The abode of Leonard Ephraim is deceptive in its grandeur. Surely it boasts none of the epic filigree of Khan’s Xanadu, nor Hearst’s hillside castle. It squats on the rise of Bunker Hill like a simple, silent office building, though rendered all in industrial concrete, with only three long windows running from the flat roof to the second story. The ground level facade is nothing out of the ordinary, except for its absence of portals. There is a small rectangular speakerbox where a door probably should be, and a marbled, slightly indented button beneath its face. And there is a door, at last, that can be found by following the sidewalk’s peculiar tidiness to the adjacent alley which faces the 7-11. And the door is thick, and made of oak, and barred by a net of hammered iron. You must run from the speakerbox to the alleyway if you get the chance to be “buzzed” in by Mr. Ephraim. He does not buzz twice, though rumor has it that he will buzz again if you care to check out poetry from the municipal library and read it to him in bright falsetto through the cage of the enigmatic speaker.
When you step inside the abode of Leonard Ephraim, time will not wait for you to step back. It will uncouple itself like a petulant locomotive if you cannot keep up with Mr. Ephraim’s writhing, twisting glass, his painted harlequin animal sculptures, and the battlefield of chess problems he seems to be playing at all hours, throughout the house, on thick shag-carpeted chessboards. The chess game extends into the refrigerator, and even into the walk-in freezer, whose exotic meats hang in both tempting and bewildering shapes. The center of the house, which rises for several stories, is an open, spiraling monolith, whose glassed oculus is pointed eternally to the stark Los Angeles sky. It doesn’t blink. Don’t kid yourself. Of course it does not blink.
If you remember playing chess or watching films inside the abode of Leonard Ephraim, and you are asked what stratagem you used, or what genre of film you enjoyed, you will not answer – or at least you will not answer truthfully. They are both patterns of Mr. Ephraim’s devising, you are certain, gargantuan patterns consolidated into alternating squares or reels of cinema, that have merely the vaguest resemblance to earthly games, and are very beautiful, if confusing. He will serve you tea. You will drink it, even if you do not care for tea, because you secretly suspect he has laced it with something fearsome. But it will be perfectly pleasant, with just a twist of lime.
In the abode of Leonard Ephraim, you are not to open any of the doors, because he tells you it doesn’t go well with the tea. You ask him if this is a koan. He claims to not know what that means. In the end he leaves you, blessedly, with your doubts.