Saturday, November 21, 2015

Day 372 in California

Today marks 372 days that I can say I've lived in California. Let's dive in, shall we?
The scenery is beautiful in California. The people have attitude problems. There is the reality that is Los Angeles, in all it's dirty, grimy, interesting glory; and there is the perceived reality of fame and fortune, that is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of Los Angeles. I think my bigger problem with California is the city of Los Angeles- not with the state itself.

I love San Diego. But I don't live there. I've been told I would love Northern California, but that's a day of driving to get to, so I haven't been yet.

There are definitely days, living in Los Angeles, that I dream of getting in my car and heading directly east as quickly as possible to clear that state line. But those days have grown few and far between. I don't see myself staying in California, let's put it that way. But there is a calmness and a laziness that I feel in this state that hasn't left me screaming to get away. California just feels like a vacationing destination, not a permanent living destination. It's possible to live in California, don't get me wrong; it's just not my cup of tea. I'm not a winter sport enthusiast or a lover of the beach and laying out in the sun. Hell, the ends of my hair have already started to bleach out and I spend next to no time outside. I used to do a Valley-girl impression, that's, sadly, an actual accent here (not necessarily in the Valley, but more toward Malibu).

I don't enjoy how people honk their horns if you start to slow down at a yellow light; or when you don't pull into the intersection on a red light; or if you actually come to a complete stop at any intersection that indicates you should stop. I also don't enjoy the lack of parking lots and instead the absolute need for everyone to know how to parallel park (believe me when I say, if I have to parallel park to go somewhere, I skip it- whatever it was, it wasn't that important).

I do enjoy the fresh produce here. You'd be surprised (anyone who doesn't live in California) how amazing fresh lettuce tastes. I do enjoy that once the sun sets, you need a sweater. I love that people are terrified of rain here, so much so that some people leave their work places early to beat the possible .05" of rain that may or may not fall. I enjoy that there are acts of nature out here that I haven't seen anywhere else I have lived (I don't like the damage that can be caused from them, but it's interesting to see new things)- like the landslide that is currently taking place in Santa Clarita: Read and watch the news about it here. (Side note...Channel 5 news in the early AM, weekdays, actually has a Dallas, TX fan favorite anchor- Megan Henderson- I missed her when she left, but I'm glad I can watch her deliver the news in CA.)

It's a mixed bag of feelings for the most part, but overall I don't see this being my forever home. Sure I'll add it to my vacation destination list (San Diego, not so much LA), but I'm not going to put any roots down here. I'm thankful for the opportunity we've had to be out here, to see it for myself, but I'll be happy when I can return "home".

Saturday, November 07, 2015

That time I lived in a haunted house...

This would have probably been more appropriate on Halloween, and I considered posting it then, but I got distracted by a large bowl of candy.

I feel like I need to set this up for you, in order to fully appreciate the insanity of it all.

I was raised on a the country...fairly close to Indian burial grounds. I've seen weird, unexplainable things in my life. But I was raised in a way that made me question everything- to try to figure out what it, logically, could have been that I saw or heard. I'm sure, had I been raised any other way, I would have tall tales to tell that would be unbelievable to all believers. Honestly, I do have tales that I won't tell because I know the looks I would get, and the whispers of "she's crazy!", that I don't need to hear, I already feel crazy. So if you've ever actually heard one of my "stories", it's because I trust you enough, that I think you know me well enough, to know if I'm truly crazy or not.

In fact, I've only told a handful of people what I'm about to share here, because I know I would be called crazy...I'm only sharing it now, because I feel like I need to.

Gonzo and I, once rented a house in Dallas, TX (I won't say specifically where), that was a house we actually considered buying. We lived there for a good 3 years. We had a great landlord, who actually grew up in that house. It was well loved, and well taken care of. Our first day, we found a praying mantis hanging out on our mailbox- which we took as a sign of good luck.

I'm not unlike other people, in the sense that, once it gets dark outside, everything tends to take on a whole new sinister look. If I hear a pop, or creak- it instantly means the boogie man is going to murder me if I fall back asleep. Dark=scary. I think most people, never truly grow out of that. But on the day that I learned we weren't alone in our rented house, it was completely light outside. In fact, I think I had come home early from work, so it was like 4 in the afternoon.  Bright summer, Texas sun, streaming in all the windows.

I had been watching TV and saw something out of the corner of my eye, in the kitchen. Which, isn't uncommon for most people, to "think" that they saw something move, out of the corner of their eye. It happens. Generally, when you look directly at the spot that contained something that possibly moved, you don't see an older woman with white hair and a pink shirt smiling back at you- unless you are at grandma's house. Fortunately for me, both of my grandma's are gone, and I was in my own home. I saw her for a grand total of two full seconds and she was gone, like she evaporated into thin air.

Of course, I called my mom- the keeper of a calm head- when I could have possibly seen something that I shouldn't see. My heart was racing, but I had stayed, firmly planted in the chair I had been sitting in when I saw her (Gonzo would later call her "Mary", which I really don't think she liked). My mom ran thru all of the possibilities of "light reflecting off of a dish or glass on the counter"; "possible gas leak in the house"; "Carbon monoxide poisoning"; "burglar"; You name it, she suggested it. After saying "no" to all of the suggestions, she actually agreed that maybe, just maybe, I had seen a ghost. She also told me that she wasn't sure she would ever visit me again, for as long as we lived there.

I felt calm. Truly calm, other than having been startled by the grandmotherly figure who decided to let me know that the kitchen belonged to her. It wasn't like the movies, where people run screaming from the possessed house; or become possessed themselves. It was kind of like having a new roommate move in. A quiet, rarely seen, roommate who doesn't eat your food.

Shortly after that incident, I began to notice that one of the two doors that led out of the house, would be unlocked in the morning. I kept letting Gonzo know that he had forgot to lock the doors before bed and needed to be more careful, we weren't exactly in a nice neighborhood. It wasn't until one specific night, when Gonzo made me watch him lock the door, so we would both see and know that we weren't acting crazy, that we realized our ghost was being mischievous. I watched him lock the deadbolt and the lock on the door knob in the kitchen- we walked thru the living room and I watched him lock both the locks on the front door. We went to bed that night and on my way to work the next morning, when I reached the kitchen door- the locks were unlocked. I had laughed to myself for having been so hard on Gonzo about not remembering to lock the doors, here it was the kitchen ghost, the whole time.

Now would be a good time to let you know that hind-sight is truly 20-20.

We had discovered a pretty bad smell in the house after a hard rain. It really smelled like something had died. We had narrowed our search to the kitchen, but it smelled like it was coming from under the floor. The only way to get under the house was the crawl space, which had an entrance in one of the hallway closets- on the other side of the house from the kitchen.

We drug everything we were storing in that closet, out into the hallway, so Gonzo could open the trap door and get under the house. I was busy knitting or watching TV, I don't honestly remember, but that was a "man-duty" so I was letting Gonzo take care of it.

"Uh, baby, can you come here for a minute?" I heard from the hall closet.

Assuming he needed me to hold the flashlight I eagerly walked the few feet to where the door was, "Sure what's up?" I asked, looking down at Gonzo, who was waist deep in the crawl space.

"I need you to look at something and tell me what you think it is."

Immediately I rolled my eyes, assuming he was going to have me identify the dead animal carcass that was stinking up the house. "Ok."

"Don't freak out," he said as he shinned the light into the crawl space in the opposite direction of the kitchen, "lean down and look." The hesitation and calmness of his voice, made the hairs on my neck and arms stand up, and I took a step back.

I leaned down for a split second before jerking straight up, "What is that!?!?!" I freaked out and leaned back down again, my eyes following the beam of light, "Get out of there! Get out of the crawl space! Oh my God, what is that???" I tugged on Gonzo's arm begging him to get out of the crawl space.

There was a large, black, trash bag, in the crawl space. Full of...something.

Seeing it, immediately reminded me of when we had done the walk thru on the house before signing the lease.

"You have access to 100% of the house, except for the attic- I use that for storage; and the crawl space under the house. If you have to get under the house, call me- I don't want anyone to end up with a broken leg or any kind of injury from jumping down there. Also one section of the cabinets in the garage is off limits, I have maintenance things in there for the other properties I own." The landlord had told me as we walked from room to room making sure everything looked good for move in. Gonzo had been off looking at one of the restrooms, missing the warning.

"What is that?" Gonzo had asked, brushing the cobwebs from his pant legs as he closed the crawl space.

"Dead body; millions of dollars from a bank heist; a voodoo curse; dead llama; dead body." I rattled off.

"Dead llama?" He questioned with a smirk on his face.

"It's a thing in other countries, for fertility or good luck, or something. Someone brings a dead llama fetus and buries it under ground or something. It's a thing, look it up!" I was frantic.

"Ok, but it's not buried, it's just under the house."

"I don't freaking know! Didn't the landlord used to live here? He grew up here, right? He probably knows. Call him!"

"It's a trash bag, it's probably raked leaves or something."

"Who puts raked leaves in a bag, under the house? That's a freaking dead body. The landlord pulled a "Psycho" on his freaking mom, that's her body, that's the ghost in the kitchen. Shit." Shivers ran down my body as I remembered the walk thru with the landlord, "Shit! We weren't supposed to open that! He specifically said for us not to go in the crawl space!"

Gonzo, ever the skeptic replied, "He didn't kill his mom, that's not a dead body. I'll go look, it's probably just some of the landlord's crap he's been storing."

"NO! Are you crazy?!?! Have you never seen a horror movie? Don't. We weren't supposed to be down there anyway. We can call him, and ask if he can come figure out what the smell is...if he needs to get in the crawl space he can go and then we can "accidentally" see the large black bag under the house and ask him about it."

Of course, the landlord was never called. Between my dad and Gonzo's dad they were able to figure out that it was stagnant water in a pipe that was on the roof. We both pretended to ignore that there was anything under the house. Making sure to put all of our heavy belonging on top of the crawl space door on the off chance that something wanted to open it.

The whole incident was forgotten for a little while, at least for me. Until one night when Gonzo was working late.

Again, dark=scary, so I had all of the lights on in the house when I went to bed. I shut the light off in the bedroom and laid on my side so I could see the light streaming in under the door, until my eyes closed and I drifted off to sleep.

I didn't even realize that I had heard something until I was sitting straight up in bed. Actually I'm not sure that's right. I woke up to me sitting straight up in bed, my heart pounding, my eyes staring at the door to the hallway. Gonzo wasn't home, but every sense in my body was telling me that I had just heard something in the hallway.

"HEY!" A deep voice screamed into my left ear, causing me to flinch and jerk the covers up as I scrambled to my feet beside the bed.

The thudding of my heart was deafening as I stood there, staring at Gonzo's side of the bed, wondering what-in-the-hell I had just heard. I lifted my hand to my throbbing ear, instantly feeling a sting as my finger pads caressed the soft curves of my ear. I ran to the restroom, turning the light on immediately.

Looking in the mirror, I saw a red line under my left eye that went across my cheek- back to my ear and across my ear. I shook my head, rapidly, trying to wake myself up. Looking back in the mirror, I realized I was awake. Upon closer inspection, the mark on my face and ear, looked like a burn mark. It certainly felt like a burn. I spent the rest of the night on the couch in the living room until Gonzo came home. By morning the puffiness of the line was gone, but it was still sore to the touch, hot, and red.

I could detail all of the other things that happened, but they get wildly unbelievable. From something grabbing my leg as I walked between the couch and the coffee table, to a ream of paper being thrown across the room. The long and the short of it, is I believe there were 2 spirits that haunted that house. The woman in the kitchen, who I only saw one other time, as if she was going to check on something in the oven; and the thing in the hallway which seemed to control the bedrooms, always keeping me on my toes.

The funny thing, Gonzo and I loved that house. We still talk about it, even joke about "Mary". What's even more strange, especially with the whole "hind-sight" thing...It took us moving out of the house, for Gonzo and I to admit to each other that the first night that we stayed in the house (in the room that would end up being the guest bedroom after that very first night), we both woke up frequently staring into the hallway, thinking we had heard something like foot steps, neither admitting it to the other until we no longer lived there.

When we moved into our new place in California, the house, not the dreaded apartment, we had a group of praying mantis that hung out near the light by the kitchen door. A sign of good luck.

The last few weeks, the kitchen door has been unlocked when I get home from work, but that's a coincidence, right?