Nerve Classics: House Hunting

Shopping for a dream home on the first date

By Duncan Birmingham

Maybe it's the bourbon, but lately, we've been feeling nostalgic. With writing this good, can you blame us? "House Hunting" originally ran in 2010.

When I call Anna for our blind date, she's blunt about not wanting to do anything ordinary. "You're not going to ask me out for a drink, are you?"

"God, no." I scoff.

Of course I was. Several, in fact.

Our mutual friend promised me Anna wasn't some wide-eyed Midwestern transplant who'd be wowed by my middling screenwriting career, and that she'd "keep me on my toes," but I can't help wonder when asking a woman out for a drink became so hopelessly bourgeois. Having just relocated to Los Angeles, Anna wants to see the city and suggests we do something during the day. Now I really cringe. At thirty-one, a daytime non-drinking blind date sounds suspiciously like a dry run to see if I'm worth an actual grown-up date. I'm beginning to suspect our friend talked Anna up to me more than she did me to Anna. Before she suggests something excruciating like a hike to the Hollywood sign or a long slog up to Malibu, I quickly bluff that I want to surprise her.

That Sunday, I grab the L.A. Times and pick her up with a plan to go house hunting. Not really of course, but for kicks. I'm impressed with myself for coming up with a creative way for her to see her new neighborhood that doesn't feel recycled from an old episode of Blind Date. Anna had mentioned an interest in design, and the mossy hills of Silver Lake, Echo Park and Angelino Heights are dotted with architectural gems from the likes of Neutra, Schindler and Lautner — names I've picked up as an eastside resident and hope to impress her with.

"We're infertile." Anna says without missing a beat and motions towards me. "Mostly him, though."

I regret such a half-baked idea the moment Anna answers her door. Strawberry blonde with a ski-jump nose and lanky tank-topped frame, she's a natural knockout. I could have planned all week for this date and still felt ill-prepared.

"So." Her smirk puts Drew Barrymore to shame as she gets right to the point. "What did you come up with?"

Our first stop is a Spanish colonial with wall-to-wall carpeting and baby-proofed interiors. The owner is some kind of producer;framed posters for straight-to-video crap with titles like Sweet Insanity and Poultrygeist dot the walls. We smirk at an autographed photo of a winking Wesley Snipes and offer mock critiques of the kiddie artwork on the refrigerator. As the realtor eyes us, Anna tests the faucets and I knock thoughtfully on the walls.

"The study could easily be converted into another bedroom for guests." The realtor corners us. "Or children."

"We're infertile." Anna says without missing a beat and motions towards me. "Mostly him, though."

Once outside we both crack up, which is about as positive a date barometer as one could ask for. We're still chuckling as we walk into a stilt-supported postmodern with a $2 million price tag. Anna signs us in with the realtor as Chauncy and Zelda Van Helsing. We smile at the other perusing couples and graze on the platter of cheese and deli meats in the living room.

"I guess this means I don't have to spring for lunch," I say and Anna laughs through a mouthful of Ritz crackers.

The afternoon continues breezily like that. We visit a half-dozen open houses that neither of us could dream of affording, squinting critically from room to room and stumping the realtors with arbitrary questions.

"Is there room for a fallout shelter?"

"Do the neighbors swing?"

We discuss the novels on the bookshelves, peruse the medicine cabinets and try to pick out the owners in mantle photographs. In one master bedroom, Anna shouts "think fast" and quarterbacks me a dildo she fished out of the dresser. A young couple walks in before I have a chance to snap the rubber monstrosity back to her.


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