To Live & Die in L.A.

Years ago I saw a television show about dogs. The narrator claimed that because of their acute sense of smell and hearing, dogs can approximate all that takes place inside the houses they pass on their daily walks.

Humans, on the other hand, can live for years without knowing the first detail about their neighbors.

I lived in a townhouse in Los Angeles where (in yet another homage to the ever-present automobile), my garage touched my neighbor's, but our front doors were on opposite sides of the building so we never met.

As I sat on my balcony one day I thought I heard my car running. I went down to check on it and realized it was my neighbor's car. I returned to my book on the balcony. When 15 minutes passed I suddenly thought "uh-oh." While I didn't know if my neighbor was male or female, I had a good idea about his or her intention. When my knock got no answer I went for the manager who used a key to let us in.

We found a woman in her mid-thirties passed out on the floor with a gun by her head, the car still running, the door to the garage open, and all the burners on the gas range open with the pilot lights out. Her incongruous long, long perfectly manicured orange fingernails seemed to testify that she did indeed want someone (who else but me? She had evidently sent her son to his friend's house.) to find her and that she must have some sort of plans for the future.

The ambulance came and took her away before she ever awoke. When I inquired at the manager's office several days later they told me that she was fine and that her son was staying with friends. Someone came to move her things out and I never saw her again.

Something must have happened on the other side of my wall to make this woman attempt to take her life but I swear I never heard or suspected a thing. My roommate somehow knew that she had boyfriend problems but I certainly didn't.

At the time I thought this event proved the anonymous nature of life in a big city where people are transient and prefer to be left to themselves. I realize that in the neighborhood where I now live, I know only a handful of people and I know nothing about people who live a few hundred feet away. It seems both sad and dangerous.

Although in the winter, when the trees are bare, I can see directly into their rooms. I met the Trues, who live directly behind me, when their realtor called to ask me if I wanted to see their house to write about it. I should have long ago stopped by or called if only to say, "Hello, I'm not dangerous. Are you?" Had I introduced myself, I would have known that they take care of their grandchild, who is between my children in age. They could have had a playmate as close as the back garden.

When the Trues bought the Reverend John Ward House in 1995 it was being used as a triplex. They extensively remodeled the mansion to turn it back into a single family home, which they run as a bed and breakfast inn.

Tony Sills of the Sills Inn in Versailles visited before work began then again when the work was completed. He told the Trues that he had been afraid they wouldn't manage to find the space for bathrooms in this circa 1843 house.

They not only managed, they carved out six large bedrooms and six workable, appropriate, attractive and in some cases opulent bathrooms - the Belle Breezing suite with its pink fixtures and sunken tub, which sits in a bay window, is a bather's dream.

The grand public rooms open onto a large entry hall with an elegant curving staircase. The most imposing feature of the exterior - the diagonal tower, which extends three stories - holds the coziest space of the interior. In the tiny space off of the parlor a small sofa sits under a stunning leaded glass window that depicts lilies. The Trues say they often come downstairs in the morning to find guests sitting in the nook reading.

I tried to look for my house when I was there but I couldn't see it - at all. From the back of the 1/2 acre lot trees obscured my view. I suspect that they had never even thought about me. I like the idea that I now know a little bit about what goes on in the house behind me. I would like to go visit again but I would have to climb 2 fences and tramp through some woods, so unless I am willing to walk all the way around the block it seems pretty unlikely.


467 W. Second Street


5300 Square feet

6 bedrooms; 6 bathrooms

1/2 acre lot

7 fireplaces

3-car garage

Contact Jim McKeighen 268-4663

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.