Won’t you be my neighbor?

Anne Rice moved in next door. Like a young Anne Rice. The Anne Rice that staged her fake funeral in New Orleans. By no coincidence, my new neighbor has Louisiana plates and I heard Fleetwood Mac playing from her apartment.

Before her, a forty-something Russian Patton Oswalt let that apartment. He hardly spoke English and rarely wore a shirt, proudly exhibiting his roundness. He worked nights as a driver and he regularly scraped and bumped his black Escalade against the wall, the pole and other cars.

The summer I moved in, his alcoholic, chain-smoking cousin, who strangely resembled a homeless Adrien Brody, slept on his couch. I can’t be sure that it was in fact his cousin, but the loud cyrillic yelling made me think my neighbor was pleading for this deadbeat to get a job.

That fall, Cousin Balki-Brody eventually moved out and immediately plunged into a life of crime. I know this, not because I breezed through Conversational Russian at Valley College, but because I applied my Miami Meter for Shady Neighbor Behavior and deduced that our favorite cousin had pulled a Scarface.

A few weeks after his move, his alleged cousin rolled up to apartment 9 wearing a bedazzled button-down shirt and thick gold bracelets. A few weeks after that, Al Putino had newly acquired a petite girlfriend who, I assume to the disapproval of his mother, was not Russian. This girl, whose name was most likely not Andrusha, would chauffeur him for his visits in a late-model SUV. And a few weeks after that, packages of large appliances began arriving at Chubby Tchaikovsky’s place with the same regularity of the cousin’s visits.

Throughout the winter, a refrigerator, a stove, a washer and dryer, flooring, and ceiling tiles made their way to different corners of our complex. They were not for the property manager, for she only makes appearances when there is a vacancy, they were for my neighbor. He often hid these large items in our community laundry room, in our shared parking garage, in his apartment and even in my apartment (the UPS guy guilted me into accepting delivery of three wall air conditioners when he wasn’t home). Eventually the cousin stopped making appearances, and a new tribe of young KGB-rejects began taking delivery of the Home Depot loot. Muscles under deep v-neck shirts, hidden eyes behind dark sunglasses and sweaty testicles squished by very skinny jeans lifted boxes onto trucks and whisked it all away, week after week.

One Saturday morning, I got one hell of a 3 a.m. wake up call that consisted of two quick, shallow bangs and a crash of glass. I peered out the window, but couldn’t see a thing in the darkness. It wasn’t until my morning dog walk that I discovered it had come from Boris Yeltsin’s Escalade. The entire back window was busted and millions of tiny pieces of glass were splayed across the concrete like shiny confetti.

I struggled with whether or not to knock on his door. Our conversations were limited to hellos. In the five months of being neighbors, he had knocked on my door twice, once for salt (which is supposed to bring the recipient terrible luck) and another time for duct tape (which I told him to keep, in case he gave it back with a dead person’s DNA). Yet, I felt obliged to be a good human and deliver the bad news. After knocking several times, he emerged, shirtless and covering his telephone with his man-boob. I said loudly, “Just wanted to check. You know about your car, right?” He answered yes twice and shut the door. And with that I was convinced the shattered glass was a failed hit against Beer-belly Baryshnikov.

A month later, he knocked on my door again. It was late. Maybe around nine, which is the equivalent of midnight in California. He was sweating, red and agitated. He began by apologizing profusely and then asked me for $20. I sent him away empty handed. Mainly because I didn’t have cash on me, but even if I did, I don’t think I would’ve given it to him. I wanted him as far away from my front door as possible in case Valery the Russian from The Sopranos was creeping around the corner.

I went to sleep that night anticipating to be woken up by a muffled argument, then the loud sound from a television, followed by the blast of a gunshot, but quite the opposite happened. The next morning there was a moving truck and before my coffee was brewed, he was nothing more than a missing Romanov. His apartment empty and the property manager  on the premises.

“I am very sad to see Vlad go,” she said.

Of course his name was Vladimir. Of course those appliances were not a complicated scheme to bill Medicare or resell behind the Brandsmart in Carol City. No. Clearly those were for him and his new place (which may or may not be a grow house). And his window wasn’t smashed in as a warning, but most likely it was his own doing because he is a shitty driver. And he was probably short $20 to pay the mover and not the mobster. And his cousin is just a dick.

I realized I was wrong and that growing up in 1980’s Miami has clouded by objectivity.

However, I’m incredibly certain that the new lady next door has already begun assembling her coven, and quite possibly purchasing chickens for sacrifice.

 

 

Scissor sisters

“Are you sisters?” is the most common question I field from strangers when I’m with my wife. “No,” we usually answer in unison, only she smiles while I scowl.

This question angers me for many reasons, but mainly because I resent the implication that I’m fucking my sister. Take note, it’s a very fine line between pleasant small talk and incest.

It also angers me because I’m certain that we look nothing alike. I am the proud owner of a prominent nose, a set of wild eyebrows and prematurely sagging jowls, while her features are perfectly proportioned and her skin makes porcelain jealous. She is polished and put together, while my distinct (and hard to pin-point) fashion style and general demeanor ranges from messy to possibly unstable.

Less than a week from last being asked if we were sisters, and offering the questioner my most disgusted look, I found myself practicing her smile in front of our bathroom mirror where I had propped up her driver’s license.

Ho Hey

“You know how I’m signed up to The Lumineer’s mailing list?” she asked as I was serving dinner. “Well, I got an invite to a secret concert.”

My excitement was cut short when she explained that it was not a two-person invite.

“I love you so much,” she said. “I can’t imagine enjoying the show without you.”

I stood in the kitchen with a hand on my hip and the other one holding tongs and considered to wait until after dinner to tell her that I would gladly take her ticket and leave her behind without hesitation or guilt. Instead, I decided to say it right then and there because, let’s face it, I’m an asshole. I began my blurt with, “I love you too, but…I can’t let that ticket go to waste.”

We sat down to eat and continued the conversation.

“It’s not a ticket I can give you,” she said. “You need to show my ID.”

IMG_0288Big Parade 

She left for work that morning and also left behind her state-issued identification card
along with a print out of the email confirming her invitation, which contained a long list of demands:

  • Be in the lobby at 6 o’clock sharp
  • No additional friends or family members will be allowed in
  • Absolutely no mobile phones, cameras or recording devices
  • A state-issued ID is required to enter the show

Throughout the day I was particularly busy with work, but every once and again I’d remember what was ahead. But instead of rejoicing, I would descend the downward spiral. At best, they would take one look at my ID and deny my entry in the most embarrassing way possible. At worst, they would call the cops and arrest me for impersonating a librarian. To avoid either scenario, I decided to practice her smile.

ID

But the more I tried, the less and less I looked like her and the more and more I looked like a psychopath about to have a mental break.

Stubborn Love

Not before long, I headed out to the theater. I locked my phone in the car and walked right up to the check-in table armed with nothing but an ID that clearly was not mine.

I was nervous, suspiciously sweaty and smiling wildly. For some reason I kept repeating my wife’s name in my head in the event that I would suddenly blank out.

“ID?” the young lady at the desk asked.

I handed her the piece of plastic and she checked my fake name off of the list and wrapped a black wristband around my arm. She took one more look at the license as she picked it up to hand it back to me. We locked eyes and she said, “Enjoy the show.”

Just before putting the ID back in my pocket, I looked down at her smiling face and whispered, “Thanks, sis.”

thelumineers and me
“Me” and The Lumineers during their performance on the AT&T LIVE stage at the iHeartRadio Theater Los Angeles on March 3, 2016 in Burbank, California.

(Please note the slightly illegal, alleged events that occur in this story cannot be proved and will be vehemently denied in a court of law…which might also be illegal.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old man and the grief

I arrived at this city six months ago. And from that moment I became instantly enamored, the way a ninth grader in a teen movie falls in love: fast, intense and riddled with insecurity.

To continue with this ill-constructed analogy, the city plays the part of the popular high schooler, slightly older, more experienced, surrounded by adoring worshippers who fight over lighting her medicinal cannabis. Obviously I play the new kid, dressed for the wrong decade, using unintelligible slang in a heavy accent and still wreaking of humidity.

And so begins our unlikely courtship. I attempt to resist her charms by clinging on to an old receipt from La Carreta, but it’s useless. The more I try to suppress my feelings for her, the more she showers me with explosive sunrises, ridiculous vantage points, breathtaking beaches, delicious food, incredible events and those impossibly tall palm trees scraping gorgeous blue skies.

As the plot goes, we eventually declare our love for each other, but before she can turn me into a vampire or trick me into eating poisonous berries, we get side-tracked by a villainous group, one I had never encountered before: Old Angry White Men.

In Miami, Caucasian males between the ages of 55 and 70 were exiled to the next county, but here in Los Angeles, they are the only ones that can afford mortgages, so they get to stay…and be very angry about it.

It’s a talent to be that pissed off all the time. I don’t know who else could turn every mundane moment into a shit storm of apprehension, rudeness, aggression and stupidity. They are brash and acerbic in everything they do – especially when conforming to social norms or waiting for their turn.

I recall a pensioner at Porto’s that pummeled his way to the bakery counter and instructed those around exactly where to stand. Then, at the Hollywood Bowl, another senior citizen lost his mind when music lovers were not in a single file line. And most recently, two elders who got into a verbal altercation at the Van Nuys Animal Clinic when one of them didn’t have their dog on a leash. Things turned scary when one of them threw a yellow caution-when-wet sign in the direction of the other old-timer, which happened to fly ever so precariously over my head.

What is wrong with these viejo verdes?

I have a few theories. First, I believe their anger has  everything to do with the census. As I’ve mentioned before, the only thing this dumb survey accomplishes is to scare white men by projecting that they will be in the minority, eventually being forced to eat beans and rice and learn Spanish. Second, they might’ve spent their youth jamming out to (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, but it seems to me that they feel the blade of the sickle on their necks, consequently shitting through their pants and on everyone around them. And lastly, after more than half-a-century of conforming to norms, working at bland jobs, trying their very best to control their ingrained instinct to sexually harass and racially profile, they realized that no one gives a fuck about them. No one is revering their efforts. No one finds them interesting or exotic. No one, from their off-spring to strangers on the street, has said thank you for existing.

As a result, they are running rampant throughout Los Angeles county and destroying my ridiculous and far-fetched love story. It’s as if Old Man and the Sea is playing out in the middle of Pretty in Pink, it’s not a good look and an awful mash-up. So, in an effort to curb some of this cockblockage, I’ve written an ode to old white guys of the greater Los Angeles area:

Hey white mature man, you are special. Your silvery-dandruffy-thining hair is very attractive and the lines on your face tell the riveting story of your legendary athleticism in high school or your ability to work at the same job for thirty years. Your crisp khaki shorts tell me that you are in charge of your life and can easily maintain your Costco membership status, two things that are impressive to everyone you come in contact with. The shade of your skin is alluring, like an unscented bar of soap from a Days Inn. And no one, absolutely no one, is going to round you up and send you away, or shoot you without consequence, or pay you less than what you deserve, or deny you admittance or housing. None of those horrible things will happen to you.

However, if you are looking for purpose, perhaps a legacy to leave behind before the reaper finds you, use your anger to fight for those that do have those horrible things happen to them. I bet more people would like having you around if you did.

Now, please, leave me and Molly Ringwald alone.

oldmanandthesea
Advice from a dead white guy.