Dear Dirty America

DDA

Our House

November 13
12:00 2012
CONOR MATTHEWS

 

(editor’s note: Conor disappeared for a few months, but he’s back with the latest piece in his series about moving from Ireland to Los Angeles — see his first two pieces Falling From Heaven and We the People)
THE NEWEST AMERICAN — Our House (part 3)
Hollywood and Highland metro station opened up like a yawning lion’s mouth into the very jungle of the boulevard it roams along with the other wild beasts and monstrosities to weird to live, to rare to die as one great American writer partially wrote. It was like a bizarre charade of lives blending in amongst the palm trees, hiding themselves as anything other than slightly manufactured. Cat women, pirates, smurfs, black dwarfs dressed as Mr. T; a world where you look down not up to see the stars, if you can see past the chewing gum and tourists, parading their children around like nick-knacks from the overpriced souvenir shops. This giant barrage of sights, sounds, and the like was my new home. 

As I strolled up North Highland, towards Franklin Place, I recall how lucky I must be to finally have caught a break. If all else failed I could have given the man who informed me about his penis one more shot.  Thankfully my rectum shall stay closed for a little longer. Loriff management I would find was some sort of low monthly rent management company, geared towards those who would have just moved to LA for their big time dreams, or are simply passing through slowly; students, aspiring actors, musicians, etc. It wasn’t too hard to find. If you’re reading this and you’re passing through that part of the woods, look for a massive neon green painted house. I really don’t think I can describe it any better than that… apart from maybe the fact it looks like a rehab center or homeless shelter. Trust me…you’ll see it! 

I knocked on the door to the office facing the “parking” space (basically just an empty space). 

 

“Hello?” 

 

I poked my head into the office. 

 

“Hey, Conor! How are you buddy!” 

 

Russel got up from his chair and shook my hand, inviting me to sit down as we went over the forms I needed to fill in. Russel was the guy I phoned about the place. I had gone to meet him the day before to pay the deposit. He was average height, black, with corn rows, a rather nice shirt, and an amazingly laid back demeanor. I don’t think he was stoned, just oozing this jive kind of feeling. Once the paper work was done, he went over some ground rules with me. 

 

“We have a strict anti-drug policy unless it’s medical.” 

 

“Well, I just have an asthma inhaler.” 

 

“That’s ok. Some of the guys here have medical marijuana… I’m not gonna stop anyone from taking their medication… as long as it’s medical, we’re ok with that.” 

 

I was then introduced to Albert, the owner and head manager of Loriff management and Miguel, one of the co-managers along with Russel. Albert was Mexican, while Miguel was Dominican. It was then that I was brought into my room, “number 2”, in the main house (the main house contained sharing rooms of four or less, while “the barracks”, a separate detached add-on to the complex, where there were two rooms of ten or more). Russel opened the door and I immediately felt like I had disturbed some sort of little hibernation. Even writing this is bringing back a lot of that discomfort. Two out of three of my new roommates, Matt and “Bouzy” (pronounced BOO-ZEE), were scurrying about the place, “tidying” up the room. Already I felt like my arrival wasn’t met with too great a reception. I immediately retreated to the front porch for a cigarette. 

 

By this time I was smoking American cigarettes and out of force of habit I didn’t mind the fact I wasn’t really getting anything off these things. I sat on one of two footstools that were on the porch. The one I sat on was facing perpendicular to the front door of the house, giving me a view of anyone coming in and out, apart from a modestly narrow gap to my left which led directly to the back of the house and to an detached extension that served as the main kitchen and dining room. Across from me was an Asian girl, sitting on the other foot stool, working on an Ipad. Medium length black hair, yoga pants on; she was pretty cute. It was only then that I noticed the fliers sparsely posted in random locations with “Jet Set Auditions” written on them, with arrows pointing towards the kitchen. I would later find these two things were connected. This was Miao, an aspiring Taiwanese producer. 

 

At some point during my cigarette, a tall black man came up to me. 

 

“Are you here for the auditions?” 

 

“Um, no, I just moved in here today.” 

 

“I’m Lenny. Welcome.” 

 

The best way to describe Lenny is a remark someone said in passing some time later on that week; he’s like a gay Bill Cosby. I can honestly say that’s a rather good description of him. Remarkably tall man, who feels comfortable walking barefoot. Lenny quickly gave me a short tour around the house, started off in the kitchen. A clattering of pots and pans surged along with the waves of heat fuming out from an incredibly awkward entrance, followed by exclamations in Arabic. Inside were two Turks, cooking something that involved burning half of it. 

 

“Guys, this is Conor, he just moved in,” Lenny called out. 

 

I was met with the one closest to my height. He practically jumped at the opportunity to say hello. 

 

“My name’s Miran. What’s your name?” 

 

“Conor.” 

 

“Conor?” 

 

“Yes. 

 

“Where are you from?” 

 

“Ireland.” 

 

“Ireland? Is that a country?” 

 

Miran bellowed out with laughter and assured me he knew it was a country. I immediately fell in love with his sense of humor. Miran was twenty-four with a baby face. He was obviously an extrovert. Very handsome. The other person came over, just a little more  toned down, but still happy. 

 

“Hey buddy, how are you? What’s your name?” 

 

“Conor.” 

 

“Carl?” 

 

“No, Conor.” 

 

“Kana?” 

 

This actually happened very frequently, particularly with White Americans. 

 

“CON-NOR.” 

 

“Oh! CONOR? Ok, my name is asdfghjklwertyuiokjhjdszxh.” 

 

“Sorry, what was it?” 

 

“Just call me ‘John’; it’s easier.” 

 

I would later find out that his name was actually Ajjo (pronounce AJ-JOE). They offered me food but I explained I was still full from the breakfast at the hotel (I decided to be a pig on my last day and gorge on free food. The Indian at the checkout desk was all too happy to see me gone). Both Miran and Ajjo had been translators for the US military in Iraq during the war and occupation. Miran’s sparkling personality and humor suddenly developed a spooky undertone, especially combined with the fact that due to his obvious fitness, I began to speculate in my fantasies the possibility that Miran wasn’t JUST a translator in Iraq. Ajjo made it clear quite quickly he was fascinated with the Los Angeles fire department, even going so far as asking “why don’t you join the fire department” to everyone. Slightly ironic considering he wasn’t as fit as Miran. It’s like a diabetic being fascinated with pie eating contests. 

 

Rush hour for the remarkably small kitchen came in fast, and having a packet of cigarettes served well as an ice breaker. One by one I got a “do you/can I have an extra cigarette?” followed by the predictable “are you new here?” I’ll just fast forward the introductions; Sean was an aspiring music producer who recently converted to Judaism, Jamie was an actress from Nebraska who I met while carrying a massive tub of Whey Protein powder to her room (who joked with Lenny that I obviously wasn’t a virgin if I was twenty two (how wrong they were)), “Rocker John” was… “Rocker John”, Diego was a Colombian aspiring filmmaker, Matt, my roommate was an intern at a studio and musician, while Bouzy, my other roommate, was a Haitian actor. Kenton was an interesting person; remarkably intelligent, polite, with a permanent smile on his face, and around the same part of Kentucky as a friend of mine, Courtney. Kenton, to the best of my knowledge was an actor but had an interest and flare for post-production and the manual production side of the industry. 

 

And then there was Albert’s Dad. No one seemed to know his real name, they just called him “Albert’s Dad”. Albert’s Dad was a fat version of 1970’s Cheech Marin, with the lower jaw of a bull dog, and for whatever reason had the audacity and fondness for waddling around the place topless, allowing everyone to enjoy the sight of his sagging man-boobs, which resembled two shallow puddles of water on a lilo table cloth, where the edges are rounded. The first day I arrived to pay the first installment of the deposit, Albert’s Dad had just taken a shower and was walking towards me in a damp towel that was barely covering below his waist, despite how badly he gripped at it. Even in the kitchen, where food was being prepared, he would roam with his back hair shedding into the bubbling pots of whatever foul smelling thing he was cooking (that vaguely resembles red onions). 

 

It was getting late; I decided to go out for another cigarette. By this time the porch was being drowned out by the sound of late North Highland traffic, all squeezing through a two pronged ‘Y’ junction. I met two more people on the porch; Kay and Branden. Kay was talking to Branden, who seemed abnormally energetic for anyone at that time. I was soon invited into the conversation when Branden asked me how high I could jump. I wouldn’t find out until later Branden was autistic. But before that, we jumped; Kay judged. Branden won. Kay, I found, was an incredibly thoughtful person. We must have spent an hour talking about homelessness, different people, cultures, etc. She was really a sensitive soul, going so far as tearing up a little when she was talking about feeling helpless to help homeless people. Lenny came out of the house and onto the porch, flustered. 

 

“I can’t believe it.” 

 

“What?” Kay inquired. 

 

Lenny went on to explain he was the one who Branden came to see; he left the overnight   homeless shelter, the same one where his laptop was stolen. Now that he was here, Lenny tried to put Branden in his room, but Lenny’s Mormon roommate expressed a “religious objection” to sleeping in the same room as an autistic person. Can I please go on record just to say…Fuck Salt Lake City. It’s bad enough they’re polygamists, racists, and homophobes, but the fact that they have “religious” objections to a mental disorder is just fuck-me-up-the-ass-stupid! Moments later, the police arrived. Apparently an Icelandic woman who lived at the house had ripped the logo off Miguel’s car, due to an argument they had earlier. This kind of argument was not new. I was only new here, and yet I very quickly found everyone had the same opinion of the situation. They should fuck and get it over with. 

 

The next day, after a sleepless night of Bouzy laughing all night at some sort of TV show on Netflix, Lenny took me grocery shopping. I seriously began to hate the sun at this point, walking down a shadeless Franklin Avenue. I could already feel beads of sweat skimming along my spine. Hollywood has an interesting way of being muck mixed with fabric, as we passed a shitty motel adjacent the “Magic Castle”, the epicenter of the legendary Magic Circle of Magicians. Lenny retold his experiences there as an invite, where they give you vast amounts of alcohol and you could get drunk and watch magic tricks. I thought two things; how easy must it be to perform magic to alcoholics, and the Christians were fucking right; magic is a Satanic hedonistic orgy religion (where do I sign up). This continued further down as we got to some sort of Chinese themed hotel as we turned down Franklin Avenue, heading for Hollywood Boulevard. 

 

“L.A. Doesn’t believe in preserving its history,” Lenny said, explaining how this area used to be filled with mansions (the Magic Castle was once one of many stations for the celebrity catholic faithfuls to visit on pilgrimage). I was only here for a week and I already gathered a sense of this. I suppose people are just grateful the days of “Pretty Woman” are over. You really do get a sense the Hollywood Celebrity tour buses are struggling to deal with the decaying attractions and points of interest. 

 

“On your left, that’s where that one scene from that film COULD have been filmed… but wasn’t… we’re not allowed to show you the actual place. Oh! And that house there is where Corey Feldman got molested…” 

 

I won’t bore you with the shopping. The only eventful thing that happened is that I extremely hate those self-check-out machines. Cut cost at any cost. What’s more important is we took Hollywood Boulevard back to the house. This will be the first of many occurrences where I insanely learn to dislike walking down the boulevard. More exactly, I learn to despise tourists. 

How many Asians does it take to take a picture of Michael Jackson’s cracked star! Why do White parents always act shocked when they find out Minny Mouse is Mexican! And why is no one giving this awesome bass player any money! My image of Hollywood is already forming into something familiar and bizarrely lovely. Like Greek ruins or Stonehenge, it holds a Mecca sense about itself, a testimony to a time long past, and yet still reachable, but ever more the difficult in the digital age, where Internet celebrities have a better retirement plan than Stan Laurel. 

It’s a land where Superman got herpes off a chain smoking Jack Sparrow, where these interesting iconic characters have now grown some balls and are turning up to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. Some say Hollywood is what’s wrong with America; that’s like blaming a mirror for you looking ugly. And who says something’s wrong with wanting to be an actor, or to want to see where Colombo died. If there’s anything wrong, it’s that you don’t dive in head first. It’s an illusion for the clear of mind; and I’ve already fallen in love with it, as well as Highland House. 

 

As soon as I return back to the house, and spill the twenty dollars worth of food into the fridge, Miran and Ajjo can be heard in the kitchen, arguing in Turkish. 

 

“Sana çok fazla tuz ekleyerek kulüpler ne demek?” Miran asks. 

 

“Bu çok fazla!Domates çok tuzlu olacak,” Ajjo gives out. 

 

“Özür dilerim, bir sülük aniden nelerdir?” Miran remarks. 

 

“Fuck you!” Ajjo retorts. The mood changes when I pop my head in? 

 

“Hey Buddy!” Ajjo smiles. 

 

“Conor!” Miran shouts. “You wanna come out tonight?” 

 

I’ve only been here for over 24 hours and I’m about to see Hollywood Nightlife. I’ve already seen it in daylight, God only knows what happens when the sun goes down. 

TO BE CONTINUED

Conor Matthews, who is a regular contributor to DDA, can be reached at: matthewsconor@hotmail.com, and at Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/conorelmo.

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