This picture, from months ago, is from when I first noticed the house at 224 Sea Cliff Ave. First impression: it looks haunted. The feverish sherbet orange, the broken wall, rusty prison fencing, boarded and empty windows… fascinating. You really have to see it from above. The walkway winding down the cliff looks like spilt entrails. I had never been this far down on Baker Beach, never seen a house in this neighborhood neglected like this. After, I looked for the house from the street side and found that it was for sale.
If you look up the address or the current owner, you’ll find a sordid history. It was once used as a storage facility for a multimillion dollar art heist. The owner is serving a prison sentence for things like wire fraud and tax evasion. According to Zillow, a sale was pending December 2019, then again May 2020, but neither sale was completed: what disclosures, what rot caused two buyers to back out? Sotheby’s was once the realtor, but they gave up. No interior photographs are available. The house itself is scheduled to be auctioned city hall on August 13, 2020.
I am strangely drawn to this house, which I’ve begun to call Gloom. My little obsessions have always been unreasonable, and this one is no exception. Sometimes I say hi to Gloom from the beach, if the high tide hasn’t blocked access. Sometimes I look towards Gloom in the fog and wonder what it looks like inside. Sometimes I think about the gloom and neglect, and it makes me sad. I must sound like a nut. Don’t worry, it’s just curiosity: no threat of trespass or harm.
As with any other hopeless crush, Gloom and I have a song. Here it is, please enjoy:
Here it is. I’ll buy an old microbus, and a nice manual about keeping them alive, and go on a year-ish-long road trip around these United States. I’ll stop and camp at National Parks and on beaches. I’ll stop and eat at all of the Roadfood recommended restaurants. I’ll visit giant balls of twine, haunted doll museums, abandoned farm houses, lakes, rivers, streams, wayward cows on the roadside and oh it will be splendid. The only thing is, I’ll have to figure out how to support myself along the way. Perhaps you have suggestions? I can probably learn to make pretty websites for people.
Located at the base of Mount Fuji, it’s also known as the “suicide forest.” A bunny trail from the Wikipedia page on the Golden Gate Bridge led me to it, and I’ve been fascinated ever since. If you look past the occasional corpse lolling from a tree, it’s got an otherworldly beauty.
I’ve had trouble with the difference between “romantic” and “macabre” since I was introduced to Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee in middle school. I’d like to go there and set up a tea party. Yes, I’d wear a frilly, lacy birthday party dress with a too-large bow in my hair. Macaroons, fruit tarts, petit fours, and other confectionary would gleam enticingly from under glass domes and on tiered stands. The table would be set with pairwise non-matching tea cups.
I don’t flatter myself that I would be able to prevent even one suicide, but I do want to be there in case anyone wants a last bite of pudding and sip of tea — but just not alone. Or in case someone has a few last words that they want a person to hear. I want to be that person. I want those final stories. I will collect those hearts, for mending.
No, it’s not what you think. I don’t fantasize the way other people do. This is a recent one.
After a dull day at work, I stopped by my favorite stationery store for mindless browsing. I brought a few little things to the register — just mildliners and stickers. As I paid, the cashier asked if I was registered for their loyalty program. I was, so I gave her my name. She typed my name into the system and said, “Oh, hm. I have something for you.” She handed me a paper bag. “What’s this?” She didn’t have a clue.
Outside the store, under the dome of the shopping center, I looked in the bag. There was a box and a letter. Contained in the box was this pen. The letter was written in a beautiful but nearly illegible hand. It said simply,
Greetings from the frozen wasteland of the library.
I was reminded of a different frozen wasteland. The fabulous monster you see above is known heartlessly as “Jotunheim Creature”. To me, he would be “Fluffy”. He would be my best friend, and my primary form of transportation. Talk about traveling in style! Forget traffic, Fluffy crashes through it in impossibly majestic leaps. Best of all, he, like Hannibal Lecter, hates it when people are rude, so he also feasts on the free range rude.
He may look terrifying, but is actually a big sweetheart and is always ready to comfort with an affectionate nuzzle. He’s just a little territorial. I’d have to have a sign on my property “Warning: Jotunheim Creature prone to spells of irascible overprotectiveness.”
Is nothing sacred to a troll? Of course not. Not love, and especially not Valentine’s Day. Now you don’t have to let it be about smug couples and overpriced chocolates. Or about that yawning abyss of loneliness. Here’s what you do:
1. Find something saucy to wear. My favorite is that “burlesque corset” you see above.
2. Prance around in it on Valentine’s Day in a busy romantic/restaurant district near dinner time.
3. Watch in glee as one half of every couple gawks at your gorgeousness and the other half throws a hissy fit.
My wildest fantasy
Yes, I thought I’d share it with you for Valentine’s Day, gentle reader. Or at least this story about it. I was once asked by a significant other what my wildest fantasy was. I responded, “It’s that I have a dragon! And I fly all over on his back, and when someone displeases me, he sets them on fire!”
We were in a hottub at the time, in mixed company and my answer elicited uproarious laughter from everyone present. “No, Dolly. Sexual fantasy…” someone finally said. I hadn’t answered that way to be coy; that really was my wildest fantasy back then. The question about sexual fantasies was completely uninteresting to me, and I explained to them, “There’s nothing fantastical about sexual acts. All you have to do is ask the person next to you, or something. In my case, who can I ask to make my fantasy come true?”
If, this Valentine’s Day, the impossibility of your love or the intractability of your wildest sexual fantasy is giving you anxiety, remember me. I have a far less probable fantasy than yours. Remember me and how there’s nothing I can do about mine. But for you, there’s hope! After all, if you never ask, you’ll never know.