I had a morning call at a waterfront home in Tiburon. There were six cars parked in the driveway. Three were under covers – two vintage Ferraris and a BMW CSI – three were exposed: a Jaguar convertible, an older Mercedes and a tricked out bright yellow Jeep.
I was met by an attractive Middle Eastern woman in her late-40s. She led me down the side of the house; we entered through a sliding glass door. I stepped into a large, glass-encased room that hung over the Bay, facing Angel Island, with views of downtown Tiburon and the Golden Gate Bridge.
I encountered a grey haired man in his mid-60s who was standing on a chair fiddling with a light cover, trying to screw it back into a ceiling mount. He was having trouble with the task; I told him to get down, and executed the job easily. The room had thick, high end carpet, white and stained in many places. It was filled with huge, ornate furniture, gold sculptures and art pieces, like an Egyptian museum. There were a couple of electric guitars in a corner and a rare framed poster of Jim Morrison on the wall. A huge wall-mounted flat screen television was blaring a black and white Western from the 1960’s.
The man told me he was battling brain cancer and had to give up his meat company a few years back. I noticed that the table next to his chair had a vast array of medications on it. I asked how he was doing; “So so,” he replied. I inquired about the cars; he said that one of the Ferraris was a 1972 Dino he’d purchased for $42,000 and was now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The man and I got along well, but the woman wasn’t happy with any of my wares. She never smiled. I brought out our high end stuff, but she wanted patterned carpet and, in retrospect, I think she felt daunted by the thought of having her ridiculously flamboyant furniture temporarily displaced. I did my best to try to make the sale, but stopped short of becoming unfriendly about it. As I left I helped them put a thick glass piece back on a gold encrusted table that’d been moved to fix the ceiling light.
I made a late-afternoon call in Bayview, about eight blocks east of Third Street, halfway down toward Highway 101. I arrived at an address that featured broken down cars in front of it and a beat up, graffiti-laden house with broken windows. The visit was for an apartment behind the main house, but it looked abandoned. Trash was blowing against the garage door. It was getting dark. A disheveled man mumbling to himself hobbled by behind me.
There was no doorbell; no one responded to my raps on the garage’s side door. I called my company’s help line; they said that the contact would be out soon. I was ready to leave, but was soon met by a scrawny blond haired white kid, maybe 28, wearing an unravelling, oversized sweater, dirty black baggy pants and filthy red tennis shoes. He had a shockingly gruesome swollen black eye with stitches still in it.
I immediately asked how that’d happened. He told me that he did martial arts. But he was all of 130 pounds and, as he said it, danced around like a little kid would imitating a martial artist. Clearly he’d been beaten up.
He led me down a pitch black side walkway to his place behind the garage. My mind was racing as to how I could extract myself to the safety of my car as quickly as possible. He ushered me into a horribly trashed windowless room with a swinging 40 watt light bulb barely illuminating the place. He said “they” needed a price to redo their floors. I asked if he had a roommate; he introduced me to a woman reading a book under covers in a mattress thrown on the floor in an equally scary adjoining room. She never turned around, just lifted her arm and waved and appeared to be topless as her bare back was exposed. There was so much junk – clothes, boxes, trash, broken furniture, pieces of bicycles – that we had to step over stuff just to walk around.
I told the guy that my company wasn’t right for his situation, as we have a $500 minimum order and that he should go grab a roll of carpet at a yard sale, and ran out of there. As I left it dawned on me that they might be squatters.
Three months later I was called to the same address to be met by the landlord, a fat, New Jersey, Italian wise guy type in a dirty thin T-Shirt and gold chains. He said he was in the process of evicting his tenants and needed a court-ordered quote to repair the floor. I told him my story; he said that they were meth heads; that she was a prostitute and had beat him up. He said that the place was the source of much drama; the police were no strangers to the address.
The Carpet Chronicles is a six-part series detailing one Potrero Hill resident’s experiences selling home flooring in and around San Francisco.