Salvador Dolly shot

At the end of the driveway lies a long-ago fallen, decaying sycamore, home to a billion termites, not one of them bored with eating the same old thing. A split rail fence dating back to the Civil Wa

May 10, 2001 at 2:06 pm

At the end of the driveway lies a long-ago fallen, decaying sycamore, home to a billion termites, not one of them bored with eating the same old thing. A split rail fence dating back to the Civil War encircles the entire property and, as a valuable relic of the past, is itself protected from harm by a nasty, gleaming girdle of razor wire. Just inside this double perimeter, safeguarding the family vegetable garden, is an electrified chain link fence that not only carries enough voltage to fry small varmints — it's fully coated with Teflon II, so that cooked-on meat and singed fur clean-up quick and easy, without scratchy pads or harsh cleansers.

Weeds grow like children in the yard. Near a ramshackle outbuilding, a taut-skinned cur tips a garbage can, ferrets a brittle wishbone from a chicken carcass, chomps it down, begins to choke, wishes he hadn't eaten it and miraculously coughs it up; he dies of acute starvation moments later. An ancient hulk of a Cherokee is perched upon cinder blocks, silently cursing the white man for stealing this land from his tribe and leaving only cinder blocks for him to sit on.

An unexpected dwelling rises from the rolling landscape, an architectural wonder designed and built by Eero Saarinenen in 1968, considered by many to be his most creative year since dying in 1961. Its beauty radiates a quiet solemnity, not unlike a church or a urologist's office or a Jaguar dealer showroom. A doormat lies at its threshold; the lie is "Welcome."

To enter the house is to be assailed by an overwhelming odor of mothballs, though their noxious bouquet is underscored by a heady musk of moth vaginas. The entry hall is ornate in its decoration, containing, among other things, an elephant foot umbrella stand, an impala antler coat rack, a secretary with extensive tortoise shell inlay, a zebra skin rug, a rhinoceros-hide steamer trunk, a floor lamp with a delicate scrimshaw base topped with a sharkskin shade and the original framed and signed Terms of Surrender agreed to by The Animal Kingdom.

Passing into a wide hallway, the eye is immediately drawn to the rich, sculpted, deep-pile wall-to-wall-to-wall-to-wall carpeting that graces both floor and ceiling. The walls themselves are painted a color that, while it does occur in nature, occurs only in nature's most mediocre stuff.

The living room is so relentlessly sunless, so unmercifully dark, that one could not read Braille there without a flashlight. Along the far wall, built-in bookshelves hold trite bric-a-brac; various surfaces are cluttered with garish knickknacks; on the west wall hangs an antique broadsheet for the comedy ice-skating team of Frick and Frack. (Unseen, deep in the far removes of the couch cushions, lies a bonanza of spilled, stray tic-tacs.) Overall, the impression is of a room decorated by either a hick or a hack.

Quickly up a flight of stairs, down another hall, past two bedrooms, a sitting room and a standing room only. Three full baths are available on this level, though their convenient accessibility is moot since all are built in only two of the available three spatial dimensions. Similarly, the house's many walk-in closets stand empty and useless by virtue of their being installed with no walk-outs.

To sleep in this home's master suite is to be returned to the comfort of the womb, but with far lower humidity. It seems likely that dreams occurring in this room are all about sleeping in this room. The décor, the furnishings, the accoutrements couldn't be more united in character and purpose if they were holding FBI agents at bay at a compound in Waco.

Through a sliding door lies a deck so impeccably situated it seems to communicate, "If I weren't here, instead of soaking in the view, you'd be plummeting to serious injury or death from outside a second story bedroom right now," which, impeccability be damned, still comes off as pretty cocky for a fucking deck. Down below, in the backyard, there's a trompe l'oeil in-ground swimming pool (which was impossible to pass up since it was no more expensive than the trompe l'oeil aboveground model) surrounded by a quartet of loungers painting their bodies with self-tanning lotion.

Out here, the sound of Tibetan chants floats on the air; so much so, it might be necessary to call Tibet and ask them to hold it down. ©