Karma and the Cottage, Part 3


TO recount the series of events that lead to our buying this particular little, red bungalow in Pasadena, I have to go back almost 35 years. The youngest son of the owners at the time was about 16. His weakness for drinking beer and riding motorcycles fast met up one night with another driver’s habit of not looking for small flying objects before changing lanes. He clipped the car going about 100. Miraculously he stayed on the bike and was able to coast it to the side of the road. Sometime before falling off the bike and passing out, he noticed his lower-right leg hanging from a few threads of meat and pointing in the wrong direction. Apparently he almost died from blood loss, but lucky for Mark, paramedics drive almost as fast as 16-year-olds.

They reattached the leg, but it eventually turned black — stay with me, I’m getting to the part about the house. So out of this experience, Mark ends up a one-legged teenage morphine addict. Skipping over a dozen years, the house is left to Mark when his parents pass away. That might be the end of it: a roof over his head and a government check coming in each month. Hanging out with friends, getting drunk and high to classic rock in the back yard. Finding time to get married, have a baby girl, get divorced. Occasionally helping neighbors tear down enormous metal bird cages.

Mark’s fire extinguisher

There’s plenty in there I’m leaving out for the sake of brevity: multiple DWIs, shooting himself, violent outbursts, accidentally catching on fire. But, and I say this with no sarcasm, Mark was a terrific neighbor. I’d trust him with my wallet and the keys to my house, as long as the gas was turned off and there were no matches around. He minded his own business and took good care of his yard. He’d get on the wagon and try to maintain a relationship with his daughter. We’d have beers and I’d give him rides and help him patch his leaky roof. When he got his hands on a bottle of painkillers, I’d sometimes be the one to call the ambulance or drive him down to the emergency room. Just another day in the ‘dena. Could’ve gone on for years like that, because as miserable as Mark was, every third day or so, he was happy. Not a bad ratio, all things considered.

Okay, tomorrow I’ll explain about the house, I swear.