Cesar Esquer Diaz 1 p.m., Dec. 6
It’s 4:00 a.m. I love Johnny Cash but if I hear “Ring of Fire” one more time I am going to smother myself with my own pillow. Instead, infuriated, I roll out of bed and into the dark, out the door and up the stairs to my neighbor’s apartment. I curse him every step of the way as the grime and glass cake my bare feet. There’s no need to knock—not that he would hear me--the door is wide open, keys still in it, and he’s passed out face-down in his doorway. I don’t attempt waking him—he’s in a coma-like state. Some would find this alarming, but I know better. I step over him and into the destruction zone wishing I was wearing a Haz-Mat suit. I reach down and shut off the monstrosity of a “system” that has recently made my life a living hell. He’s a DJ—and the whole neighborhood knows it. Though I’ve never known him to DJ at any actual event or function, he’s employing his equipment full-time in his apartment. It’s as if he deejaying 24/7 for a party that the UNIVERSE is throwing. I toss his keys onto the table and put a pillow under his head. I do this at least twice a week. It’s only Monday—it’s going to be a long one.
He is your best friend and your worst nightmare. The natural disaster you don’t see coming. The Johnny Knoxville of Pacific Beach. He is your neighbor—actually--he is my neighbor. He IS Jesse.
I moved to San Diego about a year ago and Jesse was one of the first people I met. He had friends passing through the complex all day, every day. When they’d ask me how I knew him, I’d tell them he lived above me. Their response was always the same—they’d chuckle, shake their head and say, “I feel bad for you.” But he wasn’t all bad. He was more like a puppy. He was always in places he didn’t belong, making a mess, chasing girls, begging for food, peeing on the neighbors’ lawns—not to be let off his leash at the beach. But it was impossible to stay mad at him for more than five minutes. After all, he just wanted to play. He wanted attention. And he was so damn cute! He was the main attraction at the circus side show I now call home. But he was always good for a laugh and a smile. He knew everyone, and like the neighborhood dog, everyone knew him…or at least of him.
Because of his flexible work schedule, and by flexible I mean non-existent, he had more than enough time to party. And party he did. Not that this is unusual for Mission Blvd, but Jesse liked to take it to a new level. It would come as no shock to see fog pouring from his 2nd story unit, people hanging over the balcony, music blasting while a laser show danced on the walls of his 600 sq. ft. apartment--on a Tuesday. If you are someone who values sleep or sanity, living below Jesse is a death sentence. You sleep when Jesse sleeps—or you lose. When his presence can’t be detected by sight or sound, the running joke of the complex is “never wake a sleeping baby”. We didn’t sign up for him but we adopted him. We named him Baby Huey. But at least once a month, he’d disappear for a few days.
During these brief hiatuses there was peace. Stillness settled over our block. You could hear your own thoughts…or at least your TV. But uneasiness hung in the air like a thick cloud of smoke as we anticipated his return. We reveled in the quiet sunshine only to know it was just the calm before the storm. By Friday he’d blow back in like a hurricane. Rested and ready to rip it up! Look out—it’s Memorial Day Weekend in PB! By 4 o’clock he’d climbed to the top of the house next door. He was naked, singing, and prancing around the roof like one of Santa’s reindeers. It wasn’t long before the guests across the street at the Catamaran Resort began voicing complaints. The cops ensued shortly thereafter looking for the offending “tally whacker.” That was only their first trip of the day. Miraculously, he wasn’t arrested that weekend. Summer had officially begun.
Jesse always needed to borrow things. But after he brought my sister’s bike back with a bum wheel, we were reluctant to loan him anything of value or that we ever wanted to see again. However, saying “no” or locking our door so he couldn’t take things when we were out, or say, in the shower—did not deter him. If he needed something, he’d find a way in. If the windows were locked, he’d pick the door. In fact, after he lost his house key he used his license to get into his apartment, until inevitably, he lost that, too. But he reasoned that he broke in only when in dire need—in times of emergency. He absolutely could not live another minute without our Ketchup, CupNoodles, or Vodka — which because of him, were now hidden under our beds. He didn’t see a problem with this. But I did. And thanks to his lock picking demonstrations, I was now free to let myself into his abyss at anytime to collect my missing items.
As a rule, he was never, under any circumstances, allowed to borrow anything. But he’d catch you off guard, or in a good mood, or he’d just wear you down. One day, he asked me for a broom and I gave in. It seemed safe enough to me, there was minor risk involved. What other purpose could a broom really serve besides sweeping? Foolishly, I thought there was a chance he’d clean up some of the trash he was always launching over his balcony. Trash that, consequentially landed right in front of my door. I walked outside an hour later to find the bottom part of the plastic broom broken off. At first I was angry. But then I saw him. He was hobbling down the stairs in his favorite MC Hammer style Coors Light sweatpants, slippers being held together with duct tape, and a brown fleece button- up (unbuttoned) jacket that was so heinous it made my eyes water. His hand held what was left of my broom. It was now serving as a make-shift cane because he’d “hurt his back”. Tiny Tim wanted to go to 7-11 for groceries. While he limped around the store with his new crutch, my sister and our friend carried his bags for him. I wasn’t angry anymore. The sight of him was so absolutely ridiculous and he was so pathetic that I actually felt bad laughing at him. But he was putting on a show and we both knew it. Nonetheless, it was beyond entertaining.
And then there were times when he wasn’t putting on a show. When he did strange things no one witnessed, but we knew he was the only logical explanation. In July we got new neighbors. Mark and Sam moved into the open apartment upstairs. Christmas had come early for Jesse—actually he was Jewish—but still, new people, new property, and a new place to pee (he had a thing about using other peoples’ bathrooms). We warned them—but they had to find out on their own. Mark got up one night for a drink of water and found Jesse passed out on his couch watching TV. He woke him up and guided him back to his own apartment and put Jesse to bed. No harm, no foul, right? No way. Mark and Sam had been wondering for some time why the shows they were DVRing weren’t being recorded. They got their answer that night. Jesse had been sneaking in and erasing them so he could record the Military Channel and watch it when they were asleep. But that’s not all. The next morning they awoke to find every pot and pan along with all of their spices left out on their counter. But no feast had been prepared. They followed the trail of Cap’n Crunch into the living room to discover Sam’s comforter smothered in milk and cereal and a brand new box of Crunch ripped open on the floor. It looked like the guys at Quaker put a bomb in the box and it exploded all over their living room. Huey strikes again.
But for all the time I spent wishing I did not live below Jesse, I wouldn’t for a moment trade the experience I had living in that complex. There were four units—but mostly it was like one big house. Our doors were always open and we were always in each others’ apartments. We spent all day, every day together. We barbequed, threw parties, went out, slept on each others’ couches—Jesse mostly on the floor. And we drank—A LOT—together, but mostly we laughed. We were like a family—albeit a dysfunctional one—but after all was said and done, we took care of each other. The people I met there I consider my true friends. With Pacific Beach being the revolving door that it is—I’m lucky I can say that.
But the party couldn’t last forever. Jesse landed a job on a cruise ship (well, I guess it couldn’t last forever for all of us)—as an actual Deejay. Ironically enough, on the morning he was moving out, my sister and I received a 60 Day Notice to Quit. Thanks to the relentless noise and trash, our landlord had opted not to renew our lease. A month later, while unpacking in our new place just down the street, I found a box Jesse had left behind. I had planned on returning it to him but finally I got sick of looking at it and opened it. Lo and behold, there were all of my missing dishes, along with some of Mark and Sam’s, and various other items that he’d “borrowed” from us. All I could do was smile. He wasn’t my neighbor anymore, but he was still there. His presence is undeniable. And I think it’s safe to say that anyone who knows him would agree. His name always finds its way into the conversation somehow. Everybody has a Jesse story.
Although my sister and I hate to admit it, we missed him like crazy after he left. We half expected him to fly down the stairs into our apartment, hear his feet shuffling up the court, or his high-pitched school-girl giggle. We still hesitated when we walked out of the apartment in case he was about to throw something off the balcony. But I knew that chapter in my life was over. We all did. It was time to move on. And so Mark and Sam got a puppy. That dog has some big shoes to fill.
Sure, he is loud, oblivious, sometimes obnoxious, bordering on insanity, and he breaks everything he touches, but we love Jesse anyways. He means well, and he’s got a big heart. He is the life of the party. There is never a dull moment when he’s around. It’s impossible to be around him without laughing at something absurd he does or says. Jacking a beer truck at 9 a.m., launching water balloons off the balcony, getting his picture with the nurses and ambulance driver at the emergency room--you just never know what he’s going to do next. If you are having a bad day, even if he caused it, he’ll cheer you up. He is a crazy skateboarder, a surfer, and more passionate about music than anyone else I know. He loves life. He is undoubtedly the most unique and wild character I have met so far. He was my neighbor. He is my friend. He IS Jesse.