and stalagmites

12/2/01

Here I sit in Silver Lake, in the house belonging to Tessa’s best friend Jason, and it’s probably the only place decent enough to sit and write. I’ve spent the better part of a week trying to rescue what is left of my paper trail from the garage of the Beachwood house, and it amounted to a much bigger ordeal than I ever imagined.

Just setting foot in the Beachwood house is a test of one’s impermeability to all things rotten. It is dank, foul, with the deep-set smell of dead dreams. The current residents, a hodge-podge of scarcely-concealed resentments masquerading as quixotic careerists, painted all of the walls the colors least likely to reflect light without actually being black. Then they turned off the boilers because they were sick of paying high gas bills – leaving the place unthinkably dark and bone-chillingly cold, almost an exact replica of what the place might have been like in the late 1870s. Sinks don’t work, outlets do not give forth power, toilets don’t flush. The only thing that works is my own legacy: free cable for the rest of eternity, thanks to some marijuana slipped to the Cablevision guy sometime in 1997.

The garage is its own chamber of horrors; the only thing lacking are stalactites and a ghost railway. I had built a room in part of the garage, erected a wall, even installed an air intake valve, carpeting, and a dehumidification process. For $100 a month, I left my stuff in this part of the garage knowing I’d return to collect it. Approximately three weeks after I did this last July, the house cynically moved all my stuff into a puddle of standing water on the OTHER part of the garage, and rented out the room I’d built. I returned this week to find pretty much everything I owned coated with a millimeter of mold, if not disintegrated completely.

The Theory of Social Impact, championed first by early sociologists at the University of North Carolina, states “the more people involved in any given situation, the less likely any one of them are going to take action.” It was a theory developed out of the hideous rape, beating and murder of Kitty Genovese on a Brooklyn street in 1964 that produced 34 witnesses (with none, of course, taking action). The same theory explains the Beachwood house, a constant miasma of blame-shifting, selfish grubbing and complete lack of a moral center. Being back in that place forced me to reflect upon the hideous cast of characters I lived with – H____, the big-boobed casting assistant who peed in her room’s trashcan; Raquel, who did lines of cocaine on my dining room table and then tried to sue me when I kicked her out; I____. and his girlfriend S____, both of whom disappeared one Thanksgiving owing us over $1000 in rent and bills; the spiritual sinkholes of Su____, T____, and another unnamed couple. Not to mention some of the house’s current residents, who make the homeless men living under the 101 Freeway look full of self-respect.

September 11 has only put the stupefying, moronic sensibility of Los Angeles at even greater odds with New York; after seeing true heroism, comraderie, life-affirmation and community in Manhattan, I’m even more disgusted with this place than before, and I thought that would be impossible. I looked at all the emaciated, collagen-lipped dunces-about-town lining up at Starbucks today and I wanted to ask them how they DARED to even get out of bed this morning. I sat in horror tonight as one of the beautiful twentysomething actors behind us at In N Out Burger tried to explain what a “Freudian slip” was to her dim-bulb compatriots (and even she didn’t know who Freud was).

I used to think that I took a wrong turn somewhere near the beginning of my three years here, that I missed meeting some eventual business contact at a party in October 1997, that I missed out on some special crowd gathering that would have made 1998 bearable without 60mg of Prozac every day. Now I know: that crowd doesn’t exist, that business contact is a figment of bullshit. Everything about my life is better when I – and now MY STUFF – is out of here. Dean Smith used to say about basketball games “you play the first half to get to the second half” and now I know I was here just so I could get out.

-ian

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