UNITED STATES—I was flush in confidence, soon to complete a second draft of my screenplay, “The Persecuted,” on my Olivetti portable that fit snugly atop a sun-bleached street find Art Deco table, positioned by the driveway window where my eyes could wander to the tops of the palm trees tall my dreams. I had made a sweet deal to sleep on the couch and was going to sell me a screenplay and get me in trouble with the taxman before you could say Beverly Hills Ninja.
And then it happened.
Ivan who was sometimes known as Vanya and served as mature superego to the reckless id of the clove-scented house on Nadeau Drive, became Ivan the Terrible. He phoned the house one morning as I worked on my screenplay and said, “We’ve decided not to let you stay on the couch. So . . . uh . . . . well, you’ll have to start looking for another place to stay.”
It was a kick in the stomach. But time has given me a certain wry perspective and from my vantage, aided by the wisdom of years, I can now see the silliness of comparing my eviction from the couch to getting kicked in the stomach. It was more like getting kicked in the groin.
What! I wasn’t charming enough or helpful enough. Was there something wrong with me? Well, that was beside the point. I quickly contacted a friend from USC who was a property manager, Brad Bennet, and he definitely had places to show me: they were rooms rented out in spacious old houses that the owner had acquired in Mid City, West Adams and thereabouts. They shared the bathroom and kitchens in these houses built around the time of Los Angeles’ first Hollywood-fueled boom. The movies got them here, and the sun convinced them to stay.
Window shopping is one of the activities I most detest. What was I doing here with Brad? What with the security deposit and rent the owner was asking, even for the smallest room carved from a sun-room porch, renting was out of the question. I had spent most of my earnings from a night of extra work on the supplies for the car washing adventure in Malibu.
We were driving on the freeway toward downtown, Brad and I, talking about how I knew Spanish, and there was this house, a real problem place the owner had. There were gangs, it was in between downtown and Loyola Marymount. The gangsteritos were hanging out on the porch, drinking beer, smoking dope and tagging the house with markings like a tarantula’s leg. A neighbor lady, Juanita, was currently in charge of the keys and would show out the rooms to rent.
The colored glass window had been boarded up; it was out being repaired, Brad told me en route. Yeah right—like that stained glass ever coming back. A room here would still be out of the question. How the heck was I going to cough up $200 a month.
I was blunt. On the freeway I told Brad, “There’s no use looking at this room. I have no ability to pay for it.”
“I am going to keep driving until you tell me to stop,” Brad said.
I didn’t tell him to stop. And Brad cooked up a proposal to exploit my Spanish speaking abilities and ties to USC, all tied into a pretty package and presented to the owner. Surely it would persuade him to give me the room in return for becoming on-site manager. He was going to talk to the owner tonight and would get back to me tomorrow. True to his word, Brad got back to me, and it was thumbs up.
I imagine Brad presented the appealing picture of how, with me there, we’d get more Latino tenants and I would be the perfect liaison for USC students looking for a place just around the corner from campus. Looking back on what happened, the owner was being duped. Let’s just say that things didn’t quite go according to plan.
The important thing is I was coming home to a new home—1980 Estella Avenue . . .
To be continued…
Humorist Grady Miller is the author of the humor collection “Late Bloomer,” available on Amazon.com. Grady can be reached at gr**********@ca*********.com.