Los Angeles, CA
I spoke too soon.
Yesterday morning, I gushed about the awesomeness of writing in the October with the morning breeze soothing my soul. Within an hour of hitting publish, I was kicked in the junk.
Living in the slums of Beverly Hills also means that we have a slumlord. Cheap is a strong word, but it aptly describes his spending ways trying to upkeep of his luxurious seven apartment structure that I'm worried won't survive anything over a 5.0 quake.
There was a leak in the basement last month. I could hear the hissing sounds underneath the floor boards in my office. It was a scene out of the Tell Tale Heart. Hissing at odd hours. I know that I was not having auditory hallucinations. Nicky confirmed the sounds, which confirmed my sanity. Parts of the floor boards started to curl up, which wasn't good, yet my office did not incur any more damage than a few warped floor boards. The apartment next door is a different story.
The apartment sat vacant for at least six months, maybe even as many as nine. A thirty-something female rabbi lived there for a while. I don't think she liked all of our devil's music and the random aromas of medicinal marijuana wafting through our windows. Maybe she didn't like the guys upstairs screaming at the TV during random sporting events or playing Guitar Hero to the wee hours. Who knows for sure, but the female rabbi bailed and our slumlord could not find anyone to take up the one-bedroom apartment with shitty plumbing.
I guess the economic crunch did not affect our slumlord in his ivory tower. Why else would he raise the rent of a one-bedroom apartment when the Rabbi left? There are much nicer apartments... on our block... let alone in a five-block radius of our neighborhood literally on the demarcation line of Beverly Hills. Since our apartment building is more ghetto that urban chic, he thought he could charge a couple of hundred over the mean-price of other apartments. The result? The over-priced apartment sat empty for months, despite the large For Rent sign in front. He even tried to hire a third-party real estate agent to try to rent the apartment. That didn't work. That's when he finally decided to lower the rent. But since he's a miserly slumlord, he reduced his price by a whopping sum of $25.
It wasn't even worth $1,200 let alone $1,700. But did he really think he could find someone to jump at $1,675? The next month he reduced the price by $25. Then another. And another. And another. After the ninth month, he finally found someone who was rich or desperate enough that they didn't care about the rent... a young business woman who logged long hours and barely spent time at home.
I'd be pissed if I were her... paying money on an apartment she's never in and then to come home one day and see the entire floor boards in her bedroom warped and destroyed by a leaky pipe. That's what happened over the weekend. The slumlord arranged a crew to fix it on Monday morning. Par for the course, he never told us anything about it. We found out the hard way.
I first heard the guy in the straw hat loudly talking on a cellphone when he loudly knocked on the front door of the apartment next door. When I went to investigate, I noticed two thuggy looking Mexican guys in hoodie stroll past my window and peak around the corner of the building. Just in case they were thinking about casing the place (in these parts of L.A. there have been an increase in break-ins with the theieves posing as landscapers and/or construction workers), I made my presence known. I gave them the patented-NYC-subway stink eye. They stopped in their tracks and scurried back to the guy in the straw hat who continued to bang on the door.
The slumlord's assistant showed up and that's when I realized that the guy in the straw hat was the contractor and the guys in hoodies were the illegal workers doing all the grunt work. A few minute laters, there was a knock on our door. The slumlord's assistant asked me if we could store our neighbor's table while they worked on the entire hardwood floor in the apartment. Mind you, he never said that they were going to do work nor did he apologize for the eruption of noise that was about to come our way. He just wanted to use our apartment because it was supposed to rain that day and he couldn't leave any Ikea tables outside. I agreed. Did I have a choice?
The slumlord's assistan invited me into the sparsely furnished apartment. All of the woman's furniture was stacked to the ceiling in her tiny kitchen -- minus the table that was moved into my apartment. The remainder of her apartment was empty. The contractor showed me the twisted and mangled bedroom floor. It looked like a week's worth of work yet I was told that work would be going on through Wednesday.
The slumlord's assistan never bothered to ask me if I work at home. In fact, both Nicky and I work from home. The ear-piercing sounds began at 10:30am and didn't stop until 5:47pm. I did what I could to drown out the bedlam from across the hall. Lot's of power saws. Lots of hammering. Lot's of sanding. All the music in the world cranked up at the highest volumes could not tune it out.
Nicky and I gutted through our assignments and made plans to work somewhere else on Tuesday. Of course, this could not come at a worst time. I mean, the writing gods out there are plotting against me. I'm on the last few chapters of the re-write for Lost Vegas. As if I didn't have enough bullshit and obstacles and setbacks to deal with over the last four years, I was blindsided by a "worse-case-scenario" for someone who works at home -- construction next door.
I'm used to working in cramped spaces or hectic environments. I accept those drawbacks when I'm on the road. For home? I expect a higher level of comfort. After all, I'm at home. That means writing pantsless, blasting music, and smoking copious amounts of dope while I write. I like to pace. I like to wander throughout the apartment in order to kick start my brain when I hit a stagnant part. All of those activities become hindered if I work in a different place such as a library or Starbucks. I'd love to sit at Starbucks but I don't think they'd along me to bring me bong. Would a library let me blast John Coltrane?
Alas, I had a big writing day planned for Tuesday with four looming deadlines (Wednesday > Thursday > Friday > Saturday) in addition to the last leg of Lost Vegas. I don't have a choice today and must gut through the noise or hope that our alternative office -- Nicky's parents house -- is a better alternative. When we go there, I have to wear my pants and I'm not thrilled about that prospect. Of course, we have to bail before Nicky's father gets home from work. He's a life-long Dodgers fan and hates the Yankees.