Casa Chueco

I lived in a crooked house. Not a cheating thief of a house; a house with a crooked foundation. The slope was not gradual or a mere uneven floor. The increase in altitude from one end to the other would give me headaches and, on hung over Sunday mornings, the bends. It’s funny to see your dog lose grip while running across a wooden floor and slide ever so slightly one way and another. It’s downright fucking hilarious to watch your dog run head first into a downward slide and slam, tail first, into the cold, slanted wall.

For whatever reason the doors and windows continued to function normally but the passersby would gawk and point at my little slanted house. Whenever they encountered my house for the first time they would argue over “clay soil” and “sloping hillsides.” The men would scratch their heads and suggest jacking of some kind. Less pragmatic yet optimistic folks would say, “put some furniture in the low spot;” as if no one would notice the Himalayan change in elevation. The house didn’t slope elegantly from one end to the other like that famous tower in Italy — she was a bit more Los Angeles and cynical than that. She often cried out loud with the anger of a thousand crashing door slams when I didn’t catch the knob fast enough or a visitor was unaware of the old wooden door’s heft and history.

On an incredibly ordinary day you had to decide if you were upstage or downstage and remain there for your curtain call. It was quite an endeavor to try both. On one particularly ordinary day the bathroom pipes burst. As luck would have it the bathroom was at the lower end of the slope, in the foothills if you must, so the water just flowed right back into the bathroom and straight down the drain. There are some upsides to a slanted house.

I tried in vain to fix the sloped house. Men came and went, they crawled under her foundation, they inspected her floor joists, and kicked the side of her walls. Interestingly the medicine men each had a unique approach. One suggested I use car jacks to slowly lift the house off its foundation, add more wood sill, and then lower her back down. One other argued for a technological approach to house leveling, with lasers and gauges and doodads, he provided a map of the floorplan and drew in locations for nearly 60 different hydraulic lifts that would adjust over time to keep the house level — imagine that a “floating” house, on a sloped hillside, in El Sereno? I wonder what the neighbors would say then? The most interesting of characters who inspected my house suggested that I rip out the floor and doors and jambs and rebuild the floor from the inside — install a new floor that was level with the ground but not with the walls — was this madman not on the level?

As you might imagine I never did level that old house. I found it charming, even enjoyable, during cleaning days when you could stand on the high end of the slope and hose off the inside of the house. She may have always leaned to one side but she never wavered and her crooked foundation was a great conversation starter.