House Hunt: Experience One


Veronica’s mom, Kathy, is helping me on my quest for a reasonably priced home of reasonable size, reasonably close to Los Angeles. These small requests typically add up to a 1,100 square foot, 1.2 million dollar house down the street from a 7/11 decorated by homeless people asking for spare change.

This is a bank owned house for sale on the edge of Hancock Park, a place I aspire to live when I’m 36 with small children and a book deal. The surrounding neighborhoods are tree lined and darling. It is, however, spitting distance from Wilshire and La Brea. Paranoia permits me to imagine armed robberies and blaring traffic ruining the enjoyment of drinking my iced tea in the backyard. The price is $509 K – a relative steal. Buyer beware, of course.

I pull up to 624 South Orange and survey the outside: wood-slated, white-painted, big-ish mismatched windows. I move closer. I begin to notice strange additions, rotting wood, clues to what might be inside. Kathy isn’t there yet so I wait on the front patio that has been overzealously covered almost completely with cement. The previous tenants obviously had an aversion to yard maintenance. I can hear a pair of competing buyers walking around inside, the wood floors audible from where I sit. They leave and I wait until they’re out of sight until I go snoop around the backyard. As this is my first stop on my real estate tour de force I have no idea what protocol is involved in house hunting. I’m four steps into the backyard when I notice a french window has been left entirely open. So much for the lock box on the front door. I innocently step through the crumbling threshold and into the dining room. There is a strange odor that persists the entire length of my stay; a combination of cat piss, toxic mold, and old lady.

As the MLS description attested, there is hardwood flooring in the living room and dining room. The rest of the house is suffocating under thick cream carpeting that closely resembles a dirty, murdered polar bear. The stains are suspicious. I suspect foul play. I admire that they attempted to deep clean it, not knowing that whoever is going to buy this pieces of property will most certainly not be holding onto that soiled mess. The thought of walking barefoot on it scares me more than a HoJo in Vegas.

There are a reported 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, 1 of which has been done without permits. When I discover this room, which has the architectural bones of the outhouse I used to use at the ranch while my dad and brother killed ground squirrels, I sense that this is the culprit of at least 33% of the smell I previously mentioned. Tucked sneakily in the corner of the rear bedroom, the undocumented 2nd bathroom had a large hole in the ceiling allowing for a modest view of the sky above. How lovely. The ceiling bared no trace of a legitimate barrier from the elements. All I could see was broken orangey drywall and thin slats of wood supporting it. This is the same “roof” utilized over the “laundry room.” When Kathy eventually meets me inside she ponders what they did when it rained. This is a very thought provoking question to which I have no concrete answer. As the mold creeping up the wall of the adjacent bedroom might indicate, these people did nothing to thwart rain from pouring into their house, seeping through their walls, drowning whatever insulation might exist there.

The kitchen is large…extremely large. A “cooks kitchen!” I might have exclaimed if I could ever imagine sanitarily handling food that would enter my body in there. The floor is linoleum, the counters are that thick plastic nonsense, the cabinets are that fake birch people buy at Home Depot and use in rooms they don’t care about (i.e. the lavatories of an ice factory or the tool shed of a fish farm). There is an inexplicable row of bricks that emerge from the wall and then disappear into the shiny white paint again – gone forever, having shown no integral use or purpose for the space. There is an “island” in the center room that Kathy good naturedly points out that it is movable. I would move this whole kitchen straight into a giant blue dumpster if I could. She then looks around and asks, “Where do you put the refrigerator?” Valid point. Apparently in the tragedy of this kitchen “remodel” the contractor failed to install any electrical plugs…anywhere…literally. I don’t think the people who lived here (shudder to think) ate anything but canned beans and tuna fish.

The bathroom looks like it underwent a similarly inspired renovation as the kitchen. Both fireplaces have suspicious holes, one I surmise is where the rat that pooped in the closets got in. I feel as though this house is crying from the trauma it has been through and those tears are evident in the water damage that soaks through the cottage cheese ceilings. It’s so depressing to think that this was once a lovely and cared for home. One that was loved nearly 100 years ago. People that treat properties like this are the Michael Vick’s of home ownership.

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I exit Woodlake Avenune and turn onto Leonora. This is not my street anymore. It has not been my street since 1999 when we sold it for $380,000 in a bidding war between three people. It had stained glass windows we purchased from an antique dealer in Ventura. Before we moved I walked around with yellow Post-It notes and sketched out the details, the variations in glass textures between each leaden barrier. These summer nights make me miss being a kid, make me miss sleeping on the lawn chairs in the backyard, make me miss opening that narrow window above my bed when I got too hot in my sleep. The crickets chirp the same.
It is dark and the kitchen light is on. Everything looks so much smaller in scale, even from the street. Their garage door is open. They have a BMW. A few years ago I noticed they’d taken down the cabinet doors I had painted when we remodeled there. I was surprised it stayed up as long as it did; who wants to keep a sloppily executed heart, smiley face, and upsidedown peace sign above your washing machine anyway? When I was young and the house was less old there were a pair of child hand prints embedded in the cement of our driveway – remnants of another life, some other life. That, too, was demolished when we tore up the driveway in ’95.
I pass the house as slowly as I can within anti-stalker reason and then it’s gone. I drive past Van’s house and Robby’s house. I pass the house of Phil’s friend who came by and peed his pants watching Ghostbusters. He ran out the sliding glass door to the backyard and slipped down the side of the house, back to his own. I remember this charcoal pavement. I remember Halloween and hockey sticks, rollerblades and bike rides, my dog running down the street with her ears flopping behind her.
I round the corner and see the house that used to keep turkeys in a cage in the front yard. It’s must nicer now and the windows are bigger. I turn onto Mariano and drive past my god father’s house. This is where I would stay while my brother was in the hospital. He used to have a guest house with a train set in it and workout equipment in the courtyard. The whole family slept on waterbeds. He still lives there and drives the same cars.
A song comes on the radio. It played at a wedding when I was five. The bride’s brother let me dance on his shoes. God damn. This life is just like ash. It’s burning up and fading away and I am covered in remnants of who I used to be and it feels so far away.

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I saw The Kills perform just a month ago at Coachella. It appeared that the 102 degree heat managed to suck whatever life they ever had in their performance. Visually, the band looked pretty dismal: boy on guitar, girl on vocals and sometime guitar. The open air venue robbed them of any moody lighting they were hoping to achieve. I left filling unfulfilled and wrote them off as “crap live.” So when Brett invited me to a repeat performance at the Henry Fonda I accepted with trepidation. I was mostly going for human company. The following is my review of the show.

The Horrors are the second band to open. And they are, in fact, aptly named. The lead singer looks like that leggy, unintelligible MTV VJ that appeared babbling nationwide sometime in the 90s mixed with one of the Ramone’s – “the dead one” Brett says. On guitar we have a Partridge family coiffed boy who looks like the French reincarnation of Karen Carpenter before the anorexia really kicked in. I am surrounded by a bunch of torn-tights, black-wearing, fedora-sporting, skinny jean hipsters. These are the “hip” kids. And I can’t help but think that what I am watching on stage right now is the equivalent of an 80s hair band. Like we will all look back on this moment and think, “Oh my god. Weren’t we all such assholes!”
I give up on them about two songs in and head for the back of the room, unwilling to sacrifice what little hearing I have left for this tired nonsense. Brett and Co. soon follow suit and we’ve moved up to the rooftop patio with all of the other people who don’t care what’s going on downstairs either. Brett comments that the lead singer made him feel awkward because he’d just stand there and not do anything but sing. I counter that he did throw his arms up a few times, anointing the audience like a less than fervent televangelist. But these moments were drowned out by the predominance of a lot of affected moving of the hair into the face and away, into and away.
Kristina comes back from the bathroom with what is apparently her second rude encounter with Drew Barrymore.
Kristina: “Sorry, the toilet doesn’t flush.”
Drew: [No response]
This leads her friend Hadley into a verbal montage of his favorite celebrity nocturnal run-ins…which from the sound of it are quite common and very much prized moments.
Hadley: [Mid-handshake] Why do you have such sad eyes?
Katy Perry: [Slowly removing her hand from his] I have a 9 o’clock.
Hadley: A what?
Or
Hadley: You look better!
Mischa Barton: Uh, thanks.
As we leave the patio he tells me that I am “cynical and unhappy.” This is less of a statement and more of a generic aside, like “You must like brown shorts and tangerines.” It seems no one escapes his wrath, celebrity or not. Hadley looks like AJ from Empire Records. He is wearing brown leather pirate boots and a cardigan that I know he’s just dying to put a couple thumb holes through.
When I realize I’ve been standing around for two hours waiting for a band I really don’t want to see in the first place I want to head over to the $10 parking space I purchased and go home. But because I’ve started my personal “Don’t Be So Lame” campaign, I don’t. The curtains part to reveal the same pair of rock and rollers but this time the lights are working in their favor, I am closer to the stage, and the whole production looks a lot damn sexier.
From the very beginning I can’t take my eyes off of the singer. She looks like a badass, shaggy-haired Helena Christensen. They both wear leather and black and are so much cooler than I could ever attempt to be. I don’t take myself seriously enough to be that cool. This variety of sass takes true dedication to art of cool. Three songs deep the pair make an on stage costume change change, swapping their leather jackets for cardigans. It’s about 86 degrees in this room and I think we’d all be better off wearing bathing suits.
Every song is about sexy, overtly or otherwise. She’s breathing hard, he’s breathing hard, the verses repeat and repeat, then crescendo like orgasms. By the end I feel as though I’ve entered into some weird musical red light district. At some point I realize that I’ve been watching the girl the whole time and if I had to pick which of the two to have sex with it would most definitely be her. She spits on stage, knocks over microphones, sweats like mad…but I forgive her all of this. When she lights up a cigarette during a cover of “Crazy” and the curls of smoke float around her black hair I want to pick up smoking. You could have put anything in her hand and I would have bought it: Clorox Bleach, Crest Whitening Strips, Gap Khakis. Whatever. Somehow I have regressed into a bisexual 13 year old.
They play “Black Balloon” toward the end of their set and I am completely satiated. I have had my cake. I have had my icing. I ate the whole damn thing. Not wanting to ruin a good thing, I tell my friends I am heading out. This is apparently an accidentally wise decision. For an encore they brought The Horrors back on stage again and the crowd was subjected to my new girlfriend making out with the Karen Carpenter guitarist – a sight that would have just broken my swollen heart.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Barack Obama

For the last few years, my friend Marty has let me crash on the couch of his huge loft in TriBeCa. A friendship was struck a few years back when he handed keys to me at a party in Los Angeles and offered his place even though I had only known him a few hours through our friend Carlos. This is the type of guy Marty is. When I stay with him I am aware of what comes with that black futon: chasing girls, dirty boots, cab rides, and Marty asking me his favorite question, “When are you going to be my girlfriend?”
Two summers ago I go to the Rose Bar at the Gramercy with Carlos and Marty. Somehow I get sat next to this exceptionally skinny man named Dean. Despite the fact that he looks like a slightly more attractive and taller version of the character Mango on SNL, he is oddly charming and sort of engaging. One shot of tequila later and I am in a unisex bathroom somewhere doing god knows what with this man. We leave the stall more disheveled than when we enter and I avoid the glance of the bathroom attendant. I’m not that type of girl, I keep thinking to myself…I’m not that type of girl…
Dean and I sit back on the couch that we first struck up conversation on and Marty walks by with Carlos saying “Have a good night.” I tell them to wait and turn to Dean to say goodbye and thank you for the lovely evening or something not like that at all. Dean’s telling me to just come back to his place and I’m thinking no way in hell and I’m saying goodbye again and we’re walking outside and by the time I get there those motherfuckers have already hopped in a cab and deserted me. Once again, Dean tries the “come back to my place” shtick and my thoughts move to the cheap side and I figure I can ride down to his place and then just walk back to Marty’s, saving me a taxi ride all the way from Gramercy. My protest immediately turns into “Sure, why not” and all of a sudden I am in an apartment in the Lower East Side and not walking back to TriBeCa.
We hang out for a little bit, Dean pacing around the room like an insane person because he is a coke head. The place is clean and doesn’t scare me even though I should be and my mother would kill me if she knew where I was. A friend of his comes over. He is funny and drunk and somehow the three of us end up fully clothed in Dean’s bed. It’s friendly and we’re all making jokes and we’re all laughing about stupid shit, nonetheless the friend will occasionally touch my leg in a non-accidental manner and I keep thinking “God, this is fucking weird, but what the hell.” Around 5 in the morning Dean’s roommate comes home with a blonde model with short cropped hair. His roommate is Jamie Burke. I’ve been seeing him around the city on billboards with Kate Moss for Calvin Klein. I immediately wonder why I always end up with the Mangos of this world and why I’m never with the Jamie Burkes. Dean’s back out of bed and chatting away with the two of them and I stay in the room. I sleep for an hour until the jackhammers go off at the construction site across the street. I decide I’d rather die than wake up later than Dean so I leave. At about 7 in the morning I’m walking down the street wearing my party clothes from last night while business traffic and hot air blows past me.
Last week I’m reading an article in Vanity Fair with a picture of Jamie Burke and a Q and A below it asking about the possible perks of being the nephew of Joe Biden. And in place of the shame I’ve always felt for that New York night, I feel closer to Mr. Obama, closer than I’ve ever been, and I feel vindicated for my bad behavior.

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Beer Goggles.

Two weeks after my move to New York for Freshman year, my best friend from back home came to visit. This was a delightful break from the fourteen nights I spent in a constant flux of utter enthrallment to crying myself to sleep at night. With her in tow, there were no tears shed until the wee hours of the morning. She came with her mom and grandmother, whom we would go to civilized dinners with and even caught a performance of Mamma Mia!, which has irreparably diminished my desire to see musicals. As day turned to night, Shannon and I would leave her family for something far more exciting than Broadway…underage nightlife experimentation.
This weekend was the catalyst for an alcoholic bender that lasted roughly three months of my first semester. From that point forward my life seemed to be an endless blur of $8 pitchers at Josie’s, spilling homemade Cosmopolitans on the sage green carpet of Talia’s dorm room while pre-partying to “Raspberry Barret” by Prince, falling over in public, drinking sangria at Bowery Bar with made models, and waking up at 2 in the afternoon. Although I didn’t realize at the time, I was apparently the type that held back in high school and fell off the deep end when I left home. If only my mom had let me be a drunk in 10th grade, I would have never found myself in this situation. C’est la vie.
One glorious evening, Shannon and I got all gussied up for a night on the town. There is a photo hidden somewhere in my closet of the two of us right before we left my place. Shannon is wearing greenish blueish jeans purchased from Planet Blue with a black tank top, black boots I had never seen before, and her hair in a ponytail. I outdid her with acid wash Miss Sixty jeans with buttons up the sides that I had found at Century 21, a hot pink giraffe-print blouse, and white tennis shoes with red strips. What. The. Fuck. It was New York Fashion Week party time, and we ready to party.
The night started with a group led by an exceptionally effeminate pathological liar named Dane. I had yet to discover that this boy was utterly painful, but was currently under the magic spell of my first openly gay friend. We stood outside of Serafina for thirty minutes, waiting to get inside. It was the GQ Fashion Week Party. We knew no one inside. And I’m pretty sure no one would have wanted to know us at that point. Buzzed and badly dressed, we looked frighteningly Bridge and Tunnel even though both of us grew up 3000 miles away. But suddenly, for whatever bizarre reason, the clouds opened up and our angel appeared in the form of a friendly grease-ball in a button-up shirt who spotted Shannon and I in the crowd and pulled us through to the front, past the bouncer, and into the throngs of beauty and excess.
I was in love. The lights were blue over a crowd of people yelling over the music, dancing in corners, drinking at tables. We were immediately offered flutes of champagne. I walked past a supermodel with huge lips and cat eyes. Gorgeous. Shannon attempted to flirt with one of the Wayne’s brother’s who responded to her with a friendly questioning of “What are you? Seventeen?” Apparently he wasn’t ready to go to prison. Admirable. Toward the end of the evening, when we were good and hammered, two twins met us on the dance floor where we danced and spun and giggled. Shannon and I snuck away to the bathroom where we slurred that these boys looked exactly like Lenny Kravitz. We went back and danced some more until it was time to go home.
The boys walked us out front to where the cabs were, where they offered to take us both home “just to cuddle.” We managed to wrestle out of their grips and went on to walk back to 5th Ave and 10th Street, hollering “TWINS!!!” the whole way home, much to the dismay of a sleeping audience above us on University Place. And when we got back to the dorm we wrote “TWINS!!!” on all of the blackboards hung up on the doors. And when I stupidly met up with one of those guys again, I was assured that he looked nothing like Lenny Kravitz.

Why even a version of this would be appealing, I don’t know. Ahh, youth.

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Brain Salve

It’s my mom’s 48th birthday this week. She’s excited about this because she thought she was turning 49. Apparently she had wrongly programed the scale in her bathroom which has been telling her she was 48 for the last year. She does feel a bit robbed of 47, however. I rarely see her this optimistic.
Uncharacteristically of both her and I, we go shopping at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. I thumb through racks of clothing I normally only wear when I am working selling clothes to rich people who dress up for lunches. My mom is not one of those people. She picks up a merlot-colored dress with tulle exploding out the bottom and black corset ties running up the back. It is gilded like a Bernini villa and suitable for a wedding in Dubai or the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. This, too, can be yours for $53,000. I am happy at that moment to be relatively poor and in possession of sanity and good taste.
When fantasy land becomes tedious, we move over to Nordstrom which is more our speed, I suppose. It is at The Grove and the narrow island of grass is littered with parents and children and blankets and balloons. “Is having kids really boring?” I ask my mom as I open the door of the air conditioned department store. She tells me it’s actually fun. I hope she’s having fun with me right now. I can think of few things more depressing than taking my child to a faux European outdoor consumption fest, but I’m hoping that it’s more fun the other way around.
It’s busy inside, busier than Neiman’s. I wonder when the recession will be over and when CNN will be talking about something else. Recently, I have found it necessary to follow my diet of NPR with a heap of KIIS FM over-produced vomit pop to mellow my blood pressure. This strangely recalls my first Magnolia Bakery cupcake experience. It was delicious going down but the sugar high left me so nauseous that I was left with an inexplicable craving for grilled chicken and a banana.
The clothes were expectantly uninspiring and overpriced; everything made in China, made in India, rip-offs from real designers or terribly bland originals. This is the world in which I exist. Wholly. Entirely. Depressingly. I watch my mom try a blue skirt on with a bow on the top. It doesn’t look as good as I would like it to. She takes it off. We move on.
She needs some foundation from Lancome. She picks up a small white tube and smears the tan goop all over her face. A gay man at the counter offers to help my mom with her skincare quest, which turns out to be an hour and a half overhaul of toner, peptides, firming and lifting lotions. She comments that the foundation she tried feels really heavy. He tells her the tubes are concealer. My mom does her embarrassed/ amused laugh where she sort of bows from her midsection and clasps her hands behind her back, her face turning red. Sometimes her socially awkward nature is rather adorable.
I sit on a low stool while he tells my mom about restorative night creams and gels that diminish brown spots. He talks about what happens as the skin ages. He compliments my mom on the tightness of her skin above her eyes and cheeks. He reprimands her for going out in the sun unprotected and for rubbing her face too harshly with a washcloth at night.
The entire time we’re at the counter my mom’s eyes relay engagement and sadness. I think maybe she’s a little scared. I take peaks at myself in the mirror next to me, wondering when I’m going to have this conversation with a gay man at the makeup counter of a department store while people buy scented candles and high heeled shoes. Because one day, no matter how hard it is for me to picture my face marred by the effects of gravity and time, this will most definitely happen.
It is not this fact that saddens me; it’s the fact that my mom is getting older and one day when her wrinkles are deep crevices around her mouth and eyes, one day she will be gone entirely. And when I think these thoughts while he dabs full coverage foundation in Bisque Number 1 to camouflage her redness, I want to break out in sobs and tell her she will always look like my mom. But wouldn’t that just be silly…

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Celebreality Bites: Holiday Issue


Halloween 2007. The holiday occurred near the culmination of an epic year dallying with the social scene, one in which I have yet muster the energy to match. I was 23, making money, downing 2 cans of Monster a day, going out 5 nights a week. Halloween was predicted to be exceptional. It landed on a Sunday, which meant it was absolutely necessary to have parties two days leading up to the actual event. I spent the weekend dressed up like Liza Minelli’s backup dancer, putting my false eyelashes on each evening and peeling them off closer to dawn the next morning. On the third day a group of us combined forces and turned ourselves into a formidable cabaret troupe. Marco came over and I painted him up like a Pinocchio cum transvestite marionette.
The first party delivered its fair share of fun. We ran around taking pictures, myself high on energy drinks and my friends off of whatever I had watched them snort off of the dryer in the yellow-walled laundry room. When the fun began to wane, it was off to the Chateau for some famed annual party. The floors of the outside patio were covered with Persian rugs; people stood around laughing and drunk. My friend sparked up a flirtation with James Franco that lasted a few months following.
Somehow our group got shuttled into a hotel room, led up a series of stairs by a group of men wearing gorilla masks. Once the door closed I found out that Leonardo DiCaprio was the leader of the primate pack. I’d have liked to tell him how many times as a 12 year old I would watch and rewind the scene where he and Claire Danes fall into the pool, kissing madly in clear bubbles and how that image single-handedly shaped what I feel romance should be…but I don’t. I watched him sit on a bed in the back of the room while I tried to ignore the feeling that everyone in the room was on drugs. Oh Romeo…
As we exited the hotel and spilled onto the cobblestone driveway where they park classic cars and Range Rovers, a very drunk and very stumbly [Name Omitted] says to me, “Oh my Gaaawwwddd. Look at that baawwwhhh-deeee. Can I just…Caaan I just touch you?” In the spirit of cooperation I allowed him to grope my leg for a second and then we left for yet another party. Two years later, when my friend started dating this very same groper I didn’t mention the incident. And when I had dinner across from the happy couple I said nothing. But when he pushed the plate of molten chocolate cake my way, I knew where that roaming hand had been.

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