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What Would Hillcrest Do without Russ the Bodybuilder?

Hillcrest
Hillcrest

"It's over, I'm done with all of this and I can't handle another second of it..." The sobs echoed through the narrow hallway of the tiny Sixth Avenue complex.

"There's no more us...there's just Russ." The upstairs door slammed and sounded like a cannon blast and caused me to stop fooling myself into thinking I could actually continue sleeping through the commotion.

"I guess the barbell beauties are through again, hopefully for good this time."

"Ah, poor Russ, do you think that I should go see if he is all right?"

"Only if you remind him that's it's three o'clock in the morning and some people would rather sleep than listen to him throw heavy objects at his gay lover all night."

"Oh, come on, it's sad. I hope he's all right."

Heavy sobs forced their way through our window, and the silhouette of our large bodybuilder neighbor made it appear as if the Incredible Hulk was having an emotional breakdown outside our bedroom window.

"We're trying to sleep, please, we need sleep!" I yelped and was quickly hushed.

"Shhh, come on, they just broke up, give him a break."

"Oh, Christ, all they ever do up there is break up."

"Shhh," she said. "We don't have anything to do except play croquet at the park tomorrow. Just try and be a little understanding, huh?"

I rolled over and suffocated myself with my pillow to block out the whimpers.


I spent the block-and-a-half walk to the park comparing the flawless and empty blue sky with the congested shirtless-bodied green lawn. The Balboa Park-goers ran, biked, walked alongside their four-legged loved ones, cuddled on the grass, and laid out and absorbed the unblocked waves of sunlight. The homeless residents of the park sat in circles. Some picked at the neatly manicured grass and threw the plucked blades up for the easy breeze to catch.

Everyone in our group had arrived at the park early and had erected their chairs and spread their blankets and set up the double-diamond rectangular court comprised of metal hoops and wooden stakes. An eight-gay-man, hairy-chested volleyball tournament set up their boundaries dangerously close to the course but seemingly out of harm's way.

The First Annual A-Hole Lotta Croquet Tournament was close to getting underway. I jerked the mallet from my bag and fished in the cooler for a cold beer. I felt unstoppable and couldn't wait for the tournament to begin.

We were picked to be one of the two teams to play first in the single-elimination tournament, and by the looks of the opposing team I thought we could advance easily to the next round. But from the initial stroke of the mallet, the other team dominated the court. Our all-black-wearing, tattooed opponents must have been born with wooden mallets in their tiny baby hands.

I did have one opportunity to deliver a crushing croquet, and just as I was about to hit my ball into the direction of the black team's ball, a high-pitched roar came from the makeshift volleyball court: a dozen feet away. I looked lip as my ball darted off with misguided trajectory and saw our neighbor Russ trade a flamboyant high five with another shirtless male. I watched Russ clash his barreled, shaved chest against the chests of his teammates. They looked as if they experienced more joy in that moment than they had their whole lives.

I, on the other hand, threw my mallet to the ground in disgust and headed directly for the cooler. I could barely watch the rest of the tournament, though I did receive some consolation when the punk-rock prodigies that beat us took the coveted Rubber Mallet trophy and victoriously lifted it into the air.


After the tournament, we sat and drank the rest of the beers and tuned in to the programming that park and its guests offered. Once curiosity allowed the eye to stray past the volleyball matches with men in tight cut-off jeans, one could see Mexican fiestas with tables overflowing with food and colored sodas. The children ran around frantically as adults slumbered in the shade, motionless on the cool grass.

Young yuppie couples, wearing overly bent canvas hats and sweaters tied around their waists, pushed sports-utility strollers through the park, stopping frequently to tend to their precious babies, who probably never had to cry more than a few seconds to get whatever they wanted. Dog-lovers paraded their canines as if they were top entries in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

They held on to their little plastic Baggies full of feces as if they were trophies. The park was full of people enjoying their lives and showing off the things that meant most to them. Everyone shared a common respect for the beauty of the day and the charm of the neighborhood.


"Hey, does anyone want to head over to NuNu's for a few drinks? I need to get this defeat out of my system. You can park your bikes and your shit at our place." Surprisingly, only a few people opted out. We were packing up when another loud shriek came from the all-male volleyball court.

"Hey, isn't that your neighbor over there?" someone asked.

"Yeah, that's Russ all right, and what would the neighborhood do without him?"

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Hillcrest
Hillcrest

"It's over, I'm done with all of this and I can't handle another second of it..." The sobs echoed through the narrow hallway of the tiny Sixth Avenue complex.

"There's no more us...there's just Russ." The upstairs door slammed and sounded like a cannon blast and caused me to stop fooling myself into thinking I could actually continue sleeping through the commotion.

"I guess the barbell beauties are through again, hopefully for good this time."

"Ah, poor Russ, do you think that I should go see if he is all right?"

"Only if you remind him that's it's three o'clock in the morning and some people would rather sleep than listen to him throw heavy objects at his gay lover all night."

"Oh, come on, it's sad. I hope he's all right."

Heavy sobs forced their way through our window, and the silhouette of our large bodybuilder neighbor made it appear as if the Incredible Hulk was having an emotional breakdown outside our bedroom window.

"We're trying to sleep, please, we need sleep!" I yelped and was quickly hushed.

"Shhh, come on, they just broke up, give him a break."

"Oh, Christ, all they ever do up there is break up."

"Shhh," she said. "We don't have anything to do except play croquet at the park tomorrow. Just try and be a little understanding, huh?"

I rolled over and suffocated myself with my pillow to block out the whimpers.


I spent the block-and-a-half walk to the park comparing the flawless and empty blue sky with the congested shirtless-bodied green lawn. The Balboa Park-goers ran, biked, walked alongside their four-legged loved ones, cuddled on the grass, and laid out and absorbed the unblocked waves of sunlight. The homeless residents of the park sat in circles. Some picked at the neatly manicured grass and threw the plucked blades up for the easy breeze to catch.

Everyone in our group had arrived at the park early and had erected their chairs and spread their blankets and set up the double-diamond rectangular court comprised of metal hoops and wooden stakes. An eight-gay-man, hairy-chested volleyball tournament set up their boundaries dangerously close to the course but seemingly out of harm's way.

The First Annual A-Hole Lotta Croquet Tournament was close to getting underway. I jerked the mallet from my bag and fished in the cooler for a cold beer. I felt unstoppable and couldn't wait for the tournament to begin.

We were picked to be one of the two teams to play first in the single-elimination tournament, and by the looks of the opposing team I thought we could advance easily to the next round. But from the initial stroke of the mallet, the other team dominated the court. Our all-black-wearing, tattooed opponents must have been born with wooden mallets in their tiny baby hands.

I did have one opportunity to deliver a crushing croquet, and just as I was about to hit my ball into the direction of the black team's ball, a high-pitched roar came from the makeshift volleyball court: a dozen feet away. I looked lip as my ball darted off with misguided trajectory and saw our neighbor Russ trade a flamboyant high five with another shirtless male. I watched Russ clash his barreled, shaved chest against the chests of his teammates. They looked as if they experienced more joy in that moment than they had their whole lives.

I, on the other hand, threw my mallet to the ground in disgust and headed directly for the cooler. I could barely watch the rest of the tournament, though I did receive some consolation when the punk-rock prodigies that beat us took the coveted Rubber Mallet trophy and victoriously lifted it into the air.


After the tournament, we sat and drank the rest of the beers and tuned in to the programming that park and its guests offered. Once curiosity allowed the eye to stray past the volleyball matches with men in tight cut-off jeans, one could see Mexican fiestas with tables overflowing with food and colored sodas. The children ran around frantically as adults slumbered in the shade, motionless on the cool grass.

Young yuppie couples, wearing overly bent canvas hats and sweaters tied around their waists, pushed sports-utility strollers through the park, stopping frequently to tend to their precious babies, who probably never had to cry more than a few seconds to get whatever they wanted. Dog-lovers paraded their canines as if they were top entries in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

They held on to their little plastic Baggies full of feces as if they were trophies. The park was full of people enjoying their lives and showing off the things that meant most to them. Everyone shared a common respect for the beauty of the day and the charm of the neighborhood.


"Hey, does anyone want to head over to NuNu's for a few drinks? I need to get this defeat out of my system. You can park your bikes and your shit at our place." Surprisingly, only a few people opted out. We were packing up when another loud shriek came from the all-male volleyball court.

"Hey, isn't that your neighbor over there?" someone asked.

"Yeah, that's Russ all right, and what would the neighborhood do without him?"

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