrealistic.)
Anyway, helpful in refining what I'm looking for, and it took no more than 15 minutes total (probably including walking to and from). And I took some pictures for later comparison to other places—mostly just to test the waters on whether asking if I could take photos would be seen as weird.
Afterward, I headed off to Oakland to hang out with the previously mentioned high school friend (call him M) who I've been out of touch with for probably six or seven years now. It was lovely to see him and to meet his sweetie J and another friend of M's who was visiting. M and J recently bought a lovely house in the Oakland hills, with a magnificent view of the East Bay (and, on a clear day, SF). They showed us around what appeared to be the main part of the house, a couple nicely appointed bedrooms and a big kitchen and a huge airy living room, and then they took us downstairs and there was a whole other half to the house, a giant rec room/basement/study kind of thing that they're going to turn into a master bedroom, with a huge glassed-in balcony (kind of greenhouse-feeling) with a hot tub and big windows overlooking the aforementioned view. Zowie.
Also, underneath the house they keep chickens. Apparently a lot of people in suburbia are keeping chickens these days. Who knew?
And they have a giant overgrown yard out behind/below the house. And a huge pair of ramshackle rooms underneath the garage.
To add to the livestock theme, they took us half a block down the street to the open-space preserve, where (I kid you not) there was a herd of goats grazing on the hillside. It seems the city of Oakland owns this herd of goats that they rent out to trim fire-hazard brush and grass. (The article doesn't make clear whether Oakland actually owns the goats or not, but that's what M said.)
Later, we had a long fascinating discussion about language and culture and the difficulties of moving to America when you know very little English (which J had done a couple years ago), and the problems involved in providing help to homeless families from various cultures, and, oh, singing and acting and all sorts of stuff. V. nice.
Somehow whenever I start out to write a quick little entry, digression happens (he said, disclaiming responsibility) and I just go on and on. So I'll stop now.