Monday, November 9, 2009
Eight years ago, this house was a scenic spot on my favorite run. It’s in the southern area of Pasadena, not far from the Ritz. Or whatever they call the Ritz these days. I never considered the house beautiful, maybe it had been originally,in the 20s or 30s, but too many owners had imposed too many ideas involving too much plaster and stucco. Still, no one could tamper with the basics: Large property, beautifully situated, vast view, privacy.
Regardless of the messy front, the house belongs in the mansion category – and, as one might say of a bad face lift, the sides and back are still of interest. Eight years ago I would have guessed…five million? Maybe more.
About the time I moved from the (adjacent, i.e., not rich) neighborhood, the new owners had developed an obsession with knock-off statues. Lions and tigers and bares. The bares were mostly Roman or Greek, mostly women. The grass was brown as always, but I recall pipes and columns laid out across the acreage, presaging a grand project.
When I left the area, I just forgot about it all.
I don’t know why I took a run down that road today, but I did. The house is for sale. I jogged up and down the street a couple of times, then happened to lean against the main gate for a rest. And I happened to note there was no lock on the gate. And I happened to lean a bit harder. And it happened to squeak open. Well, hallo, and I accidentally tumbled inside. It was one of those long tumbles that took me through the front yard and the back acreage, and, whoa, up to the front door, down to the service porch, reeling up a balcony, then twirling around the hall window until I was nose to glass. Balance is so tricky on a hillside.
The statuary is the least of the problems today. Foreclosure is the main one.
How odd to get up close and personal with an area I had cared about in the past, for whatever reason. I mean, how odd to visit shoe to step, forehead to glass. And what had they done. What had they done? Home Depot steps lead here and there, and the green green grass, shockingly, isn’t vegetable or even mineral. Let me put it this way, don’t light matches anywhere close to the lawn.
I felt thrilled, I felt sad. Like meeting a famous old racehorse that everyone has so forgotten, they don’t even lock the paddock.
Don’t worry old chap, I said, and brushed off a layer of leaves from the porch. Someday someone will shine you up and no one will ever know a plaster Venus posed on Astroturf by your front door.
And I sat on the steps and thought about a lot of things, just so the old house would have a few secrets on me. Just so we'd be even.