People in Los Angeles have an odd relationship with their neighbors. They spend months or even years separated by only a few feet of drywall, yet since everyone is so self-absorbed, it’s rare to know much more about them than their names, and even those can be tough to remember.
By mere proximity, I was able to learn a lot about the neighbors in my first Hollywood apartment. Each were strange, colorful characters in their own ways.
Next door was a former Penthouse Pet who once dated Crispin Glover. She tried to compensate for being past her prime with multiple plastic surgeries and heavy Gothic makeup. After a year and a half of actively avoiding any interaction with me, she slid a note under my door offering to pay me $10 a month to siphon my internet. The next time I passed her in the hall way, she still didn’t say hello. She never got my wireless password.
Across the courtyard was an elderly, obese Hispanic woman who would lean out of her French doors and chain-smoke Marlboro reds all day. She greeted me every morning with an “hola” in a throaty gargle, and when I returned from work in the evening she was there again waiving hello with a lit cigarette. I don’t think she left the building once in the 3 years I lived there.
Every time I went to the dumpster to take out the trash, she would yell out “bottles!” She wanted my recyclables so she could make a profit, and actually had a nice racket going since she requested bottles from everyone in the building. At first, I would separate my bottles for her. Then, she got greedy.
She’d ask for bottles when I clearly had only garbage in my bags. The last straw came when she asked for the full water bottle I was still drinking out of after coming home from the gym. I told her no. Enough was enough. From then on I lied and said I had no bottles, making it a point to not give her anything that could net her 5 cents (7 cents in Michigan).
Across the hall was a couple who both worked at a hair salon and looked like they could be the Nihilists from The Big Lebowski. He was thin with jet black hair pulled back in a pony tail. She was pair shaped with platinum blonde hair, sloppy tits, and owned a bitchy chihuahua who was equally neurotic. He was affable enough to say hi, while she would give dirty looks to anyone she passed.
They drove a hearse, had a Halloween decoration above their door which read “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here,” as well as a HAZMAT-like sticker on the door with something about zombies.
They often had loud sex, which prompted me to make this reaction video one morning upon waking up to their moaning.
One evening, they had a domestic dispute and the police were called. I looked through my peep hole just in time to see the woman standing against the wall, handcuffed in nothing but her bra and panties. She was screaming at the officers and was nearly arrested.
They broke up soon after. He moved into another unit in the building and left her in the apartment next to me. She played a Danzig song on a loop all night, every night for a couple solid weeks. It took the police threatening arrest and the landlord threatening eviction for her to finally stop. She filled the silence with screaming fits at random times throughout the day. I moved out soon after.
Sometimes, when I drive by my old apartment building, I see that hearse parked outside and wonder how they’re all doing. Did the Penthouse Pet ever get the internet? Did the hairstyling nihilist couple reconcile? Did the old lady die of lung cancer? Then I snap out of it and realize I don’t care because they’re all assholes.
It took one month to find someone willing to go on a date with me, and one night for them to decide they never wanted to see me again.
I had been in town for a few weeks and was ready to meet some ladies. After hearing all the horror stories about the pretentiousness of LA women and seeing the low dollar amount in my bank account, I was hesitant. Eventually, I met a nice girl while at a bar in Westwood. She was tall, attractive, and for some reason was interested in me.
A back and forth of flirtatious phone calls and instant messages ensued. Then, going against everything I ever stood for musically, I accompanied her and two of her friends to a line dancing bar deep in the valley. We continued to hit it off, so I made a move and asked her on an official date.
Of course, I wanted to keep it casual, so I used the term “hang out” just in case she said no. She agreed and I began planning for our night out. My main obstacle was money. I was working my first PA gig and had low funds. How could I woo my lady while pinching pennies?
Instead of coming up with something creative and romantic, I went with in-your-face frugality.
My date came to the frat house, ready for a night on the town. I told her I knew a place nearby with a great all-day happy hour on Wednesdays. She was game, so we got in my car and drove to Del Taco since it was 3 tacos for $1 night.
I ordered and ate nine soft tacos. She downed a modest three. Ever the gentleman, I paid for our bill which was about $7.50 after drinks and taxes.
Not ready for the night to be over, I invited her back to the frat house to continue the “hang out.” She agreed, so I figured my blatant poorness wasn’t a turn off.
I escorted her to my room and shut the door, wedging the Phillips-head screwdriver into the slot where the chain lock was supposed to be so we could have some privacy. The buzzing of a lit neon sign added extra ambiance. We sat on my air mattress and watched a “How I Met Your Mother” rerun that got minimal static when the rabbit ears atop my television were placed just so.
With all my ducks in a row, I made my move. We made out for a while until she was suddenly tired and had to leave. I walked her out and kissed her good night, suggesting another date. She agreed, then blew me off the next few times I contacted her before I finally gave up.
Disappointed, I analyzed our relationship and wondered why her attitude abruptly changed. The possibilities were endless, but in the end I came to the conclusion that she must have been a Taco Bell kind of girl.
Ask anyone who relocated to Los Angeles, and they’ll be able to tell you about their first celebrity encounter. Mine happened my second week in town, and was one of the most exciting moments of my life up until that point.[1. Honorable mentions: The time I won Penguins tickets from a TV sports talk show contest, sneaking downstairs to watch a few minutes of Showgirls while my mom was asleep, and scoring 31 of my teams 37 points in a game of 8th grade rec league basketball]
It was at a semi-intimate gathering with a lot of people I just met. Across the room stood a familiar looking woman making small talk with the party’s hostess. I recognized her as Nurse Olivia from “Grey’s Anatomy” (real name: Sarah Utterback). The character who famously gave George syphilis. This was the time in America when men and women alike were watching the show (or at least that’s how I justify it to myself), so it was tough to contain my giddiness.
I asked the hostess if this was, indeed, a celebrity drinking beer in the same room as us.
“Oh, Sarah? Yeah, she was on that show. We’re good friends.”
She took me over and introduced me. Just like that, I was mingling with a known actress. We made small talk for a few minutes and parted ways. She was nice, but unfortunately there was no sexual chemistry. I went around the rest of the night telling everyone who she was, but no one really cared. To them, she was just another working actress. To me, she was a star.
The next day, I told my mom and all my friends back home about my encounter. They were more thrilled about it than I was, and that’s saying a lot.
After 5 years, you tend to forget about all the famous people you see, and if I met someone like that today, it wouldn’t phase me. But at the time, she was a star in my presence, and the subject of a story I’ll never forget.
While driving cross-country, I imagined my first night in LA would consist of a hopping party at a glitzy venue with movie stars and high end cocktails. In reality, it involved sharing a bottle of Bacardi and an air mattress with my friend Jeremy while watching movies in a room with a spray painted penis[1. One of my biggest regrets in life is not taking a picture of the large cock n’ balls that was spray painted on the wall in my room. It fit the decor perfectly and really tied the room together.] on the wall.
We traveled for 4 days only to arrive at the frat house I was rooming in for the summer. A random person there took me to my room, which was completely trashed, had no lock, and was decorated with the aforementioned cock. I wanted to turn around and walk back to Pittsburgh.
My friend and I cleared three garbage bags of crap and made the room acceptable. We celebrated with a fifth of rum and our first Los Angeles meal.
With all the excellent Mexican food the town had to offer, we patronized the best tasting and most authentic one we knew: Taco Bell. I downed a couple Chalupas and a diet coke. Satiated, I was ready to hit the town.
Only knowing three people in town, I called them to find out what celebrity we’d be partying with that night. Nothing was happening, or, more likely, no one wanted to invite us, so we went with plan B.
We inflated my air mattress, turned on the TV/DVD/VCR combo that was sitting on top of my entertainment center/mini-fridge, and watched Sideways while laying side by side. Luckily we were both comfortable with our sexuality, since the bed wasn’t big and it was a tight squeeze.
It might not have been what was envisioned, but just by making it into town alive after 50 plus hours of driving, my first night in LA was a success.
This Memorial Day marks the five year anniversary of my relocation from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles. To mark the occasion, I’ll be posting daily anecdotes of memories from my first few months as a wide eyed 22-year-old in Tinseltown.
For those who don’t know the story, I was plucked from a career in retail by my mentor and friend Mikey Glazer in 2006. Mikey and I initially began a correspondence after he discovered my college television show, “Gettin’ Later.” Two years later, I became the first person he hired before a face to face meeting.
Mikey was staffing up his casting department for the Telemundo version of “Deal or No Deal,” titled “Vas o No Vas.” I was working as a cashier at Best Buy and pondering my place in society. He told me the job was mine, and after contemplating whether or not I actually wanted to leave Pittsburgh, I took the job and drove cross-country with my friend Jeremy.
Some people thought it was great that I was perusing my aspirations. Others thought I was silly for leaving my home town. One coworker, in a moment I will never forget, told me that within a year I would be broke and back living at home with my mother. I had many doubts myself, but ultimately decided if I were ever to make the move I’d been talking about for years, the time was then.
And here I am five years later, still living in Los Angeles. Though still far from financial security, I can pay my bills while doing what I enjoy, I have a great life and great friends, and I can go to the beach anytime I damn well please.
So thanks to everyone I’ve met along the way during these five years. To the people I’ve bonded with over a beer, the women I’ve dated, my work colleagues, and everyone I’ve ever had a moment with. You’ve made my time here wonderful.
Also, thank you to my friends and family back home who have supported my decision to live across the country. Even though they’re always asking me when I’m moving back home, I know they’re happy for me.
Here’s to five more years!