According to the rumors, the owner of the grand old Victorian mansion with the intricate antique gingerbread trim, fell victim to hard times and was forced to unload the three-acre property at No. 8 Stone Canyon Trail for a song.
On the heels of the distressed sale, a posse of slow-poke contractors and well-heeled snooty decorators turned up on the secluded estate one fog-laden morning to work their magic.
The sudden flurry of activity out-of-the-blue raised an eyebrow or two when the loud dusty construction first started up - but – it wasn’t until a squat Mexican gardener puttering around in the garden revealed the extent and nature of the renovations underway that the shit really hit the fan.
Blueprints – lifted by a neighbor with connections at City Hall – revealed that the historical landmark was rezoned to make way for rental units on the site.
The mere thought of an apartment complex standing ramrod straight in their midst, was enough to trigger a knee-jerk reaction among the staid old guard, who sprang into the fray bent on halting the intrusion on Cypress Ridge about to transform the terrain before their very eyes.
“There goes the neighborhood,” one disgruntled resident muttered under his breath, one fine day when he was out walking the dog.
When the word leaked out that the lone buyer was a reclusive European Countess, the rumor-mill shifted into high gear, and the tongues began to wag.
The scuttlebutt ran the gamut.
"The mysterious dragon-lady is sole heir to a fabulous fortune," one gushed.
“Old money,” another asserted in a hushed reverential tone of voice.
"Money doesn't talk, it screams," another lamented.
"Obviously, the bitch is highly connected", one angry long-time resident sneered, when a petition to halt the project was mysteriously stalled in its tracks.
Speculation about the Countess's personal affairs behind closed doors reached a fever pitch.
Without an ounce of proof one scurrilous character took it upon himself to spread a nasty rumor.
The chi chi Countess was allegedly a lipstick lesbian who once-shared her exquisite four-poster bed - replete with hand-crafted Queen-size pillows and pricey designer sheets - with legendary screen Goddess Greta Garbo.
That juicy bit of gossip stuck - go figure - shortly after a lawyer representing the interests of the aggrieved parties confided to a couple of his partners that a stern letter to the Countess failed to engender any meaningful settlement talks.
“I want to be left alone. That was her one-line response,” he hissed to all within earshot, as he threw up his hands in the air in disgust.
A scant few months later three qualifying tenants settled into their tony suites, as a handful of disgruntled neighbors gazed on with their noses totally out-of-whack.
Reginald Bartholomew scrutinized the documents once again carefully.
Sure that he crossed his “t’s” and dotted his “i’s” - he was inclined to flip off the gold cap on his elegant fountain pen - and affix his John Henry to the historical document he was about to sign into law with a flourish.
It was a remarkable accomplishment for preservationists.
Henceforth, influential developers intent on tearing down Historical landmarks within San Francisco proper, would find it virtually impossible to achieve their self-serving greedy ends in the future at the expense of the will of the people, the community-at-large, and the environment most of all.
“A toast is in order,” Bartholomew chuckled to himself, as he strode out the door to celebrate with his partners, who were grinning from ear-to-ear at the prestigious Royal Oak Club on Nob Hill.
Union Square was teaming with excited tourists as Brad strode across the plaza in the direction of the exotic archway splashed in red and gold that marked the entrance to festive Chinatown on Grant Street a-hop-and-a-skip-away.
A stop into a quaint little shop to pluck up a package of incense, an ornately-decorated box of loose Jasmine tea, and a chocolate-covered fortune cookie at the local bakery.
On the way out the door, he gave a nod to a photo of former President Bill Clinton, which graced the wall over a counter stocked with a dozen-or-so delicious bakerd treats.
A few strains of the old rock 'n roll hit - "I Ain't Superstitious" - rumbled around inside his head for a second or two as he proceeded to crack open the cookie.
Like it or not, no matter what the message surreptitiously tucked inside said, he'd take it to heart.
Therefore, here were rules to follow, for good reason.
For example, if he rustled up an upbeat message, Brad would carefully fold up the forecast and insert it neatly into his wallet next to his billfold for good luck.
In contrast, an ominous warning - hinting that he may encounter "interesting times ahead" - was summarily tossed into the trash.
In the latter case, the appropriate ritual ensured that any negative influences predicted, were sure to fizzle out.
But, nonetheless, he never tempted fate.
"Step on the crack! Break your mother's back!"
He laughed to himself.
Thank Buddha for the healing power of meditation!
Admittedly, it was tough spiritual assignment, alright.
Being "empty" and existing in the "now" - free of the tendency to grapple with surreal notions about reality and illusion - was a tough row to hoe.
An old Chinese proverb sprang into mind!
Chopping Wood and Drawing Water
Chopping Wood and Drawing Water
The incense, on the other hand, helped set the mood.
But, more importantly, the sweet-smelling stuff hid the pungent tell-tale aroma of marijuana from his landlord's super-sensitive snoz!
A big fat doobie relaxed him.
Nope, Brad wasn't hooked on the high, in spite of constant teasing from his buddies that (on the contrary) he was pot-head all the way.
The attitudes of society had changed considerably over the years, anyway!
In the 60's, a dude was liable to be sentenced to seven years behind bars for mere possession in Canada, for instance.
Today, cops strode by tourists toking up at trendy sidewalk cafes, and snickered at each other knowingly as they looked the other way amused.
An overzealous pig might write 'ya up a ticket, on the other hand, when least anticipated.
Heck, last night Craig Ferguson teased one of his guests about the pleasures (and merits) of dropping acid and munching on magic mushrooms!
"What kind of high do you experience," he quizzed the surprised actress, who played along nonetheless.
Surely, he was pulling her pretty leg?
Brad just might pay his doctor a little moolah under the table to rustle up a prescription to purchase medical marijuana so that he wouldn't run the risk of getting busted.
A couple of his former room-mates - who were suffering from complications of A.I.D.S. swore by it - in spite of spirited arguments from Government attorneys that the leafy green stuff had no medicinal benefits whatsoever.
Needless to say, when his spare time permitted, Brad often joined in with activists at the non-profit organization - Americans For Safe Access - when they marched in the streets in support of the cause and denounced the DEA para-military-style raids on pot dispensaries in West Hollywood and elsewhere in the Golden state in recent months.
Once, Brad actually posted a feature-length article on the issues, on an Internet web site which was highly-trafficked.
Alongside a publicity still of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger taking a toke on a joint at Gold's Gym at Venice Beach in his early body-building days, Brad scrawled the following cheeky caption:
"Don't Bogart that joint, Arnold!"
The hunky terminator must have a sense of humor - because he didn't react angrily - or demand that the incriminating publicity still be taken down from the "Tattler" blog site.
At this point, Brad's thoughts drifted to a life-long friend who recently passed to spirit in Canada.
Whenever he spied Tiffany pour a stiff shot of whiskey, a guilty look spread across her face.
Then, she'd let out her signature giggle, and utter up lame excuses.
"For medicinal purposes," she'd cackle.
"Pour me a jigger, please," he'd respond, quick on the uptake.
Misery loves company, after all!
Then, just like clockwork, the winsome twosome would drift off into a stupor as the sound of the waves caressing Sunset Beach just outside the bay window, ushered 'em both into a deep soothing sleep.
Gosh, how he missed her!
(to be continued)
DEA Raids in Los Angeles!