We love our wonderful, funky, uniquely "L.A." neighborhood. I always tease about living in the armpit of the Hollywood Freeway, which is logistically accurate, but doesn't really give our little neighborhood its due. We're a tiny, lovely little historic 'hood filled with Craftsman bungalows and our very own cul-de-sac, where everybody knows each other and has regular block parties and holiday gatherings. A little Mayberry nestled right in the middle of the barrio. While the crime rate in our little area is very low, the area around us is...less wholesome. Some hookers. Quite a few medical marijuana stores. The occasional police chase. It's all very exciting.
We've also got our share of colorful characters. After all, it is Hollywood, so we're a diverse group - both ethnically and socio-economically. We've got movie producers, we've got writers, we've got movie producers who are writers. We've also got people living hand to mouth off Social Security and welfare. And everybody gets along just fine, which I kind of love.
And so as a salute to our wacky little neighborhood, I will share with you a few of our most colorful residents.
The Fun Family
On the day we moved in, Mom and Dad Fun walked over and introduced themselves and told us that we just had to come over and hang out in their hot tub. I must admit that this hot tub business gave us a somewhat naughty, Ice Storm/Boogie Nights impression of them, which proved to be wrong. They are the nicest, most easy-going family I've ever known. They have three kids and the door is always open. Every time we walk by we're invited in for food or wine. Which is a good thing, because Mom Fun is a professional recipe tester/cook, so the offered food is always excellent. I'll never forget the time she was working for the LA Times researching the best Thanksgiving turkey recipe. She made about 12 turkeys in two weeks, and she was basically begging the neighbors to please take some damned turkey. They are always there in an emergency or if you need a babysitter, and Dad Fun can fix anything! Once, when Jude was about 2, he pooped in their aforementioned hot tub, but instead of getting upset, Dad Fun just scooped it out with his bare hand and had a good laugh. Nice people to have nearby.
Our next door neighbor Natalie is an eccentric old Russian woman, who is the Alice Kravitz of the neighborhood. She's eagle-eyed and eager to point out every transgression anyone makes. Everything is a disaster and a conspiracy theory with Natalie. High drama reigns. She always speaks in a loud, breathless whisper, with a knowing roll of her eyes. "Greeeeettchen! Greeeeeettchen!" she cries as I duck and try to avoid what will almost certainly be a long, confusing story of some egregious behavior or slight by someone in the neighborhood. At least once a week, she comes and knocks at the door, usually during dinner. We have a door bell, but Natalie never uses it, preferring to knock very quietly. "Did you hear that?" "What?" "Did someone knock?" "I didn't hear anything." At which point she actually sticks her face up next to the window and peers in and scares us to death. It's always something - the dogs at the neighbors on the other side of us are barking too loud or a hooker left a used condom in the street (Natalie pronounces hooker with the long oo sound, like hookah) or somebody moved her trash cans.
A couple of weeks ago, a women a few doors down, who I had never met, died. The next day, Natalie showed up with her timid knock. "Greeeeeeetchen. Deed you hear vat happened? She is dead." The knowing eye roll. "Yeah, I heard Natalie. That's sad." "I saw a man come out of dere! He vas a blaaaack man. He got in his car veeeery quick and drove away. Then the police come." "Uh-huh. Well, maybe he's the one who found the body." "Vell, I don't know about that. I call the police TWO times, and they dun't call me back. I tell them about the blaaaaaack man and they dun't vant to hear. Why vould they not call me back?" "Well, I'm sure if they thought her death was suspicious, they would call you, but apparently they don't." "Humph." Natalie actually makes that noise, that humph thing. "Humph, I'm sure IIIII vouldn't know aboot that." And she stalked away, looking furtively from side to side, no doubt looking for the mysterious black man.
But even though she drives me crazy, she's actually a very good neighbor. She recently decided to take it upon herself to save all of the plants on my front porch from certain death, and started popping by every day with a watering pitcher. I have asked her not to, but she just shrugs her put-upon, Russiany shrug and continues to water my plants. And she's done a damned good job - everything's thriving.
Our little neighborhood is an HPOZ or Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. Which means it's a protected neighborhood of old homes. It also means that the Neighborhood Association is on steroids. EVERYTHING has to be approved by the HPOZ board. Which I personally believe is a good thing, and saves people from their own bad taste. However, some people take it a little toooooo seriously. Mr. Know-It-All is a retired gentleman who considers himself an expert on historic LA homes and has crowned himself King of the HPOZ Board. He can tell you everything about every house in the area, the year it was built, the architect, the style. He is also a total bully. The man is a Neighborhood Association Nazi. He sends out email after email to everyone in the neighborhood, filled with judgment and innuendo. He's a fence height freak. He actually goes around the neighborhood and measures everyone's fences. He has caused wars over fence heights, and forced people to tear down over-height fences. He's a terror, and yet...he does know his stuff. If I ever need to ask a question about the history of my house, Know-It-All is my go-to guy.
Thank God for the Organizer Family. They own the largest and most lovely home in the cul-de-sac, which they open up to the neighbors every Fourth of July, New Year's Eve, and for our Annual Fall Block Party. They are the neighbor-gatherers, sending out every Evite, planning every potluck. Mom Organizer fascinates me - not only does she manage to do all this organizing, but she also raises her three children and is the movie producer/mystery author mentioned before. I really need to get this woman to teach me a thing or two about time management.
The Old Guy on the Porch
Every neighborhood has that old guy who always sits in a rocking chair on the porch and calls out to the kids who ride their skateboards by his house. Only in our neighborhood, the old guy is Academy Award-winning actor Martin Landau. This is true. But Marty never tells the kids on the skateboards to go away. He's more likely to invite you up to talk about his long and illustrious career. If you charm him enough, he'll invite you in to hold his Oscar.
So that's the neighborhood. If you're ever in LA, let me know and we can take a walk around the cul-de-sac. Say hi to everybody. It's the neighborly thing to do.
Please be a good neighbor and visit all of Ginny Marie and my fellow Neighborhood spinners! It's not too late to join in. Just link your post on Neighborhood in the Linky below.
Check back on Monday for next week's Spin Cycle topic.
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