Monday, February 18, 2013

Altadena, lost and found



This summer, M and I started a weekly ritual, a walk out and about in Altadena. While we agree on many things (not so many it's boring, not so few it's irritating), she wasn't, initially, so keen about my favorite pastime -- trespassing on deserted properties.

In fact, she was kind of nervous about the whole thing, and her husband, more so. "Call me from prison and I'll make bail," he'd say as we were leaving.



It was on our third walk or so that M and I got sort of outed, lounging on the front porch of an empty house.

"We can't sit on a stranger's porch, can we? What if the owner comes home?" she said.

"Relax. This place is deserted. Note the old flyers stuck in the screen, the newspapers in the driveway. Trust me, I'm an expert at this stuff. Anyhow, worst case scenario, I'll just say I'm a journalist and want an interview; works every time."

Minutes later, a truck pulled up. Two guys jumped out and approached us with a certain amount of aggression.

"Do you live here?" I asked, brightly.

The two looked at each other, and one nodded.

"Oh, how lucky. I write a weekly column for the local news. Do you have time for an interview? Can you tell me about the woodwork -- is it quarter-sown oak?"

They didn't speak English, so after a little more chatter on our part, we smiled and waved and skipped out to the street as the gate slammed and locked behind us.

"That was close," said M.

"Relax. Like I said, the journalist-thing works every time."



After a number of months, M has developed a real thirst for this form of exploration. We find a place, and she's all about, "Check out this window," and "Try the door," and "This basement looks very interesting."



She's right. Some of the old houses are worth a look, a deep and thorough look, before they end their days as bad stucco jobs or tear downs.



Our latest find is an old farmhouse. Maybe from the late 1800's? Doesn't seem long for the world. As we poked around the tool shed, M held up a rusted something and waved it around. "I found a coal scuttle!"

"Oh Jeez, put it down; that's like tetanus waiting to happen."

"Come here and help me with the cellar door," she said.



I glanced up. It seemed a curtain moved.

I whispered, "M, the window -- I think I saw someone."



"You think?"

"Maybe we'd better..."

"Maybe we'd better go to the front door? You're right! Come on. You knock."


."

"Me, knock?"

"What are you afraid of?" M shoved me up the porch. "Just say you're a journalist and want an interview. Works every time."

41 comments:

  1. I would have peed about a hundred times. Im not so good at breaking rules.

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  2. You're brave. I love old houses but not enough to trespass LOL. Did anyone answer? Was it a woo woo?

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  3. Great post! In the last photo, it looks like a little dog face in the door, or perhaps a reflection?

    You two are a lot braver than me. However, I am tempted to look in windows of old houses occasionally, if they look deserted. I'll have to remember your "interview-journalist" line....

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  4. Shucks, Margaret, I thought M was you! And it's not Ms M either? Next time you find an old house, sprinkle some flour around the entrance, then come back a few days later to see if there are footprints. Of course, if you're caught doing this, you won't be able to use the journalist ploy.

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  5. Sounds like u a great adventure!. btw the journalist line might get old? at least u didn't say health dept. or child services...better yet INS...oops

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  6. The term "ballsy" comes to mind. My husband would make a perfect companion for your, um, journalistic endeavours. He loves traipsing around in old deserted buildings. Me, I'm afraid I'll fall through the floorboards, or get hanta virus from all the mouse droppings. Those old buildings creep me out, although I do find them appealing from the outside.

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  7. Great post, Karin!
    Love also to explore old houses and deserted properties.
    The porch with the creeper looks nice and I can imagine when it was a new house...
    Yes, I the journalist-thing works every time. Lol!
    I love huge photos, so I enlarged them and can see all the details.

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  8. I like looking around old places like that, but unless I'm slightly inebriated or lacking oxygen to the brain, I'm a good Westridge girl, breaking rules is not such my thing.

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  9. Ha! you can't believe I relieved I was that Boo Radley or whoever didn't answer the door.

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  10. A blog on prison life would be interesting.

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  11. I like breaking rules. Never had a tinge of guilt if i needed to cheat on a test - and if I had been M, I would have taken the bathtub leg in the second photo and posted it on Trash Tuesday.

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  12. Old houses are the best! I'm always sorry when they are allowed to go to seed. With the new tractor, the journalist line should be easy to pull off!

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  13. The last time I actually ventured into an abandoned house was when I was in high school. Several of us were hiking, at night, to explore this abandoned house in the hollywood hills...When we were inside we found sleeping bags and food wrappers...we high tailed it out of there!!! I guess I should mention that this was shortly after the Sharon Tate murder and Helter Skelter...Visions of Charles Manson and his followers were all we needed to get the heck out of there!!!

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  14. I'm savoring the prospect of lurid headlines: Prominent Citizen and Risk-taking Journalist Arrested for Breaking and Entering. I'll consider going the bail if you both promise not to leave the environs of Altadena.

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  15. Funny! I remember someone from days past, who reveled in the art of trespass. Property lines and questions of privacy were a tad arcane, passé, things to be ignored for the simple adventure. I rather thought that time would quiet that buzz that rang in the psyche, pushing the ache, the itch, to the fore. No 12 step program or psych’s couch would ever stem that adrenal spurt, which quickened the steps to the next property line, through a door unlocked and hanging askew by rotted hinges. Nothing changes but that it remains the same. Tsk. Tsk.

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  16. You are brave. Though I have to admit, old, abandoned-looking houses do have a sort of come-hither look.

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  17. Wonderful post.

    I know this house. I have wondered whether it would last each storm we have had since moving here, but somehow it pulls through. I have never seen anyone enter or exit it.

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  18. Fun! I'm a rule breaker but I'm not so good at confrontation so when those guys walked up, I might have choked. You can sit in my courtyard anytime :)

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  19. I'm sure this house has lots of stories, just don't know where to look for them. There was a truck in the garage, last registered four years ago. I think the truck is a 1940s model, but M thinks it's from the 70s. I wouldn't trust either of us on this.

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  21. It's the turquoise trim that makes it especially intriguing to me. Who in the world uses turquoise trim? Probably someone very interesting.

    Way to go! It's always better to apologize than ask for permission.

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  22. I'll use that journalist excuse next time I am caught trespassing. you may have created a monster here.

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  23. To John Evans: Check out 2098 Crescent Dr., Very large, very "done", sold two years ago for lots of money. That color trim was very much the thing in the 20s and is used in restorations of Mediterranian/Spanish revivals built during that time.

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  24. That's a good ruse you've got up your sleeve, though I wonder how it would work if the "visitors" were two males.

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  25. Well, I made a point of shopping local today and I would have had a better time on your jaunt than the snotty check-out I got and paid for at one of my stops. As always, it isn't what you do, it's how you do it. Obvy. I would be willing and able to trespass, done lots of it myself, but I also always have Ranger with me. I assume The Albert was there as well?

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  26. you didn't lift that fan? Great photos you urban explorer, you...

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  27. I think Ms M is seeing a ghost?

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  28. Kenny Mac, oh, the fan caught my eye, too. Of course, the first rule of urban investigation is to leave everything as it is. I bragged about your site, by the way, and K's. How you just document what's left before it's gone.

    Paula, no. Albert would be too intrusive.

    And D and J, turquoise, isn't it lovely.

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  31. As a kid, I would've been drawn to a spooky house like this - with a gaggle of friends to protect me of course. Now I'll take the vicarious thrill of your adventure.

    This feels like the first chapter; I look forward to the next one.

    Oh, and I think PA should join you, although she wouldn't abide by your first rule of urban investigation.

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  32. aaaaaah......am feeling properly scarred already.....get the hell outa there!!!!!

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  33. I've pulled the journalist thing a time or two as well. Works surprisingly well. Sad about the deserted properties. Sometimes on road trips, we'll pass farm houses in various stages of decay/collapse. Part of me always thinks "we could fix that up!" and is always immediately reminded that "and then we'd live out here off the highway, in the middle of nowhere."

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  34. The house looks spooky in bw. Rather intriguing in color. My childhood house trim was painted in the same color. Love this series of images. What a great explore.

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  35. The house looks spooky in bw. Rather intriguing in color. My childhood house trim was painted in the same color. Love this series of images. What a great explore.

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  36. Susan, I'm pretty sure even PA only does curbside pick up.

    Terry, I think the secret is to have two places. I just don't know the secret to affording that.

    YAH, you're a world traveler so I don't believe that for a second.

    LH, we should go on an adventure sometime.

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  37. Not true - only PA gets caught by the police. Remember my series on feral real-estate?

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