175. With Two Cats in the Yard Life Used to be so Hard

chapter 175The next day we drove around looking for apartments and jobs. The apartments didn’t want us because we didn’t have jobs, and the jobs didn’t want us because we didn’t have an address. “We have to find a place to live or we’re going to spend all our money on motels,” I said.

Two thousand dollars seemed like a lot of money in Savannah, but crossing the country took a pretty big bite out of that. Now we were staring at having to front two months’ worth of rent if we were lucky. We didn’t have money to burn on motel rooms.

The day wore on. We went to the Beverly Center and walked around. I ate a slice of pizza topped with broccoli and zucchini and felt slightly more Californian. A French restaurant on the top floor of the shopping mall sported a “help wanted” sign, so I filled out an application and handed it to the manager. He looked it over and said, “You have no experience.”

“I’ve been waiting tables for the last six months,” I said.

“Six months waiting tables in a Mexican restaurant hardly qualifies you to serve French cuisine,” he said.

I grabbed my application from him. “Yes, I’m sure setting plates of shopping mall French food on tables is completely different,” I said, and I wadded up the sheet of paper and tossed it over his shoulder.

We drove back to Hollywood and hung a right at the Ralph’s grocery on Sunset. Jody checked the folded newspaper in her lap. “There it is, number 1324,” she said.

“What’s it say next to the door?” I asked.

“Su Casa Apartments,” she said. “Your house.” The place was a nondescript three story stucco and brick apartment building with a basement parking garage. If Mike Brady designed an apartment building exterior, it would’ve looked like Su Casa. Jody pressed the intercom button then said, “We’re here about the apartment for rent.” The electric door lock buzzed and we entered the lobby.

A couple of piles of teased hair and acid wash fiddled with the locks on the wall of brass-colored mailboxes. “Hey, you know where the office is, dude?” I asked.

“Through there. Straight ahead.”

A short, heavy Mexican woman greeted us. Her daughter rubber stamped “PAID” repeatedly on the desk blotter. “It’s a one bedroom, $550 a month, first and last months’ rent upfront and a six month lease,” the mother said.

“Can we move in today?” I asked.

“Don’t you want to see it?” She led us to a back stairway. A hypodermic needle lay on the landing, and a cinder block wall separated Su Casa from the alley behind it. We climbed the stairs to the second floor and she unlocked an apartment overlooking the alley. The carpet was matted and looked to be twenty years old; the two windows that opened onto the alley hid behind dirty white curtains, as did the sliding glass door that opened onto a porch big enough for a chair and a hibachi. A dated light fixture hung where a kitchen table was supposed to rest, and next to that stood a tiny kitchen with a small window that opened onto Su Casa’s courtyard. There was absolutely nothing to see in the courtyard, just motel-like walkways, stucco walls, and a tiled floor.

“Can we move in today?” I asked again.

“You have cash?”

“Traveler’s checks.”

“Those will work.” I handed over $1,100 in Karl Malden money. We’d been in L.A. two days we were down to our last 300 bucks.

Categories: Memoir

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