I feel like “Moving Horror Stories” are to “Big City” as “twerking” is to Miley Cyrus. It doesn’t necessarily always happen, but it makes for a great tale later on. Before I relocated to Los Angeles, I had already lived in two “hub cities;” New York and Philadelphia. Therefore, I foolishly expected to be immune from the “L.A. Story.” There is a certain level of street smart acquired when inhabiting a big city, and I had my fair share of drama in New York City. To my surprise, I was being completely naïve because shit did go down. We weren’t swindled out of hundreds of dollars by a greedy landlord; nor were we forced to live in an illegal basement “apartment” (both of those were actual stories retold to me).
My first misstep was assuming my roommate and I would be able to secure a lease in six days. I arrived in Los Angeles on May 25th (a holiday weekend) and figured we would find something by May 31st. Nope. May 30, 2013 was spent on Airbnb looking for some semblance of temporary housing so we had a roof over our head. I was staying in a hotel in Culver City and my roommate was in a sublet in Long Beach; we needed to act quick. My roommate found a shared bedroom in a house (for $1,650) that we booked in desperation. I decided to ignore the fact that I paid $1,650 a month to live in a two-bedroom apartment in Queens, because it just wasn’t time to be picky. The listing looked fantastic: although we would have to share a bedroom with two single beds (and one bathroom with however many other guests came), it had “sweeping views of Downtown Los Angeles.”
WHY THIS WAS A BAD DECISION
1) THE LOCATION
Have you guys heard of Lincoln Heights? Even native Angelenos aren’t the first to speak up about it. Lincoln Heights is a small neighborhood of Los Angeles just east of Dodger Stadium. It’s so fucking weird that no one actually knows where its western border is. It is an area in which only 5.5% of residents 25 or older have received a 4-year degree [x]. Also it’s fucking dangerous. There was even an ABC Family TV show called Lincoln Heights, in which the main character moved his family back to his old neighborhood and they feared for their lives. Lincoln Heights has one of the highest crime rates in the city, so there should be no surprise that my roommate and I liked to play “Gunshot or Fireworks” while we were falling asleep. I did catch them on SnapChat once, but I failed to catch it on Vine ever (click here because Vine doesn’t embed on WordPress). Also, this place was far… I worked at Beverly Center when I was staying at the sublet, and it would sometimes take me 90 minutes to get home.
Please also see this Vine, during which stray cats in heat provide a soundtrack.
2) THE LANDLADY
She was a lunatic. Her favorite pastime was plopping her Bob Marley earbuds in and doing chores, so you could not get her attention ever. My roommate and I are fairly convinced she was a drug dealer. She once told my roommate that she “had to go to court,” and on a separate occasion a long-haired, sweaty man breathing heavily asked us if our she was home. At one point during our stay, two girls moved in. The girls were around our ages and hated the living situation even more than we did, so they hit the pavement looking for something else. The landlady woke them up one morning and told them to “pack their things and leave if they wanted even a partial refund.” This woman was very passive-aggressive. Instead of verbally communicating to us that there were “too many crumbs in the kitchen,” she posted a list of rules (which was printed on stationery emblazoned with the Virgin Mary, I fucking kid you not). She also once took my roommate’s leftover salad out of the garbage to feed it to feral cats. I have a picture:
3) THE LACK OF FUN
We couldn’t go out anywhere. Because of how dangerous the neighborhood became at night, we were forced to either drive a ways to do anything fun; or stay in our bedroom. On the night before Gay Pride 2013, my roomie and I called a cab to drive us to Silver Lake so we could party it up at Akbar. We waited for an hour and nothing showed up. When we called the taxi company to check up, we were told they “didn’t send taxis to that part of town.” Lincoln Heights was even too dangerous for a cab to pick us up. This was what we ended up doing:
4) THE PEOPLE
Not only were the denizens of Lincoln Heights colorful characters (my roommate and I once watched a group of fools with headlamps picking through the garbage the night before collection), but some real weirdos came through the “Bed and Breakfast” throughout that month. One older dude yelled at us for being too loud on the balcony at 8pm because “some people had to get up early.” The same man who used to bang pots and pans together at 6:00am. I guess he had to be up to make our lives a living hell? There were a lot of single women that came through, and they were odd. I chalked it up to the fact that we were just living in a freakshow, until one night we found out the truth.
5) THE HALFWAY HOUSE
We were living in a halfway house. Specifically, a “sober living facility for women transitioning back into the real world.” While cooking dinner one night, my roommate and I browsed through the books in the dining room (with beers in our hands, naturally). We noticed a pattern fairly quickly: How to Deal With Overeating; Overcoming Alcoholism (Volumes I AND II); and a variety of psychology textbooks dealing with addiction. I fell down and could not stop laughing. After everything we’d been through: not being able to walk more than “down the block” after 5pm; having to fearfully lock our bedroom door because Earbuds McGee was throwing boxes from the attic; having friends throw rocks at our window because they couldn’t knock… we were in a halfway house.
June 2013 was an interesting experience, to say the least. Thankfully, we found a lease starting the first of July and the building allowed us to move our things in before. I did return to Lincoln Heights one more time this past August to retrieve a package. The landlady was up to her old tricks, cleaning the bathroom with her Bob Marley earbuds. Twenty minutes elapsed before she heard me knocking on the door. When the exchanged happened (which seemed really natural for her… maybe she is a drug dealer), this woman told me that had I not come back, she would have opened the package and used the contents for herself. The package was a set of hangers. Also opening other people’s mail is illegal.