Life Wiles of the Rich and Heinous

  The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League holds an annual Tour of Homes in our little neck of the woods, an event that is quite popular, with thousands of people plunking down money to analyze and criticize what other people do with their money. The attending crowd is usually an interesting mix of restoration enthusiasts, society types, hipsters, artistic dreamers, Junior Leaguers, good country stock, bohemians, and half the gay men in Dallas. Naturally, I couldn’t help but envision the inner thoughts of complete strangers as we all violated the personal spaces of people we didn’t know…


“This place has more mirrors than Versailles. Are they going to be signing an important treaty?”

“Who in their right mind would want a 7,000 square-foot house in the Texas heat? The electric bill alone must be bigger than the budget of Delaware.”

“Why would the homeowners set out a picture of them French-kissing? I haven’t seen that much tongue since Grandpa would throw out a saltlick back on the farm.”

“Did Betsy Ross explode in here?”

“Ostrich feathers? Seriously?”

“I used to like the color blue. Until this room happened.”

“Okay, the owners made us take off our shoes so we wouldn’t mar their precious hardwood floors, yet they are fine with their sixty-pound dog and his wolverine claws ripping trenches in that same hardwood as he thunders around the house and knocks over family heirlooms they bought on eBay.”

“They restored this house to make it look like it did before the big fire? I see. Did anybody stop to think that the fire might have been justified? This is butt ugly in here.”

“Why is the homeowner already drunk?”

“Do they not realize that putting up a sign that says ‘Please don’t open this door’ is only going to inspire some queen to do just that?”

“You know, ‘original appliances’ doesn’t necessarily mean working or pretty. Sometimes it just means old.”

“The only thing you didn’t change was this one doorknob? Then why did you buy the house? Couldn’t you have just had a new house built the way you wanted and then attach the doorknob?”

“What kind of jobs do these people have that they can afford to spend two million dollars on a renovation? If this doesn’t say class inequality in America, I don’t know what does.”

“I really don’t understand what the purpose of this room might be. Did they use to do something in here that has since been outlawed?”

“Why does it smell like bleu cheese in this bedroom? Either somebody needs to change the sheets or something died in here and they haven’t found it yet.”

“What’s up with the giant painting of the homeowner? His eyeball is bigger than my head. Nobody needs that big of a portrait unless they cured cancer or finally found a way to stop telemarketers from calling.”

“I don’t even want to walk through this room, never mind live in it.”

“Is that artwork supposed to be Mahatma Gandhi? Oh, sorry. It’s just some exuberant potpourri from Pier 1.”

“Wow, that’s a big-ass step down from the back door to the yard. Did this used to be Paul Bunyan’s house?”

“These stepping stones lead nowhere. Why would you want to come to this part of the yard if there’s nothing here except other people who followed the same pointless stones? They could at least put an ashtray over here.”

“Oh, look. They have a two-story guest cottage with its own house number. I have a bunk bed in the garage for my guests who get too drunk to drive away and leave me alone. We come from different worlds.”

“Of course they just laid this sod down. The landscaper is hiding behind that banana tree over there, wiping sweat off his brow and trying to catch his breath.”

“Is that swimming pool shaped like Madonna? No, really. Think of the ‘True Blue’ period when she and Sean Penn actually tampered down both of their egos long enough to think of someone other than themselves. You see it? I thought so.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that is the prettiest bush I’ve ever seen.”

“Why is that man hollering for us to go back inside? Did we violate something out here?”

“I still can’t get over this giant step. How can you spend two million dollars and still have to pole vault back into the house?”

“Oh, now we’re in the wing with the rest of the bedrooms. I bet you we can find a vibrator somewhere. Gold-encrusted, maybe, but still.”

“This bathroom is bigger than some of the landing strips at Love Field.”

“A TV in the shower? Are you so good at cleaning yourself that you don’t even have to look?”

“Is that a headboard or a landing pad?”

“Yes, it is possible to have too many useless pillows on your bed.”

“These people clearly don’t have any kids. One five-year-old wired on a fruit roll-up and this house of pretentious cards is history.”

“Nothing says classy like a dead roach on your hand-carved balcony.”

“Thank you for repeating it, but I understood the first five times you mentioned it that you are only the third owner of this century-old house. Am I supposed to give you a prize of some kind?”

“God, that dining table is busy. How do you find the actual food?”

“Sometimes you really shouldn’t listen to the voices in your head.”

“Let’s see, you hired a project manager, an architect, an interior designer, a florist, two stand-by consultants, and 46 undocumented workers to do everything that the other people said to do. Basically, you just wrote checks. You didn’t actually do anything. So, help me understand why you have this award displayed for Best Restoration of a Tudor. Or did you pay for that, too?”

“That chair was not meant for humans.”

“No, honey, I really don’t think you’re supposed to take that. Wait, what did the purposely left-on price tag say? Oh, hell yeah, shove it in your satchel.”

“You might want to check on that older lady in the corner. She was in that same outfit and position when we came through yesterday.”

“Nothing makes you feel better about yourself than the fact that you can’t even afford the candles in this place.”

“Imported marble tile in the shower, 200 bucks a square foot. But the bathroom door won’t even close right.”

“I haven’t seen this many gay people since Ricky Martin switched from Menudo to Manolo Blahniks.”

“And you wanted those curtains to look like that, right? Because every home needs a room where it looks Ophelia hung up her death shrouds before she floated down the river.”

“If they don’t turn off that Enya album, I’m going to cut somebody.”

“No, I don’t own this house. If I did, you people wouldn’t be in here.”


Previously published in “The Sound and the Fury” and “Bonnywood Manor”. Minimally revised for this post. I got a notification email that this year’s Tour is coming up in a month or so, which sent me digging in the archives for this post.

True story: Partner and I used to “work” the tour, serving as ticket-takers or guides or paramedics, whatever was needed. We did this for many years, and we must have done something right, as we were soon getting the “primo” assignments at the best houses. Then, about five years ago, “something” happened, and the invitations to participate stopped arriving from the Conservation League.

Surely it had nothing to do with one of the board members overhearing me saying something snarky and sarcastic. I simply can’t imagine myself doing such a thing. Can you?



20 replies »

  1. ‘Did Betsy Ross explode in here?’ Perfect. An old remedy for Enya endlessly playing; locate the fuse box and… As for the thought about perhaps being overheard being snarky- there’s a fine line between healthy criticism and vitriol, or so I have been told. Often. Usually too late. Sarcasm is one of lifes little pleasures, so snark away.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. You have just listed all of the reasons my home would never be on an open house tour. If I had a home someone might want to tour. If anyone would ever suggest it. If I lived where this would happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So let me get this right: people pay money to “tour” other people’s grandiose houses? Is this a fundraiser for Guns over America or something like that? Are these historical homes or just … homes? I not sure I understand this …

    I don’t know who Betsy Ross is but I bet the explosion wasn’t pretty. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, people do pay money, and it IS a fundraiser, for the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League. To be fair, the planning committees each year try to include an array of options from palatial estates to modest bungalows, intended to feature the wide variety of architectural styles. It actually is a lot of fun, and often interesting, but my quibble is with the folks on the higher end of the spectrum who spend tons of money to create a house that is so pretentious that I would never want to live there, even if I could afford it.

      P.S. Betsy Ross was a seamstress who designed the original American flag back in the day, so her explosion implies an overuse of a red, white and blue thematic scheme, a scenario often found in the homes of staunch Republicans…


  4. They do a similar thing up here, but for “Christmas”. Now the fact that last year (or the year before…they’re all starting to blend together 😐 ) it was held around Halloween is further evidence that some people have too much time on their hands as well as too much money.

    I remember thinking in one house that Christmas threw up in that living room. I was reminded by Betsy Ross and her unbridled spewage…

    “Nothing says classy like a dead roach on your hand-carved balcony.” Well sir, is it an insect or the other kind of roach, the kind that only certain people smoke and which no wealthy ass idiot would even claim to know anything about? Even if they are probably the ones buying up most of the weed in a given area (this may have been prior to other states ‘sides Utah getting with the medical marijuana idea. In Utah? You still have to meet some sketchy dude behind old McDonald’s barn to score. Not that I know anything about THAT. I never did inhale nor admire.)

    “If they don’t turn off that Enya album, I’m going to cut somebody.” Yeah. Try listening to “Silent Night” while jammed into some domicile that has stairs and from which someone ‘otherly abled’ cannot easily escape. Then yeah. That whole cutting idea makes perfect sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, as someone who has inhaled and admired, at least in my younger days when I was full of the investigative spirit, I can assure you that the roaches in question are from the animal kingdom, not the alley behind McDonald’s. This is what kills me in the really fancy homes on the tour. You spent 1.2 million for a water feature on the front lawn, but you didn’t manage to hire a domestic servant that would whisk away unsightliness on the lanai? It all just goes to show that money doesn’t really change anything, despite what Cyndi Lauper might warble…


  5. I’ve thought about going on one of those home tours but never have, always afraid it’d make me feel bad about my own house. Never considered how it might make me feel superior in some way. Though now that you bring it up, my eldest niece (she’s just four years younger than me) lives in one of those McMansions in Phoenix and I absolutely looove silently judging the place: “So you spent nearly a million for a view of a power plant? How charming.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is kind of ridiculous, the lengths that the monied will go to in a vain attempt to prove their worth. One year, we toured a home in Kessler Park (primo real estate area) where the Lady of the Manor made sure that every visitor understood that the shower curtain in the 14th guest bathroom was commissioned and hand-painted by Roy Lichtenstein or some such. It was ugly as hell and completely useless. One spritz from the shower head and the commission would have gone down the drain…

      Liked by 1 person

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