The tour commenced as Andrea and I strangled inside a balloon of old lady perfume. It was this acrid, palpable bouquet of marzipan candy dishes, yellow and burnt orange afghans, dainty doilies and Maude reruns, and I thought for sure my flesh would become moist with their sickly odor if I got too close.
Dick first learned us that the man who once owned the Bayernhof, Chuck [Something], had become wealthy through some sort of industry here in Pittsburgh and really, I mean REALLY, liked Germany and music boxes for some reason, so in the 60s or 70s he built the Bayernhof to house his collection of obnoxious noise machines and Bavarian bric-a-brac.
(I don’t pay attention very well.)
(Also: I was too busy masticating my bottom lip to keep from upchucking with giddy laughter.)
Chuck had a penchant for dinner parties, so his kitchen had lots of fancy (for that era) appliances and Germany shit on the wall that lit up. I emitted “ooh”s and “ahh”s with all the stinky liver spotted-hags at all the precise moments, which made Andrea glare at me.
Just imagine all the spaetzel and streudel he must have whipped up in that kitchen while shadow-dancing to the melodious plunks of his music boxes. Fucking weirdo.
“Wouldn’t it have been awesome to have been invited to one of his dinner parties?” I whispered to Andrea.
“No,” she said flatly.
The dining room was where Dick first struck up a music box, and I utterly lost my mind, laughter came projectiling out of my shitty-grinned lips like piss from an octogenarian’s bladder. I couldn’t control it, had no idea music boxes could ever be so funny to me, and I had nowhere to run; I was directly in Dick’s line of vision, so I tried to play it off like I was just THAT HAPPY and overjoyed to be hearing a goddamn tinkling box. Luckily, one of the younger of the old broads was legitimately pleased to be hearing this, so she too let out several cries of jubilation. I tried to just piggyback off her from then on. Especially since she laughed out loud at all of Dick’s “jokes.” This enabled me to get some of my immature giggles out of my system without arousing suspicion.
Dick then played another music box for us and was so disappointed that no one knew the 100-year-old song that came clinking out. It actually was rather surprising considering how old some of those ladies were.
The old lady with the cane had “Burnt Offerings” attic written all over her.
Leaving the dining room, I came perilously close to knocking some chintzy figurine off a pedestal with my ass, as previously mentioned. Andrea did the “hand to the heart” nervous Mom motion.
On the other side of the dining room door was a sunken living room with stark white carpeting, in true mod fashion (though, if he really wanted to do it right, Chuck would have opted for white shag like my grandma has in her living room). There was some grotesque Germanic wall-hanging above a fireplace, an obtuse music maker that practically housed a full-scale orchestra, and two player pianos. Dick instructed everyone to take a seat, but there was no vacancy on the couch so I was left to sit on the steps.
Another old bitch arrived while we were having our ear drums perforated by boxed music. Since she missed Dick’s lecture about not speaking to our neighbors, she sat next to me on the steps and immediately began regaling me with her feathered-lipstick asides. Bitch, don’t you know that’s what Twitter’s for?
Sometime during Dick’s spiel about repairing one of the player pianos, I happened to glance down and notice that my TOMS had tracked in a good bit of mud, which I had inadvertently ground into the WHITE CARPET while mock dancing along to the stupid old-timey music. I hurriedly stepped on it so Dick wouldn’t see. I pointed it out to Andrea as we were all herded out of the room, and she deemed it the highlight of the tour, something about “that fucking house deserved it.”
In a hallway, we listened to more music boxes and player pianos! The novelty was really wearing thin and I started bouncing from foot to foot in anticipation for the secret passageways. It was all I could do to keep my hand from springing up so I could ask him about the basement.
This was also about the time I learned that Dick is an avid fan of the rhetorical question.
The music box-filled hallway spilled us back out into the foyer and I could see the look of hope on Andrea’s face as she prayed to every relic we saw at Saint Anthony’s for this to be the end of the tour. Too bad for her there was still an entire upstairs and like, THREE SECRET PASSAGEWAYS that we were yet to explore.
There was a guest book in the foyer chockful of elderly scrawl. I added our names before we left, with a little note that said, “THIS PLACE IS REALLY OUTTA SIGHT!”
Dick was showing us, wait for it……..
….another music box, which was located in kind of a tight space, so he was having everyone come over one at a time to get a load of its innards. One of the old broads gave it a cursory glance and then offered to move out of the way so Andrea could look.
Andrea’s response was a throaty, “No.”
Not a “no thank you” or “I’ll pass.” Just a very curt and Pee-Wee-Herman-Wet-In-The-Alley-esque “No.”
I was beginning to think that maybe Andrea had some sort of music box phobia, something that dates back to her childhood and she had kept repressed up until this fateful trip to Pittsburgh. Perhaps she walked in on an uncle dressed in drag and doing unspeakable things to a gutted Thomas Kinkaide music box. Hopefully my not-yet-started music box collection will be in full swing by her next visit.
Maybe if there had been one that played Lil Wayne, the music box world would have won her over.
Here, Dick spins some yarns about Chuck’s grandfather, who never actually wore Lederhosen. This was one of those times I got to exercise my fake belly laugh.
And then we went upstairs, with Andrea “motherfucking” me every step of the way. I’ll get into the wonders of the upstairs next time. And believe me, the wonders were copious.