Wednesday, September 20, 2006

House Sitting

The first time I took care of Gary's house, earlier this summer, I turned onto his street and suddenly stopped in front of one faux-Victorian duplex. There was some graffitti on the sidewalk - not a familiar-looking gang tag, but a long message urgently and carefully spelled out in black spraypaint across the sidewalk.

The message said: "Child molester lives here." Arrows pointed to the house beside the message.
Later in the summer, returning to Gary's house, I noticed the sidewalk had been resurfaced (it is greyer and cleaner where the message once was). The house is for sale.

* * *

The house-sit comes with a neighbor. The neighbor is the Mayor of Genessee Avenue. The Mayor likes you to know he is omniscient, that he can be anywhere at any time. He does this by sneaking up on you and giving you a startle. Then he laughs because he wants you to think he's mischievious. He isn't: there is no humor in his laugh. He is playing status with you.

I pull into the driveway and as I get out of the car, he has taken his position out of my view. He has waited there patiently while I arranged things in my bag and placed my wallet in my jacket pocket.

He lunges as I emerge from the vehicle by shouting: "YOU WENT AWAY FOR SEVERAL DAYS."

I stare at him. He grins and reveals rubber bands - the Mayor of Genessee Avenue has braces.

"I do that to everybody," he says gleefully.

"I have no doubt about that," I say. I think of telling him that last year I was mugged only five blocks away from this place. I want to ask him if he thinks this sort of thing is a good idea in Los Angeles - sneaking up and startling people you don't know. Instead, I engage his accusation.

"I wish I could go away for a few days, but sadly no. I have been here."

"You haven't been picking up the papers."

He is referring to the advertising packages that are delivered just like newspapers. The distributors walk down the streets tossing them into your yard, rolled up like fatties. They land in bushes, driveways, and perhaps your fountain. You can call them and ask them to stop delivering your house but they never do.

"I haven't found any of those all week."

"Well, I've been collecting them," he says.

We look at each other for a moment.

At this point, it is not about junk mail anymore and we know it. Still, out of politeness, I finish the dance by saying, "If you would permit me the opportunity, since I am in care of Gary's house, I am happy to collect those things myself."

He leaves with his mission accomplished. I know he is watching. Actually, I knew that anyway.
* * *

Inside the house there is a much friendlier atmosphere. Oddly, I find no comfort in the living room and never spend time there. Same with the dining room. I'll eat at the little kitchen table where Gary and his wife sip coffee and eat a light breakfast, or on my meditation cushion on the floor with a bowl of food on my leg, in the rear lounge.

There are photos of Gary and Tamara everywhere. Their childhoods and their marriage are well documented and I spend a surprising amount of time studying the pictures. Their marriage has the feel of a warm house itself, a good sturdy place with plenty of hospitality on offer.

* * *

In the backyard, near Tamara's studio (she paints), I blundered into a web and came face to face with a very large spider: its body was the size of my knuckle. Clearly a well-fed beast. Standing there and regarding the creature, I said, "Well, sir, I seem to be in your web. What are you going to do now? You can't eat all of me at once. Do you have a freezer?"

The spider didn't move. I imagine that if it could talk it might say:

"This is L.A. Do you think it's a good idea to startle someone like that?"

1 comment:

Wingtiphsu said...