I am so happy about my results that I feel like I really owe it to Mr. Ohana to share what a wonderful job they have done for me at Sky Home Builders! Please take a look at some of my photos of the beautiful glass tile and custom lighting!

IMG_20180209_113735I hired Mr. Ohana to repair/remodel my small townhome in Duboce Triangle that had not been updated since the 80’s. We are about to finish the first half of the work — my downstairs bedroom/patio/en suite bath. My bathroom footprint was very tiny, and I had always hoped that I could someday expand it a bit for a less cramped feel. The way my home was built, the original bathroom was almost the size of what you might find in the rear of a large motorhome!

Though I had to reschedule many times because of my unpredictable work schedule, Mr. Ohana was very flexible with scheduling and met me for what I thought was a very “no pressure” assessment of what it would take to redo my spaces in the style and quality that is important to me. While discussing the downstairs project, he had many great ideas about how best to utilize the space, and we put together a tentative plan for moving a key wall that would allow for a much larger shower and less claustrophobic feeling around the toilet area. I explained to him that I was looking specifically to create a luxury space, but of course did not have an unlimited budget. I was pleasantly surprised that we could include some pretty difficult changes (moving walls, moving drains, replacing all the flooring, etc.) yet still stay within a reasonable budget.

When it came time toIMG_20180222_123125 do the detailed design and pick materials and fixtures, I appreciated that Mr. Ohana did not restrict the brands and vendors that I could incorporate into the project. I was able to select the exact glass tile, the specific brand and design of fixtures, and I was able to mix and match from diverse sources. Many contractors that I had previously consulted wanted to restrict clients to using one specific vendor for nearly everything — if that vendor didn’t carry the brands you saw in the magazine, you would have to settle for trying to match things to get a “comparable” look instead of what you really wanted for your home.

I work in technology and am a stereotypical gadget-loving guy, so it was important to me to incorporate technology into my remodel wherever possible. Not all contractors can work with that, or at least not within a reasonable budget. Mr. Ohana was open to experimenting with new materials and “high tech” features, and I am over the moon with the results. I decided to go with Kohler products because they have the most complete line of smart fixtures. For instance, I got IMG_20180222_122856the Kohler DTV+ electronic shower mixer/valve system so that after setting up my preferences, a single button starts my shower, warms it to my favorite temperature, and then pauses while I open the door and get in! With the touch of a button, I can control which fixture the water comes from — the shower head, the hand shower, or the overhead rain shower. The polished chrome Purist line of fixtures are gorgeous, and the frameless glass enclosure nearly doubled the size of my previous shower. Custom shampoo niches are lit with dimmable mini LED light fixtures, and they are also tucked in a custom glass shelving area and across an accent wall tiled with beautiful natural stacked stone. Everything, including the humidity-sensing ventilation fan, can also be controlled by my smartphone or even Alexa! My existing Sonos sound system was also extended to drive Kohler Sound-tile speakers above the shower, providing music controlled by my voice, phone, or even the wave of my hand.

The real centerpiece of the bathroom is the Kohler Veil intelligent toilet. Intelligent toilet! Not only does it have an automated bidet system built-in, but everything is customizable from the temperature of the toilet seat to the brightness of the nightlight. Again, these types of high-end, tech features are not installable by your average contractor. They require special planning, special wiring, and special plumbing, and it takes expert installation to pass the strict electrical and plumbing inspections in San Francisco. Whenever needed, Mr. Ohana hired electricians and plumbers who made quick work of the complicated installs, and all of the features work beautifully. They really had to go the extra mile to do major excavation to move the drains, and they had to upgrade/replace the electrical service and panels to the house because it was not originally built to service all of the required extra dedicated circuits for the technology and lighting. This was NOT a quick “tear down and replace” situation. It was like rebuilding the first floor of my house!

IMG_20180222_123213Because of the nature of an “en suite” bathroom, much of the wiring and plumbing required walls to be opened up in the bedroom and garage area. Instead of just patching holes and touching up paint, Mr. Ohana made sure that entire sections of drywall were replaced to assure a smooth finish. He was also very flexible about adding on many “extras” that just made sense to do while walls were opened up. For instance, when the bathroom walls were down to the studs, he hard-wired LED path lights going up my stairwell on the other side. Below the opening for new wiring across the bedroom, he added wired wall sconces for a more custom look for the lighting. He also upgraded all of the existing outlets to have rapid USB charging ports and hard-wired night lights. He added power outlets in the corners of the ceiling so that my rear-channel Sonos speakers no longer have visible cords. None of these things were in the original contract — Mr. Ohana just had the attitude of “why not go the extra mile and make this really NICE”.

IMG_20180222_122911I would also like to say that the on-site workers were incredibly nice to deal with. Jorge, Julio, Benito, and Pablo were especially courteous and respectful. It’s difficult to have strangers come into your home and to trust that they are taking good care of the space when you are not around. I do work from home much of the time, and whenever I had to take special calls or anything else that required quiet, I could always ask them to hold off on noise at one specific time or another, and they were always happy to oblige. Because I was living in the upstairs during the work, the guys were careful to clean as much as possible each day before leaving, and they were careful to hang tarps and such so that dust did not permeate the house. I also have 2 very curious dogs as roommates, and I am always concerned about them escaping to explore down the street, but the guys working at the house were very careful to make certain the dogs were safely confined at the end of each work day. That was a huge stress relief for me.

One thing that really impressed me about Mr. Ohana himself with regard to my space was his acceptance of full responsibility for anything that might accidentally be damaged. Accidents do happen during construction, and a couple of fixtures were cosmetically marred during the shuffle. It was absolutely no problem; items were immediately replaced with new ones. When a floor tile was cracked while the shower enclosure was being installed, Mr. Ohana had the tile installer back to quickly repair it, and he has made sure that everything from top to bottom looks shiny and new!

I expect that we will finish up very soon as we are just waiting on some custom fittings for the vanity and a few other odds and ends, but again, I could not be happier with the way this remodel has elevated the style and function of the space. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens with the upstairs kitchen and bath!


“QUEER” — a.k.a., my ‘trigger’

If I had a personal “n-word”, it would be the “q-word”, but I think it is silly to use childlike abbreviations, so it’s just queer. It’s a word that provokes a visceral reaction from me, and it makes me want to scream and slap the person saying it. From trans friends who argue with one another about words like the “t-word” (“tranny” if you’re not a child), I understand this is my trigger. Of course, triggers are not trans things, or even LGBT things…they are things that set off a flashback transporting the person back to an event of her/his original trauma.

Why do I have such an issue with queer?

REASON 1: As I try to explain to millennial gaybys that I meet in clubs, queer is my trigger because it was the word that was used to insult me, not only by other school kids, but also by my own family members. Having been called that by family, I find the word especially ugly. One of the things LGBT people give to counter African Americans when they assert we have it easier because we can hide ourselves (whereas skin color is obvious to the bigots one encounters), is that African Americans can come home from school and get support from family members who suffer the same slights in society. I don’t believe in “us vs. them” and trying to determine who suffers the most, but I will say that rejection by members of one’s family is rough — and for me it was much more painful than what I encountered at school. Just in case the reader missed it the first time, I don’t believe in “us vs. them” and I’m not trying to say sexual orientation is more difficult than issues of race; I don’t have a clue what African American children experience. I’m just saying that the magnitude of my negative experience was related to my family not being “like me” and feeling very alone when attacked about my sexuality.

REASON 2: As I try to explain to millennial college students who are super excited about their “Queer Studies 101” class, I find their explanation of reclaiming queer for our community condescending, self-important, and insensitive. I went to college. I took a sociology class. I’m not stupid. I understand the concept of minorities reclaiming derogatory language and how that is supposed to dilute its power. I just disagree. There is a huge difference between me not understanding vs. me not approving. It never fails that some child born long after my college days were over believes that he can educate me — and he believes that if he does, I will no longer have a dissenting opinion. The tedium of it is as exhausting as it is infuriating.

REASON 3: As I try to explain to millennial “gender-queer” activists before they go postal on me for having a contrary opinion, I’m not convinced that their use of the word truly constitutes a reclaiming of language by those who were originally harmed by it. In my generation and in my locale of birth, queer was used as a slur against boys (and men) who were considered effeminate. We were the exclusive targets of this word. Some of us eventually self-identified as gay, and others of us now self-identify as trans.

I never observed queer being used as a slur against people such as women who liked to dress in a manner that was gender-ambiguous and/or were uncomfortable with pronouns such as “she”. This makes me question the right that these people have to reclaim my slur. Even if the word was used against them, I am not gender-ambiguous and they do not represent ME. Don’t misunderstand — they can self-identify as anything they wish, and I fully support that. I support their right to dress in any way they want, date anyone they want, have any job they want, and modify their bodies in any way they may want. I donate funds and personal time to make sure their rights are protected as well as are mine. What I do NOT support is the argument that they are doing the “community” a service by removing the hurtful power of this word for everyone. Unless queer was used to hurt you, you do not have the right or ability to “reclaim” it. And if you’re not a sissy boy, you’re not reclaiming it for me and the other sissy boys. You’re just choosing a word you like.

Also, queer seemed to fall out of favor by the time I was in college, with terms such as faggot being more en vogue with the bully types. I question whether any millennial had anachronistic slurs poured upon them, even if they are sissy boys. Again, if no one attacked you with the word in an effort to obliterate your self esteem, it’s not reclamation. You’re just choosing a word you like.

REASON 4: As I try to explain to everyone who uses queer in reference to ME, I do not self-identify as queer, and I (a) should not have to explain to anyone why I specifically do not want to be referred to by a hateful slur (b) nor should I have to plead with anyone not to use it when referring to me and my community. If I politely share with any compassionate human being that I am hurt by certain language, their response should be something like, “I am sorry, I didn’t know. I’ll make an effort not to refer to you using that word”. Period. It shouldn’t be a debate. But it almost always IS a debate, and this makes me hate the word even more. Again, exhausting and infuriating.

REASON 5:  This reason will make you think that I am crazy, stretching, and self appropriating things that I have no right to appropriate, but I still believe it. As I previously mentioned, I think that queer is an anachronistic slur — having been much more popular with bullies in my youth and even more so with previous generations. Here in San Francisco, one doesn’t run into a lot of guys from previous generations. Why? Well, many of them died from HIV/AIDS in the 80’s and early 90’s. I believe that if the thousands of these guys were still here, there would be more voices like mine saying that queer is ugly and it’s not OK for groups purporting to represent all of the LGBT community to adopt the word queer as a lazy catch all for everyone. I’m not a fan of the ever growing alphabet “soup” that is LGBTQI+, but I certainly prefer that to the use of the most hateful slur I can remember. I feel that my voice is being overrun by a new, more populous generation that is insensitive to the earlier generations who made much of their current freedoms possible.

How many times in one post can I insinuate that this is all because of millennials? At the risk of sounding like that crazy old man who yells at children to stay out of his yard, I’ll say it one more time — “millennials, stop using the word queer to refer to ME and MY community!”


Best Joke Ever to Fall Apart

RUTH: Hello?
JANICE (slightly drunk): Ruth, it’s sister. I got a message that Aaron is sick, and they gave me this hospital number (xxx-xxx-xxxx). Why have you not been answering your phone?
RUTH: I’ve got to go and see if he is OK!
** dials number
AUTOMATED PHONE ATTENDANT: You have reached the San Francisco County Detention Center’s inmate clinic. If you know your party’s extension, please dial it now. Otherwise, press 1 for patient information, press…
** 1#
VOICE 1 (Cora): SF Detention Hospital; this is Cora.
RUTH: I am Aaron Binkley’s mother Ruth. Please tell me what is going on. Is he sick? Is this the jail? What is going on.
VOICE 1 (Cora): Ma’am, let me look. [pause] I am sorry, but I cannot give that information out…it looks like the inmate has already contacted a bondsman or an attorney who is handling everything. I can give you that number.
RUTH: Yes, please!
** dials number
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Golden Gate Bonds, this is Smoke…sup?
RUTH: I am Aaron Binkley’s mother Ruth. Please tell me what is going on. Is he sick? Is this the jail? What is going on.
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Are you Mrs. Massey….Mrs. Ruth Massey?
RUTH: Yes, what is going on.
VOICE 2 (Smoke): I have been trying to call you. We’re trying to bond out Mr. Binkley from SF County, and we need a guarantor on the bond. It’s $10,000.
RUTH: What? Where is he? Is he OK?
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Ma’am, after the bond is settled, you’ll be able to talk to him, I’m sure. You can either deliver a cashier’s check or wire the funds to Golden Gate.
RUTH: What? How much?
VOICE 2 (Smoke): I also have a Ms. Julie Wild at Pacific Coast Bankers’ Bank listed as a contact. Should I try to conference her in to discuss this?
RUTH: Uh, yeah…I mean, I don’t know.
JULIE: This is Julie.
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Ms. Wild, I have Aaron Binkley’s mother on the line as well. My name is Smoke, and I’m with Golden Gate Bail Bonds. We’re trying to put together a $10,000 cash bond so that we can get Mr. Binkley released from the San Francisco County Detention Center…the inmate hospital, actually.
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Please stay calm, Ms. Wild. As I said, we’re trying to put together a $10,000 bond to get Mr. Binkley released today. Can you assist with this?
RUTH: Yes, we can…but can you tell us what this is about?
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Well, it seems that Mr. Binkley was arrested last night under San Francisco’s anti-pandering ordinance.
JULIE: What?
VOICE 2 (Smoke): He’s a pimp, Ms. Wild. His co-defendant is Monique Threets, and they were picked up running girls on the track north of Potrero Hill. They were pimping 12 girls…named Kim Dayers, Tanzima Khatoon, Cookie MacIntosh,…
JULIE: Who the F*ck is this?
RUTH: It’s Aaron’s mom…
JULIE: No, this man…
VOICE 2 (Smoke): Oh, Aaron wanted me to pass this message along….APRIL FOOLS!
RUTH: I’m going to kill that ****** f******.

Unfortunately, the fake phone systems were delayed being set up, and I wasn’t able to execute my plan. But oh, how wonderful it would have been…