Wow. The nerve of some people.

For once, the people with the nerve aren’t the rich ones.

Imagine this. You’re rich. Very, very rich. So rich, in fact, that you’ve put your mansion up for sale to the tune of 5.7 million dollars. And it’s worth it. According to Zillow, it’s 16,313 square feet, including 9 bedrooms and 15 baths. It has a heated pool as well as a spa and a sauna and a lagoon pool. It also has a bar, a two lane bowling alley, a tennis court, and a movie theater.

The owners come from IHop money, which sounds about as tacky as your average Florida millionaire. But they’re not the ones who have nerve. More power to them, I say. Way to be capitalists while your wait staff at the IHop are probably on Food Stamps.

Anyway.

No, in this rare case, the people with nerve aren’t the rich people. They are an engaged couple who decided it might be fun to have a two day wedding celebration, without permission, in a mansion that they assumed was abandoned. Because Florida. You can’t make this stuff up.

According to this article, and this one, Courtney Wilson attended several open houses at this location, pretending to be a prospective buyer of the estate. At that time, he approached the owner about having his wedding there, but the owner politely declined. You’d think that would be the end of the story.

But no.

It seems that Courtney Wilson and his bride-to-be, Shenita Jones, decided to push forward with the wedding anyway. Their very elaborate, multi-page wedding invitation calls the place “The Wilson Estate”, and “our dream home”. It goes on to describe how they met in high school, but that Courtney was a bit of a “bad boy” at the time, so Shenita paid him no mind.

Heaven knows how many of those wedding invitations were sent out, but I’d love to know why no friend or family member questioned their sudden, miraculous acquisition of a multi-million dollar home. (Especially Courtney’s ex-wife.) Sure! I’ll come to your wedding! And I’ll also come the next day for the brunch by the pool, accompanied by a jazz band!

Imagine the homeowner’s shock, on the morning of the big day, when Courtney shows up, expecting to set things up for the big event. The owner called 911 and said there were people trespassing, and that they said it was God’s message that they have their wedding there.

I don’t know about you, but the god of my understanding does not encourage breaking and entering and illegal trespass. Even coveting is frowned upon in most spiritual tomes, as far as I know. But hey, to each his own interpretation, right?

Needless to say, the wedding did not take place. A couple other questions spring to mind. Did Shenita Jones even know that the wedding venue hadn’t given permission for its use? Did she really think it was owned by Wilson? Are they still getting married or did god inform them that there would be a slight change of plans? Were they able to get any of their deposits back for cake and chairs and jazz band? And did the poor homeowner have to spend the rest of the next 48 hours turning away wedding guests?

The mind boggles.

“The Wilson Estate”

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No Owl Should Ask Its Name: Crawford Hoarding

The alarm woke me out of REM sleep again.

The alarm woke me out of REM sleep again. I hate when that happens. It takes me forever to shake the fog out of my head.

But it also allows me to take a peek into my subconscious, because I’m often still in a dream, and can actually hear what’s going through my mind for a split second. That was the case this morning, and it was so surreal I immediately wrote it down.

What the voice in my head was saying was, “No owl should ask its name: Crawford Hoarding”.

Um…What am I supposed to do with that? Who, or what, is Crawford Hoarding?

It almost sounds like the name of a mansion in one of those fascinating places where people name their mansions. If so, I suspect the place is jam packed with stuff. “Welcome to Crawford Hoarding! Please watch your step.”

And why shouldn’t an owl inquire about the place? (Or person. Or thing.) What would the consequences be for said owl? And since when can owls talk, anyway? Where were we? Narnia?

I think this would make a great book title. I should suggest it to J. K. Rowling. She could work her magic on it. And I could get a free ticket to the premier of the movie version.

Until then, warn any owls that you might encounter to mind their own business. Just in case.

owl

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The Gaches Mansion

I love Victorian houses, with their elegant porches, dormers, scrollwork, and spindles. I particularly love the Queen Anne style, because towers and turrets make my imagination run wild. I can see myself living in one of these magical manses, wearing high-collared, full-length dresses. I just can’t picture me paying the heating bill.

One of my favorites is the Gaches Mansion (rhymes with “mashes”). It’s in La Conner, Washington, and it was built in 1891. It’s 4700 square feet with 11 foot ceilings, which is why I wouldn’t want to heat it, but oh, is it ever gorgeous. Its Douglas fir floors and trim, and its fireplaces with original Italian tile make you almost forget that there are no built in closets, which was typical of this type of architecture.

The Gaches Mansion La Conner

My favorite room, of all the rooms on earth, is the 3rd floor tower room. It’s circular, has windows on all sides, and the pointed roof is covered with a gorgeous turquoise blue mural which sets off the woodwork nicely. Whenever I enter that room, I never want to leave.

Tower Room

Over the years, this house has been many things, from a private residence to the first hospital in Skagit County to an apartment building. Unfortunately a resident carelessly set it ablaze in 1973 with his cigarette. (Damned renters!) What a heartbreaking event that must have been.

Gaches Manion ablaze

The good news is that a bunch of citizens got together and purchased and restored the building a year later. That couldn’t have been easy. It then became an art gallery. But the reason I particularly love this mansion is because of what it houses now.

Intrigued? Watch this space tomorrow.

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On Being Politically Violated

The mansion had been locked up for so long that most of us had never glimpsed the interior. There was no need, we thought. It looked beautiful from the outside. Grand. Stately. Well-landscaped. We were proud that it was the blueprint for mansions around the world. We were proud that it was ours.

And then cracks began to appear, in the windows, walls and roof. The foundation started to crumble. We began to wonder if its residents were actually doing anything to maintain this landmark edifice. This problem seemed to be one of long-standing, but we hadn’t been paying attention.

Then, about a year ago, an ungodly stench started to emanate from the bowels of the building. A coppery smell, like blood. The odor of stinking, raw sewage. Something was not right. We all knew this, but seemed at a loss to do anything about it.

The newest residents of the mansion didn’t seem to care. They actually seemed to delight in the decay, or at least were indifferent to it. They made all sorts of bizarre excuses. They pointed a finger at everyone except themselves. There were even feeble attempts at fireworks displays to distract us from the real problem.

There was talk of putting up a great big wall around the mansion, to keep out the undesirables. Perhaps, too, that would keep us from peeking in the windows and seeing the criminal neglect that we have allowed, and in some cases even encouraged, and the illegal acts that are causing this decay and this acrid pong of corruption and defilement. All this, in our house. OUR HOUSE.

There has been quite a bit of talk about this, actually. So much talk. And yet, no action.

Now, here we sit, feeling helpless and frustrated and sick, watching as this beautiful symbol slowly sinks back into the earth, and leaves behind an empty space, and a bittersweet memory of what we once had.

white house

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The Hefner Spin

Jeez, Hef is barely cold, and he’s already being immortalized. I just heard something on NPR, for chrissake, that said that his magazine sparked the sexual revolution. I almost choked on my M&Ms.

Okay, I’ll concede this much: His magazine made sex an open topic for discussion. His magazine normalized nudity. And sometimes, at its pinnacle, before it became the joke that it now is, it really did have good articles. Really.

But this spin that he liberated women? Omigod. Where to begin.

Playboy bunnies are seen as great successes by those who are into that stuff, but not for their brains, honey. Not for their achievements or their societal contributions. Not for any other reason than making the decision to shuck off their clothes in their early 20’s, as if the choices one makes at that age are consistently rational. Gimme a break. If anything, that liberated them to become objects.

You never hear anyone talk about the fact that his magazine helped perpetuate the body shaming that still exists to this day. Very few of us can live up to the standards that his Barbie dolls set. Even fewer of us are in our early 20’s. I actually had to give up on internet dating sites because the men my age are looking for skinny young women. You might be an old sleaze, but that doesn’t make you Hugh Hefner, buddy. Get real.

And by the way, who owned the damned mansion? Not the women whose flesh gave Hugh Hefner so much profit. He might have let some of them live there, and gave them allowances in exchange for unprotected sex, but the fortune and the control was all his. Don’t you think otherwise for a second. And by the way, if they didn’t give him or his friends sex, they didn’t get that “allowance.” That’s not prostitution… how?

The fact that so many women were willing to sleep with this creepy, dried-up 91 year old weasel in exchange for his handouts does not elevate them in anyone’s eyes. That they’d humiliate themselves by dressing up like rabbits (the ultimate breeding machines, lest we forget), does not make them pillars of the community. The fact that they were expected to entertain a revolving door of sleazy celebrities like Bill Cosby and Charlie Sheen should not, I hope, make them the subject of envy. I strongly suspect that none of them have won the Nobel Prize.

I’ve got to admit though, the dude was rife for parody. A friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Hugh Hefner died. I guess he’ll Miss October.” That did make me laugh.

1024px-Hefner2006

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Anti-Climax Heights

I was taking a trip down memory lane the other day and decided to Google Earth all my former houses. What an eye opening experience. The house I lived in right after college has been painted hot pink. The one I lived in after that, which was a total dump with rotting floors, questionable plumbing, and a seemingly incurable cockroach infestation, is now a high-end bed and breakfast. The house I used to own has been stripped of its shrubbery, has a brand new gorgeous front door, and the brick stairway I had labored over so diligently during the course of one hot summer week has been ripped out.

But the most gut-wrenching change was to the best home I ever lived in. Age 7 to 10 was the sweet spot in my childhood. For the first time in my life we weren’t held firmly in the grip of brutal poverty. (Little did I know how brief my vacation from that would be.) And the house we lived in was completely amazing.

Actually, it was a mansion, complete with fireplaces, front and back stairways, a full-sized pantry off the kitchen, a gigantic side porch, and an even bigger front and back yard. It was perched atop a hill, and there was even a secret path through the woods, and lots of trees to climb. My best friend lived right across the street. Essentially it was a kid’s paradise. I had my very own room for the first time, which my mother made the mistake of allowing me to paint, so it was purple.

We didn’t own this mansion. It came with my stepfather’s job, which was managing the industrial park in which it stood. And we had to share the house with a company, something vaguely to do with publishing as I recall, which occupied the front half of the first floor. We had to be quiet during business hours. But still, it was the coolest house ever. I was completely in love with it.

It was after that that everything turned to shit. My stepfather lost the job, we moved to Florida to live in a tent, the abuse began, and the crushing poverty settled back over us like a blanket infected with smallpox. Thus ended what little childhood innocence I was allowed to enjoy.

Needless to say, that house on Climax Heights Road holds a special place in my heart. So imagine my shock when I went to Google Earth and found out the street as I knew it no longer exists. The houses were torn down. Hills were leveled. Buildings were constructed. I contacted my friend who once lived across the street from me, and she confirmed that the area is completely unrecognizable.

Days later, I’m still having a hard time digesting this news. I liked to think that no matter how turbulent my life became, there would always be a place, long ago, far away, that was an oasis, where things were good and safe and calm. My own little Brigadoon.

Sometimes when time marches on, it tramples right over your memories.

[Image credit: mrkate.com]
[Image credit: mrkate.com]

“Even Cheerleaders get Pimples on their Behinds.”

Those words of wisdom came from my mother on a day when the teenaged me was lamenting the fact that I wasn’t popular, and also complaining about a pimple on my posterior. When insight is put forth so colorfully, it tends to stick with you for life. And while it was meant to apply to a very specific situation, it does have wider applications.

What my mother was trying to tell me, basically, was to be careful what you envy. It’s often not as bright and shiny and flawless as you assume.

For instance, I know a millionaire. He owns a mansion on a lake, a beach house, a sailboat, and he travels to the Caribbean every month or so. At first I bought into his philosophy that everything is possible if you have the right attitude. I actually thought maybe I had been doing something wrong all along, and that happiness and success were within my reach if I’d just look at things differently.

And then I got to know him better and discovered that he’s a binge drinking alcoholic in the midst of losing everything in a nasty divorce. He’s not happy. His life isn’t a huge success. In fact, he’s pretty darned miserable.

I know another guy who has an amazing future ahead of him, but he’s the loneliest person on the face of the earth. It’s really sad, too, because he’s a wonderful person.

Don’t we all know people like this? The exterior looks awfully good, but scratch the surface and you discover that what lies beneath isn’t particularly attractive. My mother was right. It does you no good to waste your time with envy. Your time would be better spent working on your own life. It’s a much better investment.

cheer

(Image credit: archive.adrian.edu)

Views from my Windows—Part One

One of my first memories of any type of view was the sagging wooden third floor balcony of our shabby tenement apartment. I lived in fear of this view, because every time I stepped out of the house it was a certainty that our neighbor would be lying in wait. She was this loud old Italian lady with the most enormous breasts I had ever seen in my short life, and every time she would see me, she’d chase me down the hall and hug me until I was sure I’d suffocate in her cleavage. I don’t know what terrified me more: that woman, or the idea that that whole ratty building would collapse around us. But with no child support from my father, not one penny, ever, we were lucky to have any type of roof over our heads at all.

From there we moved into what would now be called HUD housing. It was a duplex on a corner lot, and I always assumed the yard was as big as a baseball diamond, because I’d watch my sister play kickball out there on what seemed like a daily basis. Imagine my shock when I came back to see it as an adult and saw it was about 20 feet square at most. But the lilac bush that my mother planted is still there. As an interesting side note, my other sister’s first boyfriend lived in the other half of the duplex. Then, he liked to play the drums along with Beatles records. Now, he’s in prison for serial rape. Go figure.

IMG_1160

From there we soared to the pinnacle of my residential life, for my mother remarried. We moved to a mansion, and we each had our own room. The place was called, ironically, Climax Heights, and it looked out upon a sweeping green expanse and towering trees that were perfect for climbing, and a babbling brook down the road which led to an artist enclave where they all grew to know me by name. We had a fireplace and my mother began to smile because she was finally able to get her teeth fixed. What a heavenly period. Granted, my stepfather gave me the creeps, but I was too young to understand why.

It was from there that things went to shit. My stepfather’s boss was relocating to Florida, and told him if we followed, he’d have a job there. So we decided to camp our way from Connecticut and down the coast. About the time we hit Virginia, the boss died, and no one wanted to give a job to a 350 pound old man with questionable intelligence. My stepfather briefly got a job managing a crappy apartment building that was in such a horrible neighborhood that I was not allowed to go outside. Ever. Having been uprooted from the only state I knew, my grades in school plummeted. My view was of the train tracks across the street, and the mattresses had to be burned because they were covered in some form of parasite. Needless to say, that job didn’t last long.

So next we lived in our tent. It was all we had. My view for the next 7 years was the campground, with its ever changing neighbors. To this day I can’t stand baked potatoes, which was sometimes all we had to eat. My mother sent out one last plea to my biological father, but no help was forthcoming from that quarter. So we went on welfare yet again. That’s when I started working. At age 10 I grew and sold houseplants and from that income I was able to buy school clothes. In the mean time I learned, to my everlasting regret, exactly why my stepfather gave me the creeps. Suffice it to say he was a horrible man who stole my childhood, and my ability to feel safe in this world was forever destroyed.

My goal in life after that was to go to college and get away from my stepfather. Just as I was about to do that, my oldest sister, who had joined the Air Force, bought my mother a house. My view from there was the back door of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I was always confused as to the day of the week, because I’d keep forgetting that they held their services on Saturday. But the library was two blocks away and I had a room with privacy again, and that was all I cared about. And besides, I was about to go to college. Free at last!

To be continued in Part Two….