Life in the Big House
by Jim McPartland
“Mad Rumblings” on Facebook
The following story is true. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent because
1) I’m guilty and 2) I don’t know the names of most of the characters, so many are made up.
In October of 2010, I’d run out of places to hang my hat. My friend Chad (OK that is a name change) invited me to stay at his rented house in Westport, Connecticut. I’d never spent much time in Westport as it’s pretty much all “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” with a median income of $150k. Many of the houses sit behind stone walls with gated entries and greenery that dates back to the Mesozoic Era.
I had been there around two weeks and never really looked at what was behind the curtain of shrubbery and crag next door. The in ground pool and screened gazebo were easy enough to see but it wasn’t like The Bellagio with peeing gargoyles and it just never really fascinated me, other than Chad mentioning he went in the house all the time because no one lived there.
When I inquired as to why it sat dormant he told me the story.
“I rent this house from Jeff Weinstein. Jeff lived in it raising his family in the 90’s. His wife didn’t like the neighbors, so they bought the other four houses on the street. (Each of those houses is worth $1,000,000+.) She didn’t like who he rented them to and, once the kids were gone, demanded he buy something nicer.
They needed bigger; more panache – 15,000 square feet and bookcases made of gold just weren’t cutting it. I pictured Mrs. Weinstein complaining “…and, Janet Finkel next door doesn’t take tennis lessons from Nastase! Can you imagine what it’s like to live here??”
What Chad had said intrigued me enough to Google search Mr. Weinstein. (I will pay $5 to anyone who figures out what his real name is.) Here are a few things I found –
- He was in the top 300 Forbes’ World’s Wealthiest People.
- In a recent tax year he was 3rd in the town of Westport, paying $28,000,000 in taxes alone. Chad did the simple math and figured he owned around $120,000,000 of real estate in Westport.
- He owns the most expensive home in Westport. Not a bad feat considering what waterfront property goes for.
- He enjoys chess, quiet walks on the beach, and armed security. (Don’t we all?)
- He does not like lines at the airport, panhandlers, or Obama. (Private jets, armed security and donations to the RNC help here.)
Although Chad was being gracious by letting me crash on his couch, he told me early morning showers were out as it woke him, despite the fact I was tip toeing around like a burglar. He suggested I stay above the 3-car garage on the big house property as he rented part of the space. I slept there a couple nights and it was warm, but with no kitchen or bathroom it had limited functionality. I talked to Chad about it and he agreed to accompany me to the grand chateau.
We went over one afternoon, expecting the house to be locked up like Fort Knox. But it had more doors than the Taj Mahal and the side entrance swung open, begging our entry. Little did I know it was like entering the infamous Room 237 in The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.
The “new wing” was the size of an above average American dream – 2500 square feet, three bedrooms, small kitchen (meant to serve light fare to pool partiers) and a bathroom which featured a 10 x 10 stand up steam shower. I had visions of joining the “Charlie Sheen Harem Club” loopahing 24-year-old blonde twins. That was sensational enough for the time being, but I had to know more.
The first evening, at dusk, I decided to go on a Boy Scout excursion to see what lay in other sections of this behemoth. Chad warned me not to switch on lights, so armed with a flashlight, pocket knife and canteen, I ventured out.
The breeze way to the main house was around 50 feet. As I meandered down to a door that entered the kitchen, I got this uncomfortable feeling. Not so much that I was technically strolling where I shouldn’t be (although I was) – but rather, that I felt unwelcome – like if you knock at the door of someone you’re trying to collect money from.
The kitchen was huge with a Sub Zero Fridge and Viking Stove with Pizza Oven. (That's over $25,000 in two appliances alone.) I noticed the phone system included an intercom to call various bedrooms, set up prior to the advent of cell phones. That made sense because Johnny couldn’t possibly hear you if he were in his room and you called for dinner.
I started to get lost as soon as I left the kitchen as there were four ways to exit into the house. I realized I hadn’t brought breadcrumbs to mark my return.
On my venture I counted no fewer than ten bedrooms, each with a full bath and six with fireplaces. While I was spellbound by it all, it made me uneasy. That uneasy feeling continued to mount as the sun set. I opened doors that I wasn’t sure would expose petrified bodies. The upstairs especially creeped me out. The Master had two separate doors to pass through with a sitting room the size of most living rooms, as well as a vaulted ceiling akin to the Sistine Chapel. All the furniture was nice, albeit outdated. It was the Connecticut version of the Overlook Hotel.
Within a couple of days, I told my friend Mike all about my no cost Four Seasons luxury suite. He got a kick out of it, but asked what I was going to do once it snowed and footprints leading in could be seen. As the property manager, Ray, and his team of illegal Panamanian cronies were there once a week or so cleaning the yard, it was a good question I hadn’t thought about. I toyed with the idea of getting fake slip-on Big Foot feet to fuck with their heads but was afraid the workers would think a Chupacabra was lurking and run for the hills.
”Pssst-- Jose--Ven aqui!”
Chad, while also amused at my new digs, also thought I needed an escape plan.
“If you get caught in there, you can’t say I knew you were there.”
“Who’s going to catch me? I only go in after sunset and leave at the crack of dawn.”
“You just don’t know. If the police catch you, tell them you’re drunk and you thought it was my house.”
“That isn’t going to happen. And I can’t act that drunk.”
I was very careful to clean up after myself and leave things the way they were. Ray and his Mexican Cartel didn’t come on weekends, so it was really just one unknown day during the week I had to be super stealth.
I was always mindful to put the shades down in the bedroom where I was spending the nights and made sure I put them back up in the morning. That’s why I kind of flipped out when, one Sunday, I got back in the evening to find them down. It was reminicent of the movie Poltergeist. Or maybe Goldilocks. Were the three bears around? Is the Chupacabra waiting for a snack? Even my dog Buck was peeking around corners with ears outstretched like a cell tower, seemingly seeing things I didn’t.
Days passed. I slept pretty well on the-way-too-hard bed. I kept feeling that as long as I stayed on “my side” of the house, the current “tenants” would ignore me.
Right after the first of the year, I came back to find the door locked. Fuck, my contacts and toiletries are in there. I’m screwed if I can’t get in! I circled the house, which was like going on an oblong high school track. I found an unlocked window and climbed in. Escape route #1 could now be posted on the back of my bedroom door.
After some relatively uneventful weeks I saw that the workers seemed to be coming to the house more often. I noticed a couple of times lights were left on but figured it was their forgetfullness. A maid had come by to clean the toilets. Now I had to be careful about flushing. It was a game of cat and mouse and I was careful to stay away from the sticky peanut butter ladened traps.
Having to do something – anything – about my income, I had taken a job washing limos for $9/hr while I continued to try to make a buck pursuing my creative interests. That limo washing gig is a story in and of itself. Let me leave it at a dose of humility worse than a bottle of caster oil combined with being wet and freezing cold constantly.
I was due in to work at 6 AM on a Sunday. I set my alarm for 4:45, but woke up at 4:00, breathing a sigh of relief. I had another 45 minutes.
I’d briefly fallen back asleep when suddenly I heard sets of feet coming up the stairs with dim, glowing lights and whispers.
To be continued----
Scene of unproven crimes against humanity (or real rich guys).
There is not a camera lens wide enough to get the whole house in picture. Aerial shots available through Met Life blimp.
Jim McPartland is a freelance comedic writer specializing in non fiction narrative humor. He can be had for a song. Just not “Don’t Stop Believing” as that causes violent outbursts.
Jim can be found on Facebook under “Mad Rumblings” – his soon-to-be-published book.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.