Friday, September 3, 2010


I can't believe I'm going to actually write about this. But I have a secret obsession with the well-being of a stranger. Weird, no?

Ok, here's the story: One day, there was a show at the park, that got shut down because our permits were not in order. (That's a story for a different day) at any rate, I was lurking through facebook and came across a friend of one of the bands that played who is a photographer. I was poking around his albums because I'm nosey and I'm extremely interested in photography. I love to see different artists perspective, it really fascinates me. At any rate, I came across this photo:
( Photo credit: Justin Ball Yes I just gave a perfect stranger a photo credit. I didn't take the damn photo!!)

At any rate, I have always had an odd fascination with this house. I remember the first time I saw it, like it was yesterday. John and I were on his dual sport (street legal dirt bike), driving from Douglas to Bellingham and we went by this house. I remember thinking "God, that delapitated mess would be great to photograph." -- Fast forward a few years later and it's the day after my wedding, and my two friends Heather & Heather and I are out breaking into abandoned houses to photograph them. I immediately think of this house, but I can't remember where it is, or how to get there. -- Fast foward 1 more year, and we open the skate park. Now I drive by this house nearly everyday from the park to HOme Depot, or from work to the park. I notice that there are clothes out on the line one day. The next time I drive by I notice that the clothes have changed and the front door is open. The weather gets colder and there is smoke coming from the chimney. HOLY SHIT! Someone lives in this house?!?!?!

In comes my lurking, and I find out that the man's name is, in fact, Norm. There is a lot of rumor about exactly what Norm's story is. Some claim that he fell on financial hard times (clearly) and that a wealthy man offered to help him out in exchange for the deed to his home upon his passing - but when the time came to help him, he backed out and now the property is owned by a real estate company. I don't really believe this story, in it's entirety.

I am SO curious about Norm's story. I find myself driving slightly out of the way just to drive past and see that he's ok. I love catching a glimpse of Norm. Sometimes he's walking down the road, hands always behind his back looking at the ground. Sometimes he's out in his front lawn cutting the front foot of edging with kitchen sheers. (No, I'm not kidding). Sometimes he's out putting his clothes on the line. If I happen to drive by at the right time, usually around dinner time, he is standing at the foot of the staircase, near the front door. My favorite Norm-sighting was when I saw him reading a flier. He was grinning ear to ear. To see this man so happy brought tears to my eyes. I was so happy to see him in such a state of bliss. Here his is, living in a house that is falling down around him yet he still finds humor and joy in the world. There are holes in his roof bigger than my car, but that flier still brought a smile to his face.

I wish I had the courage to just stop one day and ask him his story. I'd love to help him fix his house, as much as I could. I'd love to help. I wouldn't love to insult the man. I wouldn't love to invade his privacy. It's such a fine line between being a good "neighbor" and overstepping your boundaries. Maybe he's happy living the way he lives. For all I know, this could be a very intentional choice. Maybe he's miserable and would be happy just to have someone stop and say hello. Maybe he's lonely, or maybe he is content and fulfilled. I'm at a loss. The only thing I'm certain about is that his property is beautiful in it's imperfection. It evokes a lot of emotion in me, and I can't place my finger on the reasons.

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