Can We Hold The Line At One Suicide Per Owner? Or Is There Something I Should Know Before Moving In?
Chapter 4 – The Invention of the FAX Machine, or a Poltergeist, or Something
The fax machine was, at the time, a piece of modern technology that signaled the end of the United States Postal Service . . . which the USPS and the sycophants in Congress have ignored. And it continues to bring us execrable service, high prices, and damaged deliveries.
It also cut down on bike messengers shooting up in your company’s bathroom and mislaying crucial documents leading to the following conversations:
Irate Joe Client: “Where the heck is the XXXXXXXXXXX? It was supposed to be here hours ago!”
Me: “According to Crystal Methengers it was delivered and signed by Irate Joe Client.”
Irate Joe Client: “Impossible. That’s me.”
Me: “Look at the hand not holding your phone.”
The advent, therefore, of the FAX machine was a boon, not only to anyone who took sadistic pleasure in the overreactive meltdowns of clients . . .
. . . uh, that would be me.
But also yearned for a more efficient way of delivering the simplest of messages.
However, when the thing goes off at 3am, you have to wonder what in the world could be so crucial as to warrant 37 pages of legalese marching through the machine and landing on the carpet in your home office. Adding to the spike in my heart rate, the proximity of the FAX. It sat in the home office, a room right next to our master bedroom.
My wife could sleep through an event such as a mushroom cloud blossoming in our backyard, but I had the REM depth of a bloodhound. I ejected myself out of our bed and landed on the floor in front of the FAX and waited for the remaining pages. When I focused on the readout, it said, “Page 2 of 37.”
I made a cup of tea. Read two chapters of Stephen King’s Insomnia. I walked down to our garage and started a load of laundry.
The FAX ground out the last of the pages and I spread them out on my home office desk and read the top page. It was our formal offer to the estate of 310 Twin Peaks Blvd., dated in the Autumn of 1993. Of course the calendar now read September of 1995.
The estate of 310 Twin Peaks Blvd. conveniently glossed over the “Offer Valid for 30 Days” language at the top of the form. The estate also decided to send the 35 pages of boiler plate terms and conditions. The only parts of an offer sheet necessary are the first page, which has the specs and contingencies, and the last page, which contains the signatures.
I paper clipped the document, and went back to bed, where Lee slumbered. I passed a hand mirror under her nose. It fogged.
“Who was that?” She croaked out.
“The FAX fairy left us a surprise.”
“Can it wait until morning?”
“It is morning, but it can wait a few more hours.”
“I love you too.”
Genuine morning arrived around four hours later. Vickie and Joan called.
“The office received a fax last night,” said Joan.
“You mean this morning at 3am.”
“How did you know that?”
“I’m holding the clone in my hands, or you’re holding the clone,” I said. “No matter. We both have an offer in hand that expired about two years ago.”
“Vickie and I spoke to the agent for the estate,” said Joan. “They’re ready to revise the acceptance of the offer, if you’ll buy the house as is.”
“Did IQs drop in Chicago recently?” I asked.
“Not that we know of. Why?”
“Because it clearly states on the two year old front page that we had removed all the contingencies and that we are aware of the death on the premises; the leak into the kitchen; and the need for an electrical upgrade. We also are willing to do a complete inspection and compare it to the original property lines so we know where 310 Twin Peaks boundaries begin and end.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Then what are the next steps?”
“We will issue an updated offer, which means we’ll take this one and put it into the new legal document. Should we assume you’re sticking with the $830,000 price?”
“Sure,” I volunteered. “Given how long they’ve screwed around, they’ve lost even more money on the deal.”
“Yes, that’s ironic.”
“Do we want to take a walk-through?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Vickie, the most pragmatic of our foursome. “I’ve already set it up for today, if you can make it, with the house’s caretaker.”
“Yes, someone has been living on the premises for the past two years.”
“Anything unusual about them?”
“What do you mean?”
“Undead. Uh, vampire. Ghost, maybe? You know the usual questions. Have you ever seen the TV Show with the Crypt Keeper in it? That’s what I’m expecting to see when we get there today.”
“You’ll be disappointed. He’s a living, breathing person named John.”
Off we went to take a perfunctory schlep through 310 Twin Peaks. We pulled into the parking area, conveniently located directly in front of the house. For some reason the highly efficient government of the city of San Francisco had opted not to spend any money on a sidewalk on the western side of Twin Peaks Boulevard. This parsimoniousness on the bureaucracy’s part allowed several cars to park, without restrictions, in a perpendicular fashion to the street.
Over the course of our ownership, three abandoned cars took up residence in this “lot” for several months. I had to call the police on all of them to get them removed.
One of them belonged to my neighbor up the street, which I did not know, because the layer of dust on the vehicle accumulated to the point of obscuring the find gold metallic paint job.
Perhaps he should have driven it once in a while. Just a guess.
Lee and I exited the car and looked up at the house. It stared back at us in a benign fashion, which made me distrust the place even more than when we had seen it two years prior.
Feel free to take in the aerial photograph posted below, but do not be fooled by its apparent beauty.
We worked our way up the 52 steps that led to the front door. John, a harmless looking individual sporting a weak attempt at winning a Tom Selleck lookalike contest greeted us at the front door.
“Getting ready for Halloween?” I asked. Lee, Vickie, and Joan took a step away from me.
“Perhaps,” he replied, not getting the joke.
“Halloween?” Asked Vickie.
“George is referring to my striking likeness to Magnum P.I.,” said John, getting the joke.
“Of course,” said Vickie.
We cruised through the house. If John had done any straightening up, it did not jump out at us, but then again, the place had not suffered during his occupancy.
The kitchen walls had deteriorated further, through no fault of John. The electrical system still needed a facelift. And the previous owner was still room temperature.
In addition, the following items needed to be addressed as soon as we moved in.
1. We needed to re-engineer the garage to accommodate a second vehicle.
2. The driveway had to be excavated and the concrete poured to widen it.
3. The brick steps had enough moss on them to qualify for an EPA inspection. A power washing was in order.
4. Weeds and vines had taken over the backyard. Our gardener from 661-28th Street would be brought in for what looked like a two week job.
Of course we had to actually buy the house.
“What’s the verdict?” Asked Vickie, as we negotiated the front steps, doing our best to avoid skidding down the moss chute to Twin Peaks Boulevard.
“Let’s submit the offer at $830,000,” said Lee, who turned to me, “You and I just have to be prepared to have contractors on the property for about the next three years.”
“Alright,” said Joan. “Today is September 30th. How long of a close do you want?”
“A month,” I said. “We should talk to a few contractors and get someone out to look at the patio, which is where that leak is coming from. And maybe the same person can also take on the garage and the driveway. I’ll call Dev to deal with the electric. He can do that in about a day.”
Joan pulled out a Day Timer.
“You want to close on Halloween?” Her voice rose a couple octaves on the last word.
“No, Joan,” I said with a laugh. “I want to take possession on Halloween!”
Chapter 4 – Give Me the Sage and Stand Back
And we did. Halloween night, 1995, we became the owners of 310 Twin Peaks Blvd. As a boy from South Jersey, the only thing that, uh, spooked me might have been the oncoming rainy season and a kitchen wall that had dry-rotted from an incessant leak.
Our Marin County friend, Deborah Collins, had something more astral planar in mind.
“You have to sage the house,” she declared after arriving to check the place out on the our first morning as owners.
“I am not sage-ing a house,” I replied.
“You have to.”
“Is that somewhere in California state property law?” I asked.
“Don’t be silly.”
“Silly? Of course. One of my best friends is going to light an herbal torch and shepherd it around my house in an effort to what? Decrease the likelihood of my adjustable rate mortgage heading north? You’re right. I’m being silly.”
“You’re such a cynic.”
“That too. Can we get this started?”
“Don’t be silly. We have to wait until it’s dark.”
“And why is that?”
I turned to my patient wife, Lee.
“Can we move back to New York now?”
Darkness did arrive and if 310 Twin Peaks Boulevard had an intimidating aspect during the day, it only got worse with the sunset as the house leaned forward on the hillside more acutely. A combination of burned out walkway lights, a yellow front porch bulb, and an empty interior only helped with the threat.
John, God bless him, had cleared out . . . his stuff. There were still just enough remnants from the previous ownership to initiate a call to Sunset Scavenger and start the trash pick-up service earlier than our move dates of the last weekend in November. We still occupied our first home over on 28th Street, and would remain there until the Thanksgiving Holiday. Our buyer planned on moving in on December 7th.
I wish I was making that up given that the new owner was a young, Japanese woman.
“Too bad we couldn’t get Judy to move in during August.”
“August?” Asked Deborah.
Lee cast a hairy eyeball in my direction.
“Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” explained Lee.
“Yes, of course,” I said. “Then we move in on Armistice Day.”
“That’s World War I, dear.”
“I didn’t want to wait until Spring.”
Deborah pulled out a paper bag from Andronico’s. It contained several stalks, or sprigs, of sage, dried out for the past week or so. She took sliver of bamboo, also dried, and tied up the bunch. I had our fireplace lighter from our other house and flicked it.
“Not yet,” said Deborah.
“Is there a ritual, or something? A chant? Are we in the proper attire?”
I laughed, but stopped when I looked at Deborah. Her skin had gone white as a, ahem, ghost.
Lee looked a little queasy as well.
“I’m not sure I can do this,” said Deborah.
“Me neither,” said Lee.
“Okay, you numbskulls, are you kidding? This was your idea. Actually it was both of your idea, if that’s a real sentence.”
“The house is so dark, and cold,” said Deborah.
“Yes, I don’t think the caretaker did a whole ton of caretaking. Doesn’t appear he had the slightest idea of how to turn a lightbulb in a socket.”
A floorboard creaked.
“What a cliché,” I said.
Deborah made a move for the front door.
“Give me the sage, Deborah.”
She handed it over. I lit it.
“As I said, this was your idea. We are saging this house.”
And we did. Every single room. The sage went out once in a while, but with the fireplace lighter on hand, that issue was remedied. We finished and I think the happiest of the three of us was Deborah Collins.
, worked, loved, and raised four-legged children for the next 22 years. There were no more strange paranormal coincidences. No one capped themselves on the premises. Things, save for a clumsy golden retriever named Harpo, did not go bump in the night.
Yes, Ozzie and Harriet were back, and except for the meth lab next door, the couple that insisted on feeding the raccoons, and the patio leak that took eight years to fix, 310 Twin Peaks Boulevard acquitted itself quite nicely in terms of domestic bliss.
And then we moved.