Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Madness of SoCal

Woodland Hills House

Pushing three decades ago, my collaborator Reaves and his then-wife bought a house up in Woodland Hills, which was usually just outside the smog curtain that generally enshrouds Los Angeles. About fifteen miles due north of the Pacific Ocean, via Topanga Canyon, Woodlands Hills was an upscale community that seemed to be peopled by movie folk, retirees, and the occasional dope dealer.

Observe the house they lived in. It was a wood-framed place, apparently in the flight paths of local hawks; now and then, you'd hear a thump! and realize that a large bird had just smacked into the outside wall. 

In the hottest days of summer, the AC managed to keep it cool, but it had a not-unpleasant smell of baked wood. 

One winter when I was visiting, there was a dusting of snow. It happened at night, and the darkness was lit by flashbulbs as people hurried outside to snap pictures. Me, too.

The house sat upon a hollow concrete box that formed a kind of above-ground basement, teeming with black widow spiders. I got plastered at a party there once and for some reason, it seemed like a good idea to go to that spider-infested place and hang out. But that's another story ...

Um. Anyway, it was an artist's house, lots of stairs and windows and balconies looking out over the valley, and designed pretty much for a family without small children or dogs. Reaves tricked out the garage into a movie room, big screen TV, and there they were.

Within a couple years, they had the first of three children and a dog, the multiple stairs were less workable, and they eventually moved to the flats, to a hacienda-style place once owned by the champion swimmer and actor Buster Crabbe, which, when it was built, had the largest private swimming pool in the area. Movies were filmed there, including one of Elvis's. 

Yet another story.

I posted this just to show how crazy people can be. Southern California, the home of biblical disasters -- earthquakes, mudslides, forest fires. And here's this house, perched there like a raptor's aerie, waiting for the Big One ...

Brynne Chandler & Michael Reaves

The second picture, taken at the Woodland Hills house, I recall as being Reaves' fortieth birthday, though I might be wrong about that. That's him opening the package and grinning at some of the contents, his ex- in the b.g.

I remember buying him a bunch of stuff like Geritol and laxative and hemorrhoid cream and such as gag gifts. Funny then. Not as funny these days ... 


Steve Perry said...

Note from Michael:

Yep, that was me, 20 years ago.

And what you've somehow forgotten was that we were there in that very house that you once so poetically referred to as "Cantilevered over the abyss", during the Northridge Earthquake. And, just as the geologist whom we hired to give us a buyers' report predicted, we came through with not even so much as a cracked window. Why? Because it was built on a 40-foot shock absorber atop a spur of compressed sandstone, monkey boy.

God, I loved that house. You could see half the San Fernando valley on an (admittedly rare) clear day. Except, of course, on That Fateful Night, when the only lights you could see anywhere were the flickering orange dots of fires.

Good times ...

Steve Perry said...

I didn't forget about the quakes. L.A. is full of geologists whose houses collapsed around their ears, or were washed down hills, or that burned up. When you live in the land of plagues, tempting fate seems a bad idea.

It was a great house, though.

Cheryl D. said...

Hi! I came across this post, and it makes me laugh! My home was built about 30 years ago in Woodland Hills and really reminds me of the house in your picture. It's not my house, but I'm pretty sure it's the house around the corner from where I live. And what you said about the birds banging into the window? Not fun! The hawks don't fly into the windows though (although one was messing with me once and acted like he was going to fly at me). The hawks do make the other birds freak out and fly into the windows though.