Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ghetto Birds

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The ghetto bird buzzed our apartment building. I didn't pay attention to the first two passes. The third one was close. Too close, hovering over our apartment building.

"They know I'm here," said Benjo as he stood up and walked over to the window in our living room.

Benjo has been our house guest since Sunday. He's stayed with us a few times before in the slums of Beverly Hills. He's used to the idiosyncrasies of the neighborhood that's just a stone's throw away from Beverly Hills. He was half-joking but with a tinge of concern on his face as the ghetto birds circled overhead. Me? I was curious. Nicky? Seemed uninterested and more concerned with her game of Shuffleboard on her iPad, which at this point has become one of her appendages.

The slums of BH is a relatively safe neighborhood. If anything, we're probably the biggest threats on the block, but in this instance the police were looking for someone else.

Nicky and I hear helicopters all the time, usually the ones that we hear during the day are news or traffic copters. The intimidating sounds of police choppers whomp whomp above during the evenings and sometimes you'll see a spotlight shining down somewhere a few blocks down. The biggest drama we experienced happened a few months ago when someone was shot and murdered on the other side of Crescent Heights. Choppers, both law enforcement and entertainment related, buzzed for hours.

I walked out to the alley and my neighbor Mack was peering over the fence. He took a drag on his cigarette and pointed down the alley at the structure two buildings down. It was dusk, but the last buts of daylight were fading fast. A spotlight from the helicopter illuminated the back of the building. Two people in the building next door stood on their terraces and shifted back and forth to get a better look at the commotion.

"I'm sort of hoping to see someone start running down the alley," said Mack as the ghetto birds above us continued it's circular path turning right over us. Mack is in the entertainment industry as a cameraman by trade. He pointed out a news chopper nearby.

"Maybe we're live on channel 11?" I said. "That would be cool if we could be seen smoking in the alley while the cops tackled some dude that they were chasing."

We kept a close eye on the back of the building and the area highlighted by the spotlight. We stood along the fence for a few minutes as Benjo and Nicky joined us. I walked to the front of our building to see if there were any squad cars blocking off the street. A few curious neighbors were also doing the same including a young mother who held her child's hand as the little one, maybe four-years-old, pointed up at the ghetto bird.

Two police cars with their red and blue lights on, but sirens mutes, sped through the intersection. Six or seven curious bystanders stood on the corner. I wanted to join them but was sorta worried if one of the criminals, er alleged criminals, broke free and sprinted down the alley towards us. I wasn't worried for Nicky's safety -- I had my camera and didn't want to miss any of the hijinks.

* * * * *

We have a new neighbor. The place across the hall has been a hot potato. I wonder if whoever rents that place simply hates living next to us, or if they have higher standards than we do and get fed up with this dump of a building?

Our previous neighbor was a lawyer in her 30s. She was blonde and drove a grey Jetta. She was never here and spent six nights a week at her boyfriend's apartment. I guess she was making so much money that she didn't mind spending almost $20,000/year on rent in a place she barely slept in. Her smoking hot younger sister drove a BMW and often stopped by to feed her lonely cat. We used to hear the loud meows through the walls. Sometimes the cat stood in the window in front of the blinds flashing a sullen look at me as I passed by.

We liked our old neighbor because she was never around and didn't mind that we'd be up late and that the alley often smelled like Reggae Fest. She left because of the shitty condition of the building. She skipped out in the middle of the night when she and her boyfriend quickly moved out all of her stuff at like 2am. A few weeks later we noticed an eviction notice on the front door. The place had been vacant for several months while the landlord did a bunch of annoyingly loud repair projects like redoing and sanding the hardwood floors.

Our slumlord rarely fixes shit, which ticked me off because he never gave us any warning when the workers showed up, none of whom spoke English so it was tough to communicate with them because they always thought it was OK to park their vans behind us and block us in. The repairs were always loud and it sounded like they were blasting tunnels on some days, which made it tough to work (I was in the home stretch of the Lost Vegas edits at the time).

This is the same slumlord waited a few days to fix leak in our bedroom room because it fell over Mother's Day weekend and the plumber he has on retainer was in Mexico visiting his mother. Anyway, while we were away for the summer, he fixed a bunch of stuff which means he wants to raise our rent so now he'll have justification. Plus, he got fined by a building inspector and had to fix some random window sills. They worked on those areas, and his crew did a crappy job on patching up the cracks and water marks on the ceiling of the bedroom. He did fix a broken window pane and installed a new bathroom floor. But that's like 1/3 of all of the things wrong with out place. I'm still going to resist a rent increase until everything is fixed. Heck, he should be giving us a discount.

Anyway, back to my original thought... since I started dating Nicky, the place across the hall has sat empty for long stretches of time. A female rabbi in her early 30s lived there for a bit and she bailed. We could tell she wanted no business with us, even though Nicky's former roommate Showcase is Jewish.

Our new neighbor moved in the day before we left for Vegas. He never bothered to say hello or even acknowledge me when we crossed passed in the alley. So he had a peaceful summer while we were gone for 2 months. When we returned from Vegas, we noticed our new neighbor pull up in a Beamer as he parked next to our spot. Ha, our neighbor is a suit and driving a luxury car.

"It's definitely a lease," said Nicky matter-of-factly. "That car seems fitting for our hood."

Just three cars down, a piece of shit that might as well be on cinder blocks sat covered by an garish baby blue car cover. In front of that sat an abandoned utility van. I used to think that the van was a weapons cache for the shady Middle Eastern men who lived across the alley. For a while I was convinced the van housed a bunch of Asian illegal immigrants a la Crash. I have no fucking clue what has been in there, but in four years it's never moved. Neither has the car on the cinder blocks behind it. Gotta love the slums of Beverly Hills. We have a Mercedes, Lexus, and BMW within a twenty foot radius of those two pieces of shit.

I've seen our neighbor a few times and he's yet to say a word to me. I wonder if I was using my powers of invisibility? Or if he's just an ass and typical LA douchebag blowing me off? Nicky nicknamed him "bitter BMW-driving suit" -- which seems accurate.

Well, if he wasn't so thorny, we would have told him to stop by the other night. A couple of colleagues (they actually worked with Nicky or for a subsidiary of one of Nicky's clients) stopped by for an impromptu party: Gloria is from Arizona but had a meeting in LA, while our two other friends, Alex and Remko, are members of the international press. Alex lived in Paris, but he'ss from Australia and Remko is a reporter from Holland. Good folks and it was cool to hang out with them on their last night in LA. So we were definitely loud but our neighbor never complained or called the cops, so deep down he must be an OK guy. Maybe "bitter BMW-driving suit" is just shy?


  1. Showcase1:17 AM

    Thanks for the shout out. Did you ever find out why the choppers were circling?

  2. Wolynski8:31 PM

    I live near the Stratosphere and get these "ghetto birds" (never knew they were called that) nearly every night. It's a way to keep the neighborhood terrified. I mean, they're not effective in actually accosting perppetrators, but they make a lot of noise - makes you feel like it's a war zone. If someone robbed Jack-In-The-Box, this is a reason to keep everyone up all night?