black out LA style
Thursday, August 17 2000
Guess what I was fighting with my former girlfriend over this morning? Money. When I announced the happy news that it seemed I had a housemate and that I could begin paying her back the $13,000 I owe her for her contribution to the purchase of the condo, she couldn't believe I was contending that I only owed her $13,000. She specifically recalled a sum of $15,000 and she even had an IOU to prove it.
"But what about that $2000 I gave you when you moved out?" I asked, very pleased with myself that I'd somehow hung on to the receipt. At this point she strayed from simple deduction into the realm of basic emotional begging.
"I put a lot into that condo, a lot more than $15,000!" she cried.
"But I've already paid your mother $1200 and done $2000 worth of work on her website. Most of that $15,000 is for money I have to repay your mother!" I argued. I then went on to point out that she'd taken nearly all the house items, even though by right they belonged to both of us. At this point she threatened to see me in court. I hung up on her a few times and we never did resolve the issue; she had to go off to a fancy photoshoot and she was worried our argument had destroyed her photographic charm.I came home from a lackadaisically workday to find my new housemate John (and emo brother) waiting for me, his Vermont-plated VW Golf piled high with all his worldly possessions. He signed my lease, moved his stuff into his room, and then, lacking a bed, headed off to his sister's for the night. Once he was gone I realized there was no power in my house.
The power had actually been turned off. This wasn't cool at all, I mean, What would my new housemate think of this? I've been so out of it that I didn't even know who my power company was; Kim had told me she'd transferred everything and I'd be getting a bill. At first I thought the power company might be Sempra Energy, my gas company, but the "bill" they'd sent in the mail was just an application for reduced utility rates for the poor, disabled and others who earn less than a fifth of what I do.
Not knowing what else to do, I pedalled feverishly back to work to do some research and make some phone calls. But I wasn't thinking rationally. I had no idea what to type into an Altavista search engine form. So I headed back home and followed the power line from the pole down to my condo and into a meter box. This could have so easily degenerated into a classic Big Fun moment, with me pirating my power and being happily electric-bill-free for the next two years. But the locks they put on street-smart Los Angeles electric meters are rather different from the wimpy ones they use out in Redneckistan. I did, however, find a tag which stated that the authority to disable my juice had come from an entity known as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. This at least gave me something to search for on the internet, so I hurried back to work and found the website whose link I just gave. The guy on the phone (yes, they actually have live humans working there after 7pm) was very helpful and said my power would be back on sometime tomorrow between the hours of 10am and 6pm.
But Jesus, talk about stressful. The moment some new act of responsibility is demanded and I feel like I'm all grown up, I am called upon to do something even more adult. It's like being a butterfly emerging from several onion layers of chrysalises. From my present vantage point, the pattern of my emerging adulthood seems to have progressed in the following fashion:
Note that the advancement in development between stages 2 and 3 happened over the course of only three weeks.
- Before I met Kim, I was basically an aging teenager.
- While I was going out with Kim, I was just a little irresponsible boy.
- Now suddenly I'm a typical adult male in his early 30s.
Tonight I guess I'll be grabbing dinner at some sort of fast food joint and eating it there. Then I'll sleep in my dark dark condo, waking up (as I have been lately) with the rising sun, eventually stumbling into work some time considerably before 8am.
After I had everything all settled with my dark and empty house, I headed out to the Taco Plus to get buy myself the luxury of a dinner cooked by someone else. As I was crossing Rochester, who should arrive in his 1999 VW Golf (with the green Vermont plates) but my new housemate? Every time I see him he has a family member in tow. Tonight not only did he have his emo brother, but his sister as well. It must be one of those happy Italian families people are always making clichés about. Anyway, they were all excited to see the house one last time tonight. But of course I had to break the somewhat embarrassing news that the power had been turned off and wouldn't be back on until tomorrow. "I thought I'd get away with this but I guess I'm busted!" I joked. "Busted! " John replied, adding "we'll see it when it's light." And they drove off.
After my burrito dinner, I sat in my darkened, powerless room sipping a lemon vodkatea. It felt a little like rock bottom in a way, though I knew it was just a slight jag in the curve of success.
I found myself thinking about the big opportunity being wasted by the shut-in members of the Big Brother cast. Here they are, with uncensored cameras on them 24 hours a day and a huge internet viewership, and all they can think to do with it is obsess about cuddling, the cameras, who voted for whom on the subject of banishment, and who is and who is not going to be banished. Not a single one of them has any sort of meaningful political or social agenda. They apparently have no views on issues of the day. Just think of the impact one of them could have if he or she set aside a half hour each day to address the internet audience with a message that wasn't greedy and completely self-obsessed. If one of them, for example, detailed precisely what is wrong with the war on drugs, how we're building prison after prison and incarcerating more and more people and yet the number of people smoking pot and snorting stimulants continues to increase as the price of these things decrease, maybe eventually the main stream media would find itself forced to critically question politicians about these things. Over Pacifica Radio at lunch today I heard a very good speech given on this subject by Maxine Waters. She was addressing the "Shadow Convention" here in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Maxine Water's coverage in the mainstream press seems to be restricted to whether or not she thinks AIDS was invented by malevolent government doctors to kill black people.
What are your views on American Drug policy?.
What would you do if you where locked in the Big Brother House?.
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