Eight years ago, I was asked to house sit. I remember it was my 33rd birthday because my mother called that morning to let me know Jesus was crucified when he was 33. Coincidentally, my mother had birthed me when she was 33. She conveyed both of these facts with the same degree of excitement. (And yes, I know the exact age has been debated by scholars…and I’m referencing Jesus here…but let’s not get hung up on historical details.)
I had been out with a few friends, celebrating all of the reasons why 33 was special. I decided, pretty early on, that it was time to head back to the place I was watching. The house wasn’t a house, it was a palace. It was a four-story haven of beauty; overlooking the marina of a certain upscale, undisclosed city. There were two main entrances to the mansion; the first hiding behind a coded wrought iron gate, you’d stroll a 20-foot, illuminated underground tunnel (that had been lovingly painted from floor to ceiling by one of the city’s most celebrated artists in the style of a Bruges waterway) to take an elevator up four floors…or you could climb 3 flights of concrete stairs, carved out of the side of the mountain, to get to an enormous 60 X 80″/400 pound mahogany wood door, that I did not have a key for.
There were too many extraordinary features and playthings in the home to name. My favorite, by FAR, was the first level bathroom. As you walked in, the room in its entirety, was a shower. 14 feet across in diameter (the shower room itself was a circle) and covered in Italian artesian tiles from the ground all the way across the ceiling. The floor was heated and shower heads and sprayers were emerging from every possible angle including up. Just past the showers was the dry sauna, which fit six quite comfortably. But the brass ring, the golden ticket…the reason I left the bar so quickly to end my evening at “home”, was the owners had installed one of those Japanese robotic wonder super toilets. (I don’t know how to properly address them.) At this time, they were brand new to Americans and I was enamored, I simply could not wait to see him again. It seemed so much more interesting than throwing up in a dive bar restroom.
“If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.” – Some Person Way More Patient Than Me
I arrived at the residence, with about 15 people in tow. We tumbled like drunken weeds down the Bruges tunnel towards the elevator…only to discover that cramming all of us in the small lift not only was an impossible fit, but a sure way to break an elevator. That being said, we lumbered up the 3 flights of concrete stairs and stood dumbfounded in front of what might as well have been the gates of Oz. As a reminder, I had no key for the given circumstance. For many people, lots of clever options come to mind…check a window, try the credit card trick, ask the neighbors for a spare. I didn’t have time for that. My BEST and most logical option was to gather my friends, collect as many strangers I could find on the street below and break the door down. I can be quite convincing, as shown by the now thirty people who got in a wide line to form a human battering ram. I stood on a concrete ledge next to the doorway, belting my supportive cheers, “Break the door down! Break the door down!” And through the people’s willingness, strength and determination, (albeit a VERY stubborn and well-constructed door), the barrier eventually gave way. It violently ripped off its hinges, clinging to its very frame and eventually plummeted to its death flat on the ground.
People pummeled over the door and unfolded into every layer of the house. I was about to host the most memorable, and what turned into the most generous birthday party ever.
I decided every person deserved a reward for their help in the battle of man versus mahogany. I was in a giving mood and nothing was off limits; Persian rugs, imperial silk curtains, 800 thread count sheets, eiderdown pillows, Cuban cigars…someone came up from the basement with a DeWalt table sander and said “Is this ok?” “SURE!” I exclaimed. Who’d notice?! Some random hippie girl attempted to put a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue in her backpack and I stopped her right there. “Not the Blue” I said “And not the Sake”. Those are mine. I assure you the rest of the bar took less than 10 minutes to empty. Soon after, most of the neighborhood strangers left with some serious loot and my friends and I were left to hot box the sauna, take selfies with fake gold bars left in the vault (still have no idea what those represented) and take a 15 person group shower in the Italian water room.
“Curiosity Will Conquer Fear Even More Than Bravery Will” – James Stephen
I’ve always suffered from post-fear syndrome. That’s not a thing. I think. I’ve never been a psychologist so I can’t say for sure. But I’ve never been afraid to try anything, and with EXTREME ENTHUSIASM. (I really should’ve been a cheerleader.) I just get this belated fear about how I’d feel doing something I’ve already done successfully, only I envision myself as if I failed…in the past…and I worry about that. Weird right? Maybe? In this case, I felt post anxiety about disappointing a sea of party people, rather than considering the repercussions of property damage. Curiosity, however, about taking on a risk or challenging myself in the present moment pushed me to do questionable things sometimes…like breaking down a really expensive door. It wasn’t bravery…my life was an experiment in human emotions and getting in my own way.
The Final Four
The next morning, there were four of us left. The 33-year-old Cheerleader, a Guitar Player, a Go with the Flow-er, and a Carpenter. Yup, by the grace of what was turning into a biblically themed birthday, my MVP was a carpenter. For both symbolism and the sake of protecting the name of the innocent man who saved my life, let’s go ahead and call him Jesus.
We had all woken up on different floors of the house, and in different rooms. I suppose it goes without saying; no one knew how, or why, or where we were. It didn’t matter. We had work to do. I knew it and the Guitar Player knew it. The elevator was hanging in between floors, thousands of dollars of merchandise had been given out like Oprah had stopped by, the front door was lying in the foyer like a draw bridge and SOMEONE had disrespected the Japanese Wonder Toilet.
I turned to my savior, stared him deep in the eyes and said “Jesus. Tell me exactly what you need from me and I shall find it.” “Well…”, he started “…a hammer, nails, sanding paper, the same color stain, finishing paint, shims, a leveler and other words carpenters use to describe tools.”
Jesus and I were off on the scavenger hunt of our lives, like some sort of “Survivor” style, mansion challenge. I’m not going to say anything bad about the people I was sitting for, but I will say they had the money AND the connections to kill me and my family. Sooooo…it took us about 15 minutes to find everything on the list. Although we could only find two different colored stains, I was hoping Jesus could swing another miracle and blend the perfect color.
I went into delegation mode: “Jesus, rebuild the door…the Go with the Flow-er and I will pick up all the trash and clean the house. Guitar player…uhhh, play Jesus a song while he rebuilds the door”. And so it went. The Go with the Flow-er and I bagged trash, scrubbed counters, mopped floors, organized what was left of the material items, and paid our respects to the Japanese Wonder Toilet. Guitar Player improvised a Tracy Chapman style song about the entire situation (for an HOUR). Jesus not only resurrected the entryway, but completed the chemistry experiment that was mixing stains and was finally onto glossing the door with finishing paint. We put a cheap rotating fan next to the door (thank God no one thought that worthy enough to take) to air out the smell and headed to the kitchen where I bought everyone a celebratory pizza. We drank the sake I rescued from the random hippie girl and went to the roof where we shouted Will Ferrell’s “Bat Fight” until we had lost our voices. Which is when we noticed the owners heading toward the tunnel of the broken elevator.
Thank GOD for that broken elevator, for it bought us some serious time. We raced back inside and I instructed Jesus and the Guitar Player to run for their lives out the front door while the owners were still in the Belgium tunnel. The Go with the Flow-er hid in the bathroom of the room I was staying in and I laid on the bed as if I was just waking up. I suddenly remembered the oscillating fan and ran to grab it as the people were making their way up those arduous stairs. I noticed a line where the stain didn’t quite match, running down the center of the door…and the finishing paint still reeked…but who the hell is going to assume their house sitter threw a huge party, gave away half their stuff, broke down and rebuilt the front door? I figured unless someone leaned on and therefore stuck to it, that wouldn’t be on their list of assumptions.
That did not make the knock at my bedroom door any easier. I casually opened it, where I was faced with the terrifying question “Stacy…did you have people over here for a pizza party last night?!” Yes…YES…that’s it! PIZZA. “I’m so sorry. It was my Birthday, I had a few drinks and four of us were here eating pizza, I’m so sorry. I’m so ashamed, I’ll find another place to stay tonight”.
And then they got deported. Which, is an entirely different story…