House Tour Type Situation (2006)

The View From Argyle Heights by Homeowner Harry
Another in a series of observations about life in West Midwood as it is lived today…or maybe not

June 4, 2006. Well, the Victorian Flatbush House Tour is next Sunday and here I am cleaning the house to make it presentable to the hordes of strangers who will descend from the heart of the empire to marvel about the adaptation of life in such cruel habitats. I speak from experience since I have been through this before. Mingling with the tourists gives you a truer appreciation of what they’re really thinking after they’ve given you the usual “Nice house” comment and pass out of earshot …

“Nice porch if you overlook that hideous sofa.”

“Do people actually sit out here? People on the street can actually see you! What’s to stop them from starting a conversation and then maybe rob you and shoot you or maybe just kill you and rape you?”

“Hmmm. With so many windows, where’s your privacy? And oh look – that drape is way too mauve.”

“My God! There’s no air conditioner in this bedroom. I think I’m gonna be sick!”

“How can they live so far away from Park Slope? Do police even patrol out here?”

But, of course, that was back when crime was so high scientists were still struggling to invent some means to count it, which of course led to the discovery of the Personal Computer. Speaking of which, I just Google’d recent house tours in Brooklyn and came up with some pretty good reasons why we should NOT have volunteered our house for this gig again:

"…It’s increasingly difficult to persuade homeowners to put their houses on these tours since there's no longer a need to ‘recruit’ new homeowners to Brooklyn and new owners are more protective of their privacy…and as websites like this demonstrate, the level of criticism of the houses on display is pretty high -- many owners are saying they just don't want to expose themselves to such a negative experience." Source:

Oh. My. God. We put our house on this same tour about 15 years ago, when “internet” meant a mass of spider webs. I never stopped to realize that NOW, not only will snobby people examine our house up close and personal, but many will then rush home to complain about the nouveau-garishness of it all to the entire world.

Another anonymous web poster in Park Slope even impugned the motives of home-owners who volunteer for such events: “I don't understand why a homeowner would want to put there (SIC) place on a house tour with people tromping through your place and potentially scoping it out to steal something or break in later. Must be for vanity reasons.”

Well, there you have it. House tour hosters are not only garish but vain-glorious and thrill-seeking robber-darers. They got me nailed. Truth be told, however, the reason we decided to do this was to help out the Flatbush Development Corporation, which annually honors the best among us, including the Givners, Judy Brandwein, Alvin Berke, and Ladder 147 & Engine 281 - “Da Pride A Flatbush” (unexpected visitors to our smoky kitchen not so long ago). That, plus my wife is very house proud, and who wouldn’t be, especially after spending a zillion dollars of our hard-earned money to renovate this joint. Also, I figured that as long as we were scheduled to be on this tour, it would prevent Virginia from implementing new renovation projects that would continue to impact my beer money fund.

Little did I realize that the tour itself would become a project. For instance, chamber musicians are made available to play in your home during the day. But our piano is out of tune. Having some Brooklyn Philharmonic dude play a badly tuned piano? “Surely you jest,” suggested the FDC representative. Ka-ching! Also, the rugs hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned in 6 months. Ka-ching! Some new floral arrangements for the front and side gardens? Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

June 6, 2006: Saw Howard Givner out front cutting his hedges and wandered over to ask if he was interested in a bunch of prose for the next newsletter. He asked me if was going to write about the space aliens again. Hmmmm…Hadn’t thought about them in connection with house tours…an excellent opportunity for them to “blend in” with the humans and take notes…But no, I’ll save that for next time. “OK,” said Howard, “then we’re interested.”

June 10, 2006: The big day is tomorrow. A brochure from FDC arrived with a nice write-up about our house. Unfortunately, there is nothing in it about the best house getting a prize. Which is frankly what I think is needed to get more folks to volunteer. “A free month’s mortgage for the house voted best on the Tour!” You’d have to beat people off with a stick! Anyway, I decided to do some research on the web sites for Victorian Flatbush neighborhood associations and it seems is the best. Prospect Park South’s is “coming soon” while Beverly Square West has a couple of pages on a commercial site filled with ads. My wife wants me to clean the windows rather than conduct this vital research, so I had to cut short my investigations, but you can go to and see for yourself. Missing from the FDC list is a new addition,, which looks like it might contend with ours some day in the distant future…but not now. BE PROUD, Argyle Heights-ers (Heights-ians? Height-ites?), BE VERY PROUD - and thank Paul Steinfeld, web designer extraordinaire.

June 11, 2006: Well, the day dawned beautiful and clear (James wasn’t up to see it, because he was downloading sheet music advertised on the Beverly Square West web site until all hours). There were over 150 visitors and they were all happy to have full run of the house. I told them that since we had no valuables in the house, it was not a problem. One visitor asked why this neighborhood is called West Midwood. I told him we were thinking of changing it to Rugby Ridge or Argyle Heights or Westminster Hill or Glenwood Glade or...He looked at me blankly, then asked: “Is it because you’re west of some woods?”

June 12, 2006: There was a neighborhood meeting at the Church tonight and Virginia was the designated attendee for our household. She said there was some informal discussion about the original name of Avenue H (“Hiawatha or Hawthorne Avenue”?) but she also heard that some folks are upset about my crazy idea to change the name of the neighborhood…Well, I have more on that, but it will have to wait until the next issue because I’ve run out of room. Time to take a stroll and catch the evening breeze as it wafts over me, here atop Argyle Heights.

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