THE WAR ZONE

Palm trees, (palm trees are big when you are from Detroit) 95% annual sunshine, and Hollywood only 30 minutes away, (even if you never go there—just knowing you are that close to something big deal, well…) life in P.B. is good. Except when it wasn’t. In 1993, I wrote in my journals, “I feel like I am living in the war zone.” You have to understand that I am from the Midwest upper middle class. Yet, ever since my move to San Diego, I have lived in the “war zone.” In Ocean Beach, we had our place burglarized. Another night, I woke up at 3a.m. to a pervert mumbling outside my window. I freaked out and hid in the bathroom for two hours, until Bob came home. Then we moved to Sapphire Street in Pacific Beach. It is like ancient history now, Bob moving out, me I throwing his T.V. through the Mr. Ed* door after him and all that drama.
Sullaways bought the property and lowered my rent $100 to keep me. How the two of us lived in that studio house is beyond me. It got so that when Bob was home I would leave. I tolerated it. I tolerated the possums on the fence, the revving engines in the parking lot adjacent and the general squalor. I swear the place was rotting around me. One night this couple threw a bed out of the top floor balcony and stole it at the weirdo transient motel over the fence. I witnessed a 5a.m, screaming O.D., paramedics and all. But the band playing in the parking lot was the best. Not only did the loud speakers set to 800 decibels literally vibrate the walls of my little house and the elbow to elbow crowd threaten to knock the fence over, but the police showed up in force. Steve, Neva and I peeped through the holes in the fence as two police helicopters circled, searchlights criss-crossed the property and megaphones boomed, I kid you not, “DISPERSE! “ Kahuna’s Bar behind me was craziness. One night this drunk drove his car through the front door of Kahuna’s. Through, as in, through. Wasted revelers climbed over my back fence. Steve was the neighborhood vigilante for a while as he ran petitions with the other homeowners to get Kahuna’s closed down. Next to that and directly behind me the carwash was a source of daily angst, as the machines sometimes roared well into the night, nearly against my back wall. Oops, forgot to turn them off. I counted the hours until his 6p.m. machine shutdown. Sure, I was in the backhouse and they the big front house, but that was nothing compared to the infestation in Sullaway’s attic. It was like living in a horror movie Neva said after they poisoned the things, which then ran under the house into the crawl space to die. Rats. The upstairs apartment in the duplex next door burned down one night. What woke me was the firemen banging on my door and yelling, “GET OUT!” I stopped to put on eyebrows and mascara and grabbed my art portfolio. The place was in flames just over my fence. Steve stood watering his garage roof with a garden hose. The gossip on the sidewalk that night was that the place was a crack house and the cops had been watching it, and it was arson by the renters to destroy the evidence.
But, if you want to know about creepy, sit tight. The night of the Northville Earthquake, when we got the aftershocks in San Diego, a rat crawled up my Mr. Ed half door (Neva thinks my cottage was at one time a two horse stable behind the big house.) and in through the hole in the screen. I guess, the tremor woke me, as I heard the thing crawling up the screen and actually saw it plop down onto the floor. At first, I thought it was one of the cats, which lived on my roof—my house was the cat’s playground. It ran under my old oven until we dragged that outside the next day. Besides, my zoo-animal-yoga-for-kids proposal I sent to the SD Zoo, which went a great big nowhere, the Sea World tour guide job fell through. I wrote in my journals: I got another rejection letter from Sea World today so, I am doing Feng Shui in my house to un-trap the Chi and bring the big money in. Today, I moved the bed so I do not have my back to the front door and hung a beveled glass wind catcher. It’s not a wind chime but it’s the closest I can come. I can’t change the way my house faces or the entrances or windows east/west. We freakin’ renters are doomed. Actually, this is the third rejection letter from Sea World. All right already. I get it. It was a June night, when—wait a minute, did people just run across my roof? The house shook with trampling sounds. Not only did it wake me, but I laid there shaking. Then, it was 3 a.m., when a police searchlight shot through my window and someone yelled with this miked-in-reverb, “SAN DIEGO POLICE!!.” Like, as if, I did not hear the megaphone the first time, he had to repeat it, “SAN DIEGO POLICE!!” Then he went on, at 3 a.m., kind of a blabby guy for the graveyard shift, “Excuse me, Ma’am, do you live here?” Let us be clear on this next point—I am in bed. I told him I would check. These are too many decisions to be making at 3 a.m. Then he went on, as I tried to focus, while the spotlight hit me in the eyes. “Did you happen to notice an armed, drug-crazed Hispanic man running past your house?” he asked. Point number two—there was no access to my yard so that meant the guy had to have scaled a ten-foot fence. I was all, “Gee, no officer, just a naked, armed, drug-crazed, Hispanic man running around my living room. Does that count?” I actually did not say that, but boy did I think it—(the next day, that is, after I wrote this joke four times and a friend gave me the punchline.) What I did say was, “You can’t miss him officer. He went that a-way. He’s the one chasing people with my fence post, barking like a (okay, more Sea World angst) seal.” You’re right, I didn’t say that either, but I should have. 3 a.m., I mean. I got home late one night from hanging out at the Comedy Store and trying out that joke, which bombed because it was too obscure, the other comics told me. I went to unlock my gate, but and my gate was unlocked, meaning someone jimmied the combination lock. A coat and six cold beer cans lay strewn in the walkway. The next am this guy climbed over the fence for his stuff. I was like living in Grand Central Station. (Okay, it wasn’t exactly like Grand Central Station, but still.) The year of El Nino my tiny hovel flooded repeatedly Steve tried to dig trenches, patched the stucco — nothing worked. The poor guy, there he was out back in the dumping rain shoring up some sandbag dike or whatnot, until they figured out some sail-type rigging to divert the waters that flowed down into our back yard from Mount Soledad. My tiny patio yard was a lake a few times. Even regular winters took their toll on my tiny dollhouse. My bathroom was T.J. : peeling paint in the shower, a concrete shower floor, cracked tile. Steve said that to fix the plumbing they would have to tear the building down and I would have to move. I held him off as long as I could. Finally, they gave me the word that the place was beyond hope. Bob moved out years before that, but I stayed. The war zone. I felt like the piano player—war going on all around me, but I was playing tunes because it was the best thing to do. Still, the place had character. I drew and painted on my garden patio under the spreading pepper tree. My muses came to me there and I wrote fiction. I told my self it was a vortex as I listened to the waves breaking at night. I dreamed big dreams. Heck, I only paid $350.00 per month for seven years—two blocks up from Tourmaline Surfing Park. And I walked around the block for $1.00 bean burritos a few times a week. You can’t beat that.

  • Mr. Ed door--- from 1965 sit-com The Mr. Ed Show about a talking horse. Mr. Ed stuck his talking head out of the top of a double hung door. The kind where the top half opens or the bottom half opens separately from the other half.

Charly

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