Monday, February 18, 2013
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."
"Maybe we'd better..."
"Maybe we'd better go to the front door? You're right! Come on. You 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."