Sunday, September 4, 2011

What was he thinking?

Most people, when moving into a home, find a couple quirky features that leave them scratching their heads and wondering, "What were they thinking?"  Maybe it's the odd shade of chartreuse paint in the bathroom or the haphazard shelving in the closet, or carpet that wasn't expertly installed.

Well, we had a lot of those moments with this house.  Our favorite was the absence of doorknobs on any internal door in the house, with the notable exception of the bathroom (we think it had been recently added).  There were doorknob-sized holes where a knob would generally have been installed, but instead, a piece of yarn was tied around the hole to make opening and closing easier.  What happened to the doorknobs that we assume once were there?

The man who owned the house for over 30 years was a heavy drinker.  According to the title, he and his wife bought the house in the 1970s, but were divorced years later.   We suspect that those absent doorknobs, likely to have been worth some money if they were the original knobs installed in the 1940s, were sold to buy liquor or pay the bills.  But that was just a guess.

Another odd feature was the kennel attached to our garage, complete with a doggie door and an enclosed space inside the garage.  As far as we knew, no dog had lived in that kennel for many years.  Why was the kennel still there?

The unfinished basement was mostly empty, apart from the huge heating system.  One small room was sectioned off in the basement, complete with carpet and paneling for walls.  Why did they choose to enclose the heating system inside that small room?  Was it a bedroom?  Could someone sleep with the heater running right next to him?  Is that even safe?

We knew that the previous owner had regular, transient tenants living in the half-story upstairs.  Most of our utilities are split into apartment 1 and apartment 2.  Neighbors told us that at one point a family of five lived up there.  It couldn't have been a very comfortable arrangement, as that level had only one room, few adults can stand up straight due to the slope of the roof, and the entire home had only one bathroom (located on the main level).  We still can't convince the cable company that we do not live in an apartment building.

The most notorious story about the previous owner was one that our neighbors decided not to tell us until a couple years after we moved in:  that a man living in the upper story had fallen down the stairs and died one night.  I learned of it while looking through the title and seeing the lawsuit that was filed against the homeowner.  The details are a little shaky, but apparently the man was an alcoholic and was nervous about his daughter's upcoming visit from Hollywood.  The homeowner came home drunk that night and saw the man on the floor at the base of the stairs but thought he was passed out.  When he woke the next morning, he realized the man was dead and ran outside the house yelling that he was in trouble.

The man's daughter arrived in a Jaguar with an entourage (not common to our neighborhood) to collect some belongings, all of which allegedly fit into a small box, and decided to sue the homeowner for negligence.  Realizing that he had few assets and very little equity in his home, she backed down.  But this event prompted the homeowner to put the house on the market.

After I learned about the death in our home, I picked up some sage to burn throughout the house to cleanse the area of bad energy (I thought it couldn't hurt).  I also used the sage around the perimeter of the property, just in case.  Mark was a good sport through this exercise in removing bad karma from our property.

Eventually, doorknobs were added to our internal doors, the kennel was dismantled, and the makeshift room in the basement was torn down.  But the house didn't feel like our own until we started planning our addition.  That's when the big projects began.  Stay tuned.

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