December 20, 2005

Floating on a Raft

I used to live in an old apartment building in Encino. Good old number 19 on the second floor was worn out inside and somewhat rundown. It was located behind a car wash off of one of the main streets in town. One of the great pleasures living there was listening to the guy at the carwash use his loudspeaker . You haven't lived until you wake up hung over to the dulcet tones of "Jim, yellow '78 Gremlin ready for pick up now!"

The interior of the place was a little old. It was an older building so it was a larger one bedroom that included a real living room that I divided in half so that I would have a dining room off of the kitchen.

Speaking of the kitchen the yellow laminate on the counter was peeling and the stove looked as if it could have been used by an angry group of Hells Angels. In the living room there was a big wood panel on the wall was in need of paint and the bathroom looked like it should have been part of some cheesy 1970's porno movie.

The bedroom was rather nondescript. White walls and a window that overlooked the neighbors below me. They had a small dog that yapped all of the time. The neighbor to the left of them also had a little dog that yapped its little head off. It wasn't uncommon to be serenaded by these little rodent dogs, nor was it pleasant.

During the summer in the Valley it is not uncommon for the temperature to exceed 90 and not altogether unexpected for it to push past 100. My little hideaway had an old and decrepit air conditioner that looked like it should have sitting in the back of the red truck Lamont on Sanford and Son used to drive.

Consequently the temperature inside the unit was three degrees short of a bazillion. And on one particular day in July it hit about 117 inside or so the internal thermometer showed. All I know is that this was the day that Lucifer handed me his pitchfork and a letter saying that he quit.

Part of the charm of this place was that during Winter my unit stopped trying to pretend to be a sauna and became part igloo. There were days where it was just slightly above forty degrees in there and for this native Californian that is freaking cold.

The tenants of this particular building made for kind of an odd collection. I was a 24 year old single male who was busy trying to make a name for himself at the office. The two units to the left of me were populated by some very colorful characters.

There was R, who worked for Paramount building sets for the various shows that they produced. For a while he shared it with M and three pit bulls. Eventually M and one of the dogs moved out leaving just R and the two remaining dogs.

Thanks to the proximity of those dogs to my apartment I never bothered to lock my door. Whenever someone would start to walk up the stairs to the second floor they would begin barking furiously. If you didn't know better it sounded as if it was coming from inside my unit and consequently there were times when my own visitors wanted to know if I had dogs living with me.

B and E lived to the left of R. They worked in the music industry and had all sorts of interesting guests come by their place. One night we split a bottle of tequila with one of Stevie Nick's backup singers. Somewhere there are some silly pictures of me in a cloak doing my little spoof of Stevie spinning in one of her dresses.

I spent a lot of time with all of those guys. During the evenings you could find us wandering back and forth between apartments. They were all between five to seven years older than I was. At the time that seemed like quite a bit, not to mention that their lives had been so very different from my own.

That building holds so many memories for me, I may yet blog about them. But foremost among them are the memories of floating away the days and the evenings on a raft in the pool. We would grab a cooler full of drinks and share the contents of our refrigerators.

Now so very many years later I work just down the street from there. Sometimes when I am stopped at a red light I'll turn my head and remember warm summer nights listening to the Eagles. There is a cold beer in my hand and my raft is gently rocking me into the evening.

No comments: