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House Shaming in the 78704

There’s a line in my show, Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower, about how I used to ‘envy my friends who looked their mum or dad…even the ugly ones’. It comes right at the start and I thought it was funny (still do) but in last year’s run, the audience never responded to it and seemed to tense up. So my director suggested changing ugly to ‘…the less attractive ones’. Annoyed the hell out of me to soften it but as with every other suggestion he made, Ken was right and the audience seemed happier for it.

That anecdote is apropos of nothing, except that sometimes ugly is the perfect word. As in ugly houses. We occasionally see billboards around town claiming ‘we buy ugly houses’. It’s a clever marketing gimmick for a house buying company that promises quick cash to desperate owners. I prefer the more inventive approach taken by Mr Moreland in our neighborhood – ‘we build exceedingly ugly houses’.

We’ve lived in our 78704 neighborhood since 2008. At the time there were still more older single-story houses than modern places like ours. You could still easily find old appliances in front yards and a new place going up didn’t always involve the tearing down of an existing property. Things have changed a lot. New architectural styles, double lots, swimming pools and for us, bets on which will be the next here-today-bulldozed-tomorrow property. Erik usually wins those. But apart from the weird phase with the architect who went rogue with the church and French chateau themed places, the building trend has skewed strongly to modern, angular, airy, and light.

When we saw this place going up it immediately looked out of style. The bleak orphanage-style windows with the separated panes, the weird pastry strips across the front. We wondered what the final color would be. And whether it would be a stone finish or something else. There were no artist sketches or drawings out front to show what the completed house would look like. Turns out there was no need because this is it. Really? The white base with the grey pastry strips and the light-repelling windows? Yup. It feels like the house version of the technical challenge round in Great British Bake-Off. You get the ingredients, half the instructions, and no photo. Presumably, the builders had a load of concrete and some wood strips and did their best with it.

But this was clearly Mr Moreland’s vision because not only is there a sale sign up in front of the collapsed fence, but it supposedly has a sale pending. I’ve never been quite sure what sale pending really means, it sounds vague, more of a hope than an actual. I’m a famous playwright pending. And it seems just a little unlikely that anyone took a tour of this house, given that it’s a gross, disgusting mess out front. Bucking the trend on kerb appeal too.

We thought this was just a bit of a mistake on Mr Moreland’s part. That their foray into housebuilding was a horrible folly. At best they’d get poor Wade to sell it to some sucker desperate to get into 78704. But I’m wrong. This is apparently their new business model. Their unique selling proposition. The kind of house they just don’t make anymore. The one you’ll never see anywhere else.

Unless you head up the road to Bluebonnet Lane (a misnomer in both cases). Crazy paving was a fad in England in the 70s, commonly used on patios, driveways, and occasional chimney breasts. But few were brave enough to clad the whole house in it. But here we are. Crazy paving with the added bonus  of Mr Moreland’s now signature features – the pastry strips that here look like sellotape holding the cracks together and the grim black paned windows.

Once again he’s put his best chap on it. Though at the time of writing, neither listing appears on Wade’s sales site so I have no idea what Moreland is willing to pay you to take this hideous Humpty-Dumpty cracked-egg style home off their hands.


But while we wait for these two houses to be completed – assuming that there is at least a little more to be done on them? – there’s a new project ready for Mr Moreland to tackle. Behold the empty lot. This what we locally call a patch of land just down the street. It’s the closest place to let your dog off leash and poop. It’s been on the market a few times but we may have hit a new record. This land could be yours for $ 799,000. Yeah, over three-quarters of a million for the poop patch, no the pooch poop patch. That’s before you can even think about ordering the scary black windows and pastry strips.

I sort of miss the old refrigerator in the front yard neighborhood.

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