Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Open House"

Our house is a hundred years old. That’s old for California. In New England, a hundred year old house is “that monstrosity those new people put up.” But out here, any place older than a hundred has a bell at the top of it, and is inhabited by friars. Those will be your California Missions, which have dotted the landscape since Zorro tormented the Commandante.

I wrote elsewhere about how, before we ended up buying it, Dr. M saved this house from demolition, by spearheading a campaign to get it declared a Santa Monica landmark. I also mentioned that, being a structure close to the ocean, our house requires constant, not uncostly, maintenance, reporting, with only slight exaggeration, that we paint the thing every Tuesday.

Dr. M is the clinical director of an institute that trains future psychologists, and provides low fee therapy to people who can’t pay that much. This is a truly noble undertaking. However, as a business, it’s deficient in a fiscal fundamental:

Offering therapy to people with no money guarantees you will make no money doing so.


“How did we forget that part?”

Actually, they didn’t. The people who created the institute were committed to delivering a much-needed service to the community, believing the financial issues would work themselves out. Well, so far, they haven’t. The place always needs money.

Put those two pieces of information together, and you have…

A tour of a hundred year-old house, plus three other vintage houses in the neighborhood, to raise money for the institute.

That’s what’s happening this Sunday, from eleven to two-thirty. If you’re in the vicinity, feel free to drop by.

It’s tricky. A tour of your own house presents certain questions:

What do you show? And what do you put in a drawer?

Six days before the event, the living room already looks pristine. Dr. M has been moving things around. The coffee table books currently on display – art, photography, classic architecture. The NHL’s Greatest Goalies – it didn’t make the cut.

And so it goes with every room in the house.

The kitchen sparkles. The bedrooms are uncluttered, the bedding, crisp and wrinkle-free.

It’s understandable. Strangers will be coming through. You want to make an impression. What kind of impression? I’m not exactly sure. But it seems to involve the illusion that nobody actually lives here.

There’s a two-foot high, straw basket that serves as our laundry basket. On "Tour Day", there will be nothing in that basket.

An unused breadbasket houses my accumulation of medicines. On "Tour Day", it too will be empty.

The piano’s in the basement. I have to consider what music to set up on it.

“‘The Big Note Disney Fake Book.’ What is he, six?”

Can’t leave that out.

My piano stand will likely display some classical sheet music I have never looked at. Fur Elise. The alternative is the theme song from To Sir, With Love.

The Master Bathroom will be “Off Limits.” But you can stand at the door and look in. What exactly will you see? Neatly folded towels. The infamous “Giant Soap” I wrote about recently, which is still dangerously humongous. “High end” shampoo beside the tub. But no T-Gel. That’s dandruff shampoo.

We have to be careful. We have a reputation to uphold:

“We don’t take medicine. And we never flake.”

Okay, Earl. So what would you want strangers to see when they’re coming through your house – you, watching a ballgame in your underwear, eating cereal with your hands?

No. But not a museum. Something more natural. I hate pretense and phoney-baloney. It feels blatantly dishonest.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to arrange my Emmys, my Humanitas Prize, and my Cable Ace Award in a way that will make jaws drop in reverence and admiration.

Hey, I won them, didn’t I?

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