As a freelance writer, I spend a lot of time screaming at the walls trying to think of articles to pitch.
I am not an expert in anything. Technology, science, politics, music — these are all rich veins. While I have closely studied Vegan lifestyle gurus on YouTube, I do not have a niche. I’m what’s known as an Information Free Zone (IFZ).
But I am a “millennial” who lives in “Austin” so that’s something? Anything?
I thought I could convince someone to publish a piece about Austin’s annual Weird Homes Tour. My pitches were violently ignored, but my friend and fellow writer Johnny successfully pitched the same idea to an Irish newspaper. He has a bit of an “in” because he’s Irish, and he’s an Irish guy shaking his dick around in the middle of Texas. Novelty. Niche. Everything I’m not.
We took the tour together so I could think of ways to sabotage him.
Oh look, there he is.
Admiring bathroom mirrors and daydreaming about what he’ll do with all those weird Irish dollars.
I’m still delighted to take the tour. At the end of the day, all I really want to do is rifle through other people’s things.
Chapter 1 The Torres Temple
The Torres Temple had a master bedroom with a walk-in shrine. Or rather, the walk-in closet had been converted into a shrine. A sign requested that visitors not take photographs of the sacred space.
Scattered around the shrine were small animal skulls, pictures of the owner’s children, stones, and feathers.
I asked the owner what religion he practiced. He cited several Native American religions as inspiration.
Fine, but now where do your shoes go?
If you ask me, a certain kind of person opens up their home, lets you see their shrine, and then asks you not to take pictures. It turns out, that’s also the kind of person who stores a massage table behind their master bed and expects you to let that go without comment.
The kind of person who needs to make a grand entrance from their shower to the toilet area.
Anyone sitting on the toilet is expected to offer a standing ovation.
Is it just me, or is the Torres Temple trying to start a fight?
I’m riled up. Let’s hope the next house is NICE and NORMAL!
Chapter 2: Under Sea House
CONTENT WARNING: If you have a very specific kind of Irritable Bowel Syndrome where you experience intense diarrhea whenever you see overwhelming clusters of knickknacks, then it’s for the best if you read the next section on the toilet.
In the driveway, you can admire the owner’s art car, which can be yours for the low, low price of spending the rest of your life explaining why you own this car.
Behind the house, there is an “Undersea Guest House” which rents for $150 per night on Air BnB. This is also where the owner holds psychic readings.
It has just the right amount Lisa Frank furniture to open a porthole to another dimension.
The owner of this house had a lot to say about how Austin used to be.
Ah yes, the halcyon 1990s. When the knickknacks were still all yours for the taking.
And a gal could just cover a wall in hats, and not have someone on the internet hassle her for it.
And you could just hork up some mescaline and shut yourself in your glow-in-the-dark, technicolor bathroom and scream until your lungs were tattered paper bags.
Undersea House. The Austin I never knew. The Austin I’m pretty sure I couldn’t handle.
Chapter 3 Art Dome
Out of all the places we visited, Art Dome wins for the place that most felt like going to visit a witch in the woods.
And oh, what a witch she was.
Come closer, little one.
Just a brick oven. Just a brick oven in the woods, minding its own business.
Nothing to see here.
Inside, artist Katie Nail let visitors poke around her studio.
Nail even gave us a little tour and explained the backstory to some of her paintings.
This piece has turned out to be especially problematic.
She expressed dismay that people think that the arborist is going to cut down the tree and murder the beautiful wood spirit. Nail conceived the arborist as the tree’s husband, and the chainsaw is just the right size to fit into the tree’s crevice.
My vagina winced.
The roseate spoonbill, she further explained, is their baby.
In the background, a galaxy is born.
Now do you get it?
Chapter IV Ebba Springs
What’s that, on the lawn at Ebba Springs?
An ominous, fossilized giant toe?
Maybe! Whatever! I’m not getting paid to find out!
Inside, some taxidermied wolves let us know that they had counted all the silverware.
Inside, Ebba Springs serves to showcase the owners life-consuming wool fetish.
The title of this installation is “One Stone, Two Stones, Three Stones.”
Art is great and all, but this next piece made me throw up.
This Babadook-inspired craft features wool fetuses peering out of a slit in their wool mother.
I don’t want to cheapen my priceless blog with a dirty little .gif, but imagine a gif of a 90s sit-com character, with a really dated haircut, pulling a really, really amusing face mouthing “NOOOOOOOO!!!!”
Some wool is good enough to perch in front of the TV, while other wool gets a place of honor in the hallway.
The title is “The Deep Rest in the Rock.”.
But it’s not all wool and games at Ebba Springs. The owners aren’t afraid to have a little fun.
The sign reads, “The fish says Glub Glub, which means “No Entrance” in fish dialect.”
I even got nose deep in their closet, also the set of “VH1 Behind the Music: Wool Are They Now.”
And now, here is a picture of some tiny chairs on top of the doorframe.
Because fuck your expectations — that’s why.
Chapter V Riggins’ Cabinet of Curiosities
This house regularly appeared on Friday Night Lights. The owner didn’t know until after she made the purchase.
The owner used to work in Los Angeles as a crime scene investigator.
She retrieved this police car hood from a junk yard.
This is the uniform she wore, complete with her human goo kit. When she first arrived in Austin, she heard members of the Austin Police Department flex their muscles and say, “I’ve been to 10 homicides.”
During her time in LA, our Weird Homeowner said she attended about 8 homicide scenes per week. That crime scene kit has attended over 6,000 crime scenes.
She has beautiful collections of old medical equipment, prosthetic limbs, small animal skulls, and haunted dolls. As I left, I heard her explaining the skulls to a passerby: “Those are muskrat skulls. I boil them down.”
(For those of you wondering, yes, I did ask, and she is aware of both the TV show “Oddities” and the “My Favorite Murder Podcast.”)
Her bathroom made me realize that she might miss the old, 8-homicide per week days.
That’s what I love about other people’s homes. They don’t keep secrets as well as you do. What you don’t say out loud, your freak-ass domicile says for you.