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22 June 2013 @ 10:57 pm
So what’s all this about some “Gayboy Mansion”? Or: Why I haven't posted since March!  
This is a tale of three houses. One can refer to them by the last two digits of their street addresses: 68, 67, and 77. The house my husband Danny and I live in is 68.

A few years ago, we bought 67, the house directly across the street. We think of it as “the crazy catlady house,” since we bought it from the son of the owner, a crazy cat lady who unfortunately died of severe health problems brought on by the dozens of cats and quite a few dogs who lived in it with her. Because the son lives in a faraway state, and probably also because of the stench of the place, he had no interest in the property and decided to sell it. The house has a working furnace, but only one small window A/C unit in the master bedroom, and no central air. We had to completely gut the kitchen, so it is in a state of severe disrepair. Currently, because of its window unit and adjoining half bath, I have my photographic darkroom in the master bedroom.

My mother is in her mid-70s and lives with my sister (who actually isn't my sister by blood, but that’s another story) and my sister’s husband. Because they were living in an expensive apartment that was about to have its rent jacked up with a new lease, they expressed interest in renting 67. We agreed, but ultimately my sister’s husband found out that his employer needed him to be there and would fire him if he moved here and tried to commute. So that killed that idea.

In the meantime, the owners of 77, who had only lived there a few years, moved out suddenly when it seemed they were about to be foreclosed upon. The house went up for sale, finally, and we decided that we’d make an offer in my name. That way, if I got the house, I could never lose it, unlike our own house in Danny’s name, due to the abysmal state of same-sex civil rights in Tennessee. As it turned out, the offer was accepted and I closed on the house in late March 2013. Compared to 67, 77 was in nearly perfect shape: two bedrooms, one bath, working furnace and central A/C.

I immediately started painting the house in preparation for its being a destination for family and friends to stay instead of renting a hotel room if they came to visit for a few days. Because we couldn’t exactly have two houses we called “the house across the street,” we needed another informal name. I decided upon Jonny McGovern’s “The Gayboy Mansion,” which is an intentional misnomer since 77 is a rather small house! We changed two of the rooms. The original dining room we decided to use as a combination breakfast room and bar. Another room was originally a family room or den with a separate exterior door, but it was much too small to actually use in that way, so it became the dining room.

We had both spent our childhoods in rooms with mostly white walls, so we wanted this house to have more color. It took me a long time working by myself, but I first painted the ceilings, interior doors, and molding stark white, and then nearly every room a different but coordinating color.

When Danny’s mother passed away several years ago, he put the most treasured family furniture in storage to safeguard it. Upon buying the Mansion, we were able to take it out of storage. The family was lower middle-class, so the furniture is beautiful, mostly solid mahogany, antique but not ornate. The dining room suite is easily the most grand of it, but not by far; it is in the Federal style, a Duncan Phyfe revival set. Two other pieces, a rough-hewn washstand and a darkly varnished serpentine-front dresser, are sufficiently primitive and imprecise that we believe them to be either handmade or hand-assembled, and date back from the 1890s to the early 1900s.