Monday, June 27, 2011

Neighborly

I'm willing to concede that there are probably crazy people outside of the Los Angeles city limit and that some of you might possibly have lived in close proximity to said crazies.  However, I think I can safely say that Los Angeles is home to the most batshit people in the country.  And, somehow, like a moth to a flame or a college student to a Red Bull vending machine, I am attracted to them.  I always move in next door.  Or upstairs.  Or across the hall.

Hello, Crazy!  Won't you be my neighbor?  (Hold on while I slip into my house cardigan.)

I don't remember ever having a crazy neighbor in Texas (just relatives) but I do remember, at my first Los Angeles apartment, living next door to a middle-aged guy that mumbled, slapped me repeatedly on the back when he talked to me and owned a lop-eared rabbit named Cherry, whom he walked on a leash.  When Slappy went out of town, I would walk Cherry around the apartment complex and along the 9-hole golf course next door.  Then I'd take her back to the apartment, give her some pellets and collect a twenty dollar bill for my troubles.  I felt very self-conscious walking a rabbit on a leash but I will say this about people in L.A., no one even blinked at me.

In Studio City, my four pals and I took over a huge house on a major street tucked in between a Jr. High, where we'd play flag football on the weekends and a convenient store, where we'd buy Dr. Peppers and Hostess cupcakes to cure our hangovers on weekday mornings.  We had epic parties involving keg stands, pie eating contests and the performing of dance routines in the living room.  We didn't exactly have neighbors, unless you count the Jr. High kids, the convenience store regulars or the cast and crew of 7th Heaven, who were forever filming at the church across the street.

We did, however, have the creepiest landlord ever created, who dropped by unannounced all the time.  Hi name was Mark.  He had a full tilt Ron Jeremy mullet and drove an IROC that said "I Rock" on the license plate.  Mark routinely screamed at us for one thing or another and continuously tried to convince me that we owed him more money, even though I kept meticulous records.  I thought he was an asshat, especially when, after meeting my roommate, he turned to me and told me in all honesty that he was in love with her and he didn't know how he would be able to get through the day without seeing her naked.  After that, he dealt with me and me only, preferably when she wasn't home.

I think at this point Mr. Rogers would've even been a little less neighborly.  But, I have a very high tolerance for crazy.

When I moved in with my husband, we lived in a gorgeous apartment in Venice Beach, owned by a delightful gay couple, who lived next door.   In their otherwise normal master bedroom, one long wall was dominated by an intricate maze of cat tunnels and scratching posts that they called their "kitty condo."  They called the cats their children and each other "Dearie."  One of the duo was all corporate and tech geeky and the other one went by one name.   "Like Madonna?" I asked him.  "No, like Buddha," he told me.  He was a healer and would gently tell me my chakras were out of line or my aura was troubling him that day.  He'd hold my head and close his eyes, muttering something under his breath.  Then he'd slip into a fluorescent yellow Speedo and go fry himself on the lawn.

Then there was Silverlake.  We stayed for five years in the same four-unit building. One neighbor frightened me when I glanced out our front window and caught a glimpse of his skinny pasty body lying on the roof in a pair of tighty whities.  (That night we sat in the yard drinking beer and pretending it never happened.  I quite liked him fully clothed.)

Next door to us lived Joe and Rose, a retired couple.  It was not uncommon for me to look out the kitchen window while doing dishes and into the eyes of either Joe or Rose, who would then pretend to be focused on something above our window.  They were members of the Neighborhood Watch and would spend hours in their yard, raking dirt while watching the comings and goings of our street.  We called them the Dirt Farmers because they had no lawn or garden to speak of but that did not prevent them from working on it six to eight hours a day.  I never worried about getting kidnapped or robbed while we lived in Silverlake because I knew Joe and Rose would be able to provide the details of the crime down to the second it occurred and the license plate of the getaway car.

Across the street lived a woman who never spoke to anyone but herself, or to people I couldn't see anyway.  She spent hours sitting on the curb or in the middle of the street acting out what seemed to be to be skits of some sort. They were very animated and more entertaining than many I sat through in theater school.  When we drove down our street, we had to be very careful not to hit her, as she was not aware of vehicles and would wander right into the path of our car without even flinching.

These days, the husband and I are living in a great condo in our dream neighborhood.  The space is open and airy and perfect.  I love the neighborhood and I love my neighbors.  Not that they're not crazy.  There's Dick, who yells at me for no reason and Stompy, who stomps around day and night and lets her dog attack my dog while she stands there and waves her hands around.   There's  the Oldie Brigade, who rule with an iron fist and will post a note in the elevator if you leave a broom outside your door for half an hour or your laundry in the dryer for an extra two minutes.  There's Larry, who yells, "There she is!" every time he sees me.   He likes to trap me in the elevator to ask me one of two questions:  1) If I "have religion," or 2) If I've seen the movie Juno.  There's the Sikh dude that lives at the temple next door.  He rides around on his bike blasting The Beatles out of a jambox and flipping off helicopters and Priuses.  There's the old man that walks slowly up and down the street every day but only acknowledges my greeting every third time or so.  There's the dancing woman who prances around the neighborhood in headphones and legwarmers busting out spiffy moves at stop lights and waving at anyone who looks in her direction.

Then there's me.  Writing it all down and pretending I'm not one of them.