Saturday, April 15, 2006

Tales of the Suburbs

Last week I saw that my old apartment building had been torn down. I felt a decided twinge about this- not that the place was the most beautiful in the world, but it had it's charm: it was a 1920's building that was clearly put up for workers back in the day. There were only single apartments (no bedroom, but with a kitchen) or "bachelor" apartments (no kitchens, neither). It was clean, and completely unchanged from it's 1920's splendor. This meant that we had the original 1920's iceboxes in the kitchen, complete with doors to the corridor which, if it weren't for the fact that they had been nailed shut, were still waiting for the ice man to deliver. There was also a Murphy bed. The quaintness was palpable. Unfortunately, this also meant perfectly preserved quaint 1920's wiring. I guess people in the 20's had about three electrical appliances. I had a couple more. This was a minor problem.

I lived in this place for about five years. These years were turbulent ones for California, the first month or so that I moved in, there was the Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco. Within a few months, I felt my first quake in LA. It happened late one night when I was taking a bath late after coming home from the clubs. It lasted eerily long: long enough for me to decide to get out of the bath and stand in the doorway of the bathroom, only to watch the now tidal movement of my Floris-scented tub. This was the place that I sat out the riots (and really, when the verdict was read, I felt like rioting as well). Well, one night I was at a friends apartment in Beachwood canyon having the singular experience of watching (from the roof) the SkyCam9 coverage of the looting and fires on Hollywood Boulevard while being close enough to smell the smoke. The next night I was at my little single on Oakhurst Drive with two friends, rented movies and delivery pizza. Los Angeles may have been on lockdown, but in Beverly Hills, Pizza Man delivered. God knows how, but he did.

This was the place that I rode out the fires of Malibu that were so intense, ashes were falling on the westside like light snow. This was the apartment that when I heard a woman screaming in the alley I called the police, who responded by the time I had hung up the phone and gotten to the back window (that's why I live in BH, and not LA). This was the place that I lived through the "big one" of 1994. Bt that time, I was with with my boyfriend; I had a cold and was feverish. I took my cold medicine and started to watch "Earthquake". BF asked me, with some aspertion, if I was sick, why didn't I just go to bed? I answered that I liked the part where LA falls apart. Did I get a wake up call at 4am? Honestly, I thought it was daybreak and Bernardo was shaking the bed to get me up. The daybreak was the electicity arcing from the power poles in the alley, and of course the shaking was the earthquake. Luckily for us, there was only minor damage in our neighborhood, some collapsed chimneys.

About a year after this, we decided that we needed more space. We moved a couple blocks away to a larger one-bedroom in which I still live. Bernardo and I broke up, and the old place and the building next door have been ripped down, most likely for some condo development. Which will no doubt be the fate of my present place in some years: Los Angeles is as relentless about remaking itself as some of it's denizens. Whole neighborhoods nip and tuck like contestants on "The Swan".

That's the nature of LA.

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