UNITED STATES—The greatest influence Gabriel Garcia Marquez had over me was to open my eyes to the computer. This elder writer sung hosannas to the machine that allowed him to feel like a child again and to write as many as 45 pages in one session. It was Carolyn Kellogg who gave me the definitive push, she had a bulky Brother word processor—essentially a computer–it turned words into letters on a small screen, used a floppy disk.
I bought one during one trip to Los Angeles to get a new tourist card and extend my stay in Mexico another six months, and took the heavy thing back to Mexico. It only worked for a few months, thus opening up the possibilities of technology-aided writing and it provided a powerful preview of its fragility. A drop from a storm erased a floppy disk, then the whole thing went kaput. Brother should have stuck to making sewing machines. Nevertheless I hauled the hulk back to Los Angeles.
My Caribbean friend from the census bureau did computer repairs. With the Subaru, I was able to pick up the hulk of the Brother Word processor and Al Taylor did whatever magic it took to get it going.
Voila, I had a word processor again. Far from a child frolicking with a new technology, I got a bitter dose of the new technology’s fragility. What’s more, facing that blank screen was intimidating, and it heightened getting mired in the minute details of composing a small text. It didn’t seem to be increasing productivity, but the allure was there—this is where the Brother worked—to rewrite and format my screenplay, “The Persecuted,” that I had written using manual settings on my trusty Olivetti.
The girl Myra who called so late, invited me out one night that happened to be Cinco de Mayo. A hot night—it had been 101 degrees. I picked her up at a friend’s house down by 90th Street and Central. It seemed like the back of beyond. Myra guided me to a night club patronized by people all from the state of Zacatecas. A band with a cheesy synthesizer played norteña and cumbia, and we danced zapateado, hands beyond the back and tapping shoes on the floor. My favorite dance because its simple movements made me feel less of an idiot on the dance floor. Guys wore cowboy hats. In the bathroom, one cowboy hat was over a barrel in the corner and below flowed vomit. A lot of people were drinking a lot that night–I wasn’t one of them–but to dance, you can never go wrong.
At the end of the day, Mayra decided against renting a room on Manhattan Place.
I wasn’t yet sold on the manager’s job, but thanks to the salary and Subaru with Nevada plates my little Estrella Avenue world was expanding. Another addition was the court, the Stanley Mosk Superior Court building. It was where wayward renters ended up. And the first defendant was the straight-arrow security guard from the Estrella Avenue house suspected of dealing drugs. Jack. I remember a jokey judge told us what courtroom to go to. There was something festive and pathetic the way families would all dress up. The lawyers seemed flea-bitten and deserving of sympathy with their extravagant comb-overs and suits off the rack. Wylie didn’t have any lawyers; he did all the paperwork himself and eventually taught me how to do it.
The courthouse had a blind cashier who sold documents and breath mints at a kiosk in the lobby. The guy’s eyes were deceptively dark and brilliant, but they showed the fixity of the blinds, and it was a great mystery how he new to give exact change for the bills and coins he received.
Jack , the security, guard followed Jim Wylie and me to the “department,” a room devoid of people. Just a judge and a clerk. The eviction was approved. No matter what people said about Jack, he was still polite to a fault and took the news of his eviction calmly. He would be moving soon from Estrella Avenue.
On the other hand, when it came time for Laurence Brown and his wife to be evicted, she didn’t take it so easy. Mrs. Brown, the former resident of Sybil Brand, waited at the bottom of the escalator for Jim Wylie and came at him with her purse.
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” (available on Amazon).