The Knitting Nun: Sister Barbara Knits: Caption Contest!

Caption Contest

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The Mystery of the Mid Century Modern Home: 17iPads, One Starbucks Latte and a Ghost

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“The 17 iPads that were tossed in the pool and ruined? They can be replaced. It’s the chain smoking that’s a problem.”

George sat back in one of the vintage chairs out on the porch of his clients’ $26 million Los Angeles 1956 estate Mid Century Modern home two-story home, puffing on a Cuban cigar. He surveyed the glittering city of Angels, got up and started walking around the guitar-shaped pool created by a Hollywood star back in the day.

“The way I see it – the ghost themselves are an asset,” he said, tapping his ashes into the pool. “I’ve sold more than one property that was haunted. Just not a Mid Century Modern one. There are some people who seek them out. The idea that chairs mysteriously move or levitate intrigues them. My problem is the smoke.”

He continued talking to Sister Barbara, who came in on the red eye last night. A housekeeper in a crisp black and white uniform swung by the patio with a cup of hot coffee and cookies. George called Sister Barbara yesterday morning, pleading with her to come out and talk to the ghosts in this property now on the market. Apparently the iPads – mysteriously tossed into the pool – were the last straw.

“My team cannot sell a house that’s got the smell of smoke,” he said, pacing manically puffing on his cigar, and now sipping on a Starbucks latte. “I’m aware the smoke from these ghosts is vintage. It’s not real.

“But I just can’t risk them lighting up during the house walk through prior closing. They could screw up everything.”

Sister Barbara just nodded, saying “I see” every once in a while. What did this guy in a custom-sewn suit expect her to do?  Wave a magic wand? Do a novena on the spot to get rid of these ghosts?

Sister Barbara herself got up, started walking around the pool, dipped her own sandals playfully into the heated pool. The warm water felt heavenly. She just wanted to don a swimsuit and dive in. Not talk about ghosts.

“Sir, could you please sit down for a minute?” she said, setting down her coffee on the patio table. “Your ghosts – who exist their own time warp, if you will – will not respond to anything I do. I’m not a ghost buster. I’m just a nun who accidentally got on NPR after helping out a young couple with spirits in their contemporary architecture home. The news about that got out.  I don’t solicit business. I just answer calls at the convent.

“My intuition tells me these ghosts will only stop smoking when something else starts.”

“The sellers need to bury a St. Joseph statue? They’ve done that.”

“No, that’s fine. This couple need to baptize their two children immediately and start them in CCD at their local parish.”

George looked at her, stubbed out his cigar. “Lady, you are kidding me? I don’t proselytize to my clients. You will need to tell them this strange advice. They’re Buddhists. They’re in the middle of a divorce.”

Sister got up.

“Not my job,” she said, huffily. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll take a dip in your client’s pool,” she said.

Fully clothed, she leaped into the water as a pelican landed on the pool ledge. “Good luck with your ghosts.”

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: The Importance of Being Frank

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Just think – I ended up in jail on charge of trespassing private property thanks to a nun.

Yes, a nun. Somewhat older.  Hard to say how old she was 55, 65 with her hair hidden behind her black veil. She had the cherubic round cheeks of the young nuns of my youth and that relentless, disarming cheerfulness that seems to be the hallmark of the sisters of the cloth. Or at the least the ones you see on TV and in the movies. Not that smart-ass Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.

Back to how I ended up in a jail. A first since my high school days when I was jailed for illegal possession of marijuana. I’ve forgotten that, and believe it or not, that youthful indiscretion derailed my career for a while since it was a felony.

So I called this nun to the building I manage, the late and great Frank Sinatra’s Desert Palms home. It has a kidney-shaped pool overlooking the city. The one you see featured in movie videos, commercials and more. It’s one of our most popular properties in our portfolio, well worth the $27 million our company Staywell Investors LLC spent to buy it a decade ago.

We’ve never had a problem filling that property since the day we we closed on in it. Until now. Now it’s too popular – thanks to Frank Sinatra’s ghost.

Or at least that’s what my AirBnB renters believe. I’ve never met this ghost and I’m cynical guy. I stopped believing in Santa at age 4 after I saw my dad putting presents under the Christmas tree. No more cookies and milk for that guy.

My renters have said they have started hearing Frank sing in the middle of the night. A lot of his swing-era favorites – Come Fly with Me, etc. Accompanied by his signature cigarette. At first they thought it was somebody playing the record player. But that record player – a defunct Philco model 49-1401 radio/phonograph  – doesn’t work. I know. Arm is broken and there’s no needle.

The news quickly spread that Frank was singing nearly nightly in Desert Palms. An impersonator who knew Frank back in the day says it’s really Frank.

The problem is people are breaking in to hear this ghost sing. These break-ins affect our daytime rentals as police need to fill out reports and more..

So I called the ghost buster nun. Paid for her fly out to Desert Palms, put her up in the swankiest hotel. Told her she needed to get rid of this ghost.

She even stayed one night. Communed with the ghost.

She told me Frank is upset. Very upset.

“Upset about what?” I responded. “He’s singing happy songs, I hear. Come Fly with Me. Upbeat songs.”

“He’s upset they’re planning to tear down his childhood church in New Jersey,” she said.

I blew a gasket or two. “Frank is dead and upset about a demolition? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

That wasn’t all. Apparently, Frank – a guy I never met while he was alive – wants me to stop the demolition.

“He’s afraid that all those souls who are attending Mass there now will not go to Heaven,” she said, fingering her rosary. “He’s fearful they won’t attend another church. They will just stop going.”

“That’s my problem?”

It turns out that if I want to save my imperiled Desert Palms property I have to save that church in Jersey. I don’t even go to church anymore, I’ve forgotten how to say the Rosary, none of my family members go, let alone my circle of friends. Church is passe.

But I was desperate to stop the travesty of break-ins at Palm Springs. I went to Jersey, fastened  myself to a chain link fence surrounding the condemned church, threw myself in front of a bulldozer and got arrested. All to appease the ghost of Frank Sinatra.

The nun bailed me out long distance. “I’m sorry, I got it all wrong,” she said in her phone call to me. “Frank doesn’t care about that church-”.

I didn’t bother to hear the rest I was so angry. I hung up on her.

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: It’s Not A Big Deal, part 2

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continued from Part 1:

“You’re a nun but not an exorcist?”

Apple stood at the entryway, confused. She stared at this woman who was the epitome of 1950s religious chic garb in her habit and veil. She had a roly poly face not unlike Santa’s. In fact, she could have been Mrs. Claus’ sister with those ruddy cheeks, twinkly eyes and grey hair peeking from her veil.

“That’s right,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Sister Barbara from St. Ita’s. I’m not an exorcist but I have experience working with spirits. May I come in?”

Sister extended her business card with her name, title. And her specialty: Counselor to the Real and Spirit World.”

“Well, all right,” Apple said, warily. “Just for a little while. Just what order did you say you were with?”

“BVMs, Blessed Virgin Mary.”

Sister Barbara stepped into the vestibule, gazing at the vintage Sputnik chandelier overhead. Gazed at the 1950s abstract artwork on the wall. “Your home is so beautiful, I grew up in a house with similar chandelier,” she said in awe. “Your neighborhood reminds me of where I grew up.”

Apple ushered her into the living room. Sister sat on a the bright orange wave chaise. Sister Barbara stared at the vintage Zenith record player console. “We had one just like that when I was a little girl,” she gushed.

Apple sat across from sister. How could this woman dressed in black help her? She looked like she could fly right up and away like the Flying Nun, the television show.

“You are right to be suspicious. What is your name again?”

Sister repeated her name again. She told Apple about her work at St. Ita’s, working as a principal in the school, playing the church organ on Sundays. Her calling as a spiritual counselor of the other-worldly variety, how it evolved from calls to the rectory for an exorcist.

“Unfortunately, there is only one exorcist recognized by the archdiocese. One only for the entire Chicago area. He is very busy as you can imagine since he must cover so much territory and there a growing number of old houses possessed by spirits.

“I step into on occasion to help with the overflow on ad hoc basis. I help evaluate whether there is a genuine spiritual emergency.”

She paused, cleared her throat and tugged at her habit.

“I would say your house is possessed by friendly spirits. They mean well. You might not like to hear what I have to say about getting rid of your friendly spirits. My intuition and reading of these two spirits tells me you need to attend Mass every Sunday. Your ghosts will not go away until then. They’re concerned you are not headed toward Heaven.

“They themselves are in Purgatory, If you can commit to Sunday Mass for the rest of your earthly existence, they will leave you alone and they themselves will go to Heaven.”

“What?” Apple said. She stood up as if to get a glass of water and fainted.