This was down on the corner of Live Oak and Glendale (and called Glendale Oaks, oddly enough) just minute away from Dan’s Lakewood Café and stumbling distance from the Tipperary Inn (I’d walk down there, drink Irish Coffee, and read James Joyce).
The Glendale Oaks themselves are three buildings of eight apartments each. Two buildings of single bedroom apartments line Live Oak and the long, third building of two and three bedrooms. At the center of the long, third building is the washroom and the mailboxes. Also, the manager’s office and manager’s apartment was in the third building. The parking lots were on either side of the complex and there was a small courtyard between buildings. I think the place had been built in the late 40’s early 50’s for all those swingers coming home from the war.
Glendale Oaks had a lot going for it except one thing.
It was a dump.
Oh! that could have been a cool place to live. If only it had been taken care of. If only basic maintenance had been done to the stairs, A/C, and plumbing. If only they had been more careful about the clientele.
There was one woman who had a strange --clothes washing-- ritual she used to do. It was fascinating to watch. The laundry detergent was broken down to four scoops which were poured in, two at a time, after a chant and walk around the courtyard. The act of folding laundry was a ceremony up there with Cha-No-Yu. I remember she was carried off one fine spring morning to the shouts of, "You’re liars! All of you! You’ll all pay!"
Then there was the maintenance man, who lived two doors down from me. I had asked him if there was anything we could do about the bugs and he explained, "I could spray your apartment, but it wouldn’t do any good. They’ll just run into another apartment. The only way to get rid of all of them is to spray the whole building."
"So, why don’t you?"
"Because," he explained, “THAT FUCKING CUNT THERE WON’T LET ME SPRAY HER APARTMENT!!" At which point two tiny eyes poke out of the Venetian blinds. “That’s right, you bitch! I know you can hear me! This whole bug problem is because of you! YOU! You and your stinky dog and your stinky fat-ass husband!”
Wow. Those were the days. It was like living in a half-way house.
Actually, there was a terrible insect problem with the entire complex. Let me explain it this way, I could put a cup of coffee down, walk into the kitchen to put away the spoon, and come back to café con cucaracha. I tried everything. I was spraying the apartment once a week, I had bug traps everywhere, I had bombed the place several times. I even tried the organic method with a couple of geckoes (named Kristal and Blitz—after my own little roach holocaust). Buy then the maintenance man had been hauled off for harassment charges. I wasn’t suprised.
I remember watching a guy break his leg when the stairs in front of his apartment broke. He was second story, like myself, and was trying to navigate a bag of groceries up the decaying metal stairs. Peas, carrots, and celery went flying. The stair itself dented and was never fixed.
Glendale Oaks was a scary place to begin with. When I spent my first night there, I had one guy come up to the car in the parking lot asking how much I could spend. I had another guy ask me on my way up to my apartment how much would charge.
My next door neighbor wanted to by baking soda or salt off me—and was willing to pay nicely for it.
The apartment itself was pretty nice, except for the bugs. I had a vaulted ceiling in the living room and ceiling fans in the living and bed room. The closet was huge, the rent was cheap, and I was centrally located. Sure, the dishwasher and disposal didn’t work (and I could never get them fixed, either). I had a hole in the bathroom wall that looked into my bedroom and my front door (which was hollow...odd) had a fist sized hole in it from where the previous tenant and “his old lady” got in a fight.
But, I was happy there. I wasn’t supporting Cris or living with him anymore. For the first time, almost a year after moving out of my parents’ place, I was living on my own. And boy howdy, was I on my own. I was making $6 an hour at the bookstore and fueling my car of what people left in the hose. A trip to Denny’s for coffee was a lot of “Are you going to finish that?” I weighted 110 pounds (and I’m 5’11”) and Loki—a notorious asshole—felt sorry for me and bought me groceries.
As a matter of fact, the living there was so good that my dear friend, Juan Marcos Sustaita, moved in with me that December and spent a grand total of three weeks sleeping on my couch. He quickly got his own place.
Then, the shit hit the fan. The drug dealer moved out and a family moved in.
Drug dealers are excellent neighbors. I have lived next to several and each one of them has been quiet, polite, and courteous to those around them. They don’t sit around on their porch and yell obscenities as you walk by, and they sure as hell don’t wake you up with their stereo/ TV/ domestic squabble. I would pick a dealer over a family any day.
But the dealer moved out and the family moved in. I did not get a full night’s sleep the entire time they lived there. They played their stereo 24-7, usually so loud you could hear it in the parking lot and no, I am not exaggerating. I could feel the bass through my feet. My morning coffee looked like a bad remake of “Jurassic Park”. I played my stereo back at them and they threatened me. And the family argued. Christ, they argued. They yelled and screamed at each other and threw things. I called the leasing office about the problem and they ignored me. Sometimes he’d have his friends over and the noise would only get worse. And then I couldn’t get into my apartment one day because he was having a porch party. We shared a staircase, but it wasn’t a porch as much as it was a landing. I couldn’t get past these guys and they were hooting and hollering and it’s a damn good thing I didn’t own a gun at the time because one of them touched me.
Touching is one of those things you don’t do without someone’s permission. You just don’t. And this time I called the cops about the problem.
They said—and this is a direct quote—“You’re white; why don’t you move?”
Well, there you go. It’s just as simple as that. I can just fly around the country because I’ve got carte blanche (literally) to whatever I want. I want to know what kind of cop is allowed to serve on the force with that sort of attitude…who am I kidding?
The point was, I couldn’t move. Thanks to the amazing Mr. Cris not signing certian things he said he would sign, I had an eviction on my record. I was living in the best place I could without paying double deposit. Now, by then I was making a whopping $10.58 and hour at Stream International, but I really did want to live somewhere nice.
My dad suggested I just compromise with the folks at Glendale Oaks. I handed him a sheet of police reports I had filed. “I think compromising is pretty much out of the question.”
I did manage to get a letter of release from the office at the Wildflower apartments; so I did move out of Glendale Oaks, a.k.a. “The Roach Motel”.
My dear friend Juan Marcos helped me move and the toughest part was moving the couch.
The couch was in sad shape. Someone’s grandmother had died and left it to them, and they gave it to Richard, and Cris slept on it before he got his own room at Richard’s place, and then Cris got mad at DeAnne and kicked the wooden support frame on the arms, then it moved with me, and then Juan slept on it for three weeks…. The couch was just in sad, sad shape.
I remember when we were trying to move the couch down the stairs I lost my grip on the broken arm I was carrying. Juan, thank-god, managed to get out of the way, but the couch continued to slide down the stairs, finally standing on its end, and after a full minute of teeter-tottering, finally came to rest on its back.
Roaches started flying out of the couch a handful at a time.
Then I heard this screaming. It was Juan. “I was carrying that! I was carrying that!”
“Dude! I was going to put that in my new apartment!”
“I lived with you for three weeks! I slept on that!!!”
“Yeah? Well Mitch and Jennifa fucked on it, so….”
“YOU DIDN’T TELL ME THAT!”
After I moved into my new place, I went about the painful process of getting my deposit back from the leasing office. I called and left messages but they never returned my calls. I sent mail and left notes, but it did no good. Finally, we went down there one fine Saturday afternoon with a lawn chair, a pack of smokes, a six-pack of Cokes, and a book. I waited two hours camping out in front of the leasing office.
Finally, the woman who had taken over the job (the previous manager was in the hospital with chicken pox—no, but really) came back from her three-martini lunch.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I moved out of apartment 210 last month and I’m here to collect my deposit.”
She lead me into the office and started digging through papers. “Which apartment?”
“And you were here for what?”
“To collect my deposit. I’ve left several messages.”
“Oooh. That was you? I thought you were black.”
Again, I say, carte blanche.
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