The people from whom we bought our lovely house a decade ago might as well be a Martian life form for all that I can understand their thought processes. They are from the species that believes that their elaborate space-age burglar alarm system and their arsenal of weaponry stockpiled in the basement keeps them safe and secure. As the story goes in neighborhood lore, they stored an Alamo of guns down in the wine cellar. (What kind of cabernet goes best with a Glock G19?) They may also have owned an antique bludgeon, a few nunchucks, and a handy purse-sized weapon of mass destruction. They had a reputation that lends itself to hyperbole (if not hyperventilation). Since moving here, I have heard several versions of a story that revolves around (or should I say revolvers around?) the paranoiac wife launching on a rant directed at the woman next door (something about planting hedges along the property line) while waving a handgun in her face. This resulted in a visit from the police, who discovered that these fine people had more than two dozen guns, rifles, and whatnot (I don’t know the lingo) stashed in their basement, some of which were not properly registered. This explains the NRA decals on the windows, mirrors, mailbox, and toilets that I diligently scraped off with a razor blade when we took possession. After hearing about that police raid and weapons confiscation, I felt as though we had been bamboozled into buying mini-Waco. (We had, in fact, been bamboozled, but not in the way I imagined.) I burned sage up in here every day for a year to chase out the bad vibes.
Once, I actually met the security fanatic previous owners. During the final days of escrow, when we had a done deal, I ran into them on the property. Perhaps they had gone to double-check that they hadn’t left any guns behind. They were delighted that I had shown up because they were eager to pass off every minute detail about their security system to the new owner. I wanted to ask them a few questions about the yard, but they brushed me off. “Oh, the gardener takes care of that,” they said. I guess they were too busy polishing their rifles to tend to the landscaping themselves. (They could have trimmed the bushes into weaponry shapes if they thought about it. Such uncreative individuals.) They took me on the tour as they catalogued the alarm system capabilities. They had security monitors in every room. The Mission Impossible team could not have dodged the laser sensors in this house. I nodded politely and didn’t tell them that we didn’t intend to maintain their security system. This house is in one of the most crime-free neighborhoods in existence. The closest thing to crime that I have witnessed in ten years of living in our neighborhood is when someone overlooked the fact that their dog did a poo in front of someone else’s mailbox. So it mystifies me as to why these people required surveillance cameras, arming and disarming codes, motion sensors in every room, bulletproof vests, flashing LED lights, beeping alerts, antiaircraft missiles, and outdoor floodlights bright enough to guide a helicopter in. Did they work for the CIA? Why were they so afraid? And how did they have sex without tripping the motion sensors and bringing in a SWAT team?
I have a theory. It has to do with the aforementioned bamboozling. Soon after we moved into the house, we discovered that these people are swindlers. They failed to disclose many defects about the house. The biggest defect they oops-didn’t-mention was that the furnace had crapped out and leaked carbon monoxide gas when you turned it on. How did the fellow who did the house inspection miss this? When I called him on it, he said he checked everything that he is required to check. Furnace turns on and off. Check. Ducts are working and sealed. Check. Everyone is still alive after breathing furnace-infused air is apparently not on his checklist. Since when is checking for carbon monoxide leakage not a required part of a whole house inspection? My realtor says we don’t have a case. Fortunately, because the furnace barely functioned, we survived the night on the first occasion that we used it; but everyone who slept in the house that night became ill from the carbon monoxide. We called the furnace repair company, which immediately condemned the furnace. Don’t tell me that the previous owners did not know that their furnace didn’t work. Perhaps they viewed it as just another unregistered weapon. You may think I’m being over-sensitive to barely escaping death by lethal gas, but remember that I’m a Jew. It cost us $2000 to replace that furnace. I won’t bore you with the other defects that they failed to disclose. My point here is that if you are dishonest, greedy, and up to no good then you are likely to become paranoid that someone you swindled, lied to, or wronged will come after you one of these days, therefore you need a super-powerful security system and lots of guns. I’m not a vengeful person so they needn’t worry about me. If I had a dog, I might take him over to their new house to do poo in front of their mailbox. But I have cats, who poo stealthily and not where you want them to. Also, I’m a pacifist so I have no plans to shoot them.
At first it angered me that these scoundrels had hoodwinked us, but you know how they say that living well is the best revenge. We got the better end of the deal because we enjoy living in this house and our family and friends enjoy it with us. I have created my personal Eden in the yard, now filled with fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, berries, grapes, herbs, and other plants for all seasons that attract the birds and bees. I planted a rosemary, sage, and lavender garden in the front after I killed off the lawns. I do my own gardening for pleasure, thank you very much. Our book group meets here every month. We have hosted terrific parties, and the house fits many people for sleepovers. Even though they didn’t grow up in this house, my children claim it feels like coming home when they visit. It’s a tranquil place outside the turmoil of this crazy world (filled with gun-toting paranoiacs), a safe harbor, reaffirming. Although it required many months of smudging with sage, I transformed a bad-energy house into a good-energy house. No guns or alarms required. Although, we do have a carbon monoxide detector now.
There is a bizarre coda to this tale, the kind of thing you can’t make up. The scoundrels’ son, who grew up in this house in the glory days when it was a weapons-stocked, impenetrably secure fortress, became a real estate agent, and he has an obsession with selling our house out from under us. He knocked on our door several months ago and informed us that he has a buyer for this house. My house. That I happen to live in. I told him we don’t want to move out. He was as relentless as gum on the shoe. He plunged ahead with his pitch, further informing me that his buyer wants our house because we have a concrete RV pad on the property. He asked me how much we want for our property. What we want is for him to go away. He apparently deludes himself into believing he can convince us to move out so he can secure the house for some imbecile drooling with covetousness for our RV pad on which to park his fuel-devouring, fume-belching, climate-changing monstrosity. What kind of person seriously fantasizes about an RV pad? I’m pretty sure there’s a biblical commandment that says thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s RV pad. That would be the New Testament. They didn’t have RV pads yet in the Old Testament. I suspect his buyer is simply another family member, and that this guy and his parents regret letting the property go out of the family. Now that we have paid to fix all the problems they dumped on us, they want the property back. Or maybe they can’t live with the idea that we let the RV pad go to waste by not parking anything on it, and that we disarmed their beloved security system, which was like a member of the family to them. We killed off their dear and loyal defender HAL. This realtor-guy came back to my door again just a few weeks ago to remind me that he has a buyer for my house who cherishes my RV pad. Past civility, I asked him, “What part of ‘we are living here’ do you not understand?” I didn’t need HAL to close the pod bay doors in his face.
It seems like a no-brainer to me that, on all levels, global, national, regional, community, family, circle of friends, all of it, that the best security is living honestly, compassionately, respectfully, and not trying to bamboozle people. Quite simply, if you don’t let your dog do poo in front of someone’s mailbox then they have no reason to shoot you.
Oak tree in my back yard. One of my dearest friends.