Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Metamorphosis of a Horrendous Karaoke Singer

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I live next door to someone who was arrested for domestic battery. I found out by accident when I stumbled upon something that I wasn't supposed to see. Our neighbors leave out mail addressed to former tenants on top of the mail boxes. We have a special rubbish bin where we discard junk mail (those loathsome "RESIDENT" pieces and newspaper-like coupons). Because we live in a building that had lots of previous tenants, it's inevitable that you get mail in your box for someone else. Some of my neighbors have poor etiquette and leave that mail on top of the mail box, which is a passive-aggressive move and they'd rather let the mailman deal with it. The other day I noticed 2 pieces of mail addressed to someone in the building next door. I presumed that it got delivered to the wrong apt #8. Whoever found the mis-delivered mail in their box was too lazy to walk it next door.

I took it upon myself to do the right thing because... 1) it's the neighborly thing to do, 2) my karma will improve with a random act of kindness, and 3) if something important of mine was delivered to the wrong address, I'd want that person to do the right thing and make sure it got to its rightful owner (me).

During the twenty-five second walk down the alley and over to the building next door, I glanced at the mail. The recipient had just moved because both were addressed somewhere in West L.A. according to the yellow sticker from the post office that indicated forwarded mail. I wondered if he was the guy who moved into the apartment formerly occupied by the couple with the two big dogs? One piece of his mail was a generic bank statement. The other was from the LA county court system. The letter from the court shifted in the envelope a bit and that's when I saw something in the "open window" that revealed my neighbor's run in with the law -- "Domestic Violence Victims Fund, Past Due: $236." Depending on the city/county, sometimes the scumbags who beat up their wives/girlfriends are also slapped with additional fines that directly fund special programs that give support to battered wives and counseling and for children of domestic abuse. Apparently, my neighbor must let his fists fly against his girlfriend/wife. Great. That's all we need, right?

The odds were high that the victim of his domestic violence incident was probably still with him. And if that's the case, then the odds were even higher that another incident was imminent. Although I never met the guy and should give him the benefit of the doubt, it's hard to ignore the percentages. Once a scum bag, always a scum bag.

Sure, my reasons for not liking my neighbor are also rooted in my own selfishness. I really don't need the cops sniffing around next door at random moments. For the most part, my block is relatively safe aside from all of those barking dogs and the annoying cat that lives upstairs. I'm very lucky in that regard that even though I'm living on the fringe of Beverly Hills, I don't have to worry about my block being a magnet for the criminal element. But with the recent addition of a wifebeater next door, I can't help but wonder how long it takes before I see a squad car outside and freak out at the flashing red and blue lights. It's simply not fair -- I'm paranoid enough as is -- the last thing I need is even more heightened paranoia.

Then again, I'm one who prefers to practice conflict avoidance, but with a wifebeater next door, a situation might occur when I have to make a difficult decision. What happens if I hear stuff breaking and a woman screaming or crying? At some point in the future, I might have an ethical dilemmas where I have to make the tough decision to get involved in someone else's business and call the cops myself because maybe he's beating the shit out of his girlfriend/wife and I might be saving her life because she's too afraid to call. I'm really not thrilled that I might be confronted with that possibility of having to step into a domestic dispute. I'm a live and let live kinda guy. I want my neighbors to respect me and leave me alone to do my own thing in the privacy of my own home, and in return they expect the same thing, but beating the crap out of a defenseless woman definitely crosses the line.

At the same time, just because a man and woman are screaming doesn't mean that he's necessarily hitting her (or vice versa). Would I be dropping a dime on my neighbor if he's innocent and just involved in a raucous squabble with his partner? I wouldn't want my neighbors to call the cops whenever Nicky and I got into a major fight, or heck even during those brief, rapid-fire shouting matches that bubbled up to the surface every once in a while (anyone who has been married or lived with someone for an extended period of time), which are actually invaluable because they release any tension that has built up. But yeah, I'd be pretty pissed if one of my neighbors dropped a dime on me to the cops when I wasn't doing anything wrong.

Alas, the neighbor next door already had me on semi-tilt in less than thirty seconds of discovering that he was a wifebeater.

After I dropped off the mail in front of his door, I rushed back to my apartment. The windows were open to our place and I could hear the actress next door (who used to live with one girl who made a deep run on American Idol last year) rehearsing a song a capella. A couple of songs actually. Her angelic voice wiped away any violent and malevolent thoughts of the wifebeater.

We live in a creative section of the Slums of Beverly Hills: one woman in my building is a painter, the girl above us plays the violin, the girl next door is an actress/singer, and Nicky and I are both writers. We just want to be left alone to escape into our own worlds and create something from nothing (even from that talentless out-of-tune wanna-be lounge singer across the alley practicing -- poorly I might add -- belting out show tunes with a karaoke machine). It's not as easy as you think and often requires a positive environment -- one that's void of cops and wifebeaters.

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