People keep telling us, “You’ll know it when you see it!” Which is maybe the funniest fucking thing I’ve heard in my entire life. We’re not wending around a bend in a quiet neighborhood that leads to a cottage that just needs a little TLC. We’re exiting the freeway at Crenshaw or Arlington, driving south, hanging a left at a KFC, then the Arco station, then parking across the street from two unaffiliated iglesias that are separated by two unaffiliated liquor stores. And as soon as we’ve past the daycare that looks like it’s part of the Ariel Castro franchise, we’ve arrived.
Rather than a white picket fence, there’s a chain link one that the city put up four years ago after the neighbors complained that people were selling drugs out of the house. The cops sent the drug-trafficking tenants to prison, squatters moved in or never moved out, and the house got so bad that Code Enforcement had to put a fence around it, board it up and put up signs reminding people that this squat is in fact a private residence. We’ll know it when we see it? Oh, fuck off.
But we didn’t learn about the house being condemned from the seller, “New carpet! Good bones!” We’ve become professional sleuths. We’ve learned how to do the impossible – navigate city and public records. Based on citations, building permits and dental records, we’re able to determine that a perfectly lovely family spent like, 50 years not maintaining, but also not completely neglecting their home. Then someone old died and the significant other of that old person, who was old herself, was sent off to a facility to eat Jell-O with a group of her peers.
That was 2007 and probably would have been a good time to buy this slightly dilapidated but perfectly acceptable hovel. Even at the height of the housing bubble, you could have had it for 150k. I say “you” because in 2007, I was fairly certain that by 2018 I’d own a thatched roof bar on the beach somewhere south of Ensenada. I certainly had no intention of becoming a person who sits in front of a computer all day, then sits in traffic, then complains about work, traffic, a lack of exercise. I never would have dreamed I’d decide to find the only pocket of Los Angeles where I could possibly afford to displace the current residents and impose my will upon them. I thought I’d spend my nights pouring mescal and my days writing a thinly veiled novel about a guy from California who expatriates to Mexico, opens a beachside bar with a thatched roof, then discovers the crushing loneliness of being a stranger in a strange land with limited wifi. Why are we talking about this?
Oh yeah, you should have bought the place in 2007 before it was a crack house. Interestingly, becoming at crack house has only increased the value of the home. It’s like putting marble countertops in the kitchen or vaulting the ceilings in the master bedroom or restoring the original hardwood floors. Except they didn’t do any of that and now they’re asking for $730k which everyone agrees is a steal. Since we guess we’ll know it when we see it, we decide that we’ve seen it and we now know it. We put in an offer. We don’t pop champagne. We go back to Silver Lake and order a couple German beers even though neither of has ever appreciated a Spaten.
“I hope we get it.”
“I don’t really care.”
“Desperately desire a three-quarters of a million-dollar crack house once, shame on me. Desperately desire a crack house twice – well, now I feel like George W. I guess I mean I don’t know that I can keep getting excited about living in a house where the walls are coated with whatever is involved in making crack. Baking soda?”
“The neighbor said they didn’t make drugs there. They just sold them.”
“Strictly retail?” She nods. This is good news. Maybe even great news. “I never thought we’d be able to afford a place that wasn’t previous used to make drugs.”
“Well, they haven’t accepted our offer yet.”
“Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?”