International Writers Magazine: Life in LA
Available 1/1/08 (flexible) to Open Yes Rental type Apartment Bedrooms Two, Available 1
Bathrooms - Parking Doorman High speed internet Smoker OK Pets
OK Elevator Cable Laundry in bldg Air conditioning Utilities included
Credit app. reqd Broker fee none
coming up crazy
in Los Angeles as a starry eyed transplant from the Midwest, I had
compiled a list of things to do and see that were quintessential
California activities. Most were beach, art and nightlife scene
oriented, but I had one pressing issue that needed to be addressed:
finding a place to live.
has been made aware of and has accepted federal housing laws not
to give preference, limitation or discrimination because of race,
color, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, family status,
sexual orientation, marital status, ancestry or source of income.
Homelessness was an option, but I put aside my affection for free soup
and dumpster diving chic for shelter and a roommate or three. After consulting
the few present and former Los Angelinians I knew, the website Westside
Rentals came out the unanimous victor over Craigslist .The cited reason
boiled down to perceived legitimacy and sanity of potential roommates.
After charging $60 on my credit card for 3 months worth of web searching,
my quest and subsequent adventures began. I found little legitimacy and
definite insanity. Here are some highlights:
"Hi I'm calling about the room for rent on Westside Rentals."
A man in Middle Eastern accent: "Yes, I am Hugo. I am manager.
What do you want?"
"Oh, I just moved here and am curious about the room for rent with
one roommate and a private bathroom." My cheeks are hot, Hugo does
not seem terribly friendly.
"You move in at beginning of next month. Right now I have two ladies
in apartment, but soon just one lady as roommate was not granted green
card and so she no stay in my building. Or in America. (It seems this
fact just dawned on Hugo) So I help find replacement."
"Oh. I'm sorry. Well, I'm interested in checking the place out. It's
a room and bathroom right?"
I hear Hugo hesitate (RED FLAG #1), "Yes, but I use bathroom sometimes,
but only when I stay in living room. (RED FLAG #2) I bought new
shower head. I am manager and need to be there sometimes. It's my
couch that I lent to Leyna and Pushpa, the ladies."
Am I being punked? "I'm sorry, but you stay in the living room?"
Maybe Hugo is friendlier than first suspected.
Hugo is growing impatient, "Yes, yes. That's what I say. I am gay.
Don't worry (RED FLAG #3). I go out to club at night. Gay clubs. Where
I dress up. You know? Like woman. So I get ready at building I manage
and where you will live? (RED FLAG #4) I don't want my neighbors seeing
me dressed up. You know? Like woman ( RED FLAG #5)."
I want to tell Hugo that I'm pretty confident that his neighbors
are aware he is a Looney Tune cross dresser, but instead, like Yankee
Doodle, he gives me one last feather to put in my cap.
"I also use kitchen to make sandwiches. I lent refrigerator too.
I clean up. I make one for you too."(RED FLAG #6)
I feel high, is this really happening? Isn't it the landlord's job to
supply basic appliances? I have an image of Hugo in fishnet stockings
with his gut hanging out between his much too tight catholic school girl
skirt and mesh tank top, smearing sauce on a gyro and he raises it to
his coral lip-sticked mouth only to get onions get caught in
"So how about you come tonight? I am getting ready there tonight.
You can meet Pushpa before she is deported."
I hang up. How could anyone replace Pushpa? The timer on my phone reads 6
min 34 seconds. I have a new perspective on time and realize this roommate
searching may not be as easy as first led to believe. I have another option
saved on my searches. This listing only offers an email and no phone number.
I type up a brief inquiry expressing my interest and expect no response.
How could I when the following is at stake, a Spanish style house in Brentwood,
complete with movie viewing room and tennis courts with a private wing
with balcony and pool for the too good to be believed price of $400 month.
To my surprise, I received an email the next day from the lister, a Miss.
Melanie Joy. She gave me the address and saying to stop by anytime and
someone should be home. I scribbled the street down and dashed out the
door. I approached the house and had an eerie feeling, although nothing
was out of the ordinary. A few over grown bushes and weeds littered the
lawn, but otherwise the property was immaculate.
I rang the doorbell and a woman who had to be in her mid 80's and who came
up to my knees answered the door. "Yes. I like you," she grabs
my hand and is laughing hysterically saying how pretty I am and is speaking
nonsense. I like old people and so I am not bothered by her obvious senility...and
I also like that she likes me purely based on my looks. Another person,
resembling Cousin It, sat silently watching some reality TV program with
crazed brides (are there any sane ones?).
"Hi, I'm looking for Melanie. I'm here to see the house."
Cousin It looks up, "I like weddings. Do you like weddings?"
Fuck. I glance around for a glass menagerie. This is not a good sign and
even after speaking, I'm unable to differentiate this person's gender.
Before I can voice my opinion, Melanie Joy appears ( she insists on being
called her first and middle name, I soon discover) emerges in all her
sweat pant, matted hair angrily pulled into a scrunchie, Tweetey Bird
size 3 XXL t-shirt glory. "I'm Melanie Joy. That's my sister
Lauren Grace, ignore her. And that's our great aunt Burma. Ignore her
too. Let me show you the place."
As I attempt to conceal my glee over getting gender confirmation
of Cousin It, I observe Melanie Joy. An expressionless, blank, fat canvas.
She leads me though the enormous house and precedes to tell me a number
of troubling tid bits. Like how her parents died in 2004 and she has a
trust fund and that she decorated the house herself and that she has a
son but never sees him and her ex-husband lives in San Bernardino
and doesn't pay child support because he works for the government and
that I seem very young, that she has not eaten dinner, that she had a
long day at work, that I have to do a credit check if I want to live here,
that she hasn't voted since McGovern was President, but the attorney who
handles all the money is screening her calls so it might take a while
( I'm impressed such an insane person can differentiate between screening
a call and missing one). The entire time great aunt Burma (why no middle
name?) is clutching my hand and ever so slightly drooling.
I slowly backed out and was checking every potential escape route. She
has never depended on the kindness of strangers, nor do I think that it
an option. I took note of the plethora of pills hanging in the cabinets
and haphazardly laying on end tables like paddles in a frat house
and immediately texted the multi-syllable prescriptions to my friend Matthew
who is going to pharmacy school. Less than five minutes later I
had a response: bi polar, manic depression, dementia, foot fungi and an
extremely concerned friend who demanded to speak to me about this potentially
lethal cocktail. The rest I blocked out.
As I was shown to the foyer and soon out of the beautiful home that I
would never walk though again, Melanie Joy shows me the living room,
"Sometimes my step-brother stops by and kind of sets up a fort, but
we haven't seen him for about six weeks. Oh, and do you have a steady
income? I don't work, so it doesn't bother me so long as you have money.
We have a trust fund."
I want to remind Melanie joy that she told me that she had a long day
at work, but I don't as I'm afraid she might knife me. I pry Burma's clammy
death grip from my hand. "I like you, you stay," she tells
me, dabbing the drool with her nightgown.
Not in your wildest dreams: I think as I step into the cool southern California
evening air and not in my most frightening nightmares. Soup kitchens
are looking brighter by the minute as my stomach growls and I begin dialing
"Matt, stop, stop, stop. I am not taking those pills and you are
not going to believe what I just saw..."
© Cait McCallum - Jan1st 2008
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