UNITED STATES—I have it easy now as this memoir progresses: the diary picks up, following the finish of my screenplay. “The Persecuted” is on its way to my screenwriter friend who is a big shot now and fame and fortune is about to roll my way. January 30, 1990 makes mention of a Mr. Stokely Reed, a record producer, who liked the looks of the neighborhood and the house, and as the manager of the house with so many shifting lives, Mr. Reed had the look of a blue-chip tenant who needed to have his eyes examined.
Or maybe I needed the eye exam: but he wore an expensive leather jacket and was well spoken. He gave me a non-refundable deposit and this kept the place almost full, after Jacinto, his wife and baby parted for larger quarters and tilted tenant demographics slightly away from the peaceful and reliable.
That was January 30, but without even going ahead in the diary, I know it all went south soon, and Mr. Reed did not like the neighborhood or the house. I forget what it was exactly that brought him down: garnished wages, being behind on alimony. At Estrella Avenue I learned that garnish wasn’t always something that kids picked off the plate.
One tenant left, a new one came. One of them had been in a TV show about a black basketball team and a white coach. He was now working with the census bureau and gave me a great tip for auditioning: do some pushups before you go in. Relax. On January 31, 1990, Nat was not relaxed. “In the wee small hours in the bedroom above mine I heard some strange mute sounds. A short time later Nat Holloway came knocking at my door. Upstairs he showed me the problem, a mouse no bigger than a thumb, had gotten into his room.
The lamp on the floor, the TV set on the bed, newspapers and crap were all thrown on the floor to combat the little rodent which terrified Nat. ‘It’s my only phobia. Mice,’ he said.”
It was entertaining, better than television, even if it wasn’t Mr. Reed’s cup of tea. It sure took me out of my own Dostoevskian obsession with making a killing on a screenplay, likewise my newfound theater activity, every Tuesday night.
Nothing happened on February 1 or I must have been lazy or lazy and tired: no jotting appears in my diary.
Friday, February 2 starts with a doozy, “The day after the crime—they robbed John, the security guard’s room. Now he has fixed in his mind the description of the assailants. ‘I’m not afraid of them. But what they could do.’ This afternoon a policeman came and took fingerprints from John’s room.”
That Friday we made up for Tuesday’s no show of our leader at the Spanish theater group (his ride had been in a fender-bender, no injuries). Rafael was a trooper, and we had rehearsal at his apartment on Howard Way in Hollywood. “Wife and son stayed in the bedroom watching TV. Big poster in kid’s room for the Cure ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’”
Some of our fledgling theater group were down about work and studies, and especially working without papers. “The show must go on,” is my note. This show was a Chespirito-like sketch in which I played drunk (Chaborro), a name formed by switching the letter for drunk in Spanish. A feisty young woman Susana and a broom were my nemesis. I learned to walk like a drunk watching the neighborhood drunk stagger on sealegs across the intersection of Estrella, stop cold and stagger again.
I watched raptly from the porch while defending it from the cholitos. Better than TV.
To be continued…
Humorist Grady Miller is author of the humor collection, “Late Bloomer,” available on Amazon. Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.