Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The House

Harry's wife opened the front door and lead us through a small foyer and a second inner door into an entrance hall with a 13 foot ceiling. Two rooms stood at either side of the hall. To the left was a very large parlor framed by tie-back curtains. The furniture looked a little old and worn for a doctor's house, but nonetheless formal. A baby grand piano dominated a space at the far end of the room and a fireplace stood across from it. To the right of the entrance way were the double doors of the doctor's office with another beautifully tiled fireplace and the requisite couch.

A twelve foot oval mirror in a wooden, free-standing frame was the centerpiece of the entrance hall. It faced an ornate, mahogany staircase which wound it's way up the two floors of the "living quarters" . On the far side of this staircase where one could see all the way to the third floor were two doors. One led to a half bathroom built under the stairs and the other to the side of the wrap around porch. A large door on the third wall of the entrance hall led to the back of the house, the dining room, pantry and kitchen. By sliding this door close, a visitor, patient or neighbor would only be able to see the front of the house the entrance hall, office and parlor. Thus the doctor could lead a patient through the front door into the curtained parlor and return to the office. A patient would leave through the side door assuring his or her privacy. The doctor's privacy was also guaranteed by this arrangement. In Harry's case, this was a definite necessity. If the front of the house befit a prominent psychiatrist, the rest of the house (the 13 other rooms) were the pad of an exiled bishop of the Neo-American Church.

The four kids and Harry's mother-in-law lived on the second floor. The arrangement of these rooms was interesting. The corner right bedroom was meant to be the master bedroom with two chambers set apart by a sliding door on the inner adjourning wall. The part of the bedroom facing the street must have been a sitting room, we imagined, while the second chamber was for sleeping. Harry's two younger, feral sons kept the inner doors open and used both parts of the room as a bedroom and gym. This bedroom (we made it into two separate bedrooms ) joined two other bedrooms on the second floor. One (Harry's daughter's) in the front left side of the house could be accessed through a shared bathroom , while a third bedroom (designed to be a nursery we surmised) was accessible through an inner door in back of the master bedroom. Thus, the parents of the family who built the house could enter their children's' rooms without going into the hallway. I thought it was great because it's the kind of personal touch an architect or builder would make with a particular family in mind. Next to the staircase, was a fourth smaller bedroom unconnected to the rest (Grandma's room). One of the windows in this room (built originally for a servant, we guessed) led out to the roof of the first floor . One could walk out on this roof and follow it around to the back of the house and the window of the back bathroom. To complete the intriguing layout of the second floor, a back staircase wound back down to the hallway and pantry outside the kitchen on the first floor . Two doors, one leading to the backyard and one to the cellar were at the back of the pantry.

The third floor was dominated by the room with the orange parachute. Planned originally as a day nursery, this room was roughly the same size as the parlor. Taking advantage of the way the third floor intersected with the roof, the builders set two big closets in the room. Around a corner of this L-shaped room was an alcove big enough for an enormous water bed Harry had set there. And the turret, which began above the front porch and formed a corner of the master bedroom was a more separate and circular room on the third floor due to it's entrance which was much narrower . Harry had tacked a small curtain over the entrance and installed a (dirty) foam rubber mat on the floor . Four floppy pillows completed the picture. Here was a room dedicated to taking of the Sacrament! After we moved in (and Harry and his son finally moved out), the parachute room became our living room. We had two big couches and several easy chairs there. We took out the water bed (it leaked) and installed shelves for our many books and our state of the art stereo. We referred to the room as The Library, and used it daily for hanging out, listening to music. having meetings, smaller parties, drum ceremonies,and after we finally got one, watching TV. The circular room of the turret was perfect for plants and watching the street. A bus traveled up the block and went over a bump right in front of the house. It's vibration could be felt most acutely in the little circular room. It was there we conducted the first house ritual. But, I'm getting ahead of my story.

Completing the tour of the third floor, there were three other bedrooms. One in front over the stairs was sparse by house standards, a second looked out over the side and was the smallest in the house. (We decided to use it as a guest room) A third bedroom in the back of the house was large and L- shaped like the day nursery. This was one of the quietest rooms in the house and looked out through the smaller windows of the third floor on the side and back yards. Harry and his wife slept in this room. It had a large closet you could walk into, and a second closet which bent around the chimney and roof forming a small storage space nestled in the back. A large bathroom (with the claw footed tub) completed the third floor. Outside in the hall was a small door built into a shaft which contained a dumbwaiter leading to the pantry at one time, but had since been sealed off. Another hallway door led to the attic with two side rooms built into the dormers on either side of the attic stairs and circular windows in front and back in the peak of the roof.

Now picture all of this with mylar, flashers blinking blue and red lights in the wall sconses, day-glo posters on the walls, and drug paraphenallia everywhere, and you have some idea of our first impression of Harry and his house. We found nitrous oxide bottles in the clothes closet downstairs, several cartons of unlabelled pills, a jar of liquid speed and a drawer (in my room) containing over $300 in silver half dollars- all after they moved!

It was everything I dreamed of and more!

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