Pretty Into Pink

From however near or distant, we’re all familiar with the renowned dysfunctional.  In 1972, 13-year-old Tanya Tucker gave us the fictional Delta Dawn.  In Ft. Worth. there once was a woman whom locals called “The Belle Of Berry Street”, who seemingly walked endlessly.  In Austin, a friend of mine – David H. – rented a home from an unwashed and unkempt woman whose car was stuffed with folded cardboard boxes and who was known in the neighborhood as “The Box Lady”.

Also in Austin, my significant other – Beverly B. – and I lived  two places, each belonging to troubled people who lived next door.  The first belonged to a married couple who argued loudly and incessantly and the husband’s chief anger management strategy was to step out of the home and empty his .347 into the ground rather than his wife and who, paradoxically, let us break the lease without penalty when we told him we couldn’t handle their uproar.


Our second home was the house on the left, which was owned by the woman who was the owner/occupant of the house on the right.  Neither, however, now looks like it did in January 1970 when we moved in.  The house we occupied had no porch and therefore no handicap access or front walkway leading to the stairs and our landlord’s home was surrounded by a privacy fence which was six feet high.

I don’t remember how we learned about the property, but we had to apply through a real estate management company and were told that the landlord didn’t approve of cohabitation and wouldn’t allow a walk-through because she was using it to store furniture.  But with the place available at $50.00/mo. and only a little over a mile from the main campus of The University of Texas, we had no qualms about holding ourselves out as married and waiting a few days for the furniture to be removed.

When we finally were able to enter, we got the first clue that something about the landlord might not be quite right – There were no bulbs in any of the light fixtures except the one in the living room ceiling and that one was a seven watt bulb which had been painted so that it shed light only through a circular unpainted area about an half-inch in diameter.  Enough perhaps to allow a person to get around without banging a knee on a piece of furniture, but definitely not enough to live with.  But, what the hey, ten bucks worth of light bulbs wouldn’t propel us into bankruptcy.

But the house next door was very unusual and the landlord’s activities just got weirder by the day.

The most notable feature of the house next door is that everything, and I do mean everything, was one shade of pink or another.  The fence was pink.  The exterior was pink.PinkCar  And whatever one could see by peeping over the fence, such as window treatments and table lamps, was pink.  In fact, every surface you can see now that the fence is gone was pink.  What’s more, the garage she owned on the opposite side of the street was pink, as was her brand spanking new 1970 4-door Mercury Marquis Brougham, here shown in another color, which was driven once a day by her handyman and then washed before it went back in.

Over time, as we got to know other long-term residents of the neighborhood, we learned a lot more about “The Pink Lady”.  For example, the USPS uses what’s called a transfer box to transfer misdirected mail between carriers.  They look like any other outdoor box but have no slot and are often located on street corners and there was one at her corner lot which had to be moved because she kept painting it pink.

Beverly and I had been living in the rental without incident for about a year when, while in the living room watching TV one night, something hit the side of the house.  When I went out to see if someone was around who might have thrown something there was no one in sight and because it was dark and I had no flashlight I couldn’t check out what had been thrown until the next morning.  And what I found really got my attention – Someone next door had thrown orange peelings and rotted fruit and vegetables over the fence.

When I went next door to talk to the landlord about it, I was invited in and was overwhelmed by pink.  I mean, it was everywhere.  The walls were lined in pink cut velvet fabric and the floor was covered in wall-to-wall two-inch deep pink angora carpet, upon which fresh newspaper had been laid as pathways from room to room.  Even the furniture and accessories, all antique, of high quality,  and clearly costly, if not completely pink had distinctive pink accents.

I was prepared to be rebuffed by an irate landlord in a defensive posture, but The Pink Lady proved to be both understanding and gracious.  So gracious, in fact, that she took me on a tour of her home which was in and of itself something of an antique.  As we walked the property she told me that the house had been in her family and kept pristine for generations and that it had been built when being a mile from the UT campus meant being on the edge of the boondocks.  Even the once-ubiquitous summer kitchen was intact and functional.

When we went back inside, she introduced me to her full-time housekeeper and her full-time handyman, whom I would later see and speak to as he was parking the car, and she asked me to join her in a small alcove where she had two comfortable chairs and a mini-fridge and we chatted for a few minutes about what I was studying, if I worked, and whether Beverly and I were enjoying the house.

In the end, she apologized about the trash and said it wouldn’t happen again and sent me on my way with couple of stale cookies and a very soft, discolored pear which she had in the mini-fridge.

A couple of days later when leaving for class, I spoke to the handyman about the car, which I had several times seen at a local ABC store.  And when I asked why he both drove and washed it daily, he pulled a pint bottle of Jack Daniels Black out of a small paper bag and said, “The lady likes things clean and she needs her pint.”