Yes We Bought a Gang Headquarters

2015-04-24 10.12.21

In Chicago, not Portland.  It was our first home.  We lived in Chicago and wanted a brownstone but couldn’t afford much.  There was a 3 story gutted brownstone on the North side of Chicago being sold by the Contractor who owned it.  It was on the edge of the good stuff.  You could almost see the good stuff from our street.  We just knew someday the good stuff would get to us.  Ben, the Contractor, could tell immediately he was dealing with naivete and went in for the kill.  We got up to the third story on a ladder, but there was a floor.  We walked over to the window and the glorious view of the abandoned tire factory and parking lot across the street.  “Wow, some view” Tom said dryly.  “Think of it this way” commented Ben.  “It lets in a lot of light.”  We were sold.   When we moved in, only the first floor was partially completed and we locked the front door with a 2×4.  Only after we moved in did we find out we had bought the local gang headquarters.  The first night brought trouble.  And we had plenty afterwards.  We ended up getting a big mean dog.  Today that place is worth multi millions.

If only I had pictures!  But they are all pasted in a scrapbook in a box in storage.  Just imagine a young couple standing in front of their newly acquired gutted 3 story brownstone and facing the abandoned tire factory.  The couple is standing at their front door outside.  The door is lavender with big swaths of graffiti on it.  You’re starting to get the picture.

Tom and I share a dubious quality.  We make fast, on the spot, decisions.  Mostly gut decisions without thinking (Tom contends that his decisions are not without thinking – he just thinks quickly).  Is this what attracted us to each other in the first place?  We’re attracted to unconventional places which takes me to the house we bought in Larkspur CA.

We moved to CA when Tom was transferred with IBM.  It was fast and we quickly bought a townhouse.  We wanted something different and went looking.  A house in Larkspur had been on the market for quite awhile.  We went to look.  On a Sunday afternoon at 3:00 our realtor knocked on the door.  No answer.  We went in.  The reason no one answered?  No one was out of bed.  The hallway was painted black.  The living room was huge with 20′ ceilings.  Beams painted black with blue Christmas tree lights strung around them.  Very dark as the floor to ceiling curtains across one wall were closed.  Curtains that made you want to wash your hands when you touched them.  Opened, they revealed 3 sets of sliders out to a big veranda.  Meanwhile the realtor was knocking on a door and got a response from within.  She opened the door.  A guy in a bathrobe was sitting on the bed.  The room reeked of patchouli oil.  The ceiling was mirrored and the paneling on one side of the room, kicked in.  The bathroom was black with dirty dishes in the sink and shower.  We backed out.  Went down the hall and knocked on another closed door.  The dog inside growled menacingly.  We backed away.  The kitchen had orange shag carpet and red cherry walls.  Appliances from the 1930’s and a stuffed iguana inside the refrigerator.  Meanwhile our two young kids age 5 and 8 were running around outside excited by all they saw.  Tom and I went through one of the sliding glass doors outside to the veranda.  From it we saw a reflecting pool (no water), a Chinese Tea House and a gazebo.  old Brantwood

tea house reflecting pool street view of brantwood Top picture is before paint and remodel.  Bottom pictures are with new paint, etc.

We looked down at it all, looked at each other and both shouted YES!

I thought you should know this background because we bought a house here in Portland.  The first house we saw.  It took us less than an hour to say yes!  Actually the house is in Milwaukie, that suburb I said I wouldn’t live in, in a development that I said we’d never live in.  No trees because it’s brand new.  Trees were on my must have list.  Brand new.  We’ve never had that before.  The house itself is everything we wanted that does not exist already built.  The string continues, gut decisions and fast decisions!

home sweet home This is us!

We move in February.  realtor Diane Happy Realtor!


8 thoughts on “Yes We Bought a Gang Headquarters

  1. Kimberly A. Schifrin says:

    Stevie, as I said earlier, I think you missed your calling. You should be a professional writer. I love your sagas. Anyway, Diane in Colorado. You in Chicago, Liz in Montana. We are spreading our “wings”. I wish you and Tom all the happiness in the world in your new home. Given what your track record is in turning “Ugly”‘ houses into palaces, there is no doubt that this will be another success story. I look forward to seeing more pictures. Big hugs, Kim Schifrin

    • Stevie says:

      Hi Kim, Chicago was the first house we ever bought. We just bought a brand new house in Milwaukie, OR. It’s already great and doesn’t need any updating which is why we’re so excited.

  2. Susanne says:

    Congratulations on the house, it looks large. What fun you will have planting trees! Okay, maybe not fun.

    • Stevie says:

      It’s not that big, 2100 sq’ Perfect! It will be fun to plant trees as we can have whatever we want. And put them wherever we want!

    • Stevie says:

      Hi Ingrid, yes we liked our apartment until we didn’t. It’s too small and we wanted a house all along so we’re not moving far from downtown Portland. Hopefully this is it!

  3. Barbara Basso says:

    Stevie and Tom……Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you. I think the house looks great as is….and will be fabulous when finished. Thank you for your Christmas card and letter. I know I owe you.
    There is a Clipped Wings meeting tomorrow (Thursday)….thus, will tell everyone your news.
    We miss you. Love, Barbara

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