Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Out onto the busy streetscape, I retrieved my car from the valet. I headed for home on Crescent Heights in West Hollywood. A safe place for a gal. Nobody would harass you in that part of town. The gay men could barely stand to look at women there because we’re the ghastly competition. At least that’s how they made me feel. A friendly wave would be nice, guys.

Because my career as a self-employed interior designer can be sporadic and monetarily unpredictable, I’m very appreciative of my home. I lived in the penthouse of an old apartment building at the west end of Laurel Canyon left to me by my great aunt; the “crazy” aunt my mother always likened me to. The building had actually been left to my mother, but she couldn’t be bothered with dealing with “that LA”, so she gifted the whole property to me. According to her, if I was going to live in that god-forsaken city, I might as well have a decent place to live. My mother really does care.

My apartment was 2,000 square feet in an L-shape with two full-height, full-width window walls looking out on terrace gardens. The roof parapet was high enough that I could sunbathe naked if I so desired. The penthouse structure sat right smack dab in the middle of the building roof so I had patio on all four sides. Well, one patio was the pool that I now kept for myself. The penthouse had originally been built as a rec room/pool house for the original mucky-muck celebrity tenants use in the ‘20s. When I inherited the building, I didn’t want neighbors around me so I took over the rec room and remodeled it into my own private oasis with a California back drop of hills, sunsets, and the Hollywood sign. It all made me feel so glamorous.

The patio and pool area used to be open for use to all of the tenants, but I changed that when I received the building. I did not cherish the thought of old, wrinkled, half naked men peering into my windows looking to chat. I still had some of the original tenants living in the building. They regularly told me how much they missed the pool. Live with it.

So what was my deal? Why was I so concerned about money if I had a sweet deal like my apartment building? In West Hollywood, I should be able to get a pretty penny for all the units. I should have sniffed a rat when my mother gave me the “gift”. My aunt was crazy, really. In her will, she decreed that all original tenants who were still living at the time of her passing would maintain their residency as long as they desired at their current rent rates. She was an old softy. She didn’t charge anyone more than five hundred a month for their deluxe accommodations. Anyone who contested her will was considered deceased before her, so ineligible to inherit. What bastard thought that up? So, I basically inherited an albatross for now.

I felt like walking through the halls monthly, shouting “Bring out your dead.” With the upkeep of the building and the na├»ve, wide-eyed loans I had taken out for my remodel against the building, I was barely breaking even with the rents I was receiving each month. I danced for joy when a tenant moved out or “moved on”. Only then could I quadruple the rent. Damn medical science! Someday I would cash in. Someday. And then I could appreciate what my mother had given me.

I opened up the double glass entry doors and was greeted by the love of my life, “Hello Kashmew.” I reached down to pet a striped tabby with Margaret Keane painting eyes. “How’s my baby today? How’s about some din-din? I’m starved myself.”

Kash followed me into the kitchen and paced his bowls like guarded treasure. I filled them with kibble and water. Kashmew was very demanding and he liked his schedule. I’m secretly confidant that he has OCD. I had inherited Kash from a college roommate. She used to bring him to our design studio hall all of the time. Back in those days, you could still bring your dogs, your gnarly, sexy-ugly boyfriends, and even smoke in the studios. Then everyone went PC and that was the end of that era. I’m sure the hippies are cleaner and more organic now, with well adjusted and organized studio desks.

How I got him was a freak and almost fatal accident. My studio mate was out on the fourth floor balcony off of our studio space, smoking a cigarette, and her cat (now my cat, Kashmew) was out there, chasing bugs and eyeballing birds. I was spacing out on them, frustrated with my thesis. All of a sudden I was watching Kash balancing on a concrete windowsill off of the balcony deck, forty feet off the ground and up on a four- inch horizontal space! I bolted from my desk, ran out onto the balcony, lunged over the railing, and grabbed Kash by the scruff yanking, him back over to safety. His life had flashed before my eyes. I turned with him in my arms to find my studio mate staring at me, eyes as wide as Kash’s.

“Oh. My. God. He could’ve died! You saved his life!” she cried. Did I mention that she lived in a sorority? Then she did something that would change my life. “He’s yours now. He’s chosen you. It’s Chinese Philosophy or something.”

“I can’t take him. I can’t have pets,” I protested. I had a sweet apartment close to campus that I didn’t want to give up especially for a cat plus I was graduating in a month.

“You have to,” she said. “I can’t keep him now.”

So, Kash lived at the studio, inside only, ‘til I graduated. After graduation, I piled my stuff and Kashmew into the U-Haul and we left for Los Angeles. I think that had been his plan all along and I think my mom had put him up to it. She couldn’t guilt me about leaving home for school anymore, so she had to send me to a place where she could guilt me about my lifestyle plus living away from home.

Reaching into the fridge, I pulled out a pre-made salad from Joes and a Dopplebach. I kicked off my shoes and headed outside to my terrace. Putting my dinner on the TV tray next to the sofa, I searched the cushions for the remote. Yes, I also had a entire living room set-up on the patio complete with TV and a satellite dish. I’d found that it was warm enough in LA to watch TV outdoors year round, one of the perks of living in this blasted wacko city. It wasn’t really decadent, just doable. When it rains, I have an awning that automatically comes out to cover everything. That happens about as often as that harvest moon phenomenon.

Besides, Kash didn’t let me smoke in the house. Sometimes pigeons joined me and once a raccoon. That was weird. Golden eyes staring at me from the parapet, little, black, gloved hands holding cheese stolen off of my plate, nibbling away. Los Angeles’ weirdness was unique and it was one of the things I enjoyed about living here. It wasn’t weird in the way that there were a lot of freaks, weirdo’s, or crazy’s here. I think that was an LA myth perpetuated by tourists. The weirdness was that it was so different from where the majority of its inhabitants were from originally. Is any Angeleno native anymore? Only in LA could you watch TV outside year round, swim in a warm ocean in December, share your Sunday mornings with your local transient haggling over recyclables, and be among tons of people in the grocery store and you and the automated check out are the only ones that speak English as a first language.

I settled in, watched the news, and ate my dinner. Kashmew settled down at the opposite end of the couch, grooming himself and then eventually falling asleep. Soon he was making soft snorting sounds and kneading the pillows. The ghetto birds flew in a tizzy overhead searching for slow-speed police chases or cars burning on the 101 or 405. Once the news was over, they would all disappear until the 11 o’clock hour. I hoped to be snuggled in bed by then. I began to think about my Monday appointment and started to panic a little. Was I prepared? This was a huge step for me. A client with money. Was I stupid to think I had the balls to take on such high-profile client. Who was I? Was Jasmine too confident in me? Why had she recommended me? Maybe it was really a ‘nothing’ job like Lacey had circuitously suggested. God, what was I going to wear? Would he look at my shoes? I pulled strands of hair around to my face. Shit, I needed a haircut and style. I noticed the cuticles on my fingers. Fuck! Kicking off my shoes, I reviewed my toes and heels. Then, I hiked up my pant legs and sighed. What a forest. Oh, boy! I knew what I was doing that weekend. I reached over to the coffee table, picked up the phone and punched in Harshy’s number. We agreed to a day of beauty at the Beverly Center with dinner and drinks, of course.





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