Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ancestry of a House

This is a story from the "Freeing-Up Sale" last weekend. The dialogue is based on my memory, not a transcription of the actual conversation. The facts remain...

LAST SATURDAY at the tail end of the day, when we were all about ready to collapse from exhaustion, someone asked if they could buy two old rusted spray paint cans that they had found in the garage. After my initial mortification that he had actually rummaged through our dusty, spidery crates filled with paint, I asked him why. Why. Why do you want to buy those? They're old. The paint's probably not even good. Does paint go bad? If it does, this paint has to be bad.

"I'm not going to use them," he told me, "I'll just display them." He liked the way they looked. The rust and the tagging. Who was this guy? He was a neighbor I’d never met. Lives just up the street from us. Very friendly. An artist. Painter, sculptor. Wearing a Phillie's cap. He introduced himself when he first arrived and asked if our house is Eric Haze’s old house. I told him that I didn’t know an Eric Haze, but that the guy we bought the house from was named Eric, but not Haze. He said, “I think Eric Haze used to live here. Was the guy you bought the house from an artist?”

One of the things that struck me when we first saw our house was the art. This guy had good taste in art. We had asked if any was for sale (figuring we wouldn't be able to afford it if it was.) It wasn’t. I had art envy. “He’s some sort of graphic artist,” the listing agent’s assistant had told us when we asked what he did for a living. I immediately thought graphic designer. Like, websites... that sort of thing. But he definitely had an eye. For sure. In addition to his art, his furniture was enviable. And out of our price range. That, he was selling.

So, he was some sort of graphic artist, with a good eye for art and furnishings.

“I bet it's him. Did he move to New York?” Asks our curious neighbor.

Why yes he did. We had his forwarding address for any mail that ended up at the house. He was already living in New York when we bought the house. But how did our neighbor know this? Did our house belong to someone famous and we had no idea? I guess it's possible. I never really thought to Google the previous owner. I was way more preoccupied with other things. It just never occurred to me.

“It must be him,” our neighbor says with an excited glimmer in his eye. "I think the guy that owned this house is a famous graffiti artist."

"I thought he owned a clothing company or something," I was thinking about the wardrobe boxes filled with clothes left behind when he moved out. About ten wardrobe boxes filled with new clothes were left in the driveway for us. Well, they were left for the Salvation Army, but they didn’t pick them up because they weren’t properly labeled. So before we moved in, we had to move these wardrobe boxes out. We weren’t happy about that and expressed our annoyance to the seller’s agent.

“Those clothes are worth ten thousand dollars,” he had told us. We looked inside. What we saw did not look like $10,000. So we called the Salvation Army to come back for them. But they couldn’t get them for a few days and we didn’t have a few days so we brought them in ourselves. Begrudgingly. And that was the end of that. We moved his stuff out and ours in.

“Look,” said my neighbor. “Check it out.” He pointed out the tag. “Haze” This looked familiar to me. I know I’ve seen this before. And the color of the paint- “Federal Safety Purple”… that’s not common. He was very excited about these paint cans. So I told him to take them. I figured, even if they are worth something, I was just going to leave them anyway. I gave him the whole crate of the previous owner’s spray paints. Just because. He found them. Besides, he was saving me the pain of having to figure out what to do with them. I was in Bob's "Get rid of it!" mind-set.

The next day after things finally calmed down, I did a little Googling. And found that yes, the Eric that owned our house is Eric “Haze”- famous graffiti artist AND clothing designer who, according to his Wikipedia page, "has his own limited edition versions of G-Shock, Nike, and New Balance shoes."

And he's fascinating. He's, apparently, a LEGEND! And those paints, of course, were his. And now Bob thinks perhaps those clothes were worth $10,000. Who knows. But all of this got me really excited. Our house had a secret we might never have discovered had we never had our sale and if our neighbor hadn't come and dug through the paint cans. And I have no regrets giving them away. It's not about that. It's about the secret... now revealed.

It makes me want to research all of the previous owners of the house. Each of us shares something really unique. And I wonder what we might all have in common. What I know for sure is that we’ve all been gifted with this space- for different periods of time and under different circumstances. But we all lived here. I wonder if we appreciated it the same.

The cans:

*Think they're worth something?
*Think I'm crazy for having given them away?
*What would you have done?
*Does your home have any secrets to share? Share them here in the comments! I love this stuff!

-Eric Haze
- Wikipedia
-Interhaze- His site where you can see images of his graffiti work, his bio and much more!


Give Me Some Skins said...

Dude... That's rad.

Jessica said...

Very cool story! The paint cans might be worth something, but I think you were right to give them away--especially to someone who seemed to appreciate them for what they were. I am sure I would have given the guy the cans, but been kicking myself for not having taken the $10,000 worth of clothes to a consignment shop. ;) No great stories with my house--well, that I know of... My closest story is that the last two homes my husband and I bought, we got as a result of the previous owners getting divorced and putting their home on the market because of it. One of my friends maintains that we are official "house healers". Bringing love and happiness to houses that saw their families split apart. I like that thought. :)

Marta said...

When we first found our place, we were thrilled at our good fortune - the Craftsman detail, the views, the pool - and such a good deal! The landlord walked us through and minutes later I all but said, "We'll take it."

When we called her a few hours later to actually say that, she offered us some of the items left by the previous tenant. Not really my style and so I declined but wondered why someone would leave so many things. Had the previous tenant been elderly (some of the items seemed... outdated) and well, departed the ranks of the living?

A couple weeks later, we had our "Why Did We Move All This Stuff That Doesn't Fit Here" garage sale. A new neighbor dropped in and said, "You know what happened to the guy who lived here right?"

"Ah ha! He had passed on," I thought. By this point, I'd imagined this old man's whole backstory, spending his last days here with his cat. Maybe dying peacefully as he slept. Or maybe he'd just been moved to hospice. Either way, it was a little weird, but not unsettling really. At least now I had the neighbor to confirm my imaginary scenario, set the record straight as it were.

"He killed himself, you know."

My brain went crazy. Rapid fire. "This sad old man killed himself." "My god, how'd he do it?" "Where?" "Is the house haunted?" "Do I even believe in such things?"

The neighbor realized he'd just let the cat out of the bag. He thought we knew. There was no turning back now. He divulged more. The previous tenant was a young man. An artist, in a band. I was right about the cat. One night the previous fall, emergency vehicles' flashing lights filled the de facto cul-de-sac of our little street.

I spent a few days torturing myself as I tried to fill in the blanks to a story I didn't really want to know in its entirety anyway. The landlord cleared some things up for us. He didn't actually kill himself in our place, rather in the shop on the back of the garage.

We've lived here for a year now. We got his mail for months. We'd write "Deceased" on it but it kept coming. The Post Office, I guess, finally got the message.

I don't go into the shop.

Marta said...

Sorry to write a novel in your comments! I just kept typing! Whoops.

I should also say I really love your blog and your whole attitude. Very inspiring.

Love in the Time of Foreclosure said...

Wow. What a story! Thanks for sharing. I was totally hooked. You're renting, right? I think in a sale by law the seller is required to disclose any deaths on the property. I guess landlords aren't. Jessica (the comment before yours) said she thinks of herself as a 'house healer'... and I love that. Maybe you're a house healer too.


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