This episode is dedicated to ALL my friends on Facebook who helped me get through this incredibly insane, but gratefully short, time with laughter and love and a lot of birthday presents. I do not know what I would do without you.
I want to get in and out of this episode as fast as I wanted to get in and out of that house.
It wasn’t the house. I am really good at making every place I have lived, and that’s a lot of places, a home. Even my little “Guest House Converted Garage” in Tujunga.
It was my Landlady. She is nuts.
But really nuts. There is something wrong with her.
It didn’t occur to me that she was crazy when she first noticed I smoked, so I asked her if she would prefer I didn’t move in, because I hadn’t yet and she said “No”, but that she preferred I didn’t smoke outside, because it could cause a wildfire, even though there was only dirt surrounding the property and the nearest tree was so far away I would have to have lit a log and thrown it some 50 yards to have anything burn
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she was really, really annoyed that I ordered garbage cans from LA DWP. Small ones, because I don’t really create a lot of garbage. It was a conversation that went on for two weeks. She just hated my new garbage cans. Why my garbage cans were any of her business, I just couldn’t fathom.
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she wouldn’t permit me to put the little garbage cans closer to my “driveway” (and I use the word in the loosest terms imaginable). What she called my Ingress and Egress.
Very PT Barnum.
It didn’t occur to me that she was crazy when she didn’t allow me to take my own trash cans to the curb, instead she insisted that her “Hired Gal” Katy take the cans back and forth. Because Katy, she said, was paid very, very well to do that.
Even though I said that Katy could do other things for her instead of taking my cans back and forth. Like maybe rake the property. Or throw away some of the piles of junk that littered it, like the tall rusted filing cabinet she used to hold up what was left of one of many dying trees, like a freak lawn ornament.
No. “Katy”, she said again, (and almost any other time something about Katy came up), was paid very, very well to do what she, My Landlady wanted her to do, and My Landlady wanted Katy to take my garbage cans back and forth to the curb on garbage day. So I returned my small garbage cans and replaced them with the large ones she so loved.
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she told me that she didn’t want my friend Royan, who owned the barn where my horse lived, to come onto the property, because Royan was just looking for something to get her in trouble and not coming to see me, because she was my friend. Royan was a spy.
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she told me that most of the doors and windows did not close and lock, and when I asked her why, she replied, “Because the house is on the San Andreas Fault”. Our last earthquake was 1994. And I am pretty sure that all of the other homes on the street, which also, and I’m assuming this because I am not a geologist, sit on the San Andreas Fault, have doors and windows that close and lock.
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she wanted me to hang the chain and padlock on the gate that was off kilter, most likely due to the San Andreas Fault, high enough so that the drunken homeless transients who slept on the sidewalk across the street from the house, would see the lock and know not to come in.
As a matter of fact, it didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she told me that the reason she doesn’t keep up her property was because if she did, the drunken homeless who slept on the sidewalk across the street from the house would try to break into the property.
When it came to the drunken transients sleeping on the sidewalk across the street from the house, I was a little confused, because she was part of the neighborhood watch. And proud of it. So when I moved in and found out that there were, indeed, drunken homeless sleeping on the sidewalk across the street from the house, I called the police.
And they came and picked them up.
Once a week, every week in that first month. Once a week every week for the second month. And when I told the police that I was sorry, but I would be calling every time I saw some drunken homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk across the street from the house, they said, “No problem. You call, we’ll come. That’s our job.”
So after a while, the drunken homeless just stopped sleeping on the sidewalk across from my house.
I’m thinking the neighborhood watch program of which My Landlady was so proud of being a leading member, was not exactly a tremendous success.
And I’m pretty sure that if I was a drunken homeless and saw the state of the property across the street, that would be the perfect property to come and pee on, because it already looked like the sh*thole she called it. That was the only truthful thing she every said to me.
And I never saw any of the drunken homeless try to break into or even walk past the nicer, more well-tended homes next to The Little House From Hell.
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she told me to water the orange tree in front of the house and then not to water the orange tree in front of the house and then tell me to water the tree in front of the house and then…
It didn’t occur to me that she was crazy when she told me to flush the toilet 3 times.
It didn’t occur to me she was that crazy when she told me that there was no heat in the house, but there was a fireplace. A very special fireplace. A Swedish Fireplace.
Now, I am not Swedish. And this was not Sweden. This was a house in Los Angeles and the year was 2016. So the though of chopping wood and carrying into the house to heat it was a little foreign to me. Every person I know in my 60 years of life in this country have some kind of home heating system.
Because I grew up in and have lived in a civilized society. One might even call it an educated society – even if I don’t hold 2 Masters.
There’s more that didn’t occur to me she was that crazy, but the thing that finally dawned on me that she was crazy was that she told me she held two Masters.
In every conversation, however short.
The first time she told me she held two Masters, I thought it was to impress me. The truth is, I really don’t care about things like that. It just doesn’t impress me. I’m sure they’re very difficult to accomplish and cost a pretty penny to boot, but the truth for me is, Masters only mean something to other people whom Masters mean something. If you want to work in a University or some kind of Corporate Environment. My Landlady’s Masters were in Speech and I guess she did have two Master’s because she never shut up.
So by the 5th time she had told not only me, but the man I hired to fix the doors that wouldn’t lock, my friend Kathryn, who was the only person I could invite over to that sh*thole of a property, the UPS man who dropped off a package, the PODS man who brought my POD over and anyone else who was in earshot, that she had not 1 but 2 Masters, I knew she was officially crazy. She brought it up in every single conversation we ever had. Every single time. Ok, almost every time, but enough so that I would play a game in my head, waiting for her to mention it. She didn’t often disappoint me.
And we had a lot of conversations, because she just wouldn’t leave me alone. If she wasn’t knocking on my door, she was calling me, if she wasn’t calling me, she emailed.
Something was really wrong with her.
But it didn’t stop there.
She was a hoarder. Like the ones on TV.
I discovered that once by her own culpability, the second, through my dog, Brownie.
She had told me, when I moved in, that my driveway was to the left of my door. It really wasn’t a driveway, it was an area outside the off kilter locked gate where I could park. I had two spaces. She requested I back into the space. It wasn’t a suggestion.
But then her fences needed repair. When I moved in they were held up by 4 or 5 of the brown garbage cans that the LA DWP gave to homeowners for horse poop. Now, normally, she parked in the middle of the property, to the right of my house, by her Ingress and Egress and where she insisted I leave my now-too-big-for-me garbage cans. But since the fence men needed to come in and out, she parked her little red truck next to mine in my driveway area. And even though she had declared that area of parking the area that belonged to the house I was paying money to rent, she parked there anyway. Whether I liked it or not.
And the passenger seat was loaded with papers. Loaded. Papers that had turned gray and yellow. Papers that looked like they had been there so long, that there was no way that she just had left them there over the weekend until she could bring them inside.
It gave me pause.
But it was really none of my business and I had other things to do.
Primarily I had to heal from the emotional devastation of my move to Florida. I had to find my happiness again. I had to find something to do with my life.
I knew, from the first week I had moved in, that I had to move out, great water pressure in the bathroom notwithstanding.
But I had just moved. Technically, I had moved to Florida, moved from Florida, moved into the Tiny Trailer, moved out of the Tiny Trailer, moved into the Little House in less than a year, and even though I knew – I knew, that even if I paid a team of designers from all of the House & Garden Shows – and I would have, I wouldn’t be able to live in the Little House and would have to move again.
I just wanted to catch my breath. I just wanted to heal. I just wanted to gather my strength.
I’m a great tenant. I pay my rent on time. I maintain the property. I am quiet.
I just didn’t understand why she just wouldn’t leave me the f*ck alone.
And then my dog, Brownie, slipped from his leash.
We were coming back from a walk. Walking three dogs is not easy, even if they are little, especially when there is an off kilter gate with a padlock that must be at a certain height, so the drunken homeless can see it, and not come in and try to steal any of the dirt that surrounds the property.
Brownie took off towards the back of the property, where my Landlady had her barn, with her horses and her home.
She is also very proud of her horses. There are 3 of them. They are all dark brown so they all look the same to me. I’m not really a horsewoman, I’m a woman with a horse. But she has something on her voice mail that says she has some kind of horse farm and has something to do with horse rescue of this particular kind of dark brown horse.
And of course, she has Katy come every day to feed the horses and I think once or twice a week to ride the horses around the property – which I can’t begin to tell you about the amount of dirt that floated into my house through the windows that wouldn’t lock and I occasionally needed to open to get some air in the house.
So I actually thought that her horses were well cared for.
Until Brownie slipped his leash.
And I threw the other 2 dogs into my yard and took off after him.
He ran under the brand new horse fencing and I ran after him. I had never been back there before, because I, unlike My Landlady, honored privacy.
And I ran past the barn.
And stopped dead in my tracks.
I couldn’t believe the squalor those horses were living in. I don’t even want to describe it because I don’t want to think about it. These were her horses. These were the horses that were on The Something or Another Farm that she had on her voice mail. The Friends of Whatever Kind Of Horse she was trying to protect. My heart broke for those animals.
And I knew if this was how her horses lived…
I rushed after Brownie.
He had skittered around the barn towards her house when I grabbed him, before he ran under the broken down fence she had in the front of her home. And then I saw the dilapidated state of her house, which was marginally better than the barn where her horses lived.
It was, indeed, a sh*thole.
And when I tucked Brownie under my arm and headed back to what had become The Little House from Hell, I saw not one, but two wheelbarrows filled with even more papers than I saw in the passenger seat of her little red truck.
I can’t even imagine what the inside of her home and the third house on the property that she calls her office looks like.
But I have watched many episodes of Hoarders, so I have some idea.
And that’s when I knew that there was really something very, very wrong with her and that I had to get out of there as soon as I could. Because it was never, ever going to get better.
I wish I had paid more attention when she told me why the previous tenant had moved out in 4 months.
In the final month I lived there, through December, while I figured out where I would move, I tried to think kindly of my Landlady. There really was something wrong with her. These weren’t quirks or eccentricities. These were serious things that needed some kind of psychological attention.
I finally found a place, before the house I am in now. That’s another story but we are falling far behind in my timeline so I am going to leave it out.
When I moved, there were very few things left to move because during the months I realized how crazy she was and how I just had to get out of there, I would pack things and load the car and drive the boxes down to the pretty, well maintained POD storage Facility in Van Nuys.
I cried every time I opened that POD and saw all my things and the life I thought I would have in Florida, with my family.
I found a new place in January.
I hired Master Cleaners, the same cleaner who had cleaned the decrepit Tiny Trailer, even though this house was clean, because I am a clean and tidy person. He came and steam cleaned the carpet, which I couldn’t keep vacuumed because of the horses that roamed around the property and kicked up all that dirt and Katy who rode the horses around the property and kicked up even more dirt. He and his band of Master Cleaners cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, even though I had already cleaned it and it was spotless. He cleaned the kitchen floor with a machine, even though I rarely, if ever cooked there because the stove wouldn’t hold temperature and I really don’t know how to cook on an electric stove.
The place was spotless when I left.
She is refusing to return my deposit. For many reasons, none of which are true.
So now I know that not only she is a liar, but she is also a thief. And I told her so.
I’m going to go after her for the deposit, because I’m not that crazy, but the truth is, I would have paid her far more just to have gotten the hell out of there. And I do feel sorry for her, because there is something wrong with her, and no one (including me) cares enough about her to tell her so.
And now, I am actually grateful for that crazy lady, because if she wasn’t so crazy, I would still be living in that sh*thole with the dirt and the yellow walls and ceilings and no heat, and doors and windows that didn’t quite close but a bathroom that had great water pressure, trying to make it work instead of here, where I live in a lovely home in a lovely neighborhood in Burbank with lovely neighbors and no drunks sleeping across the street and a Landlady who lives in San Diego and friends I am proud to have come visit me.
So thanks, Julie T. , my life is even better than I thought it would be and it’s all because of you.