20 Brooks Avenue where I live, never ceases to offer an array of interesting events.
For starters, I’m a squatter. When you have no residency, the easy way to have a place to sleep is to live with someone and rent a room. This I have no intention of doing. I haven’t had a roommate in 10 years and I don’t really feel like starting now. So, you’re other option is sub-lets. Not exactly illegal, not exactly kosher.
The building manager has been told by the couple I leased it from, that I was her half brother and was visiting from Australia. Total bullshit and I didn’t believe it, but the plan was hatched without my knowing. I could have had ten better back stories than that.
Anyway, the manager interrogates me about it every time I see her. So I now if I hear her in the halls, I run the other way. If she comes to the laundry room, I hide behind the dryer. If I see her on the street, I cross the road. Then every rent day I tip-toe to her door, push a check under it and bolt for the street and stay away for a few hours.
When I’m not hiding from the landlady though, it’s a kind of fun place to live.
There was a time last year, when I was walking home, only to be overtaken by a fire engine. Then another. How exciting I thought. Then I saw that the engines were in my street. Then I saw that there were firemen going into my building!
Loving a good self-induced guilt lashing, I immediately think that the blaze has been caused by me. I left a candle burning (even though I don’t own any), my sub-let will be discovered, I’ll be thrown out on my arse to the awaiting police, who will escort me to the jail where I’ll probably meet Psycho Cop again.
So there we all are, out there on the street playing “meet the nervous neighbors”. It usually takes a power outage, an earthquake or a fire before you meet the people who you share a building with. But it turns out that everyone else in the building is as worried about getting caught out as I am.
There are two pot dealers who live on my floor. One is a shanty-banty yoga girl straight out of San Diego. The other is some drop out loser kid who is always hanging out the back of the building smoking cigarettes and talking about his band.
They are both standing as far away from the building as they can but still keeping an eye on it. Both of them have a backpack over their shoulders and the look of a sprinter listening for a gun. Last thing you want to have is a fire sale on your dope supply.
The other apartment on my floor has 5 people living in a one bedroom. With a dog. Somehow, and I don’t know how, they make this work. But they are only supposed to have two, and no dog. Worried that they are going to be busted, they decided that only two of them would grab possessions; if all five of them had stuff, “the building lady would like, totally suss it out.” This strikes me as stoner logic. Nothing quite like watching a bunch of twenty year olds argue over who collection of American Apparel clothes should have been carried from the flames.
Meanwhile, the dog was tied up to a pole up the street. I ask why, and they reply, it’s cool, it’ll be like someone parked it. OK kids.
So I stand there surveying the rest of the crowd who live in 20 Brooks and I wonder how I ended up living in a college dorm. Meanwhile, we all wait to hear about the fire that is raging somewhere in the building, if we could just find where the flames are. And then, in a Porky’s style finish to the event, we all got to watch the guy who’s apartment the smoke was coming from get carried from the building. The firemen are trying really hard not to laugh as they ferry him to the waiting ambulance.
Turns out, he’s a raging dope fiend (surprise, surprise), he got epically stoned, put half a dozen corn dogs in the stove and then passed out. They burned and the smoke billowed into the halls, setting off the alarms. And he didn’t wake up till the firemen broke his door down.
Exiting the building in a cloud of corn-dog smoke, he freaked out, screaming that he had to go back in there and save his cat. He doesn’t own a cat.
I look at the dealers ready to bolt, the slum kids, the tied up dog and rest of the slackers in my building and think, I love Venice Beach.