I am not boasting, but I am probably one of the nicest neighbors one could ever have. I am the neighbor you would borrow from, the neighbor who would help you with the leaves when you couldn’t get to them.
I am also a person who seems to have a certain magnetism for some of the oddest people around. That can be good, but that can certainly go bad as well.
Mary Kay and I had several things we really wanted to have in a house. Way back in 1976 when we bought our first house we definitely had to curtail our wish list and just be happy that we got a house at all. We got an adorable fixer upper in La Grange Park, IL with two bedrooms and a great yard, unfortunately by the train. The train was something that happened in house two as well, it took three times to make that go away, and much to the displeasure of our son, Richie. We, however, were happy that we were able to talk on the phone and not pause the conversation until the train was past.
Obviously, in a house we wanted location. We were always pretty successful in that area. We needed a certain number of bedrooms and little by little with successive house purchases, we got that as well. Actually, the fourth bedroom was had by remodeling, but the remodeling story might well be another blog article to come. Our real desires, if I recall correctly, were a staircase and a fireplace. The staircase eluded us until house three. By this time, we were called the gypsies since every five years we moved. Year twenty saw us do an addition instead of moving. We usually bought a house that was structurally sound but in horrible need of decoration. Our third was the anomaly, actually looked pretty good other than the redwood painted yellow, but that is another blog story. The staircase we obtained was decidedly not what was on the wish list. Being a bi-level, the staircase was and is quite short going up and going down. But it did have a nice, handsome banister suitable for garlands at Christmas.
So, given the fact that we didn’t get the fireplace, procuring one was the cause of the title of this blog. I will admit the title is odd, but then I did mention that I have magnetism for the oddities of life.
At a certain point, Mary Kay and I decided that we would have a fireplace installed. This required all sorts of research, decisions as to where to place it in the house, the ramifications of the loss of space in an already less than huge house with five people and a dog living in it. We finally decided that our living room was the location, that it would afford a good place to get people together and talk, in close proximity to the dining room. Plans forged ahead, they installed a metal box in its location and voilà, a fireplace. Within a short period of time we found someone to put in a mantel, surround the fireplace with red brick, and we were good to go. We enjoyed and still do many a fine family bonding moment there.
How could something as simple as a fireplace create the title of this article? That is easy. On the outside of the house, coming out of the roof was a metal pipe, set to code, allowing smoke to be exhaled from the fireplace. One day, my neighbor stopped me and asked me about its exterior appearance. I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about it, it was an afterthought. I explained to him upon his questioning, that I was intending to have a surround made for it which would be more decorative and more like a standard chimney, either out of brick or wood to match the house. I explained, although I didn’t really have to, that funding within the house being what it was, the chimney was on a waiting list. After our conversation, I didn’t give it a though until…
The “Arrow to Ugliness” suddenly appeared next door on the lawn…
Honestly, I had no idea what this was. I remember one day that the neighbors were gone, that I just had to see what the heck that thing was. If I am not mistaken (please note the picture of it), it was made of wood about two inches wide and perhaps eighteen inches in length. It was set vertically, on a stick and looked a bit like a model rocket pointing to the sky. And on it, it said, “Arrow to Ugliness.”
To this day, I cannot remember if I had a conversation with my neighbor about it, but his wife sure spent a lot of time looking sheepish and doing her best at not being seen. I cannot even remember how long the arrow was up and visible. Numerous visitors asked about it. We did deduce that it was in reference to the pipe coming out of our house, which was not all that ugly. I looked around our neighborhood and ours was not the only one. Apparently, in our neighbor’s eye, our pipe was affecting the Feng Shui of the neighborhood.
I don’t remember how much later we had the chimney installed. Since the siding of the house is redwood in vertical panels on the house, we had a similar look made out of cedar stained the slate blue gray of the house. I think it looks quite nice. I never did understand the concerns on the neighbor. I must say that if the architectural police were to critique his house that…
Once again, life is far too short for such silliness!