Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Big Bordello House

"This house has always looked like I imagine a bordello in the Old West might have looked. I am always surprised when there aren't sultry women in various stages of undress sitting on that bench." That's how I met the man that the neighborhood children called 'the hose'.

I lived in a big two story house. It had a front porch. The second story overhung the porch and was supported by several white pilars. I had put some plants and a bench on the porch, and it was a very pleasant place to sit in the land of constant sunshine.

When my grandchildren were young they were with me for long stretches of the day while their father toiled to earn a living. When they wanted to play in the front yard I would sit on the bench on the front porch. Some of the time I would read, but most of the time I would watch the gentle tide of the neighborhood ebb and flow.

"Well I have on a long summer dress and I don't think that constitutes a state of undress, but I agree with you about the look of the house. It does kind of call up a sensuous and seamy past. It was moved here from another area of the city, maybe that's what it was in another life," I answered 'the hose'. He was in a wheelchair. He had a large oxygen tank attached to the back of the wheelchair and tubing was attached to a tracheotomy. He had bright red hair, a huge smile on his face, and was eager to make a new friend. This was not a man prone to self pity.

The neighborhood children called him 'the hose' because of the oxygen tubing. They were half frightened of the man that they didn't understand, but after that initial visit he became just another part of their small world and, although he thought 'the hose' was a perfect description of himself he told them his name was Robert. He had been on his way to do his grocery shopping when he had stopped to make the comment about the house. He lived up and around the long block. From that time on he would stop by every week to chat for a minute of two. He had been a child actor with a very successful career when he and his career had been felled by a car accident. He had a delicious sense of humor and I really enjoyed his visits to my porch.

Two houses up lived a gay couple. They used to walk their little dog every evening. One of them was very quiet and the other was very outgoing; yelling at the kids to get out of the street, telling me "Yup, you overdid it again this year!" when he would come in the house to see my Christmas decorations, and telling stories about his promising career as a graphic artist. The quiet one would walk to the store and buy fresh flowers twice a week. I used to watch him walking home with his bouquet and think how sweet it must be to come home to someone that cared enough to put fresh flowers in the room before you walked through the door.

Several houses down the block lived a lesbian couple. One of them was a big, loud, bombastic personality that called herself the cat momma. She is the person that came to help me when my dog came in the house with an abandoned kitten in his mouth. He gently laid the kitten at my feet, and job done, went about his business. I knew nothing about keeping a newly born kitten alive, but 'cat momma' did. She put so much energy into teaching me the workings of kittens that we soon became close friends. She kept a close eye on the children too, often tattling when she saw them do something that she didn't approve of. The children would come running in the house anxious to tattle on themselves before cat momma could. Her partner was a small woman that would come outside dressed in her leathers and helmet and straddle her Harley and take off in a cloud of noise. I would often watch her and think, "I'd love to do that.............riding my own hog down the freeway with my black leather jacket, boots, a sexy hat tilted on my head while the wind blew my hair in a blonde stream behind me and" .....................oops, got carried away for a bit. But that is what watching her on her Harley would do to me.

My granddaughter's best friend was an African American boy that lived on our block. He was six years old and lived with his mother and grandmother. He loved toeat. One Thanksgiving he walked into the house just as we were sitting down to dinner. He asked if I had put a plate on the table for him too; so I did. He ate a huge meal and was on dessert when his mother knocked on the door to tell him that dinner was ready at their house. She later told me that he ate a full Thanksgiving meal with them too. His greeting to me was generally, "Hi Penny, can I have some butter bread?"

Across the street lived a Cambodian family. They had a son and a daughter. The daughter would sit in my front room for hours telling me all about school, and once in a while using my library to borrow a book for a book report . When she entered high school she often brought me clothes that she wanted altered. It was fun watching her turn into a beautiful butterfly. Her brother was about the same age as my grandson and their house was the first house that my grandson had been allowed to visit all by himself. I sat on the porch and watched him cross the street when he was invited to 'come over and play'.

The Japenese man that lived next door with his disabled mother. He didn't come out of the house very often, but every summer if you sat on the bench at the right time of the day the smell of his pot would come wafting across the porch. The children told me that when he opened his door you could see stacks of groceries, like you buy at the super stores, almost touching the ceiling. He came outside every spring, put on a surgical mask and cut down all the weeds that had grown that year.

The stream of young women that moved in upstairs. Until finally the red haired woman with the young son moved in. We became very good friends. Her son and my granddaughter were so alike that I often thought we should exchange them once in a while just to get a gender break. Many warm summer evenings she would share watermelon with the children or play in the hose and her laughter would cheer the air of the evening.

The man that knocked on every door in the neighborhood declaring that he was trying to get his wife pregnant and cats did something or other to inhibit pregnancy so he was declaring war on all cats! He andcat momma got into a neighborhood 'cat' fight that ended one night with his garbage strewn all over his front yard. He moved and the cat's regained their prowling rights.

And the grey haired woman that moved into the neighborhood just before I moved out. She knocked on my door one morning and asked to inspect my house. After all she had been in every house on the block except mine. She wanted to see the inside of my house too. I told her she would be able to do that real soon. I was moving.

I left the bordello house a year ago. I moved into a house that doesn't have a big front porch. I moved into a house that has a big, beautiful back yard. But back yards don't allow you to watch the movements of a neighborhood or speak to neighbors as they walk their dogs. I miss the people, I miss the friendship, I miss the fun that a big bordello house with a front porch can bring into your life. But now I have a covered swing in the back yard and a beautiful covered patio and twelve large trees rimming the fence that goes around the big back yard and I can watch the birds fly into the trees and listen to them sing. And the birds are almost as colorful as the people that I used to watch from the porch of the Big Bordello House.

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