Victor Charlie Locksmith

Image result for lawrence of arabiaWe go for a leisurely walk. We celebrate the gift of a breeze and a sunset after a day so hot that the neighborhood dogs can’t work up to snarling at me. The stroll ends with me jiggling a locked door to which I do not have the key. It’s not in my pocket, not in my car, it’s inside the house, which as I’ve mentioned, is locked.

I scale the fence, confirm that the back door is locked, then sit down with a six pack  meant to be consumed in an air-conditioned house but will instead be drunk outside and slowly. The locksmith says it’ll be a 2 hour wait.

Between slugs of an increasingly less cold beer, I pick up limbs of the mutant cactus that haunts my backyard. I’ve been trying to get rid of the remains of it for weeks. After my fourth beer, the job is finally done. A small victory.

Victor Charlie shows up at 10 pm in a black low rider. He’s wearing a black t-shirt with the logo Frequent Rocker and sports a black pony tail that tickles his ass. He starts by trying to pick the lock. This means he pushes in a pin then grinds a tool in the keyhole. It’s like he’s playing a very short xylophone and the chorus is, “Dammit! Goddammit!”

After 10 minutes, he switches from picking to –  I don’t know what to call it but he sticks in a random key then bangs it with the butt end of a screwdriver. This last for 45 minutes. I’m beginning to be concerned he might not be good at his job.

He switches to picking then back to pounding the shit out of the door handle. He smashes his finger with the screwdriver, “Fuck!” He sucks the blood from his pointer finger then keeps banging. Every five minutes he flings his ponytail back and whips me in the face with hair and sweat. I’m not standing behind him because I’m especially curious but rather because my iPhone is the sole source of light out here.

So here we are, like a prom photo, with my arm around his as he bangs and bangs and bangs at the lock. It’s loud work so I look around for concerned neighbors who might be alarmed by the sight and sounds of a break-in. I figure someone might even call the cops. I have no way to prove that I live there. They never come. The locksmith never asks me to prove that this isn’t an elaborate break-in.

Covered in sweat, Victor Charlie tells me it’s been one of those nights. I imagine that as a shitty locksmith he probably has a lot of nights like this. Finally, he gives up. He’s out of ideas. He can’t pick it. He can’t do the thing that he bloodied his finger doing. He only has one choice: rip off the fucking handle. His words.

And of course, sell me a new one for $100 plus re-keying fee. Naturally, the lock won’t be as good as the one he’s hellbent on destroying but it’s decent. And if he ever needs to crack it again, it’ll be much easier. This is supposed to be reassuring, but I assure you it’s not. Yet I agree. Let’s rip off the fucking lock and put on a shittier one.

It’s now midnight. In about two seconds he cracks off the lock. He pulls out the new, lesser knob and starts the re-keying process by immediately dropping the lock. This sends springs flying everywhere. Fuck, goddamnit, damnit, fuck! I put my iPhone down and invite Victor Charlie in to use the kitchen table and indoor light. I offer him a water, and because I’m sort of drunk, I almost offer him a beer. But because he’s already a horrendous locksmith and I can’t imagine he would be better with a buzz, I decide against it and drink the last beer myself.

He can’t do the job alone so he solicits my help. I hold the knob steady while he attempts to rebuild the lock. I’m also tasked with holding a flashlight because he keeps saying, “Well I can’t see a fucking thing!” Maybe it’s his eyes. Maybe it’s his lack of dexterity. But he is a truly awful locksmith.

Finally, he finishes assembling the lock, re-keys and installs it into the metal screen door. One of those nights, man.

He has me pay through Square. I’m surprised when it prompts me with the option to tip. How much to tip your locksmith is not something I’ve ever even thought to google. But I figure he’s not long for this trade so I tip him 20% and consider it a contribution to his future unemployment fund.

Before he goes, Victor Charlie asks if he can use the bathroom. I tell him that our main line is clogged, showers are backed up, toilets are brimming. I can see he’s hurt. The two of us have worked hand-in-hand destroying my front door and now I won’t even let him piss in my non-functioning toilet. He’s disgusted with me so he takes his 20% tip, urges me to write a positive Yelp review and then drives off looking for another door to decimate for a fee.

I crawl into bed and wonder how long I can get by showering at the gym. Probably pretty long.

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GOOD FENCES

How do I know if my neighbor is a gang member?
Do felons in California have to register their address?
Concrete vs cement?

But before I can dive into my google search history, I have to dig a hole. Three holes to be precise.

The ground is hard, nearly impenetrable. Jonathan Swift said, He was a bold man who first ate an oyster. But I say, He was a self-loathing man who first dug a hole. I have a myriad of tools: a shovel, a thing that requires two hands and looks like it could be used to serve an enormous salad, and something like a jackhammer that’s not a jackhammer which weighs as much as a Shetland pony.

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Around each new turn I realize I know nothing of hard work. Last time it was a Jurassic Park-level cactus in my neighbor’s backyard. But that freakish plant is no more. Thanks to some version of hard work, it’s been slain and laid to rest in four trash barrels, each weighing three hundred pounds. Three hundred pounds of cactus gut and spikes. Some of it is still on the ground. Some of it is harpooned in my hands, legs, nostrils. I can’t sneeze without discovering a new alien spike lodged in me.

The mutant cactus is what brought me to the holes. Over time, presumable from when crack ravaged this community until last weekend, it flourished. It ate the fence between myself and my neighbor, just swallowed it whole. And since I now live in an area where people set off fireworks around the clock and the dogs never stop barking, I have taken to believing good fences make good neighbors. Or whatever Robert Frost wrote that people interpret for whatever case they’re attempting to make. So that’s what I’ll do. Misappropriate Robert Frost.Related image

A fence is a good thing because I don’t want to see the toilet that’s been sitting in my neighbor’s backyard for a decade and I don’t want my neighbors to see the toilet that’s been sitting in my backyard since Saturday. Also, my neighbor, who I’ve yet to meet, is allegedly a bipolar schizophrenic who I’ve been warned to not talk to. And he isn’t even my crazy neighbor.

It’s all new to me. Digging holes, a backyard full of toilets and cactus innards, seeing dogs with balls. The only thing that is familiar is not talking to my neighbors. I have that down pat. Other than a guy in Hollywood who I shared a hallway with for half a decade – who I’d drink beers with and talk about how we should find some place nicer to live than section 8 adjacent but we couldn’t beat the rent – I’ve not met one. I’ve just gone about my business not giving a shit about other people except for when it comes to institutional change. There I care. Here, in real life, I’m a bit more self-involved. I have holes to dig, walls to paint and a stack of New Yorkers that aren’t going to read themselves.

But lately I’ve wondered about meeting my neighbors. There is a new version of myself where I am a stranger in a strange land. I’m curious about this other way of life that exists south of the 10 freeway in places that people know from Mack 10 songs and documentaries about the Rodney King Riots.

Last week I was on set in what was supposed to be Columbus, Ohio but was actually the city of Hawthorne. East of the airport, most famous for the abandoned mall where Chris Brown shot “Party” and where gangs shoot each other as often as they can. While the location was being lit, I saw a police officer taking advantage of an ice cream truck that the production bought for the crew. She was 5’2 and her bulletproof vest came up high enough that she could rest her chin on it. While she ate a banana split, I asked: Had development from Inglewood overflowed into Hawthorne? No. Any shifts in the population? What? Any signs of gentrification? Um, we have a brewery now, she said.

I cut to the chase: I have a neighbor with the kind of face tattoos that you can only get in Salvadoran prisons. Should I be worried?

She shrugged, He’s probably a gangster.

Should I introduce myself? How does one exist with a gangbanger as a neighbor?

Under no circumstances am I to do that. Give him a head nod to show that you acknowledge and respect his presence, but then go inside. Stay in your lane.

I keep hearing this. Apparently, that’s how one maintains here: keep your head down. But also on a swivel. The cop tells me I shouldn’t do anything that people aren’t already doing. So no running up on cholos with blueberry pies and smiles.

Then she pulled up a map and systematically relayed the areas that I’m to avoid. All of Imperial. Most of Century Boulevard. Oh and stay out of Lennox. She said, You don’t go to Lennox.

Besides the homicide rate, a quick search revealed that Lennox has an air quality problem (thanks to LAX) that’s Flint, MI water level bad. But it’s in the hood, so apparently no one cares. My own air quality isn’t great. I’ve been huffing paint fumes every weekend for as long as I can remember (read: 2 weekends).

At the end of the day, there were three holes in the ground. Then a post was set. Then concrete that was mixed in a wheelbarrow was shoveled into the ground. I used to be stunned by One Last Poem for Richard. Now a dent in the earth, filled with concrete to support a fence post blows my mind. I think, this must be how they built the pyramids. Me and the Egyptians. We get it.

Of course I didn’t build the fence, but I was there. Across the street, my gang affiliated neighbor lit fireworks then rolled them under unsuspecting cars at the stop sign. I think I might go out of town for the 4th of July.

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Moving: A Survivor’s Story

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Moving, like meditation, is full of long pauses, reflection, catching your breath and recognizing when you simply must have a cigarette. At least that’s the way it seems to be with the movers I’ve hired. Between each box, a new cigarette, a drag for every step walked, every stair climbed. And not just today’s steps. Not just here. They’re making up for all the time spent rushing around. The constant go-go-go of life is too much, and what better time to take a breather than when someone is paying you $90 an hour?

I see their point. I understand their technique. I too know the hourly wage and that there’s no prize for sprinting. Efficiency is an abstraction to be contemplated while on the clock but never practiced.

But I like these guys. They don’t want to be here. They tell me they’ve had a long day, I have many stairs and even though I live in a one-bedroom apartment and own about ten shirts, they say I have too much stuff.

Oh yeah, and they’re seven hours late.

At 8:30 p.m. they pick up their first box. Well, one of them does. The other walks inside with his phone charger. The second guy doesn’t have a charger but asks if I might have an extra for a Samsung. I explain to him as patiently as I can that I’m actually in the process of moving and all of my belongings are in boxes, so no, I don’t have a charger. I guess I could have also said that independent of the move I don’t own a Samsung charger.

Another box, another cigarette, eventually I take to just moving the boxes myself. It’s easier than asking them to work. Each time I urged one of them to get off of the floor of the truck where they were sitting and smoking, they would tell me they were very tired. Didn’t I know that it was late? How could I be so unreasonable?

By the third hour, they don’t just smell of cigarettes. There’s a certain, eau du vodka that’s wafting through my living room. They’re sweating it out and replenishing and sweating it out again. But mainly they’re replenishing.

I do not confront them because I have a Russian friend who recently told me why Russians drink so much. One of the great tragedies of their nation is their terminally terrible soccer team. They love the sport but they lose and have almost always lost, so they must drink. I assume this to be the case tonight. There is little time to work because they are mourning their soccer team.Related image

In the fourth hour, after breaking a table and declining to bring a few other things, the van is packed. It’s after midnight and I’m eager to begin the second part of this journey at my new home in the City of Champions, as no one calls it. But I am wrong. The Russians are tired. The Russians are hungry. The Russians need a meal break. It’s not my character, but I say no. We must complete the move. This isn’t a union gig and they did 90 minutes of work in 4 hours so we’re not exactly on a record breaking pace. The Russians tell me that the break is non-negotiable. They have all my stuff. I am powerless to their whims so I agree.

While they’re on their break, I drive to the new house and in rapid succession drink six beers. This is not pleasurable. It’s an act of self-preservation. The fifth hour passes with no sign of the Russians.

Finally, they return with a bang. Specifically, the sound of the truck jumping the curb, then bottoming out paired with the steady beeping sound that these trucks make when driving in reverse. I scream for them to stop just inches before plowing into the living room.

While the first part of the move took four hours, the second takes about fifteen minutes. They dropkick, toss, catapult, heave, roll, slide and dump our belongings. But I don’t care. It’s 3:00 am.

When they finish tossing my stuff they ask, Why did you move? Your other neighborhood was much nicer. I tip them too much, shake their hands and wish them luck in the World Cup. They wish me many years in the new house. I tell them because of the trauma of the move I’ll be here until I die. I am never going to move again. They laugh apparently unaware that I’m being completely serious.

The next morning their boss from QShark returns my call about the whereabouts of his employees. He apologizes that they were six or seven hours late, but he’s sure I can understand how these things happen. He asks about the work of the guys when they did arrive. He tells me Dima is one of his best guys. A hard worker. I pause for long enough that he asks again: Hard workers, right? They did a great job?

I think of the 200 cigarette breaks, the hour meal break at 1:00 am, the tortoisean paces with which they moved and muster, Yeah, they’re great.

5 stars?

5 stars.

 

 

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Me, a Would-Be Caulksmith

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Picasso painted, Pollack painted, guys who hang outside Kelly Moore in white overalls have painted. But me? I do not paint. I prime. I want to paint. I claim to be a man on the verge of painting, but it’s just not that easy.

One cannot simply paint. You can’t just waltz into Dunn Edwards, buy a gallon, a roller and merrily take on a wall. Why? Because what they don’t tell you is walls are flat as a rotten honey comb and as filty as the floor at the Cha Cha lounge on Sunday morning.

For the first time the word caulk rolls off my tongue. I don’t smile or laugh like a twelve-year-old because I’m now a serious person who has a tube full of the stuff that needs to be magnanimously doled out to each of the walls.

Before painting, I must prove myself as a caulksmith. Where there were once curtains, there are now holes and those holes must be caulked. That’s where I come in. Or I will. I can’t right now because I thought I was going to paint so I’ve got this fucking Home Depot one-and-done kit with a roller, a brush, a tray and some other shit, but all of it is useless to me because what these walls need is a good caulking. But I can’t give it to them.

I can do a half-ass job. I am in the business of that. I don’t mind skipping steps. I love it in fact. So today we shall not caulk. Along with my rookie painter’s kit, I’ve got a baking powder looking container of something called TSP. The directions say to mix it with hot water and to not rub it in your eyes, snort it, chug it or let it touch your skin. Most of that isn’t a problem for me. I can resist the urge of doing a line of what probably gets cut up in off the Las Vegas Strip cocaine. What I can’t do is wash the walls without it touching my skin because, you see, I have no fucking gloves. My plan was to paint, not to exfoliate walls with over the counter napalm.

So I skip that step too. I wash the walls with water. Cold water because there is no hot water and you’ve got to be out of your goddamn mind if you think I know where the hot water heater is or how to make it so hot water comes out. And I refuse to watch another youtube how-to video. I’ve watched 15 on painting today. There was much talk of “cutting in”, starting at the top, two thin layers being better than one sloppy thick one. But there was no talk of caulk. No mention of gloves. The walls get a quick cold water rinse.

When they dry – which takes about 15 minutes because even at 11 pm, it’s hot as fuck – I’m ready to get down to the business at hand: painting. Like the old masters used to. With brushes and by candle light because it’s dark outside and there isn’t a light bulb in this room.

But first, we prime. I crack open a plastic vat of the good stuff. Well, not really the good stuff, I think that would be the two-in-one paint and primer which for some reason I didn’t buy. So it’s not the good stuff but it’s stuff I’m slathering on walls and it’s a different color than what’s there.

The second the brush touches the paint and the paint touches the wall all attempts at technique go out the window. It’s just mad rush to catch drips as they stream down the wall toward the floor. I sideswipe them as they come. I’ve never been one for defense but this is the best man-on-paint stream coverage that I’ve ever mustered. I catch almost everything and what I don’t hits the canvas drop cloth that has gone from being perfectly flat to balled up at my feet in a matter of seconds.

The primer takes an hour to dry, but my arms are exhausted and I’m once again delirious from forgetting to put on a mask and not opening enough windows. I’ve primed one small wall. It’s the literal width of a shower. And from the time I opened the door to when I’m sloshing the brushes in a bucket calling it quits three hours have passed. At this rate, I’ll be able to prime the bathroom by the end of the month, prime the house by the end of the year and I can start painting in no more that 7 months.

But that’s a problem for the next seven months. Tonight I go home and bask in the victory of sanding less than I did the day before, of having scraped almost no paint and my crowning achievement: just one trip to Home Depot. Mainly because they were closed by the time I realized I’d forgotten many necessary items, but still, we take the small victories where we can, eh?

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In which I Do Two Days of Hard Work

I’m thinking about writing a book: My Life as a Moron. The trouble is that I’m too busy living it.

There are many things that I know nothing about and I’m all too willing to accept this and return to the stuff that I do know and enjoy. But not everyone in my life accepts my shortcomings. So this weekend I bought a sander and alternately crouched, lay, sat, squatted and bent to sand baseboards.

This was, at the very least, a stupid thing to do.

I spent the weekend punishing myself because a professional casually recommended to the person in my life who refuses to accept that I know nothing about paint or paint-stripping or paint-scraping that I sand every baseboard in the house. In retrospect I recognize that this idea came from someone who speaks English as a second-language and my information was second-hand yet I took it literally. I bought a sander and boy did I sand.

It did nothing.

For ten hours, I exhausted myself while huffing lead-based paint and accomplished absolutely nothing. As I tirelessly made no discernible progress, I thought about all the times I’ve come home exhausted from a day of sitting in a room on a studio lot talking about how to make and execute episodes of television which would be produced, financed, acted in and directed by other people. And yet I thought I knew exhaustion.

I did not. I thought I knew tedium. I knew nothing of tedium. When people talked about back-breaking work, I thought it was a metaphor, hyperbole. And sure, I’m not so soft that I’ve never had a sore back but that was all done in good fun. Hell, I’ve even gotten a few calluses from deadlifting a couple times a year to remind myself that I’m not just a person who sits in front of a computer all day amusing myself with words. I can also pick up weights and drop them in an air-conditioned space surrounded by other people who spend their days hunched over keyboards alternately drinking coffee and La Croix (and don’t want to look like it).Image result for bad before and after jesus painting

As I lay on my stomach on a skateboard with a paint scraper digging into first 9 layers of paint and then because I’m unskilled: wood, I laughed. Probably from inadvertently snorting paint chips. It was the end of a long day of making a fool of myself in an empty house while my new next-door neighbor sang Drake, Shakira, Outcast then switched to a Spanish language radio station and listened to that for so long and so loudly that I learned the words to a Cal Worthington Ford dealership ad. In Spanish.

At this stage, a smarter person might retreat. They might beg the bank to take the money back – all of it – because really, what was so bad about renting a guest house in Silver Lake where I literally didn’t change my own lightbulbs? But I’m not a smarter person, so I’ll go back. I’ll change into an old t-shirt and strap on a pair of knee pads. I’ll put in ear plugs, don some safety glasses and I’ll run a sander aimlessly while wondering: where did my life go so wrong that I thought I could operate a power tool?

Next door Rampage will bark, my neighbor will blast Cardi B and in between battles with the apron of a window sill, I’ll watch youtube videos where people with tools that I don’t have and knowledge that I certainly don’t possess confirm that what I’m doing is futile and time consuming and should probably be left up to a professional. And yet… and yet.

 

 

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Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Image result for inglewood all american city sign

She told me her name, but I’ve forgotten it. She told me her dog’s name and I can’t forget it. Rampage. After the MMA fighter.

I can already see myself, on the ground, trying to pry Rampage’s slobbery jowls and shark-sized chompers away from my jugular. Rampage is sweet though. My new neighbor tells me he’s friends with the owls, squirrels, cats and mice that all live in her yard. She doesn’t feed the mice. They don’t bother her though so she doesn’t bother them.

And she wants me to know that she doesn’t have a problem with white people. She has no issue with white people all of a sudden moving in while families who have been here for a long time move out. But I shouldn’t be surprised if not everyone is so happy about gentrification.

For example, she tells me, she has this white friend from Venice who came over once and they were walking from her house to the park, which is about half a block and they somehow got separated, and some people were not very nice to her white friend. And well I’m not sure how this ties in, but her friend was also pushing a stroller – it’s unclear whether a baby was inside of the stroller or not – but anyway, my new neighbor was about to have a word with whoever it was who was not so nice to her white friend pushing the stroller half a block to the park, and she was about to say something, because she is not cool with anyone mistreating anyone else. But then she didn’t.

Why? She stays in her lane, she says, if I get what she means. She raises her eyebrows like, six times before continuing. She doesn’t make trouble for no one. And that’s the way she likes it.

She tells me she works as a mentor now that her long-haul trucking days are over. There are some kids, rough kids, the kind who don’t like white people on the block. She suggests I might know the type and I nod that I do because I’ll apparently concede to anything. Anyway, where these kids get in trouble is they’re always smoking weed in the park. But not my neighbor. She kicks the grass at her feet – I smoke right here on my own property. I hope you don’t mind.

I assume this is a test about staying in my lane, so I nod. Fine by me. Smoke weed in your yard. Hell, mainline heroin in Marco Rubio’s bathtub for all I care, just keep Rampage on your side of the fence.

She offers her number; says she can tell me a lot about the neighborhood. Her knowledge of the neighborhood and surroundings runs deep. So deep apparently that at first she thought I was an ATF agent.

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She tells me why. Four days ago: a van pulls up, a bunch of guys get out and go inside. Did I know the man who used to own this house worked as a Corrections Officer? He might be the type to narc. He might’ve been the type to not stay in his own lane and call ATF. It wouldn’t be the first time. ATF had been there before. She wouldn’t say which house, looking directly at the white house across the street, she wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing information with me or anyone for that matter about who might’ve been running around with unlicensed assault rifles. At this point her entire body is pointed in the direction of the white house with a Cadillac in the driveway. She’s not the type to say anything. Anyway, she’s glad I’m not ATF. Because if I was ATF I would have to tell her.

I explain that the van was an electrician’s and the guys didn’t speak to her because we went with the lowest bid which means we hired guys who have no professional credentials and speak an indiscernible language. She tells me I’ve hired good workers. Not the chatty type. Guys who know how to keep their mouths shut.

I wonder if I’m not making myself clear. I’m about to explain when she tells me she sells oils. She says this like I’ve just won the lottery. She’s noticed that I have a termite problem in the shed and she has a solution: peppermint oil and alcohol, but not too much alcohol because you don’t want to start a fire.

I tell her I’ll think about her offer to spray my wooden shed with a flammable substance for a fee as we inch toward summer. Then I head toward my house, which we now own. It’s full of holes and surrounded by termites, extremely virile pit bulls, and someone who was once hunted down by the ATF.

Before I can get to the door she tells me not to be alarmed if I periodically hear screaming next door. Her father-in-law is deaf. And by the way, welcome to the neighborhood!

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Silver Lake Couple Seeks Craftsman-style Crack House in South Los Angeles

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 1.19.05 PM.pngPeople keep telling us, “You’ll know it when you see it!” Which is maybe the funniest fucking thing I’ve heard in my entire life. We’re not wending around a bend in a quiet neighborhood that leads to a cottage that just needs a little TLC. We’re exiting the freeway at Crenshaw or Arlington, driving south, hanging a left at a KFC, then the Arco station, then parking across the street from two unaffiliated iglesias that are separated by two unaffiliated liquor stores.  And as soon as we’ve past the daycare that looks like it’s part of the Ariel Castro franchise, we’ve arrived.

Rather than a white picket fence, there’s a chain link one that the city put up four years ago after the neighbors complained that people were selling drugs out of the house. The cops sent the drug-trafficking tenants to prison, squatters moved in or never moved out, and the house got so bad that Code Enforcement had to put a fence around it, board it up and put up signs reminding people that this squat is in fact a private residence. We’ll know it when we see it? Oh, fuck off.

But we didn’t learn about the house being condemned from the seller, “New carpet! Good bones!” We’ve become professional sleuths. We’ve learned how to do the impossible – navigate city and public records. Based on citations, building permits and dental records, we’re able to determine that a perfectly lovely family spent like, 50 years not maintaining, but also not completely neglecting their home. Then someone old died and the significant other of that old person, who was old herself, was sent off to a facility to eat Jell-O with a group of her peers.

That was 2007 and probably would have been a good time to buy this slightly dilapidated but perfectly acceptable hovel. Even at the height of the housing bubble, you could have had it for 150k. I say “you” because in 2007, I was fairly certain that by 2018 I’d own a thatched roof bar on the beach somewhere south of Ensenada. I certainly had no intention of becoming a person who sits in front of a computer all day, then sits in traffic, then complains about work, traffic, a lack of exercise. I never would have dreamed I’d decide to find the only pocket of Los Angeles where I could possibly afford to displace the current residents and impose my will upon them. I thought I’d spend my nights pouring mescal and my days writing a thinly veiled novel about a guy from California who expatriates to Mexico, opens a beachside bar with a thatched roof, then discovers the crushing loneliness of being a stranger in a strange land with limited wifi. Why are we talking about this?

Oh yeah, you should have bought the place in 2007 before it was a crack house. Interestingly, becoming at crack house has only increased the value of the home. It’s like putting marble countertops in the kitchen or vaulting the ceilings in the master bedroom or restoring the original hardwood floors. Except they didn’t do any of that and now they’re asking for $730k which everyone agrees is a steal. Since we guess we’ll know it when we see it, we decide that we’ve seen it and we now know it. We put in an offer. We don’t pop champagne. We go back to Silver Lake and order a couple German beers even though neither of has ever appreciated a Spaten.

“I hope we get it.”

“I don’t really care.”

“Really?”

“Desperately desire a three-quarters of a million-dollar crack house once, shame on me. Desperately desire a crack house twice – well, now I feel like George W. I guess I mean I don’t know that I can keep getting excited about living in a house where the walls are coated with whatever is involved in making crack. Baking soda?”

“The neighbor said they didn’t make drugs there. They just sold them.”

“Strictly retail?” She nods. This is good news. Maybe even great news. “I never thought we’d be able to afford a place that wasn’t previous used to make drugs.”

“Well, they haven’t accepted our offer yet.”

“Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?”

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