UNITED STATES—The house on 1514 Manhattan Place was emptying out, prelude to its new career as a sober living facility. As part of the Wylie team, we already had the wife of the handyman Lorenzo staying in the long windowless room that opened onto the cathedral ceilinged living room.
After the meek postman, the next tenant out was the relative of the novelist and chronicler of ghetto life, Donald Goines, who had the room in back, with its own entrance. She got into arrears, and we had a final meeting in the Stanley R. Mosk courthouse after the clerk had rubber stamped her eviction. All dressed up–she was a cosmetologist–she came down the worn escalator and went after Jim Wylie with her handbag.
Afterward, she did something common among the evicted, foretelling of the house’s doom, “There’s one thing I want to tell you. That house is going to hell in a handbasket!”
She was apologetic with me, “Mr. Miller, I have no animosity toward you. That was directed at the owner.” Wylie, being the respectful person he was, saved his laughter till after Ms. Goines exited. And then I wasn’t sure if being hit by the handbag or her comment to me caused more laughter.
At my place on 1832 Manhattan Place, where I lived alone with six other people, there were changes too. The angle was to sell that house’s proximity to Korea Town, though technically it was closer to Sugar Hill, the neighborhood of big turn-of-century houses where many black celebrities like the Mills Brothers came to reside in the post-war.
In the attic grotto vacated by the musician, his wife and baby, were now living the sister of a friend from Nadeau Dr.–Rita and her friend Jen. Rita was a pioneer in shaved head and nose ring. I remember we had lots of freaky sci-fi and speculative conversations there when the girls got home from clubbing in Hollywood.
The wrestler-screenwriter still tapped away at screenplays on the other side of our common door. I’m sure he shared something of my own screenwriting zeal as rent was past due. The actor Daniel went from a motor bike to a sports car. Ahmet, our Turkish friend, berated him for his extravagance. Daniel countered, “For a few dollars more I could get my fantasy. Why not have the fantasy?”
Moorehead was gone but not forgetten–that’s what happens when you pull a knife on someone. There was John Fosse, the uneasy coalition of USC film and perfectionism. Dee, the social worker, brilliant heart who went to USC film on a dare, still married to Ahmet.
How could I be on edge about any of them, of those who had crashed and burned or simply moved on, at Estrella, the other Manhattan Place house, or Kenwood. There we had Lorna Dunn. She was a plump young woman, beautiful and plump, with the closest thing I have ever seen to a peaches and cream complexion. She painted her own apartment–I say apartment–it was a room and you had to love that.
She was one of those applicants totally on the edge, between a yes and no from me, the manager. From out of state, Texas or Oklahoma, somewhere, she arrived with a newborn daughter and no means of support. She turned out OK. She decided to marry one of the gardeners who worked for Wylie to arrange his papers, and she needed help for herself and the baby.
All these people were a reflection of my fondness for dreamers, artists and loose screws. In some way they were all reflections of me. In just a few weeks, I would leave them all. They would sink or swim on their own.
I was moving on, from from their vicissitudes.