So I moved.
On August 12th, I went to see the little house that the voice on the phone had called to tell me was available to rent.
It was about a minute from the little trailer with the chemical toilet – close enough to my horse, but more important to me than that, was the bathroom.
It had one. With a nice sink, a tub with excellent water pressure and a regulation, city sewer connected toilet.
I was in. All in.
It turned out I actually knew the woman who owned the house. And because she is basically a nice woman I am not going to go into too many details on why I, as quickly as possible, moved out of the little house.
But I will tell you it was mostly, if not totally, because of her.
The house was white with blue trim. It sat on the front of her property, where she had her own home on the back of the property in which she lived and an additional home on the side of the property which she used as an office and a barn where her horses lived.
I like horses. I have a horse of my own.
The house, she told me, was originally built and owned by an Italian family, which made me happy. As if all my Grandmothers in Heaven had consorted with the previous and perhaps now departed original owners of the house to get me out of the trailer and into someplace more habitable as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
There were two fruit trees hanging onto life in the front and what once must have been a magnificent grape arbor on the side – so great that very tall metal poles had been inserted into the ground to hold up the heavy vines, creating what must have been a lovely bower of shade and grapes leading to the garage.
Those days were long gone. Only the empty poles remained. As a matter of fact, there was almost nothing green left around the house, save some persistent calla lilies along one side of the house and a bush of uncertain species which blocked the view from kitchen window on the other side. It also blocked the view to inside of the house, which became more important to me the longer I lived there.
Whatever the horses could eat, as they wandered around the property, they did eat. What ever they didn’t eat, was cut down with a machete.
The whole yard was dirt, including the area reserved as my backyard, enclosed by a chain link fence covered by long rotted and disintergrating bamboo fencing that I quickly replaced with the help of my friend, Peter Sanchez. My landlady told me that whenever it rained, the entire property would flood, because we were the last house at the bottom of a very tall mountain and all the water, not only from the sky, but from those mountains would come rushing down and collect in the yard full of dirt and turn it into what she herself called “a sh*t hole”.
That became the only truthful thing she ever said to me.
But I wasn’t going to live outside the house, I was going to live inside the house, so I disregarded what I saw around the house as being the property of an older woman who no longer had the energy or perhaps the finances to maintain it in any habitable capacity, unless you were a horse.
Here’s where I am going to do a little tap-dancing.
I always thought, when you lived inside a house, even a house you rent, even a house you rent that is on the same property as the person that owns the house, you are paying for not only the walls and ceilings and floors, you are paying for a little bit of peace and privacy.
When I asked my new landlady why the previous tenant had moved out, and moved out within 4 months of moving in, she said “She thought there were too many rules.”
At that point, I should have asked a few more questions.
But I didn’t.
So all of this was really my fault. Because while I thought that the price of the rent included some peace and privacy, my landlady thought differently.
And because it was her property, she won.
And because she won, I moved out as quickly as I could.
But before I moved out I moved in and before I moved in, I looked inside the house I would move into and this is what I saw:
Quite frankly, I don’t even know where to start, but I guess the first thing that struck me was the walls.
They were yellow. A kind of sunflower/lottery ticket/#FFC200 yellow.
All of the walls were that color.
And so were the ceilings.
All of the ceilings.
It was astonishing to me. Not just the choice of color, which I could talk myself into seeing as kind of sunny and happy if they were just on the walls, but that the ceilings had been painted the same color just confused me.
So I asked my new landlady why the ceilings were the same color as the walls, only because in almost every other home I have ever been inside of in my entire 60 years of life, this was the first home where all of the walls and all of the ceilings were painted the same color and none of those colors were white.
She told me that the painters had made a mistake.
I have since learned that she has a tenuous relationship with anything truthful. Or perhaps a better way to say that is she changed her answers to the same questions to suit what she wanted from me at different times.
But I could have lived within a sunshiny yellow house, if it wasn’t for the floors.
The floors in the living room and bedroom were covered with what was once, maybe around 1970, new burnt orange shag carpeting. Now, some 47 years later, it was somewhat shag, somewhat burnt orange and somewhat still attached to the floor.
In most of the other places, the carpet rolled in waves like an angry sea.
That there was carpet in that house, that was a rental, that was on a property that had nothing but dirt all around it, and that horses wandered all around, and that turned into a sh*thole of mud when it rained, was just insane.
That should have been another clue.
There was a small bedroom, which was fine because I don’t do much in my bedroom except sleep. There was a door in the bedroom that lead to the bathroom, like it had been in the tiny trailer but without the smell of chemical toilet, so that was fine.
The kitchen was longer than any other kitchen I had ever seen.
I was pretty sure that once upon a time there had been a second bedroom, that also had a door that opened up into the bathroom, so that the bathroom was what is called a “Jack and Jill” bathroom – one bathroom shared between two bedrooms and that somewhere along the line, the original Italian Family had taken down the wall that separated the second bedroom from the kitchen, because in Italian families it is more important to feed 25 or 30 people at a sitting than it is to have a second bedroom that probably no one was using because the kids had moved out, most likely into the home where my landlady lived on the property and the second home on the property she used as an office.
In “The Godfather” that kind of property is called a Compound. Also if you are a Kennedy.
That was my theory, anyway, so I asked my landlady and she said, “No.” She said that that was the way the house was originally built.
I think that’s what she really believed. At least on that day.
But I was desperate and I thought with a little money I could make that house a home. I could have the ceilings painted white, which would make the yellow on the walls more tolerable and I actually did go to Lowe’s to get prices on either a plank vinyl flooring that looked like hardwood or some ceramic tiles that looked liked slate, to replace the carpet that would be impossible to keep clean and was old and depressing.
I filled out the application, I gave her the deposit and the rent, and with a song in my heart, I was just about to call the PODS People, when she told me she was going out of town and I wouldn’t be able to move in for a week.
A WEEK. 168 HOURS. 10,080 MINUTES. 604,800 SECONDS.
So I did the only thing I could do.
I went back to my tiny trailer, turned on Kitchen Nightmares and cried.
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END PART 1