It's a Shithole, So Keep Digging
Look at what I found on the stairwell of my tenement-slash-college dorm this morning:
He’s part of the musician crew from the studio apartment across from mine, the place I described in an earlier post as reminding me of how many musicians you can fit with their instruments into a phone booth. They’re the ones who have no furniture, so they all sleep on the floor and vacuum once a day rather than making the bed. So glamorous.
I went on a hike yesterday with my friend James Tuttle up to the Hollywood Sign and around Hollywoodland. When we were still at the base of the hills, we were treated to another ultra-glamorous sight of some smack-head weaving past us, stopping his car, rolling down his window and projectile vomiting onto the street. Because we were on foot, we had to walk past a streak of barf now decorating the path. Ten yards later, he stopped again, opened the door this time and spewed once more, even more copiously. Given that both Tuttle and I are gay men named James with rapid-fire, caustic senses of humor, it was astounding that we didn’t have much to say. I believe I was processing a thought something like: if a black cat crossing you path is bad luck, what is someone puking across it? Is it sort of reverse bad luck like when a bird shits on your head, and whoever is with you snickers in that way that means he’s really smothering a hefty schadenfreude-laden guffaw, and says, “That brings good luck,” after which you feel like cracking open his idiotic head like a fortune cookie?
A few yards up the road, the guy pulled into a driveway and was met by another pasty-faced junkie who handed him what I assumed were drugs, but handed them over just like that, cool as can be, not even bothering to hide the transaction from the two revolted homos tramping up the hill trying to get their cardio in and commenting on the houses and how they’d do things differently if only they could afford something more than their current respective shitholes (well, Tuttle’s is a considerably nicer shithole than mine).
Later Tuttle told me that Moby, who as I also mentioned in a previous post has bought a mini-castle on a peak in Hollywoodland called Wolf’s Lair, left his door open one night and awoke to find some druggie passed out in the front hall (or something like that, we’re trying to locate the story; stand by for verification). Moby being Moby, having started his career playing at raves, allegedly just put a blanket over the kid, and the next morning he was gone. This makes me feel better about the phone booth musician passed out on my Hollywood shithole’s stairwell this morning. I should have put a blanket over him rather than kicking him in the ribs as I walked by. But that’s why Moby’s a rich vegan and I’m a poor carnivore.
The Health Department came today for an inspection of my apartment as well as the studio across the hall, which is being rented by the lead phone booth musician, a 19-year-old named Corey, who is much more the right demographic for this building than I am.
Let me backtrack a second to explain how I ended up here to begin with: a couple of better options fell through suddenly; I needed a place to move fast; I was staying around the corner at Tuttle’s; I saw this place listed on Craigslist, went to see it, met the handsome manager, was totally charmed, moved in the next day. I felt so good about my producerly efficient handling of a mini housing crisis. Two months later, psycho Susan Blais fired the manager, who was by now my drinking buddy and good friend, and now she’s after me, presumably because he was my drinking buddy and good friend.
So the lovely Persian woman from the Health Department showed up chatting on her iPhone with her grandmother, from what little Farsi I understand. After she’d noted the shameful condition of my toilet, we went across the hall to the musicians’ phone booth and knocked on the door. It was 2 p.m. I’d warned Corey this was happening today, but I knew he’d fuck this up when I heard him still partying at 3 a.m., so I mustered my best parental knock in order to rouse someone in the phone booth to come and answer the door, which I accomplished with evidently more success than the stairway sleeper, who had been shut out of the room all day. A musician I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before (they all look the same with that hair in front of the face) answered the door and I strode in with my best avuncular stride.
“COREY!! HEALTH DEPARTMENT’S HERE!!” I barked. He was asleep in the master bedroom, better known in real estate argot as the walk-in closet. I kid you not: Corey really was sleeping behind the sliding doors of the walk-in closet. Adorable.
The reason I was so loud is I was getting my own back for being kept up last night. Having been a 19-year-old artist into heavy Class A drugs myself, I know there is nothing better than being roused from a nice coma in a shag-carpeted closet following an all-night bender by your avuncular neighbor’s fog-horn voice announcing the presence of government inspectors.
This necessary unpleasantness — I need to prove to the court that this is indeed a shithole, ergo the call to the Health Department — was capped by a spat with the new manager of the building, a sanctimonious Born Again Christian who keeps saying, “Hey, man, I’m just doing my job,” which is the kind of statement that makes my eyes want to pop out of their sockets with the sheer force of steaming rage arising from pressure-cooked moral indignation.
I needed to get away, so I hopped on the bus and headed east, which is where I should have headed to begin with four months ago rather than moving into Susan Blais’s Trap for Runaway Suckers just because the building manager was handsome and charming. For Christ’s sake, I’m a filmmaker, I should have seen the most obvious forewarning: the Greyhound Bus Station is two blocks away. The bus stations in New York and Hollywood are a movie-of-the-week cliché. This building is for kids who come to Hollywood/New York with their dreams stuffed in their guitar cases, who walk up the street, see the “For Rent” sign, think, Wow, this isn’t bad, and like Corey move in, only to find themselves out on their asses a few months later because of the bedbugs, or because they’ve fallen behind of the rent, or whatever, and Susan Blais has fucked them for their deposits, because what they didn’t realize is that this is really the gingerbread house from a Grimm’s fairy tale, which lures the young uns in so that the evil witch can bake them in a pie. If they’re lucky, they escape and follow the bread crumbs back down to the bus depot and home they go, lighter for the guitar they hocked to give their last penny to the Wicked Blais.
I was never meant to live in this place. It was a total accident. I shall never rent with my dick again.
So after being slathered with sanctimony by the building manager, I headed east to my friend Ricardo’s furniture store; I knew he would be trapped there and thus an unwitting victim to my need to mewl. The whole notion of having to call the Health Department and fight back against this insane woman had given me indigestion, and I hadn’t even eaten. Of course, as always on buses in LA, there was the ubiquitous schizophrenic talking to himself, a Bus Schizo. He was quiet until we got to around Silverlake, and then the tirade began.
“SHALOM!” he yelled, which was a nice way to start seeing as it was Friday and it was almost sundown; this was a Jewish Bus Schizo. After singing a little rhyming ditty, he launched into a diatribe on comparative religion for the benefit of the mostly Latino passengers, the gist of which was that all the “damned Catholics” on the bus should “go to hell because we Jews don’t believe in hell anyway, HAHAHAHA!”, which actually made some perverse sense. Unfortunately, his bellowing “SHALOM!” set off another one-eyed Bus Schizo in the handicapped seat behind the bus driver, who started whimpering to himself and rocking back and forth. All I could think was, Where is John Galliano when you need him? Imagine him in this scene all coked-up and boozy, personality splintering everywhere, collagened lips a-flapping with racist invectives, hurtling himself down the bus at some militant Jewish crackpot who is screaming, “SHALOM! I’m meshugana! Can’t you tell? All you damned Catholics are going to hell!” (He really said that. I copied it verbatim on the notepad on my Blackberry.)
Ricardo’s new store (Freespace Modern, 1282 Sunset Boulevard) is in Angelino Heights sandwiched between Silverlake and Echo Park. Or maybe it’s just after Echo Park. I dunno. It’s pre-hip and it’s over there, near downtown, where I should have moved in the first place, if I’d only taken my lazy ass a bit further than just a block away from Tuttle’s place. Ricardo is selling his formidable collection of mid-century furniture and lamps at insanely good prices compared to what others just down the road sell the same thing for.
It was good I made that trip east today; I needed a chilled, balancing Ricardo Diaz infusion. I need a plan for whatever happens after my court date with the execrable Susan Blais next week, because whatever happens, I am out of here. Going to East Hollywood is a good idea for the time being. I’ll miss my stomps through the Hills with Tuttle and waving to Moby, but sometimes you gotta be a little Californian and follow the signs, you know what I mean, dood? One minute you’re chilling in your shithole-slash-dorm room thinking about what to do, where to go after this, so you hop on a bus, listen to a rousing schizophrenic Jewish racist tirade, and the next thing you know, the road ahead is clear, lined with florescent yellow bricks.
Indeed, Hollywood: everything is for a reason.
I always learn so many things here.
For example, a benefit of being straight (other than uptight scumbags you don’t even know don’t care if you want to get married) is the decreased likelihood of moving into a shitty aparment building* because the building manager is attractive. Have you ever seen a 27-year-old brunette with long, pin-straight hair, deep blue eyes, a dancer’s grace, naturally perky breasts, a mostly flat but slightly curvy tummy, and the butt and legs of an olympic figure skater (yes, I’m talking about your butt and legs Kristi Yamaguchi circa 1995) managing a shitty apartment building** near a bus station in Hollywood? I didn’t think so.
I also learned that Moby, whom I would have gone my entire life without thinking of again if not for this post, has impractical taste in homes.
I learned that one of the reasons I did not make it in the music business is my lack of willingness to pass out in stairway landings of apartment buildings or stupidly move to the city without realizing all I’ll ever get from that is easier access to drugs and my equipment stolen at some point.
And I learned the address of your friend’s store, which is a nice flourish that adds realism to the story but doesn’t particularly help me, given that I live 3000 miles away (on a houseboat in the pacific ocean).
* sorry Susan. You know I love you.
** sorry, James, that I called your apartment shitty. I’ve never seen it, and, while you frequently call it shitty, it’s not really my place to say it. Like, I used to call my Scion (which was given to me) an ugly car, but that didn’t mean I liked it when my passengers agreed. Interesting biographical note: I traded it in on a Honda Civic and am much happier now.
They are currently digging up the street outside the shithole with great thunder. I’m glad I don’t have a hangover.
I doubt anyone visiting here would actually think it’s a shithole because, a) it’s southern California and you have to work really hard to fuck up paradise, b) the place is “rigged,” as the aforementioned former handsome manager said, meaning it seems okay on the facade, but it’s crumbling within the walls, which is fine given that it’s an old building, but it’s not a cheap place to rent, so it’s not really fine, c) it is unlikely that the person visiting would be an impoverished crypto-princeling like me, so he wouldn’t have the same unrealistic caviar world view.
Moby’s castle is actually really cool. You can see the point: I would imagine he’s installed a kickass recording studio in there. Mark my words, he’s going to be composing film scores soon. Makes sense. Trent Reznor has done really well with that. I’d hire Moby in a flash, especially if he puts me up in his castle. As a fellow bald man, I’ll bet he has a chamber the the uppermost turret ironically called “The Rapunzel Room.” I would.
I’d settle for a “just decent” recording studio in my house. My apartment accomodates my guitar and a 20-watt amp that I can’t raise above “2” because of the neighbors. I don’t have a wicked landlady though. Only a disembodied “management company.”
Unless you put in an elevator, your Rapunzel Room will get little foot traffic. That’s what I mean by impractical.