indoor storage nightmare
Friday, March 31 2000
At the crack of dawn, before 6am, Kim got me up with news that if we left in ten minutes, we might just miss rush hour in Los Angeles. Though this didn't make much sense, I scrambled to finish loading the UHaul anyway. We were completely stressed out and snapping at each other the whole time.
Part of my aggravation was physical. No, my testicles were behaving themselves just fine, but my lips were chapped and painful from all the compulsive lip-licking I'd done yesterday. It's something I always find myself doing whenever I'm schlepping heavy stuff.
My immediate task was to drive the UHaul all the way up to West Los Angeles, following closely behind Kim's Volvo in a convoy formation. Aside from yesterday, when I'd picked up the UHaul, I'd never driven such a large vehicle in my entire life. Now I had to do it in morning rush hour traffic on LA's narrow freeway lanes.
For rush hour, though, the traffic didn't end up being all that bad. It was plenty stressful, mind you (just staying within my lane was a feat of concentration, and changing lanes had me biting my nails), but the truck had good mirrors and handled okay.
We stopped for bathrooms and breakfast at a Denny's somewhere in southwest LA. As usual, we smuggled Sophie inside in her travel bag, but when Kim saw me sneaking her french fries, she yelled at me.
The place where we turned in the UHaul and put our stuff into storage was a colossal multi-floor indoor warehouses. I'd never before seen such a grimly existential "storage solution." At the time it was being single-handedly staffed by a young Hispanic woman (who expertly backed our truck up to the loading dock when a type-A soap salesman was parked in the rudest possible way in the turning area). Then she proceeded to tell us where our storage room was: up a small rickety elevator and then down a long dark labyrinth of halls. No way did Kim want to haul our shit so far, especially with the complication of Sophie running around exploring every nook and cranny. So we took a bigger storage room on the first floor. It was also down a series of dark hallways, but at least there would be no episodes in an elevator. I think Kim expected to have a storage room up near the front and easy to get to but all such places had been taken long ago.
For the next several hours we mastered the art of wheeling our possessions on metal carts up and down those creepy fluorescent-lit halls past indistinguishable numbered doors personalized only by the choice of lock made by the now-absent tenants. It was exhausting, depressing work, a little taste of Auschwitz for the spoiled likes of us.
Kim and I had nowhere to focus our misery but at one another, and we fought continuously.
But as much as the warehouse felt to us like a concentration camp, for Sophie it was a marvelous Disney Land. while we were distracted by the task at hand, she set out on several exciting adventures of her own. At one point we had to looking for her and found she'd gone up to the 2nd floor, run across a strange man, and, not knowing what else to do, started barking at him.
When we were finally done with the horrible warehouse scene, we decided to track down Evan and Corynna to see if they'd put us up for the night. But when we couldn't reach either of them, we decided to call the loan agent to see if they needed anything else from us. Why yes, it turned out that they did. Now it seems that closing costs will be $2000 more than we'd originally been told and the substitute loan agent was patronizingly wondering where that money was going to come from.
We ended up with Charlie, our real estate agent. He assured us everything was going to be okay and even offered us cheap places to stay and advice on cheap things to do on a Friday night. He's a cool guy, that Charlie. Being a real estate agent is just his latest gig in a long line of LA professions. In his day, he's been a substitute teacher as well as a manager of pop music bands.
Looking for a way to kill time until the evening, we drove to our West LA
neighborhood to check out the house we're trying to buy. "In Escrow" said the For Sale sign. All of a sudden Kim was acting nervous, like we were maybe going in way over our heads. A little walk around the neighborhood didn't help either. All Kim saw were the tags of three different gangs and what she took to be a drug deal going down in an alleyway. "I see now how important it is to check out the neighborhood before committing to buying a house. By the time we made it down to the nearby but somewhat seedy Santa Monica Blvd., Kim had developed a serious case of cold feet. We were sort of hungry as we passed Checks Ca$hed Here establishments and liquor stores thinking entirely different thoughts about the things we were seeing. I kind of liked the scrawny, surly urban stink of it all, but Kim was alarmed. We sat eating falafel and arguing in a strip mini-mall parking lot outside a Middle Eastern restaurant (bearing a B from its last health inspection). Kim was all wide-eyed and saying things like, "as a woman, I don't feel safe" and "there are too many cars here for me."
I couldn't believe this was happening. All I could say was, "After all we've invested emotionally, financially and in time, you can't just do this...," and, reassuringly, "You know, the neighborhood is going to be partly what you make it." I demanded to have some role in the decisionmaking, pointing out that she had been calling all the shots up until now and that I wasn't going to back out of this deal on the strength of one of her neuroses.
Somehow I got Kim to go for another walk around the neighborhood to give it a second chance. This time, however, we kept to the northwest, simultaneously towards both Brentwood and the City of Santa Monica, where property values are higher and fewer of the spooky influences from a north-south artery like Bundy are able to penetrate. I remember the write-up for the house emphasizing the walk to Wilshire, not the one block walk to seedy Santa Monica Blvd. As I observed evidence of tranquility, I pointed them out to Kim: the singing of birds, the playing of children and the smiling, strolling pedestrians (one of them walking a male Miniature Schnauzer!), not constantly checking to see if a bad guy is coming up quickly from behind. This time we made it all the way up to Wilshire Blvd., the glitzy southern edge of Brentwood. Here the tall office buildings and shops are decidedly upscale, and the pedestrians showing correspondingly less evidence of whatever it is that prosperous white people don't like. Wilshire is a busy urban thoroughfare (it's never going to have any of the appealing funky values of Ocean Beach), but it seemed like there might be some community to be had here after all. The coffee shop was a Seattle's Best, which meant, of course, that it was not a Starbuck's.
Everything worked out and we spent the night at Evan and Corynna's place. The funniest thing Corynna said tonight was, "Why have cake if you can't eat it?"
Kim and I slept on a futon in Corynna and Evan's computer room. I assumed I'd be having nightmares tonight about indoor storage, but for some reason I didn't. And so went the first day of my life as a genuine (authentically homeless) Angeleno.
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