The Dinner Party

Another in the series of Joan!

Joan came running out of her house as I was getting into my car.  “Hi neighbor, I’m having a dinner party and I want you all to come!  I am going to Japan to teach dance and I’ve rented my house.  I want you to meet the new tenants.”  Could this really be happening?  Maybe this time she was really going?  “They’re a really nice couple, you have to meet them!”

“Ok, I said, when is this party?”  “Tonight, 6:00.  I’ll see you then!”

I didn’t call Tom, I didn’t want to hear his ranting.  He got home around 6pm and I’d just tell him then.  I was headed to Joan’s with Katie and Max when Tom got home.  “Where are you going?” he demanded.  “Joan invited us to a dinner party, she said she’s moving to Japan and has rented her place.  She wants us to meet the new tenants.”

“I don’t for a minute believe she’s going anywhere” he sputtered.    He reluctantly agreed and we headed up the driveway to a once glorious home, now as faded as Joan’s old wedding dress.  Nothing but weeds surrounded the place.

We reached the door which was open and there was a young couple standing outside on the small deck.  We exchanged greetings.

“You must be the new tenants” I said.

“Yes, I’m David and this is Janet.”  David was medium height, sandy colored hair, dressed conservatively in kakis and a blue striped shirt.  His blue eyes were anxious.  Janet looked more relaxed, blond shoulder-length hair, dressed nicely in white Capri’s and a pink summer sweater.  Her smile was friendly.

“I’m Stevie, my husband Tom, Katie and Max.”

“Where’s Joan?” asked Tom.

“I don’t know, there doesn’t seem to be anyone here, although the door was wide open when we arrived, just before you got here,” said Janet.

We all walked inside, Max gripping my hand, and Katie, Tom’s

The tiny kitchen was directly to the right, uninviting.  There were no groceries on the counter and no signs of dinner preparation.  Janet opened a drawer to find silverware in a dirty silverware container.  I wandered into the house where the dining table had nothing on it at all.  No chairs around the table, it looked unused.  I walked back into the kitchen where Tom was asking David and Janet if they’d put a deposit on the rental.

“Yes, I gave her a check for $3000 yesterday” said David, looking a little sick.

“Stop payment on it as soon as you get home” said Tom.  “She is not leaving.”  He told them the stories of what we’d been through with her since we moved in.  “There are no chairs around the dining table and the table is not set” I said.  Everyone went to look at the empty table.

As if on cue, we heard loud cabaret music, the bedroom door burst open and out tap-danced Joan in a top hat and tails, white gloves and fishnet stockings.  With her high heeled dancing shoes and a cane held in both hands, she swung it wildly side to side and then overhead.  She had her hair done in curls which were escaping from the hat framing her chubby face.  Eyebrows painted on in high arches, blue eyeshadow, black eyeliner and false eyelashes accentuated her bright, dancing eyes.  She tapped across the room in front of her stunned audience, not believing what we were seeing.

This picture is not actually Joan but as close as I could find to her outfit!

“Hi everyone!  Did you like my number?”  Joan was grinning from ear to ear, clearly excited about her dramatic entrance and our stunned silence.

“Hi neighbor!  Did you meet my new tenants?  They don’t know that I’m not moving just yet; I’m going to live downstairs in the storage room for a while until I’m ready to go to Japan!”

David and Janet looked horrified and Tom and I exchanged glances.

“We met them Joan; I thought you were having a dinner party” Tom said.

“I am! I am!” she exclaimed as she ran to the kitchen.  “Where’s my chicken?  I know I had chicken!”  She looked in the refrigerator, on the counter, on top of shelves and no chicken.

“It must be in the car!” she exclaimed.  “Neighbor!” she said to me, “come help me look for my chicken in the car.  It must be in there!”

Joan and I walked down to her old Honda Hatchback.  I could see a pile of boxes through the dirty back window.  Joan opened the front door, no chicken.  She came back to the trunk to open it.  I got another shock as her trunk was full of shoes, there were shoes everywhere.  Open shoe boxes strewn all over.

Like the picture only in the trunk of her car!

“Do you like my new shoes neighbor?  I got them all today at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s!  I was there for hours!  “Nice Joan” I said.  The trunk did not hold any chicken.

“David’s deposit is in Joan’s car” I told Tom.  “Her car is full of new shoes strewn all over the place.”

Meanwhile Joan rushed back into the house, looked behind the kitchen door for her chicken which wasn’t there.  She saw 5 year old Max standing there.  “You!” she said, “You took my chicken!”  Max’s lip quivered and he burst into tears.

“That’s it!” yelled Tom “We’re out of here, you’re crazy!”  We grabbed the kids and couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  “You haven’t had any dinner! Joan yelled.  “We don’t want any!” Tom yelled back.  David and Janet followed us out and we never saw them again.

A few hours later there was a knock on our door.  There stood Joan with a plate of chicken.


So if you think you have ever attended a bad dinner party, just remember, it could be worse!  I would love to hear about your worst experience with a dinner party.



Joan’s Junkyard

It was the horn that did it.  It had been going on for about two weeks.  I knew Joan had rounded the corner onto Olive Ave when I heard the honking.  We lived at the very end of the block over a tiny bridge but you could hear it the minute she started down the street.  It was as if she was alerting the entire neighborhood that JOAN HAD RETURNED.

It brought back memories of a very interesting dog we had when we lived in Chicago.  We got him when he was 5 years old, for protection, as we lived in a sketchy neighborhood.  He actually had papers and his name was “Sir Pottamus, Lord of Bartairs.”  Pot for short.    Our brownstone backed up to an alley and when we’d go out back to walk, Pot would look left and howl, then right and howl.  He wanted everyone to know he was out.  Sort of like Joan.

We had lived in our house for less than a month and been working on it nonstop.  Tom and I didn’t even have a bedroom.  We kept moving from one room to the next trying to figure out where we wanted our bedroom.  We had torn out the orange shag carpet in the kitchen and a friend and I were faux painting the plywood floor underneath.  Our appliances had not yet been installed.  It was time for a break and that horn supplied the perfect excuse.  We picked Twain Harte, up in the mountains towards Yosemite, and had packed up the car and the kids when Joan appeared.  She came out onto her Juliette balcony and said

“Hi neighbor, where’re you going?”

“Twain Harte, why?”  Tom said.

“Oh, that’s good.  You deserve a break.  How long will you be gone?”  Joan asked.

“A week, maybe less, why?”  Tom asked again.

“Have fun, don’t worry about a thing here, I’ll watch your house!”  And she disappeared.

As we pulled away, Tom and I gave each other worried looks.  “Well, that made me feel so much better, Joan is going to look after the house while we’re away.”  I said.

Twain Harte is a wonderful place and perfect for kids.  We had a great week and forgot all about Joan, the fact we were carrying two mortgages and our wreck of a house.  A week later we pulled into the driveway we shared with Joan, exhausted but renewed. Then we walked up the steps, along the sidewalk to get to the front door and stopped.

We had a long covered entryway leading to the front door.  It was full of discarded furniture.  A fiberboard cabinet, table, chairs, a desk and even a toilet.  On one side of the house was a narrow deck that was in great disrepair and had no railings.  On it was an old couch and a stove!  We were in shock.  Joan came out onto her Juliette deck at that moment.

“Welcome home neighbor!  You have such a big house I knew you could use some furniture!  I hired that same guy from the biker bar, the  Peso, who took the pictures of me in my wedding dress and he emptied my storage room and moved it over to your house.  I know you’ll put it to good use.  You can thank me later!”  Joan seemed especially excited.

“We don’t want your old furniture!” Tom yelled.  “Get it out of here!”

“That’s no problem neighbor, just get rid of what you don’t want!”  With that she disappeared .






Joan’s house is on the left in this picture, our house below.  Too close.  The long expanse on our house once had an old deck that had to be removed.  That is where Joan deposited the stove and couch.  You can see her Juliette deck on the front upper part of her house.

We knew we had a problem.  Could we actually live here with Joan as our neighbor?  What would she do next?  Would there be more to come?  Yes as it turned out, a lot more!

Stay tuned for the next Joan story.

Is This a Nightmare or is this my Neighbor?

They say silence is golden.  However if you write a blog, not so much. If you are following my blog you will notice a new and hopefully improved look, not to mention a new name. So really, I have my excuses.  All my previous blogs are now in categories which you can access by hovering over the blog heading above.  I hope you like the new look and thanks for sticking with me.

At some point in our lives most of us have experienced the neighbor from hell.  I have been meaning to write these stories for a long time and I hope you enjoy my first one.  I am calling them “The Joan Stories.”

The Wedding Dress

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon at the end of February 1987 that we first saw what was to become our home. Larkspur, CA at that time was a sleepy undiscovered small town in Marin County. My how times have changed! Now it’s one of the most “chi chi” and expensive places to live in the Bay Area.


It was no ordinary place we stopped in front of that day with our realtor and two small children.  A Chinese Tea House made a formidable entry, as did the Moon Gate to the right of that. We went through the Gate searching for the front door. No one answered our knock, so our realtor opened the lock box and in we went.  It was dark and a bit spooky. The house was rented to 12 Rock Musicians and even though it was 3 PM, no one was out of bed. We walked into an enormous living room with a huge brick fireplace and ceilings at least 20’ high. There were blue Christmas lights strung up all over the beams which had been painted black. We pulled open the curtains to reveal three sets of sliding doors onto a large veranda. We walked outside and fell in love. We were caught up in the magic of the place. The Teahouse, cypress trees surrounding a tiled reflecting pool, a greenhouse (which turned out to have someone living in it), a stone fireplace next to a hot tub and finally in back on the hillside, a small Chinese gazebo.

Tom and I didn’t say much to each other but went back inside where by this time our realtor had aroused one of the tenants. We went into his bedroom—dark with a mirrored ceiling, peeling grass cloth and kicked in wood paneling along one wall. The bathroom was painted black and dirty dishes were piled in the sink. We backed out of the room and knocked on another door. A dog growled. We never saw that bedroom until we bought the house. The kitchen had orange shag carpeting, orange wallpaper, rusted old appliances and a stuffed Iguana in the refrigerator.

We left, looked at each other and said YES!

We had a lot of work to do before we could move in by June 1st and spent most of our weekends working on the bedrooms, especially the kid’s rooms so those would at least be livable. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in May, Tom and I were there working in the living room when we heard a voice outside.

“Neighbor, oh neighbor!”

Tom went out onto the deck. Coming up the steps was a woman who looked to be in her mid-50’s with reddish brown hair tied back with a satin feathered headband.  She was wearing an old wedding dress.

“Hi neighbor, I’m Joan and I live in the house right above you.”

Our house had once been a summer estate for a wealthy San Francisco family and the house Joan was talking about had been the Grandparent’s and was indeed right on top of us on the other side.

“Don’t mind me, just go back to what you’re doing. I’ve hired a photographer I met at the Silver Peso (the local biker bar downtown).  I convinced him  to come take pictures of me in my wedding dress. I told him to come here as this is the perfect place for the pictures, you have such a big room, and I won’t be bothering you!”

Joan proceeded to twirl about the place and as she twirled you could see the panel sewn into the back of the dress to make it fit. Sure enough we heard a motorcycle roaring up the street and stopping at the house.  It was the photographer looking a lot like a Hell’s Angel.

“Up here! I’m up here” yelled Joan.

He bounded up the stairs and sure enough had a camera. As Joan twirled and pirouetted in our living room and outside on the veranda, he shot the pictures.

“Oh neighbor, did you know I am going to Japan to teach Japanese businessmen how to dance?  They don’t know how to dance over there and I am going to teach them.”

When Joan was satisfied with the number of pictures he took, she promised to give us some and the two of them swept away.

That was our introduction to Joan. Who was this woman?  Was this a one time thing or the start of something else entirely.

Obviously it was just the beginning as I have several other stories.  Are you willing to tell me about your worst neighbor?