by Tess Lynch
All I could think about was moving to Los Angeles, which I’d left with my parents shortly after my high school graduation (leaving fingernail marks on every graspable object on the way to the car); they’d moved to Connecticut, so my visits to L.A. to see my friends were always weird and brief, with lots of sleepovers at any acquaintance’s house so I didn’t outstay my welcome anywhere. I missed it BAD. My friend Allan, who had graduated the year before me, was my accomplice in spending all available time (time that was supposed to be spent doing papers, straight chillin’, or being nostalgic for college, I suppose) apartment-hunting for the cross-country move in June.
Living here would have been a way better call.
I lived off-campus for a year in a really cute but intrinsically dumpy apartment in Providence — I once heard a friend refer to our shared landlord as a “slumlord” because she, if I remember correctly, advised my friend that rats and roaches were “a part of life” – but I loved it.
The bathroom was in the hall, which provided a lot of fodder for locked-out-in-a-towel hilarity; the kitchen was falling apart; bits of plaster ended up in bed with you after falling, like snow, during the night. This is just how your first apartment should be. You love it anyway. It’s like your first child who always winds up in jail but never forgets Mother’s Day.
Personification of first apartment (left)
Personification of Archstone Studio City apartment. ‘Cept he’d drive a really nice car.
So, anyway, I’m not above falling in love with a dumpy apartment.
L.A. has a different thing going on, though, than New England’s dumpdom: everything’s new, so the dilapidated one-bedroom you can find and totally crush on is charmless. Allan’s reporting, with pictures and summaries of his findings, was not encouraging. Every economical one-person pad was really icky. Carpets with lingering stains, missing holes where dishwashers once were. We started to become connoisseurs of apartments, and it was at that point that Allan found Archstone.
I can’t let this vague metaphor go.
When I went to see it with my folks after graduation, we walked into the snazzy lobby and saw this phenomenal model apartment. You could walk to Ralph’s, you could walk to Starbucks, you were in the valley but it was okay because there was a POOL and CENTRAL AIR and you could wash the valley smog off your clothes in your very own in-unit washer-dryer.
It didn’t seem like Hannibal Lecter, it seemed like a mammoth wet dream involving Jude Law covered in diamonds and offering to launder your towels while you sat in pajamas on your sweet-ass balcony sipping mojitos made in your giant kitchen.
My mom and dad loved the 24-hour security (creepy music starts to play so you know that I am foreshadowing here) and the covered garage (dun-dun-dun-DUNNNNN), and we all played the fun “What will life be like when you are living above your means in this giant complex?” game for awhile, before they flew home and I began my lease.
Everything went fine for quite some time. A couple of months, in fact, passed totally uneventfully. I got locked out when I was hungover, and they rushed to my aid on a Sunday. My cat pissed on my pillow, but I can’t blame Archstone for that.
And yet meanwhile, people were saying things on a website I was only to discover later; things about:
Thefts, attacks, drug deals, shootings and even rapes. There were also a couple of suicides during my time here too. I do not feel safe here.
A week after moving in the former security guard killed himself in our laundry room!
Great security. Talked to other residents who told us the place was nicknamed suicide colony due to many incidents on the property.
Ooh, you can lease online. Goody.
My first indication that something was amiss was when a dude asked me in the elevator if I could supply him with some weed.
I had made a friend. A friend who would not go away.
Then, a few weeks later, a guy (let’s call him Dave, I don’t want to be sued) who lived across the way befriended me and I told him about my new frequent visitor.
“Be careful,” he advised ominously, before disappearing downstairs to use the jacuzzi.
“Whateverrrr,” I thought, but started deadbolting my door.
In February, I was relaxing with a carton of Camels on my balcony when a strangely decorated man (tattoos (on his face?), funky beard, crazy-eye) called down to me from the floor above, which was outdoors and gave a clear view of my delicious cigarettes.
“Hey, can I bum a smoke?” he asked, and I’m such a dumbass that I said, “Of course, come on down.”
Smoke these, woman!
I didn’t expect to be inviting him in, so I brought a cigarette to the door. He waltzed inside and straight out to my balcony, where he made himself comfy and lit the cig off his finger-flame (I jest…perhaps).
I freaked out, so I listened to him with all the politeness of a pale, indoorsy child facing a herd of wild beasts.
“Oh, yeah, I used to live here,” he said, which was weird, because I’d assumed he DID live there. “Sure, used to live here with a woman, she lived right across the way.” Weighty pause. “Now I live in my boat. But I’m here a lot, just sort of crashing on floors. I miss it here. I loved it.”
I asked him why he left, and the dark clouds descended over the pool and started to rain kittens and vampire bats.
At this moment, my friend Dave came out on his balcony, saw me sitting with the mayor of creepytown, and disappeared back into his apartment, drawing the blinds. I could almost hear him bolt his door. The guy on my balcony went on for some time about his boat, and then exited.
Dave met me by the elevators later that day. “Hey, I saw you with that guy,” he said. I nodded. “That guy killed a girl,” he said, in minor keys. “He killed her, and they couldn’t prove it, but we all think he did. I mean we know he did. HE DID.”
“AHH!” I said.
“He’s going to come back to see you. Don’t let him in. Call the police if he comes back.”
“AHHH!” I said. I went downstairs and told security what had happened, and they pretty much freaked out and told me to call the cops if I saw him again.
Which I did, less than a week later, bearing gifts (or maybe a tightly rolled sleeping bag so he could live on my floor before murdering me in my sleep); I had to pad slowly away from the door in my socks, grasping madly for the portable phone to call the police (which I did, and they chased him off the property; however, I understand he stood across the street, watching the apartment menacingly for an hour or so, which is what villains do anyway so not at all surprising).
That was the last of him, unless those “suicides” the reviewers talk about were actually murdercides.
“Four Women” – Nina Simone (mp3)
“Mississippi Goddam” – Nina Simone (mp3)
“I Put a Spell on You” – Nina Simone (mp3)
The next incident was no less terrifying, in its way.
My boyfriend parked his car in someone else’s spot while he unloaded groceries, which everyone knows was maybe the wrong decision, but didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.
By the time he got into the garage to move it five minutes later, there was a dude pulling off his hood ornament and throwing trash onto the hood of the car. Peter apologized and no fisticuffs were had; we assumed the incident was over.
The next morning we walked down to his car, presumably to drive it somewhere, and there it was: two distinct marks of baby batter. That’s right: even if you think you wouldn’t recognize jizz for what it izz, you will when it’s decorating your ancient Mercedes.
It was a sublime act of revenge, so chapeaux, gentlemen. At the same time, so cruel and foul.
Hey betch, let’s make it on that car. Twice.
Please excuse/the blues we splooged/on your ’83 Diesel/we knew it was evil.
The final straw, for me, was in March.
The splooge had dried, no murderers were coming by for smoky treats, no men treating me like their own Nancy Botwin.
Everything was eerily calm, and because I now know that life is exactly like a horror movie, this should have kept me on the edge of my seat. I suspected nothing, though, as I naively hummed and opened up the door to my newish Volkswagen and got in; nothing, that is, until the canvas roof of my convertible breathed a huge sigh, and I realized it had been slashed with a razor.
Its cotton batting innards spilled into my car and I screamed, at first with terror and then anger that they had not at least stolen my radio so I could get a new radio from insurance, maybe even a better radio.
Escaping with your life = happy inflatable jumpy party toy.
Some dude in the garage heard my shriek and came over, smug. “Oh, so it happened to you, too,” he chuckled. “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.”
He explained that he’d had three new roofs on his BMW since he’d moved in (why didn’t he move? I moved after one!), and was battling with the leasing department to get security cameras. He’d only lived there a year. I moved in May, and Allan was out by June.
Tess Lynch likes mayonnaise, hates murder. She is the contributing editor to This Recording. She now lives in Los Angeles, thank God.
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Taking the 3 a.m. train home.
Watching the neighbors get it on.
We have some latent anger, but hey, we’re Virgos.