Oh, that House!

Written By: Stacey Dee  Kramer

You know what I am talking about. You know that house in your neighborhood, perhaps next door, or down the block, or around the corner from you: “That HOUSE!” The house, that when you mention it, it holds all your disdain, as you might point to it, or shake or head, or make an involuntary “tsk tsk” sound with your sibilant tongue. You might even nod your head side-to-side, or point to it with an accusatory finger, or it might create a deep furrow in your forehead as you speak of it, but it will most definitely results in you saying: “Oh, that house!”
If you are a civic-minded, civilized individual, it will probably be your intent to never become or admit you have become the house that is “Oh, that house!” in your community; that house, which has the longest, boldest lightening rod to catch hell from your neighbors. Now you understand the depth of determination you muster to never be that place, that domicile, that house, ever!
While married to a man who openly admitted that in his next life he wished, nay prayed, nay contemplated his wish that the next incarnation he would return as a Rumbero Cuban drummer. That incarnation would be in his estimate his greatest fortune, his greatest reincarnation, the best dharma, karma and varna of any life cycle. While married to the wannabe Cuban Drum Fanatic, I became the person who lived in “Oh, that house!”, even though I lived according to an exemplary code of early to bed and early to rise ethics, and did indeed mind most of my p’s and q’s, especially around the “q’s” of quiet abiding in my neighborhood, crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s, my husband, alas, did not. I played my favorite music at a decent enough volume at appropriate times of the day and night, living a meditative life of measured sensitivity, and communal awareness, as someone who honored the occasional slipping into the golden sea of silent consciousness, whenever the heights of fancy would lift me from the moribund mundanities of pedestrian life. As much Right Living as I could muster, it could not balance the civil disobedience displayed by my husband, as his destiny was to create as many drum events and “spontaneous” Cuban rhumba’s as he could muster. My decidedly more tranquil life-style could not make-up for the thumping of dead animal skins stretched across wooden, hollowed cylinders, as the “music” gatherings my then spouse perpetrated in our garage, contrasted against the bucolic block, where we lived, nestled into the greenery of the second highest peak in San Fran, CA. The drummers and their drums arrived welcomed or not by me or my neighbors, but certainly hailed by my hubby, Senor Cubra Libre, The Real Mojito, who fueled the flames with drugs, rum and drum which created the formula for early mourning dumb as his rhuberos beat those goat skins well into the wee wee hours of the night, causing angina to the uninitiated fellow listeners to hubby’s ritual rhythms.
Oh, there were the calls to the police; the complaints to the landlord; embarrasment (by me) and apologies (again, by me) for the reckless activities of my Peter Pan Partying husband. When I finally moved away, divorce papers not yet signed, but filed in California Divorce Court dockets, I swore off ever living in an “Oh, that house!” ever again.
My refuge, my destination, was my decision to move to sweet, serene, silent Montauk. Only later was I to discover that leaving an “Oh, that house!’ would not mean freedom from an “Oh, that House!” destiny. Ah, Montauk.
It was in the 1970’s that my parent’s, who were on the verge of becoming free of raising three almost grown children, made their way eastward on Long Island, only to find themselves falling in love with the most eastern part of the East End, the End or the Beginning, depending of which side of the paradox you felt defined the area known as MTK, Montauk. Ah, Montauk.
By 1975, having exhausted their real estate agent for three years, having walked every available tract of land, or building site in MTK, they found their perfect 1/8th of an acre, nested on a cul-de-sac, once a former orchard, aligned with thicket and marsh, somewhere off of South Fairview. It became their piece of paradise, where they would build their four bedroom, two bathroom, “Upside Down”, outdoor shower, well-decked summer home; where if the sky was clear and you squinted in the a certain direction you could just barely see the ocean. It was their sanctuary in our crazy world. Even though they were already homeowners, this domicile was their baby. They drew up the plans, they watched it grow week, by week. They stored the furniture They moved themselves in. This was where they felt like landed gentry. Squire and squiress, host and hostess, keepers of their kingdom, for their 1/8th of an acre was where they felt pure bliss, gleeful happiness and a smug satisfaction that they had accomplished their Shangri-La dream, as two working stiffs, they had toiled for years and finally felt in this home their full expression of their American aspiration. MTK, the weekend and holiday get-away. Montauk – their destination, when traffic would pull-away by the time you drove the caterpillar to East Hampton. Montauk – when the Napeague stretch was empty. Montauk – when you rarely had to worry if your topless sunbathing by the cliffs off of Essex Beach would even go noticed by the few people who ventured near your beach site. Montauk – when it took five and a half hours to arrive on the Long Island Railroad after more stops that echoed in your delirious head: “Massapequa, Massapequa Park” …. and on and on and on. Montauk – land of fishermen, Fishers’ structures, surfers, summer vacationers, and the disdainful locals. Montauk – where one could feel a lord with less than an acre of land.
Little did they know that their new hacienda would not become the “Oh, that House!’ of the neighborhood, but would be destined to be situated right next to the house which one could designate to be the “Oh, that House!” of our community.
The “Oh, that House!” had been built by a young couple who had two large dogs and a baby on the way. One of them was of local lineage. They were fresh, polite, accommodating. All waves and smiles, greeting my folks who arrived for their weekly monitoring on the progress of my parent’s Xanadu arose on their tract of land. Then, the cul-de-sac seemed a quiet, safe haven. All seemed to fit into a blessed divine order. Days of destiny awaited.
My parents moved in in the middle of a tropical storm, arriving with several vehicles brimming with all the furniture and furnishings they had stored in anticipation of the completion of their castle. Daily my father walked his deck and admired the landscape. At 93, he still does this habitual stroll on the deck, though now he is assisted by his walker, admiring the plants they selected for his Japanese styled garden, and the pines they chose to create a privacy unknown when they first moved in, from the other sub-plots, from the divided former orchard, And that special peach tree which had planted itself from some errant toss of a pit. Jazz flowed from his then cutting edge sound system which has never been upgraded over the years. Life was good. (Life here is still very good.)
And then, the young couple, one day, at the end of their first summer I their new home, walked over to inform my folks that they were planning an end of season party. They promised to do all they could to contain the noise that would accompany the partygoers, and that they would contain the crowds, blah blah blah. That’s when my parents learned how noise travels in Montauk – up hollows – where sound echoes, reverberates and arrives into your open wide windowed rooms, as if you were sitting within inches of its origins, like you are in the center of the party or the bar, from which the noise emanates. All the young couple’s promises of containment meant nothing once the end of summer summer bash was underway. My parents just shook their heads, grounded their teeth and bore the torturous decimals in the hopes of not stirring up any trouble with the neighbors. It was two or three summer bashes before this young couple divorced, sold their home and moved away. My parents were relieved. Summer Bashes Begone!
The next occupants were of middle age. They were childless. He shared a mutual love for BeBop and Dad finally felt he had a neighbor whose tastes in music matched his own. They swapped albums and cassettes. She was prone to gardening, shopping, chatting and resting. For ten years or so the cul-de-sac returned to a tranquil existence where Coltrane, The Bird, Lady Day, Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Chuck Mangione, the Heath brothers, vibrated and flowed through the atmosphere between our two homes. Paradise never seemed more mellow or melodious. Compatibility and joy graced the dirt road, until the second He and She split. They decided to rent their Montauk home, while they decided the fate of their marriage and before the division of their worldly possessions. The house returned to it’s specious ways as sublets became sub-sublets and even sub-sub-sublets. With the addition of each ‘sub’ the decimals of dissonance returned, as the vibrations arrived from up the hollows. The hooting and the hollering, became a weekly Friday/Saturday/even into Sunday event. The swearing, the bragging, the girls’ shrill laughter, the shouting, the peeing in the bushes, the breaking of beer bottles, the clinking and tossing of glass, and the most awful music. Cars that filled the small driveway and then swelled to all areas up and down the cul-de-sac from Friday, Saturday, Sunday and blending into Mondays. Several times my parents had to beg for some stranger to move their vehicles so they could have egress to South Fairview. Every summer of the sublets, it might be a different crowd, but always the same category of noises. The laughter, the braying, the bottles into the wee hours near dawn. “Oh, that House!” in stereo-phonic. Drunken dissonance. Annoying noise. Sleepless in Montauk.
When the single, young lady and her mother finally purchased the home, we all sighed in relief. But the house had almost a maniacal need of its own, as it continues to attract the karma christened by its first owners. For over time, the young lady married, had children and somewhere along the way decided to sublet during certain parts of the summer. When I first moved here, eight years ago I attempted to reason with the variable clustering of the subletters, telling them how I worked, like everyone else in Montauk at at least three jobs in the summer. How we in Montauk are the people who prepare, serve, and grow your food. We are the people who landscape the gardens, sweep the clay tennis courts, life guard the beaches. Pour your drinks, take your orders. Make your reservations. Run the stores. Do your laundry. Take care of your children. You, the subletters are the interlopers. We must as a summer resort share our village, our beaches, our library, our roads, our harbor, our trails. Explain where everything is. I attempted to explain to these summer usurpers how I needed to go to bed at a reasonable hour; how I had to awaken at dawn to get to Job One. They would nod, and smile, and then proceed to carry-on into the peeing wee wee hours of the night. Laughing. Shrieking. Playing loud music, always with the bass turned to full blast. They proceeded, unaware or uncaring how their behavior would awaken and then proceed to torture me with another sleepless night. Montauk for them I their Partying Paradise. All others be damned.
My attempts to confer, to reason have passed. Oh, I guess you can say I’ve become the Witch who lives next door. The one who has the Code Enforcement phone number on my speed dial. I understand, that to these subletters I have become the B***** from the “Oh, that House!” next door.