Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Apartment Dance or The Alarming State of Community

 My home is up a flight of stairs to an old 20's apartment tucked in the back of a four plex in the heart of Los Angeles. I live in what is called a Beverly Hills adjacent. Which means I'm not really in Beverly Hills but I'm so close you can smell the botox. LOL

 I have lived in the same apartment for 21 years. I moved in October of 1989 shortly after getting married. When my husband and I separated he moved to The Valley and I kept the apartment. I am the only original tenant still living here today.
 The building was purchased by a woman who had cancer. She was a nurse at U.C. L. A. and she bought the building for her four children. An apartment for each one them. She wanted to make sure her children always had a place to live. Her daughter was the last family member to live here. After winning a big law suit she sold the building and moved to Las Vegas.
Well she has given me a home for 20 years. I have seen many come and go in that time and each one passing through has made a contribution to my life. Sometimes a friend and sometimes a lesson in patience but each time someone who has taught me something of value.
I had a friend come to visit shortly after I moved in. He could not believe what he was seeing when he got here because he had been a close friend to the husband of the daughter who lived in my apartment. He said he would think of me every time he came to visit.He knew I would love all of the little 20's details. We both agreed I was destined to live here.
All of the old world charm has been kept pretty much intact. The vintage features have been chipped away at a bit. The new owner took out the flag stone walk way, which broke my heart, but had to be done for insurance purposes.

They " paved  paradise and put up a parking lot" when the backyard turned into a building with three more apartments and a garage. It was explained to me that grass and trees although lovely were not a good source of income. It took a long time to get over the loss and had thoughts of moving many times but could never say good bye to this place where I feel so at home.
The best friend I have had here was a 100 year old Chinese Elm that completely cover my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen window.We saw families of possums living in the tree every year. Birds were abundant. My cats would climb the tree and enter the apartment from the bedroom window. I felt like I lived in a tree house.

 The bathroom has pale yellow and green tile. A bathtub and a stall shower with two windows that looked out into the inside of my beautiful friend ,the Chinese Elm. She was thick and lush but from the tub you could see the moon in the sky while you soaked away the cares of the day.

One Christmas we got stuck here due to weather conditions and ended up spending Christmas at home. I went back home to my Mother's house every year for Christmas. It made me sad to not be waking up with Mom in the kitchen making coffee but as I have said before every loss has a gift.

When I woke up early in the morning looked out the window, the tree with bare branches was covered with morning doves. Precious little couples ,two by two on the branches. So many birds it looked like it had feathers for leaves. I woke my husband, not a morning person, and he was just as taken by the sweetness of this moment as I. We held eat other and watched the snuggling couples on the branches for quite some time. Nature had sent the balm for my disappointment and soon I was in the kitchen making coffee preparing to celebrate.
We have a cat door at the bottom of the back stairs and over the years the possums have figured this out. Many of the other animals in the neighborhood have found the dry food dish on the kitchen floor. City animals find a way to get what they need.

My dining room at the time was a sewing room. A place I went to create when I was still working as a costume designer. Under a bench in my room were little scraps of fake fur I had rescued from the rubbish when I was working on "Fivel Goes West" at the Universal Studios Tour.

I noticed a scrap of fur that I had never seen before. I reached down to get a closer look and it hissed. I screamed. It was a baby possum. My husband came running in to see what all the commotion was about. The little baby way more frighten than I ran to a collection of over sized Christmas  nutcrackers standing on the living room floor and stood up at attention next to them trying to blend in . This little soldier was so darling. Where was the camera? Who knew?! Now how do we get him safely out.

 Possums have long claws and big teeth even when they are babies. My husband put on a leather jacket and oven mitts. His humanitarian armour in place he picked up the little guy and put him back outside.

Calm had been restored, regrets that we could not find the camera gotten over and I went back to sewing. I reached again to get the fake fur and he was back! How did he get in? I had closed the cat door and locked it causing the resident cats to become discussed and retreat to the closet. My husband came back and repeated the oven mitt routine grumbling about how the hell did it get back in house.

The baby possum became a member of the family and ate in the kitchen for most of the winter. The cats never seemed to mind. I did how ever notice that sometimes he was light brown and sometimes he looked much cleaner, a light buff color. I wondered how he would get so dirty and then clean up. I was not well versed on the behavior of possums.

Next door was a large lot with a little craftsman house on it. No one had ever lived in the house while we lived here. We heard the lady had been moved to a rest home and although her children wanted to sell it she would not allow it till her passing. 

One day I saw them moving her things out and was told she had passed away. Shortly after her passing the land was sold and they tore down the little house. A new condo building was being built in place of the single family dwelling that had been there since the 20's. This was so sad. Along with this news came notification that the developer would be taking down the Chinese Elm.

I flipped out! She was real to me. She was a dear friend. She was home to the city woodland creatures. Squirrels, birds, my cats, the possums. At this time there were at least a dozen humming bird nests in the trees. I begged. I tried to find a law to save the tree. I cried. Everyone kept saying how sorry they were but no one was budging an inch.

I have a drama ridden version of this story where I hang on to the tree and they pry me off. It is not true. The truth is I stood in my bathrobe and watched sobbing like a little girl till I could not stand it any more. Some of the workmen laughed at me and some seemed to have remorse.

That night when my husband got home we went outside and stood by the stump that was left in the yard. The cats had followed us down to see what was up. We could not believe what happened next. On the fence dividing the two yards sat two baby possums. A buff colored one and a light brown one. They were looking up in the sky where the tree had been and back at us. All along there had been two. We all seemed to know change had come and we must let go.

In the end the Elm tree wins. They have never been able to dig that stump out. And on the top of the stump is new growth. The possums moved to a tree in the front yard. But no longer come in to eat. So today while I am unnerved by a car alarm going off in the garage of the condo building, I am telling the story of experiencing nature in the city. Man and all his toys may disrupt but will never defeat nature or the Elm tree in my sweet unchoreographed life.


  1. Those little possums played you. Nice tale.

  2. I think you missed your calling. You should be a writer! Lovely story!

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Tom you may be right.

    Dax welcome to my blog. I looked for yours and couldn't find it. Leave me a link.