Sunday, March 14, 2010

Meet the Neighbors: Who Actually Lives in the Slums of Beverly Hills?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I avoid the coffee shop on weekends because of the crowds. However, I knew that the time change would fuck with some people's routine, so if there was ever a Sunday to grab breakfast, it was this Sunday. I originally planned to cook my own breakfast (andouille and eggs), but I was lazy. After a quick wake-n-bake, I didn't want to waste time prepping for breakfast. At the same time, I didn't want to wake Nicky by rattling around the kitchen. Besides, on Saturday, my breakfast venture was a disaster. My meal was delicious but in the process, I nearly destroyed the kitchen. I was simply off my game and spilled yolk all over the cutting board and on the floor. I broke a glass. I dropped the whisk more times that I could count. I fucked up toasting the French bread and had the toaster oven on a wrong setting. Maybe all these mind-farts happened because I was sober? Anyway, my Cajun egg sandwich came out exactly as I had envisioned but the kitchen was a mess. I had a rough session which became a deterrent when I woke up hungry this morning. I opted to pay for my meal.

I went to the coffee shop to read while I ate breakfast. A really nice family owns the restaurant that was originally established in 1946, which means that they have had regulars with several decade-long attachments to the eatery. One woman called up to ask what time it was. The owner's daughter answered the phone and said, "It's a little past 8."

Besides the "where-everyone-knows-your-name" atmosphere, I really love Sunday mornings at the coffee shop because the staff cranks up the oldies station -- KRTH-101-- which airs Breakfast with the Beatles and it's all Beatles all morning long every Sunday. Nicky said she grew up listening to that in her house before going to church on Sundays with her family. So it's kind of cool that Beatles for breakfast at the coffee shop is a Sunday tradition. I dig hearing some of my favorite tunes and even a few not-as-popular selections on Rubber Soul which always puts me in a good mood. Some folks need church on Sundays, I need the music.

The streets of LA are empty on the weekends, but at the same time during the weekday, Pico Blvd. is bumper-to-bumper with the morning rush hour traffic. I took my time to cross the street admiring the Hollywood Hills in the distance. I can tell if it's going to be a good air quality day by the visibility of the Hills. If I can barely see them, that means a thick layer of smog is trapped and hovering over the City of Angels. But on a morning like today, I could see the lush greens which always brings smile to my face. That's why I chose to settled down here.

I don't know my neighbors as well as I should. A couple of highly religious Iranian/Jewish families live in the building to our right. The building to our left is filled with hipsters and dog owners who let their dogs yap, growl, and bark in the backyard. The actress/waitress who constantly sings lives in that building. She and her pothead boyfriend used to hang out and smoke weed with Showcase. In a stark reminder about the small town nature of Hollyweird, our neighbor's former roommate is a current contestant on American Idol and among the final 10. Although LA is a plastic city attracting the most superficial of people (hence why LA is the epicenter for LA douchebags), the city also draws in the best talent from all over the world. There's a fine line between being a waitress and a finalist on America Idol, and the slums of Beverly Hills is the demarcation line which houses a lot of dreamers.

If I barely know the people in the adjacent buildings, I know even less about the people in the other six apartments in our seven unit structure. Nicky and I are only friendly with the guys upstairs. They're cool and fit in with our lifestyle -- freelancers in the entertainment industry who are either always working or have huge chunks of unstructured time. They smoke weed, drink beer, play video games, and love football. They smoke cigarettes in the alley so they are always keeping an eye on our place when we're not around. It's good to have nice neighbors like that. Plus, they never complain when I blast music at odd hours and conversely, we don't care when they go ape shit while playing Grand Theft Auto.

I barely know the woman across the hall. She's a lawyer who sleeps at her boyfriend's apartment six nights a week, which is why she has sparse items in her near empty abode. And only someone who is bringing in decent cash can afford to pay for an empty apartment -- save for a lonely cat that's constantly meowing. She comes home to feed her cat, hangs out for a bit, and then takes off. Her sister often keeps an eye on the kitty and that's the Beverly Hills blonde who locked herself out of the apartment last month and want to know if I could break into the apartment.

A law student lives in the apartment above the lawyer. I can't tell if the renter is a guy or a girl because about twice a week, I see a young couple come in and out. The woman has a huge book bag and an overnight bag, so I gotta assume that one of them lives here in theory while in reality they crash at their significant other's much nicer apartment. Maybe the law student and the lawyer should become roommates and save money since they are never around? My landlord is getting free money on people who barely live here. Same goes for us in the summers. That lucky fucker! What a racket. I don't blame my neighbors for not wanting to stay here. The building is a shithole and might not survive a 7.0 earthquake. Our slumlord rarely fixes stuff including the shitty plumbing. And hey, who really wants to live next to a couple of beer-guzzling video game geeks or two potheads blasting jazz music at all hours?

I have never spoke to the couple upstairs and we barely acknowledge each other with a head nod. I only know that one of them is in law school because I noticed a 2L parking pass hanging from their rearview mirror. The guy drives a motorcycle, but I've never seen him actually drive the beast. It has been collecting dust in the carport since he moved in last year.

The front part of the building has three units. A 50-something female artist rents one of the spaces. Nicky and I have an eternal debate on whether or not she lives there or just uses the studio apartment as a studio. Nicky has been inside and saw a bed, but that doesn't mean anything because I know a lot of artists who crash in their space from time to time. Her car is not around for days at a time so my theory is that she lives somewhere else and her studio is in the slums of Beverly Hills. Regardless, it's nice to have a bit of creative energy in the building to counterbalance the darkness of the legal eagles.

The upstairs apartment in the front of the building is a mystery to me. Always has been since I started dating Nicky. Again, I have no idea. I never see them. The front downstairs apartment is the one that has had the most changeover since I moved it. It has also sat idle the most. It's hard to rent that one-bedroom shithole. A hipster chick lived there for a few months. She drove a white BMW and used to bitch and moan that our place was "OMG so ghetto" which it is, but why did she move here in there first place? She left before Thanksgiving and the apartment sat empty until this week. The landlord must have lowered the rent so much that someone jumped at the place.

I don't know much about the new neighbor except that they drive a leased Sebring convertible and smoke Capris. I can peek into the kitchen window. They have a huge circular bookcase that houses a ton of cook books but I have yet to see someone in the kitchen actually cooking. My theory is that this person is a chef or works in the restaurant business in some sort, which is why they are not around at nights but the car is parked during the days. Who knows. I'll do some more investigating.

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