Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Going from living alone in the same place for a long time, to sharing a new home, there’s the obvious trade-offs -- less independence, privacy and familiarity, but also more shared responsibilities, companionship and new discoveries. Either way, I’m still gonna hang out at home wearing just my boxers.

Regarding my old joint, here are 5 things that…

…I’ll miss:

1. My buddy Mike, who lived downstairs in the building. He’d hole up in his rat’s nest surfing the web to confirm his latest Republican conspiracy theories. I’m moving less than 2 miles away, so it’s not like I won’t see him again. But since the only way I’d get him off his lazy ass to go do something was to stop by and kick his door down, it’s gonna be a while before we race up the Santa Monica steps while he blames Bush for his bunions.

2. Callahan’s, the diner up the street, featured in such movies as Zodiac (doubling for San Francisco). The place had an Irish name, was decorated with photos of Italian and Greek landscapes, was staffed by Mexicans, but served good ol’ American grease.

3. My dry cleaners, also up the street. So not only were they convenient, but also always professional and friendly. The owner provided the best service, but wore the worst toupee -- a black and tan rug sitting low on his middle-aged forehead. I always wondered if he martinized that thing.

4. My own parking spot. That’s the one thing that my new apartment doesn’t offer. There’s plenty of space on the street, safe and legal with a resident permit. But I still have to risk tickets for street sweeping restrictions, or the random hit-and-run hassle.

5. Nearby movie theatres. My new place is within walking distance of the restaurants, coffee shops and stores of Main Street, but no longer can I decide at the last second to dash to the multiplex. The night before I moved, I ditched packing to go with Mike to see Hot Fuzz. Even though I was swamped the next day, it was totally worth it. I love those Shaun of the Dead blokes.

...I won’t miss:

1. Coin-operated laundry. The new place has a free washer and dryer. Also, free gas, electricity and we have a dishwasher. It’s not just the convenience of cleaning coffee cups and clothes that’s contented me. Now, the only time I'll scrounge for quarters is at an arcade with a Ms. Pacman machine.

2. Avi, the old nickel-and-diming landlord. ‘Nuff said.

3. Noisy neighbors. My old place was close enough to the throat-clearer in the building behind me and their ankle-breaking biddies. The lunatic below made a racket until 2 in the morning. And at 7AM, I could eavesdrop on the business calls made by the guy next door. So I got a 5 hour window of quiet. That is, if the house in front wasn’t having another fiesta por toda la noche. No, I won’t miss that maddening Mariachi music.

4. And the owners of that house found a way to keep up the noise even when they weren’t around -- by leaving their three little dogs outside to YIP!YAP!YIP!YAP! incessantly. I wasn’t the only one who hated those cacophonous canines. But everyone on the block’s calls to the police, the city of Santa Monica and animal control did nothing to keep the peace. My last day there, I thanked those yapping little fuckers for making me so much happier to be moving out.

5. The dusty old gas heater. I’ve got that at my new place, too, but now, on cold rainy nights, that’s not the only thing to keep me warm.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


My sister was applying to do some work for some government agency. I don’t know all the details, except she said she had to pass some test before getting the job.

Michael: So how’d that test go?
Julie: Okay.
M: You think you passed?
J: I’m sure I did.
M: Good. Was it easy? Or did you just know your stuff?
J: What are you talking about?
M: When we were in school, you had test anxiety, even though you always got an A. I’m glad you don’t worry anymore.
J: Well, I’m sure I peed okay.


In the crowded edit rooms, one of my co-workers looked around as she sniffed the air.

Co-worker: Someone here smells really clean.
Everyone looked at her strangely.
Michael: Clean?
C: Y’know, clean. Like, just really… fresh… and nice.
M: Like… Kate Spade, maybe?
C: Yes! Exactly!
M: (sheepishly) Yeah, that would be me.
Then everyone looked at me strangely.
M: What can I say? You move in with a girl, you get to try lotsa lotions in the shower.


As I helped my girlfriend into my car to go out for dinner to celebrate moving in together:

M: Careful. There’s still a little piece of glass on the seat there.
Adelphia: Did you break another light bulb?
M: Yeah…
A: How many is that?
M: I think 3. All day today, I get 60 watts in my hand and I get 2 left feet.
A: It’s okay. Accidents happen.
M: Well… maybe someday when we’re ready for it… I’ll break a light bulb on purpose.
A: You will?
M: Yeah, by stepping on it.
A: Why would you do that?
M: You know…
A: No, I don’t.
M: Instead of a wine glass…?
A: You mean like they do at a Jewish wedding?
M: Yes.
A: Oh. Ohhh! Sorry, I didn’t know they used a light bulb.
M: Yeah, ‘cause it makes a better sound.
A: I get it.
M: Good.
A: You were trying to be romantic.
M: Yeah, that’s why I don’t do it too often.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I must’ve looked at over 50 different apartments during my recent search. So I met a lot of building managers and landlords. Many were courteous and helpful, but here are three that made me long for The Ropers or Mr. Hurley:

1. Mo. He returned my call with broken English. “Hoollo. I… am… Mo. I… heff… aportamint.” When I went to see it, Mo took me to a building in back, shouted something indistinguishable up the stairs and told me to go on in alone.

I entered tentatively, creaking up the wooden steps, fearing the place might be haunted. But there was no poltergeist, just the last tenant, still living in the joint. It was cluttered with his stuff -- the apartment might have had square footage up the wazoo, but who could tell? Maybe the second bedroom would be a good office -- the recent resident was holed away in there, fuming in the corner.

I asked him, was there just one bathroom? “Yeah,” he said, barely looking up from his desk. “And it’s pretty fuckin’ shitty. Check out the kitchen sink, too.”

Man, was he pissed off. Maybe Mo did a number on him. Mo certainly didn’t do squat to renovate the place. The sink needed grouting. And Mo needed to get disgruntled denizens departed from the dwelling before displaying it.

Mo blathered some Borat-like babble to me, so I asked where he was from. He smiled and said, “You sign aportamint liss, I telling you where from me.”

Sorry, no deal. Your secret identity’s safe, Mysterious Mo.

2. Henry the Navigator. Another charming fellow. He sighed, annoyed, when I called to ask about the apartment he posted on Craigslist, but reluctantly agreed to let me see it… later. Gotta love those less-than-motivated lessers.

When I asked for the address, he said me he already gave it to me. I knew for a fact he hadn’t told me it over the phone, but maybe it was posted online and I didn’t read it carefully (I later looked, and it definitely wasn’t in the ad). In any case, I simply asked if wouldn’t mind giving it to me again.

He said, “Where are you coming from?” Huh? Uh, nearby, I said, but I wasn’t sure where I’d be at that time. “You gonna be east or west of the 405 Freeway?” West, but-- “Okay, you gonna take Wilshire or Santa Monica Boulevard?”

What the fuck?! Every now and then I meet someone who insists on giving directions rather than just the address. And in LA, unless they live in the winding twisty streets of the Hollywood Hills, it’s completely not necessary. In fact, in this age of Thomas Bros. Guides, Mapquest, Googling and GPS systems, it’s downright insulting.

But I bit my tongue and asked him again, if he wouldn’t mind, please… just gimme the address. And when he finally told me, I said, oh that’s between Washington and California Boulevards, on the left side heading north, right? I don't need your stinkin' directions.

Henry was some old fat guy who sighed again when I showed up. I realized why -- he had to waddle up a flight of stairs to get into the apartment. Once he wheezed his way inside, he collapsed into a chair in the kitchen to catch his breath while I looked around.

The place actually wasn’t bad, but there was no way I was gonna rent from Captain Crabby Corpulent Compass.

3. Avi. That’s my present landlord. I’ve written about him before, but one final update is in order.

My last fiasco with him, in which I had to go ballistic on him, seemed to have scared him into civility. He came by to do minor repairs and acted professionally and without any aggravation. Wow.

That’s when I told him that I was thinking of moving out, but it was so expensive out there. He shrugged in agreement and I reminded him about how he once offered me money to move out.

“Yeah, but I don’t do that anymore,” he said, explaining that people tended to move out on their own without his monetary incentive.

Not those few of us in the building who locked into the cheap rent control -- we’ve been staying there forever. This was Avi’s chance to get me out and bring in someone at twice the rent.

He thought for a moment and then said, “Okay, how much do you need?”

Double wow. I started to run figures through my head. How much could I milk Avi for? What number would he be willing to pay? I began to calculate the rent increase for a one-year lease minus renovations, still leaving him a profit… Dollar signs were flashing before my eyes…

But then I decided not to be greedy. The new apartment wasn’t gonna be that much more expensive. I just needed enough for the first month and security deposit. I rounded up the figure, quoted it to Avi and he agreed.

Damn, maybe I shoulda asked for more.

Nah, I can’t complain. In fact, as my cartoon earlier demonstrated, last month was lucrative even though I was out of work -- between unemployment, Avi’s money, my tax refund and poker winnings, I made more than I would have at the TV gig. Man, day jobs are for suckers.

Avi even agreed to give me some of the money ahead of time; normally he’d pay once I moved out. As he wrote the check, I told him how incredibly cool he was being.

“Well, you’re a good tenant. And a good guy,” he said. “Of course, you did bitch at me that one time.”

I glared at him. “Because of your bullshit violation notice.”

“Well, y’know, that’s how I do things.”

“Right, and you’re calling me the bitch.”

“Okay, okay, let’s not talk about it.”

“You brought it up, Avi.”

Ahh, there’s the Avi I knew. For the past few weeks, he’s been doing the same thing about repairs to the apartment -- starting to bicker with me and then accusing me of causing the drama.

I’m glad I’ll be away from Avi soon, and not renting from landlords like Mo or Henry, who would probably be as manipulative as him.

As Avi gave me the “Moving Costs” check, he asked me about my new landlady, if I had signed a lease with her yet.

I said, “No, we’re doing that in a couple of days. That’s why I need the money now for the security deposit.”

“But what if she’s already rented the place?”

“Why would she? Our credit checked out. She said we can rent it, and we said we’d take it. Basically we have a verbal agreement.”

“Yeah, but how do you know in the next two days she won’t find someone else, maybe for more rent, or to move in sooner?”

“How do I know?” I looked Avi in the eye and said: “Because she’s not you.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I used to have good luck with apartments. No so much anymore.

I mean, I've got an awesome new home, but I may have lost the mojo, man.

My fortuitousness in finding places had never failed me. I scored on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side and of course, Santa Monica. But whenever I left the search in the hands of others, I nearly ended up in dull areas of Chelsea, or downtown L.A., and the worst of all, Beverly Hills.

So when my girlfriend and I started our search together, I was sure things would go our way. I don’t know about Adelphia’s apartment-attaining ability, but I kick ass at crib-acquiring kismet.

I wasn’t worried that after a few weeks, we hadn’t found a place that was reasonably priced in an area near the beach, allowed pets or provided parking, didn’t have ugly stained carpeting, dilapidated fixtures or any crack dens nearby.

At one point, it seemed our best bet was a house with such an amazing spacious backyard -- a veritable citrus orchard with orange, lemon, grapefruit and lime trees -- that we were almost willing to overlook everything else. The place was too small; a shoebox with hardwood floors. The rent was about $500 more a month than we could afford. And while the street was quiet and residential, it was located in Nowheresville, a.k.a. BoringBurg Adjacent.

The landlord said, “It’s only ten minutes to the beach.” Really? My apartment now is a 10 minute walk to the ocean and this house was several miles east of that. “Well,” he said, “ten minutes by bicycle.”

Yeah, right. If you’re Lance Armstrong.

We passed on that place, but Adelphia and I didn’t have many alternatives. We kept perusing Craigslist and local newspapers and driving around. Did we have to join Westside Rentals? We had heard mixed things and didn’t want to pay their membership fee just to find nothing. On the other hand, many of the “For Lease” signs we saw had their evil red logo in front… In front of Westside Rentals’ headquarters, a few blocks from my apartment, was the weird sign-holder dude dancing frenetically on the street corner. That was my favorite thing about that company.

No, I’d find something. I just needed to put the word out.

When I walked into my gym and the guy at the front asked me how my weekend was, instead of muttering something noncommittal, I mentioned I had spent it searching for a new place. “Oh, hey, one of our personal trainers is dating a successful rental apartment broker. Lemme hook you up.”

See? Like I always say: Gotta know who to know.

And just to get a few more irons in the fire, I also knew a woman at work who told me there were lots of available units in her roomy, pet-friendly complex. And a friend from film school who manages several buildings in Venice. Mojo Mike would score again.

But the apartment broker only brokered big bux Brentwood, still banking on the OJ Simpson fascination. That woman from work got a new job and the bitch never called me back. And my friend in Venice sold all his properties to finance his latest film project, something about a killer sea cucumber.

Had I lost my touch?

Meanwhile, Adelphia’s friend provided her a password for Westside Rentals. There, she found a listing of a place she had been to for a party two years earlier. Adelphia remembered admiring the half of the duplex, and I could understand why -- a wood-burning fireplace, Spanish tile floors, a huge front patio and side area in a nice quiet neighborhood a half-mile from the beach and surrounded by parks. Adelphia was still in touch with the couple who had once lived there, and they vouched for us to the nice landlady, so the place was practically ours if we wanted.

But did we? Our one concern was the one bedroom. With the big living/dining room, we wouldn’t need a separate room as our office, but the bedroom was laid out with a queen-sized low-ceiling loft area. It could be cozy or confining. Crap, this was confusing.

To clear my head, I went for a run. Perhaps one of the last times I’d take this residential route leading back to my old apartment. And that’s when I saw it -- a new rental listing for a small cottage-style house. Adelphia loves those cottage thingies. I liked the area, and also, the fact that I had discovered this potential diamond in the rough.

I couldn’t get in to see the place, so I memorized the listing’s phone number, reciting it aloud in rhythm to my running the rest of the way home. “Six-five-oh-seven-six…” I passed the Westside Rentals Dancing Dude, who was wearing a cape and doing the Cabbage Patch but looked at me like I was the crazy one.

Adelphia was home waiting for me, still debating on whether we should take that duplex. Dripping with sweat, I told her I may have a new option. A better one, I said, as I typed in the number and kept it on speakerphone.

The voicemail message went on and on: “A delightful cottage… located in picturesque Santa Monica… with a charming living room… and an adorable front patio…”

Yeah, yeah, we both muttered, waiting, but how much?

Finally, after another three minutes of descriptions: “… rents for thirty-eight hundred a month--”

I hung up. Adelphia said, “Well, that’s just a charming price, isn’t it?”

So much for the cottage. But it didn’t matter. Adelphia and I thought about it more, and realized the duplex was perfect for us. We move in this Saturday, and we’re thrilled.

I just kinda wish I had been the one who found our future home. Still, like I always say, gotta know who to know. And I know Adelphia. So I still got the mojo. Just by proxy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Don’t you hate when people come back from a blogging hiatus, put up one post announcing their triumphant return, only to go incommunicado again?

And then when they do write something else, they just apologize for their absence with “busy” excuses like how they’ve gone back to work, are preparing to move, or are fighting a plague of pestilence, locusts and the overwhelming task of trying to catch up on what they’ve been up to?

What’s worse is when they falsely assume that others are even wondering where they’ve been, considering their readership is abysmal whether they post practically every day (like in February) or not at all (March). So why don’t they just shut up, stop staring at their Sitemeter and say something of substance already?

Like about the second yard sale to get rid of stuff. My girlfriend and I found it wasn’t as lucrative as the first one. Maybe it was the fickle weather (before Spring really sprang) or the fiscal timing (before tax day attacks). Maybe no one wanted my trusty telescope, rusty chin-up bar or dusty Botero paintings, or Adelphia’s shabby chic sheets or chicly shabby desk or shifty shaky chifferobe.


Still, you can always count on the crazies to come out. For example, the wacky mom who told us about her two baby daddies, one of whom plays professional squash, the other plays professional youtube. I couldn’t tell if that meant they were deadbeat dads or stinkin’ rich sugardaddies. Whatever that family’s income bracket, she only spent four bucks on my old Slinky and Adelphia’s Magic 8-Ball.

Was it worth it all for the freak factor? Signs point to yes.

The most memorable passerby didn’t even patronize our sale. A young anorexic-looking woman wearing hip evening clothes, but appearing pretty haggard at 6:30AM. We were just starting to set up for the day. There was no way this gaunt girl was walking down Hollywood Boulevard at dawn to browse through my baseball cards.

She said to us, “Do you know the number of a cab company?”

I actually remembered Beverly Hills Taxi ‘cause it’s one digit off from a major literary talent agency. Besides phone numbers, what else do those companies have in common? Both send out hacks. (Ba-dum-Crash!)

The girl muttered a thanks and left, groggily dialing on her cellphone.

As soon as she was out of range, Adelphia and I looked at each other and said in unison: “Walk of shame.”

The girl must’ve partied at one of the Hollywood hangouts, hooked up with some guy and lost her ride home with her girlfriends. I wondered to myself if maybe she had had a good time, and the term “walk of shame” was a misnomer. Then again, why was she out at this hour? We were there to beat the early birds who swoop in on yard sales. What was Party Girl’s excuse? I wouldn’t be surprised if she felt she couldn’t even call the cab from the himbo’s crib, had to get out of there the second the roofies wore off.

Or maybe, as usual, I was over-thinking it. I looked at Adelphia, who seemed pensive, too. She was watching Party Girl, but probably contemplating our upcoming move and new apartment.

“Y’know,” Adelphia said, “I’m really not gonna miss this neighborhood.”

Friday, April 06, 2007

(Click on the cartoon to enlarge it.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by