My mother mentioned in the comments the other day how she missed our really good apartment with the big bay window and I said I do too and then someone else said, "What apartment?" and really a whole other world goes on in those comments, folks. So let's take a trip back through June's sordid past, shall we?
In 1999, Marvin and I were looking for an apartment in LA, and back then, you actually looked in the newspaper. Can you imagine? Anyway, for 60 bucks, you could pay extra for this service that gave you the inside guff on other apartments, super-secret-squirrel apartments, and somehow I talked Marvin into paying for this feature. I have no idea how I did this; it must have been back when he still liked me. The very day we shelled out for super-secret-squirrel, we heard about a place, and I called about it.
An old man answered. "Oh, yes," he said, "the place is marvelous. It was built in 1940." Well, right there, he had me. As Nora Ephron says, by the time you're 35 in LA, you are older than most of the buildings. Most apartments are multiplexes built in 1991 with all the character of that Heidi person from The Hills.
The old man went on to say that the apartment was a duplex, it was 1,400 square feet, hardwood floors (which always bothers me. As opposed to what? Liquid wood floors?), crystal doorknobs, the original crystal chandelier in the formal dining room (see it at the tip-top of the photo above?), a built-in corner cabinet, a dressing room in the closet, original light fixtures, and a fireplace.
It sat on a hill, on a third of an acre, which in LA is practically sprawling. "I live on the top floor," he said. "I own the place. Mother and I bought it in 1950, and she and I lived here until she died."
An old queen! I would be living underneath an old gay guy! I could sit and drink daiquiris with him and hear old Hollywood bathhouse stories! I could hear about Rock Hudson and Paul Lynde and Dash Riprock, even though Dash Riprock was from The Flintstones. Oh, it simply could not get any better than this.
"There are 100 people who've already filled out applications," he told me. At this point I was prepared to gleefully run through Los Angeles with a straight razor, slicing from ear to ear the throats of each and every person who had filled out an app. Instead, I said, "Can I come see the place right now?" It was like a Tuesday at 10 a.m., but I freelanced then. I could do things like charm the pants off an old queen on Tuesdays at 10.
The place was in Silverlake, which at the time was just getting trendy. As soon as I pulled up I knew I wanted the place desperately. Everything he showed me, from the cute front porch to the hexagonal tiles to the original wallpaper he had just probably never bothered to replace to the '50s light fixtures to the scalloped details in the kitchen, I kept clapping my hands over my mouth and gasping.
Okay, stupid, stupid, stupid Typepad is crashing CONSTANTLY again, so from here on out are pictures from our old apartment just splayed randomly and I am just going to tell the story. I have been restarting my computer for two hours. I HATE THE NEW TYPEPAD.
So. Somehow we managed to get that apartment, without paying extra rent, or rent for the whole year in advance or by baking a cake or doing any of the things I have heard my friends do to get cute places. Just by luck, we got picked. And for the first year or two, it was bliss. Mr. K. was the cutest landlord ever, the neighborhood was to DIE for (the Red Hot Chili Peppers lived there!), and since I freelanced I was all up in everybody's business.
I got up each morning and went for a long walk through the neighborhood with a friend, then climbed back up the hill to our place and sat in our big bay window and did my work, while managing to totally Gladys Kravitz out the window all day long. Oh, I knew everybody's everything. (See the built-in cabinet? Oh!)
So, basically, I was happy. I think when you are happy you do not notice it. It is only when you are sad, like when you are HATING TYPEPAD, that you notice your surroundings. (I was in this bay window 47 hours a day. That fluffy gray cat was the marvelous Mr. Horkheimer.)
Anyway, Mr. K., our cute landlord, had no family, and he was in his 80s. He was having some trouble getting around and such. He did have some friends who came by, and one woman in particular came every Friday and took him to dinner, and she spent the night and cleaned his place on Saturday morning. But suddenly, this man Rik started coming around. He was Italian. My life was over. (There's my pal Renee. But I was really showing you the yellow tile.)
"I have someone helping me," Mr. K. told us. He's an actor. He may stay in the sheds from time to time. You'll never know he's there." I will never forget those words. You'll never know he's there.
This shyster told us that not only was he an actor, he had also been named Mr. Italy of some year (long ago), and that he was a personal trainer and he taught Italian lessons, too. My. What a renaissance man. I was kind of excited about the personal trainer part. "How much do you charge for that?" I asked him, seeing as I can't stand to ever have a dime in my pocket. And do you know he was very vague? And didn't seem interested in getting my business?
Soon Rik moved all of his personal belongings into the shed in our back yard. These sheds had no electricity or running water or anything, but Rik didn't seem to mind. He had a shopping cart kind of thing that he filled with bird seed, and his entire day seemed to consist of going out with bird seed and feeding pigeons. Sometimes he would bring pigeons back home, to his shed.
Now, I am an animal lover, but after a few months, Rik's shed, which was seriously the size of, you know, a SHED, consisted of Rik, his worldly possessions, and like 15 injured pigeons. They could be heard COOING in our back yard. I expressed some concern about this, but Rik sort of blew me off.
Months went by and what do you know, Rik slowly began spending his nights upstairs in Mr. K's increasingly valuable property. The years we lived in that neighborhood, houses around us went from being worth $400,000 to well over $1,000,000. Mr. K's place, being a duplex, was valued at over 2 million. And Rik? Had not done one second of work. But he spent several hundred dollars of Mr. K's money having 8×10 head shots made of himself, which he plastered all over our neighborhood with a sign reading, "Actor for hire. No soaps, no commercials."
Now, there'a a way to get work. Because certainly no one else in LA is looking for, you know, acting gigs, and you wouldn't want to waste your time going on any auditions. And certainly letting people know you won't stoop to doing soaps or commercials is going to endear you to just everyone.
It was right around this time that Rik started telling us that he was really a detective. "I am detective," he would tell us, in that not-at-all-annoying-by-now Italian accent. In fact, we had a lot of accidents on our street, and one time a guy flipped his car, and Rik ran out to the guy, in his UPSIDE-DOWN VEHICLE, and said, "It is okay, I am detective. You can get out of your car" and Marvin had to run over and say please don't move, that guy is crazy. Please stay put.
Also, Mr. K's health was declining, and he was getting confused, and his friends were stopping by less and less. And I am sure this had nothing to do with the fact that Rik had put a sign on the door that read "Please don't Nok" (that's how he spelled it) and a sign inside the door for Mr. K that said "Do not open door." Mr. K's friend, the one who used to stay every Friday night, finally called us in tears. She told us Rik had threatened her and told her she couldn't come around any more.
I guess I forgot to say that somehow in all this time, Rik had erected a TWENTY FOOT pigeon cage in the back yard. It was like The Birds back there. There was pigeon poop on all our backyard furniture, our cars, our porch, everything. Then one day, we found FOUR DEAD PIGEONS in our fireplace, and I got a bizarre fungal infection IN MY THROAT that required huge antibiotics.
It was at this point that we called the Health Department and Adult Protective Services for Mr. K. They made stupid Rik take down his pigeon structure, and they made him STOP FEEDING THE RACCOONS AND SKUNKS, which, who is he, Elle May Clampett?
As for the senior abuse thing? It ended up going all the way to court. Rik, who was as straight as an arrow and how somehow managed to have a girlfriend, claimed in a court of law, under oath, that he was Mr. K's gay lover, and poor Mr. K was too out of it to say yes or no to this. (I do not know why I have hydrogen peroxide in this photo.)
We had lived at this wonderful apartment for seven years or so at this point, but obviously we had to leave, what with taking Rik to court for abusing Mr. K and all. The only good part was that a social worker and a nurse came a few times a week, to make sure that Mr. K was being taken care of. His friends, however, never got to see him again, and Mr. K. died last year, with stupid Rik being the only person there.
And guess who still lives in that house? Mr. Stay-at-Home Actor himself. There is no justice in this world.
There is only one really good thing I can tell you, though. When we were about to leave LA, Marvin was a substitute teacher. This automated calling system calls you every day at 5 a.m. to see if you can teach that day, and you press 1 for yes or whatever. When we moved, Marvin called to tell them he was moving. The forwarding number he gave them? Rik's.