Friday, July 20, 2012

News crews by my apartment reporting on The Dark Knight Rises shooting. I live across from Warner Bros.

I took this photo of an E! news crew that was shooting a segment about the awful shooting during The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. Behind them is a Channel 4 News van, one of the many sure to come for the next few days.

I live directly across the street from Warner Bros. Right now, a giant building-sized Dark Knight Rises poster is what looks into my bedroom window. So sad and senseless. These poor people just wanted to see a movie.

Shannon and I went to the first part of the triple feature last night. He hadn't seen "Batman Begins" except for the first 30 mins when I gave him a preview of it before we saw The Dark Knight in theaters when they had an encore showing before the Oscars. He loved The Dark Knight, so he was game when I saw that it was going to be playing the Arclight in Hollywood, the same theater where we'd seen TDK. I bought the tickets a couple of months ago, and at that time the theater was already three-quarters full. At the Arclight, you can buy and choose your seats ahead of time. Of course, Shannon loved Batman Begins as well.

Even more fun, was was that the theater was full of people who were there for the entire triple feature. There was an atmosphere of excitement, people in costumes, dads taking their kids, who you know had probably begged to be able to go and stay up late. One kid, who looked about 12, had a Batman cape on while others wore their excitement in their eyes at the concession counter. Adults, who were fans of the films packed the theaters, some in retro joker costumes and one girl wore a Bane mask. There were lots of Batman and Joker T-shirts. All were so excited to see the movie that they've been waiting to see since the credits rolled for The Dark Knight.

It would have been the same scene in Colorado. The same excitement, giddiness, and the cheers when the theater went dark. Then, the stillness of a rapt audience as the first frame of the most anticipated film of the year illuminated the screen. The feeling that they'd rather be nowhere else than where they were at this moment, ready to be taken into Gotham, and be entertained and thrilled. Many had probably Tweeted their excitement before the film started. I know my friends did. They came to watch a superhero pull himself from the depths of despair to triumph over evil. And, in experiencing that struggle, perhaps be encouraged along in their own journeys.

But, it was not to be.

Wishing strength, comfort and solace to all the families who lost loved ones and those who were injured. Stay strong, hang in there. Persevere and survive. We are all holding you up, even though you can't feel our hands. We are beside you, even though you can't feel our shoulders against yours, and we're embracing you, even though you can't feel our arms. We are with you, as you pull yourselves from the depths of despair, and triumph over evil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I'm at Starbucks again at an ungodly hour for me, getting here at 7:15 AM. "What the fuck," you ask? Truth is, I haven't slept all night, because once again, my sleep patterns got messed up due to my lack of a regular schedule. So, instead of lying awake, staring at my ceiling, I got up, cleaned up, then came here. I'm surprised at how busy it is at this early hour on a Saturday morning. I actually had to stand in line longer than I ever have during normal hours. But, tables were abundant. I'm sure my body will rebel later today, but I'm going to hold it off as long as possible.


I've also had a restless mind the last few days, and nights filled with weird dreams that have me waking up in a sweat. I continue to work on my latest collage, an abstract one which is a new undertaking for me. One that Oliver likes to plop himself right in the middle of while I'm working on it.

Speaking of Oliver, I have an update on Oliver's former owner. For those of you who don't know Oliver's rescue story, go here. It will make this part that much more entertaining. A couple of months ago, she told me that she had found a new apartment in Los Feliz for $2300 a month. I don't want to ask how she can afford it, but apparently she runs a "sugar daddy match making service" (I'll leave what that is up to your imagination). I'll put good money up that it's a tax-free *cough* escort enterprise. And no, I'm not going to provide a link to it.

Since I'd instigated an "intervention" and helped her get her apartment back from squalor to livable conditions back in 2008, save for a few times that she showed me how she'd decorated it right after the clean up, I'd not seen her apartment. I'm on the first floor, and she was on the second, so there was really no reason for me to go by the apartment to try to get a discreet peek. Our building is what some clever neighbors have dubbed it, a "square horse shoe" with a pool in the middle. Most of our living rooms face the pool, while the bedrooms face the street.

I won't lie. I had hope. I was optimistic. I knew, because of her own poor hygiene, that it wasn't going to be spotless, but maybe she'd kept it livable since my intervention almost four years ago. When I'd spoken to her and learned of her move, she told me that she was going to clean before the movers got there. And, I'd see her carrying some bags of trash out and various small items that she didn't want anymore, like a huge red crushed-velvet lampshade with ball tassels that resembled a pimp hat, broken chairs, and soiled posters. Then came the day when she told me that she couldn't get a drawer open in one of her dressers.

I'd found my in.

I offered to help, and when she let me inside, the sweet, sour, urine-tinted, rancid smell hit me first, then the sight of the heaps of junk and trash. It looked like the Big Bang, not filled with matter, but furniture, broken frames, chairs and glass, clothes, books, pills, papers, dishes, hangers, filth, decomposing food, trash, trash and more trash, had occurred inside her apartment. The kitchen was a black hole, so filled with junk that it was completely void of light. Spiderwebs sagging under the weight of years of dust clung to the walls and ceiling, and a foot-wide corridor between a wall and the junk was full of new spiderwebs, residents hanging in the middle, confident they'd remain undisturbed. I was shocked. Why I was shocked, I don't know. What the fuck was I expecting?

"It's this one," she said, pointing to the chest of drawers, oblivious to my shock. I sighed, lifted my knee up to my waist and took a heaping step over the first pile of junk. Then another, and another. I knelt before the chest, first checking for any spiders, and by using a wire hanger, was able to move the object which was blocking the drawer and wrench it open. Inside of the drawer was more junk. She told me that she wasn't sure she was going to keep the piece and asked me if I wanted it. I thanked her for the kind offer, but declined.

When I got back to my apartment, I took my shoes off outside, went inside and washed up to my elbows, then back outside to spray my shoes with Lysol. I went straight to Oliver, sunk my fingers inside his thick mane and scratched his neck. As he leaned into it and purred, I said, "I know I've told you this before, but you dodged a bullet, dude." I then hugged him.

When her moving day came, the neighbors took pictures of her stained vintage furniture coming out of the apartment, carried by some unfortunate day laborers. I wasn't there for the move. For the next couple of weeks, she took some more things outside and set them by the trash bin. I can't even imagine what they must have thought upon walking into her apartment. No, goosestepping into her apartment to get over the mounds of trash.

For a few weeks after that, I'd see her lethargically trudging up to her apartment and bringing down bags of items, or more broken, soiled things. Items that came into her possession fine and once put through her destruction mill, left ruined. This was one of them, a poster that reads, "Dreams are the touchstones of our character." I saw it when I was pulling out of my parking spot and stopped to take this photo. As I looked at it, discarded and ruined,  plexiglass soiled with an ancient, crusted food spill that she never bothered to clean off,  I felt anger swirl in my stomach.The stain reminded me of seeing Oliver so sick before I insisted that we take him to the emergency vet, as her whole apartment was filled with spots where he'd thrown up. For all I know, that's exactly what is on that picture. The quote on the poster deepened that anger, as it's how she sees herself, a delicate little coquette who wouldn't harm a fly. But, then I realized that it's wasted anger, as she clearly suffers from mental illness. To her credit, when she realized Oliver was ill, she did ask me to look at him. But to her discredit, he became that ill because of her neglect in letting him chew and swallow foam from her flip flops.

After she turned the apartment over to the landlord, it became the tourist attraction of the building. Everyone had heard about her living conditions, and wandered in to gape at the mess that was left behind. I took this picture of the sink, which clearly hadn't been cleaned in the four years since 2008. What you can't see in this picture, are the dead bug carcasses encased in the inch-thick filth. The ring around the sink is where the water stood stagnant for years. She damaged everything so badly that the landlord had to replace the toilet, refrigerator, bedroom closet sliding glass doors, linoleum in the bathroom, carpet in the entire apartment, and re-glaze the tub and sink. The sliding mirrored doors broke outward because she had so much junk stuffed into her closet, that it finally forced them off their bottom rails and broke the glass. I saw it in person, the buckled doors with cracked mirrors, and huge shards of broken mirror, surrounded by splinters, shattered all over the floor, left exactly where it fell for years. She told me upon her last few weeks there, that "the earthquake had done it." I just looked at her and said, "I see." Since she'd been there, we'd only had one earthquake that was a decent shaker, but it did no damage. In order to force sliding doors off their tracks, it would have had to be as big and shallow as the Northridge quake, with an epicenter right under our building. The refrigerator had to be replaced because it was infested with mold that was encrusted with dead ants and bugs, reminiscent of the scene from "Aliens" when the marines discover the room full of dead colonists encased in alien goo. My next door neighbor, who was nice enough to pitch in for day one of cleaning back in 2008,  had done an excellent job in cleaning it out, and both the freezer and refrigerator had only consisted of thousands of dead ants, not any mold. This means that since starting with literally, a clean plate in 2008, she'd let it get that bad.

This is the kitchen after she "cleaned."
According to the landlord's brother, she'd also left a pile of used maxi-pads in her bedroom, (something she'd done as well in 2008) and among everything, had left her driver's license behind. I have to wonder how someone like this even functions minimally in society, and it makes me look at everyone differently. How many hoarders are among us, living in filth? In 2008, on a phone call during the Oliver ordeal, I'd explained her dire living conditions to her mother who groaned and said unsurprised, "Her last apartment was the same way."

I think it's safe to say she didn't get her security deposit back.

Now, here's where things are going to get interesting in her new place. I swear I can't make this shit up. She moved into an "exclusive Spanish Courtyard Hacienda, recently designated a Cultural Historic Landmark." Please keep the above pictures in mind which trust me, are the least of the filth, and what I just wrote when you read this, from their website. For you architecture and history lovers, you may want to get a tissue beforehand. I decided not to include the name of the building on my website. However, there's enough information here that if you really wanted to find it on the web, you will. If you plan to look it up and see the beauty of these historical gems, I suggest two tissues.

"...architectural masterpiece constructed in 1928 by a pair of the period's most prominent architects.  Located on the Eastern edge of Hollywood, adjacent to Los Feliz, the property is in close proximity to Griffith Park and the Barnsdall Art Park and within walking distance to Los Feliz Village. In a neighborhood with examples of apartment properties from throughout the 20th century, this property stands out as a beautifully restored historical treasure. Designed by Arthur B. and Nina W. Zwebell, the [building] is known as a pioneer of the courtyard style architecture that has become so pervasive in Los Angeles building."

Some of the amenities are original imported Spanish tiles, original restored hardwood floors, original light fixtures and unique period architectural details . And the cherry on the cake, this is the building's statement on it's website, ""the [building] Tenets for Tenants…or in other words, you would want to live in a place where your neighbors follow these principles which include, 'Keep your common areas clean…regardless of whether people can see them or not.'"

This gorgeous apartment is destined for ruin. However, there is an upside. The building doesn't allow pets.

Monday, July 02, 2012

I've been so sad hearing about the wildfires in Colorado. Please pray for the people in Colorado who are suffering under their wrath. From what I understand, this is the worst fire disaster in the state's history. I've been thinking so much about that beautiful state and can't even begin to imagine the destruction. As a kid, we spent a lot of time in Colorado, whether it was skiing in winter or hiking, exploring, climbing huge boulders, horseback riding and other adventure seeking at day camp in Estes Park in the summers. Such an incredible part of the country, with wild rugged beauty and towering, jagged peaks. And, a mountain population that was generous enough to let us tourists roam the mountains they are brave enough to call home 24 hours a day. I remember learning about the wildlife, and seeing how alive everything was around us as we hiked through sky high pines, and picking up pine cones as large as my head. Or, riding a horse with a wall of rock on one side and a thundering, freight train of a waterfall at least ten stories high on the other. And, the mixed feeling of awe, terror and wonder that it evokes. There is so much wildlife there and I fear for their fates. Colorado is a place that can quickly remind us where we are on the pecking order. If you want to contribute, I came across this Colorado-based blog that lists several ways you can help.

My mom and Jack were lucky enough to maintain their power after that weird, freaky super dericho storm passed through their city. Several people that I know in Baltimore are suffering in the heat without power and dealing with damage like this. They are in Bolton Hill, and it sounds like this time they got a pass.When I lived in the neighborhood, Hurricane Isabel wasn't as kind to me, knocking a tree on my car. She was sneaky, only weakening the tree, so the next thunderstorm we had that packed a little wind was the tipping point for it. My neighbor knocked on my door to inform me of the accident. My reaction? I looked at it, acknowledged that there was indeed a tree on my car, then went back to bed. When I got up later, I dealt with it. I took these pictures of my neighborhood in Bolton Hill right after the hurricane.

My sister came into town on Thursday and we had a great time hanging out at Cross Creek in Malibu, then Venice and ended the evening with dinner at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant here. She got a surprise layover here, and it was great to have her in town if even only for a day. She'll be off to Madrid this weekend. Ah, the life of a flight attendant.