Sightseeing around the house


By Neil Offen

Welcome to the English language tour of my house. Thank you all for buying your tickets in advance and for not wearing plaid Bermuda shorts.

Before we begin, let me fill in for you a bit of the history of this historic property.

Over there, on your left, are piles and piles of magazines that date from the late 20th century, a long-ago time when early residents were not able to digitally scan as much meaningless ephemera as they wished while avoiding doing something productive. The magazines feature riveting tales of how to prepare for Y2K and probing investigations of what we can expect from the administration of President Bob Dole.

The handprints on the wall date from the early childhood period, when untamed pre-adolescents roamed the premises.

And just past the abundant magazine piles, you’ll see the front closet, filled with significant artifacts of embarrassing fashion episodes, including the bell-bottomed pants era and the wide paisley tie epoch.

Now let us begin the actual tour. Please stay together and don’t touch any of the exhibits. That can leave marks in the dust.

On the main floor here, you can see the many futile attempts at do-it-yourselfness embarked on by the current homeowners.

To your left, high on the dining room wall if you look closely are dozens of small nail holes where the homeowner tried unsuccessfully, many, many times, to hang a painting. As you can see, the painting, now on the other side of the wall, is still too high on the right.

Moving down the hall, you’ll see the infamous multiple stains on the wood floor, the oak buffet and the pine bookshelf that were the results of the famous “watergate” incident. As some of you may know, it is considered a turning point in the move from a more agrarian lifestyle that featured house plants you had to water and pets, including, once, even a gecko, to the more austere period of completely dead cacti today.

Take a moment now to gaze up at the landing above the dining room. There you’ll see a huge multi-colored wicker basket filled with … well, we’re not actually sure what it’s filled with. But we do believe the basket has been there for generations and might have involved some kind of ritual hoarding. Who knows?

As we head into the living room, notice the massive coffee table, generally indestructible despite numerous attempts to destruct it. It still bears the signs of over-heated tea mugs, muddy shoes and bits of ridged potato chips left to fester when they weren’t falling into the cushions of the nearby couch.

Now, the kitchen. Take a look inside the oven, which, while comparatively new and despite promises in the manual that it had super-efficient steam cleaning, you will note the hearty boeuf bourguignon stains on the oven door and the remains of unscrapeable made-from-scratch mac and cheese on the oven floor.

Upstairs, of course, are the bedrooms, but they are now closed to public tours because, once again, it’s nap time for the homeowners who are exhausted after trying to hang another picture.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has been a humor columnist for four decades and on two continents. He is the author of “Building a Better Boomer,” available wherever books are sold.
This reporter can be reached at

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