If you are going to start a family you have to find a place to call home. Almost every living land animal that reproduces and cares for its young builds some type of nest. Biology drives us to protect our offspring. We look for a safe haven to give birth and nurture development; A shelter. A den. A hollow log. This is a basic need along with food and water.
Shelter. Actually, this is the first thing people build on the survival show Naked and Afraid.
An unspoken rule in the search for asylum: The actual place you decide to live should not be the most hazardous thing in your life. Your house shouldn’t try to kill you. My wife and I missed this memo and, according to Darwin, should have been naturally unselected years ago. This is a story about the first place we called
I don’t even know how to intro this story because nothing about moving into that house seems real. All I can say is that we were young and possibly on hallucinogenic drugs.
We scheduled a visit to look at the house. My wife isn’t from the area so she foolishly defers judgment to me and we take our tour. We pull into the driveway of the red brick house and I immediately notice that backing out will be a challenge. The driveway was off of a heavy traffic road, near a ninety degree curve, and the edge of the yard was lined with four foot hedges. Average car speed is about 35 miles per hour and visibility zero. The situation was begging someone to trigger a fiery pileup. But let’s keep an open mind here. Instant death from the driveway might not be that big of an issue. This house may still be awesome.
Note: There is a dormer window on the roof that is fake. I can see the shingles through the window. They didn’t even bother pulling the shingles off to build the fake window. More puzzling is that there is actually a second story that could make use of this window.
The realtor greets us with a smile and takes the key out of the lock box. The beefy deadbolt lock on the iron-barred storm door clicks open and it swings wide out onto the postage-stamp-sized porch requiring my wife and I to go back down a step. The second, solid wood door had a deadbolt also and no knob, just a pull handle. The deadbolt on the second door was controlled by a key pad. Somewhat like having a retinal scanner on Noah’s Ark. A little shoulder bump and that door opened right up into a freshly carpeted living area with freshly painted wallpaper. It was peeling in spots because new crappy wallpaper that is soaked in paint doesn’t stick to nicotine coated 1950’s wallpaper.
So visualize for a second…. The living area has a door directly ahead of us that concealed the water heater/random-electrical-connections/under-the-stairs area. A large opening on the right of that door gives passage directly into the “kitchen” which we can see has two pipes for the Washing Machine sticking out of the floor and some counter space. That is about all this kitchen had, seriously. We will revisit the “kitchen” in a moment.
To our left is an open doorway into a three foot square hallway with a door on every wall. Two lead to bedrooms and one leads to a bathroom in between. The door knobs to each room were some kind of ancient iron with the keyholes that you could look through. You know, the skeleton key style. The doors looked like someone’s wagon broke down on the Oregon Trail so they sold the sides and someone said, “Those would make great doors.” Inside the “master” bedroom there was a small closet that had a dark opening at the top left into the space between the floors. My sister is along for the ride and comments that, “This reminds me of the house on The Grudge.” I agree.
That is the entire first floor. Six hundred square feet of disappointment. The backside of the kitchen has an undersized doorway leading to a loft and bedroom with a recent bathroom addition. The house isn’t a true two-story so the ceiling is slanted like the roof and the walls are lower on two sides. The bathroom upstairs is shoved to one side so you have to lean right to enter and stoop over to pee without hitting your head. Girls are fine until you stand up. I think the shower was a hollowed out refrigerator that was plumbed to the vent pipe of the bathroom below. This is 100% true stuff.
Notes on the second story, the roof is apparently leaky and the wallpaper is peeling everywhere. Oh and the bathroom has one light bulb that you have to pull a string to turn it on and off.
Now let me ask you a question, “What would be the instant, knee-jerk reaction of anyone who hasn’t been huffing spray paint?”
Answer: To make an offer at the listing price and move in? Oh yeah, living the American Dream.
Except we needed a co-signer. Our credit was collectively so bad that we couldn’t buy a demon possessed, leaky death trap that nobody actually wanted. No surprise that they accepted the offer. Did I mention the creepy and rotted out shop building that was included for free? Neither did the sellers.
Wow! Homeowners! We have a castle to build our fairytale kingdom. Time to move in and take control of our destiny! Time to take a deep breath and let the experience sink in for a moment. Keep in mind that we chose this place specifically to begin our lives together, to bring children into the world. Impressive.
So on move in day I actually have to work but my wife is so excited that she says, “I’ll spend the day moving some of the smaller boxes and we can finish the big stuff when you get home.” Spoiler alert – The big stuff was a wicker papasan and a double bed. I agree.
Later that day I get a phone call from my not-so-excited wife. She is in a hushed whisper, “You need to come to the house right now.”
“Why, what is wrong? Why are you whispering?”
“There is a strange man who stopped to help me carry boxes, he says he lives behind us and his name is Dollar Bill.”
“How do you know his name?”
“He said, “What it is! What it is! My name is Dolla’ Bill and imma help you move.””
My ADHD guides my response, “I wonder if he is related to Fifty Cent? I bet it is his dad because fifty cents is half of a dollar.” I’m an idiot sometimes.
In an angry whisper she says, “That’s not the point! He drives a serial killer van!”. I hear her change her tone of voice and talk to someone obviously in the same room, “Oh thank you so much, my husband says thank you too and he is on his way so I think we have it.”
The mystery man leaves and she tells me, “Get your ass to this house now.”
We are surprised by our strange neighbor so we do the reasonable thing and look at crime databases on the internet. Lo and behold there is a registered sex offender on the same side street as Dollar Bill and he has a listed alias that I won’t put on here for safety concerns, let’s go with Wild Bill. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, his offense was statutory for relations with a 17 year old girl, maybe he is twenty and just made a bad decision and got caught in the grey area of the law? Nope, Wild Bill was a 57 year old welfare recipient on disability. Yee Haw.
This neighborhood is shaping up to be epic. The side street I mentioned is actually along one side of the property so we lived on a corner. It was on this corner that I saw my first real life prostitute. She picked up a John who was driving a dark blue Chevy Celebrity. I even overheard them discussing rates for services. All I know is it sounded like an awful lot of service for less than the price of an expensive date. If you could get past the missing teeth, manly face, and questionable skin problems. I think all of these are symptoms of Herpagynosiphylaids. Apparently those problems don’t bother awesome men driving Chevy Celebrity’s.
Neighborhood summary within a one block radius; Father of a famous gangster, registered sex offender, and active prostitution.
I bought a beware dog sign and let Dog outside every time someone strange was walking down the street. Let’s not forget a leftover from my wife being a spoiled brat is that her car was a Toyota MR-2 Spyder so we looked like crack dealers.
Mother Mary full of grace, please protect us. We just won’t go outside ever. We will live here a few years and try to sell before we have a baby. Perfect plan except for living for a few years and expecting to sell to anyone ever.
Within the first week of living in the new house we discovered several internal problems that I describe below with a bold word that identifies the danger of each item:
1) The waterlines for the washer were two pieces of plastic pipe sticking up through the floor and held in place by spray foam. No actual connection to anything. They drilled two holes in the floor, held a four foot piece of pipe in the hole and sprayed foam to hold it in place to give the appearance of water lines. There was no outlet for either washer or dryer and no vent for the dryer. WOUNDED PRIDE
2) There was an outdated plug for the stove which I replaced and found that it had been wired with an orange extension cord. FIRE HAZARD
3) The sink didn’t drain properly and we found that most of the plumbing was the old steel or lead pipe with thick corrosion on the inside. GENERAL HEALTH RISK
4) There was no AC and the heaters were two floor grates that burned out within one week of us trying to turn them on. Heating in the winter was done with space heaters and blankets over doorways to keep heat in certain rooms. The upside was that we saved money by not having to run the refrigerator, we just left the door open to the 30 degree kitchen air and left the sink slowly dripping all winter. We had a record snowfall of 13” that year. FIRE HAZARD AND HYPOTHERMIA
5) The space heater wouldn’t fit into the bathroom and the tub was made of steel. The shower would have to run for a few minutes to beat down the cold chill from the tub. Once you turned the shower off the bathroom was a comfortable 45 degrees. Better dry your hair before leaving the bathroom or it would freeze into what I called a poverty helmet. EXTREME SHRINKAGE
6) One day we noticed a sound of birds coming from the wall in the center of the house. Closer inspection revealed that there was a fireplace that was walled up but never capped, a family of bluebirds built a nest at the bottom of the old chimney and kept us company in the living room with their chirping. AVIAN FLU PANDEMIC
7) Living in the tornado zone known as Dixie Alley it is recommended that you find an interior room to take shelter during a tornado. We had a tornado that year and were faced with a cruel decision. The only interior room was the under-stair closet that housed open electrical wires and a hot water heater. Any damage to the room would result in third degree burns and/or electrocution. I got a beer and sat on the porch. At that point at least my death would be interesting. Who wants to be crushed by bricks and bad decisions. SKIN GRAFT, IMPALEMENT, ELECTROCUTION
8) The windows needed re-glazing which means that air flowed freely between the glass panes. See Kids are Creepy for how this one turned out. HEART ATTACK FOLLOWED BY DECREASED SENSE OF SELFWORTH
9) The only air conditioner we could get was a window unit that would cool the living room in the summer so we kept the doorway blankets up year round. Very exotic to have drapes as entryways. HEAT STROKE
The only other thing of note, was that in February on a night where the low was 6 degrees, I get a knock on the door. It is a lady in her early fifties in flannel pajamas and she smelled like a three day old beer. Possibly the mother of Quasimodo? She was shivering and out of gas so I took her and a 5 gallon bucket to the only station open at 3 am. We put the gas in her truck and she manages to drive home or at least away from mine. I feel like it was the right thing to do because she ‘surely would have died’ and allowing her to drive away knocked that down to a ‘maybe could die’. I help where I can.
A couple of months later she stops by, I thought to say “Thanks!”. She said in a slurred drawl, “ ‘member when you helped me a few months ago? That was so nice.”
“Well thank you I hope you are doing well.” It is nice to hear appreciation for my generosity.
She kept talking, “Actually I’m not very well and I need to get my medicine. Do you have about $40 dollars that you could loan me to get my medicine.” This random boozer just hit me up for money after I basically saved her life. How do you have the balls to ask a stranger for $40 for a prescription. Hell no. I’m not starting that dependency.
I try nip that in the bud, “No I helped you not die in 6 degree weather, buying medicine is something I think you need to handle.”
She appeared to be angry, “Well I’m sorry I stopped by.”
“Me too. Both times. Try to check your tank before you go binge drinking for the night. And soap, try some soap.” People are amazing.
This was our Love Nest. We made a poor choice.
So if you carefully planned, saved, shopped around, and secured the right home in the right school district after both starting careers that paid actual money then you are better at this parenting thing than me. If you moved into the first shitty house that looked your way and put several lives in danger just by sleeping there at night then this story is for you. You’re welcome.
Underdaddy to the Rescue.