UNITED STATES—Crazy thing. One of the residents of Manhattan Place recognized a woman who’d left a deposit on a room I had shown. The woman had been a mental patient four years earlier. Now this great tenant, Dee, who recognized she didn’t want to live in our house any more. Go ahead, tear me apart: gain one loony and lose a person of quality. Fortunately, the woman accused of having been mental decided she liked a room in one of Wylie’s other houses, and therefore wouldn’t be living with us in Manhattan Place.
Phew! That was a relief how it all worked out, and Dee got to stay. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. To my shock and chagrin, I would learn very soon that I had admitted a mental under the very roof where I lived.
In that pale green house on Manhattan Place, Dee had perhaps the best room out of all the houses Jim Wylie owned, with its gleaming hardwood floors and mantelpiece. There, in the former living room, lived Dee and her menagerie of cats that I got to feed while she was traveling. Dee was this amazing mix of gemütlich and brains.
It came out in her application that she had gone to U.S.C. Film School. Her short “Finger Nail Fetish” was legend. She knew Scott Alexander the writing partner of Larry Karaszewski, the friend who had coaxed my larval screenplay into the “Strawberry Butterfly.” The unusual thing about Dee was that she only applied to film school on a dare—she had the grades and she told a friend that if she applied she would be accepted. The friend bet against her and lost the bet. As a result, Dee was the most accomplished filmmaker under the roof of 1832 Manhattan Place, and she didn’t give a hoot about a career in film. She devoted herself to cats and social work, aiding abused women.
Sedate and maternal, her eyes bright chesnut, she seemed a real homebody. Then she traveled to Istanbul for a week, and when she came back to Los Angeles she was married. It was one of those crazy things. She and her Turkish husband had met at the hotel where she was staying and he was manager.
Dee and her husband Ahmet had long conversations on the phone throughout the fall, and plans were made for him to join her. It was after Thanksgiving something happened that touched us all: the United Nations Security Council authorized ‘all means necessary’ to evict the Iraqis from Kuwait. Dee was marching to love and the United States to war.
As 1990 ended and a new year began, everything seemed the same, on the surface, in Los Angeles but nerves were fraying. I remember a holiday party where there were some guys in the service, 18 and 19 year olds, having a good time, and there was a sense of dread on their behalf, given what was waiting for them in the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, Turkish sweets appeared in a bowl on our kitchen, a harbinger of the arrival of Dee’s husband on the 16th.
One night in early January when I had gone out a resident, Moorehead, tried to knife another resident in the kitchen, saying “George Bush told him to do it.” The police were called and the resident with the kitchen knife was taken away. This was kind of a relief; Moorehead was unpredictable. One of the residents had a little four-year-old and Moorehead closed a door on the child’s hand. It could have been an accident, but people wondered. He listened to the same disco record over and over and left farts in the shared bathroom that attested to a strange laboratory in his system. So these unsettling things disappeared momentarily from the scene.
A borrowed tranquility came into the house as Dee awaited her betrothed. In Los Angeles it was the night of January 15th, the eve of Ahmet’s arrival, and I drove down to an apartment Wylie had on 47th Street to do some dunning. It was way south of downtown, a place impoverished but warm; a good place to go at a time like this. The son of Salvador, one of the tenants, said, looking at the television, “In 18 minutes we are going to have war.” His father made a gesture, rubbing his hands.
“George Bush should be there now with the rest of them.”
Grady Miller is a humorist and author of the comedy collection “Late Bloomer.” Grady can be reached at email@example.com.