UNITED STATES—As 1991 matured from spring to autumn, Ahmet, the Turkish husband of Dee had his second job in Santa Monica, in addition to the car wash. And he needed a lift to the record store. With the Subaru I went into uncharted territory west. Afterward, he insisted on buying me a hot chocolate, thus exposing me to another Turkish tradition of hospitality. He and David, an actor in our house, often went out to the Third Street Promenade on a Saturday night.
I went to lonely cafes and wrote love poems. I remember a favorite escape route from the hood: up the great tree-lined gateway up to the better parts of the City of Angels, Wilton Place, corridor of old houses that has an interesting S curve before reaching Beverly Boulevard. I liked to walk there, I felt safer and luxuriated in the spacious lawns and trees. I never saw any people around Hancock Park. It was dark, quiet and had a life all of its own. So many of the grand houses seemed to have no more inner glow than a kitchen nightlight. Part of these walks, too, was to behold, what was going to be mine with the sale of my screenplay, “The Strawberry Butterfly.”
Also, I would head up to Melrose and walk past Paramount Studios for which I felt a magical connection, just to pass by it in the night. And pass by Lucy’s El Adobe, and see the name of Ruben Salazar, the slain journalist, scratched in the sidewalk in front.
In August, my friend Roy from Tennessee drove out and at Paramount we got to see a taping of a little sitcom centered around a small airport. Years later, after much travel, I figured out that the sitcom named “Wings” had a pretty good run.
One nice thing about having Roy around: he witnessed first hand the arduous nature of being building manager. One of the most tedious things you can tell people is how hard you work, but it’s nice, now and then, when somebody notices the doorbell ringing, the comings and goings, plumbing problems, people leaving deposits. He saw me take one deposit on a room, hands shook, smiles exchanged. Later over the phone, after his return to Tennessee, Roy asked me, “How did that tenant work out?”
“He never came back.”
“People do that?”
They did. It’s the little things I remember. Ahmet got a motorcycle and David helped him practice for the DMV test, so there would be no more rides to Santa Monica.
Stanley Thorpe had a house on Wilton Place, and after all the rental problems of the last two years, he decided to vacate it. Following suit, a month or so later in November Jim got the notion to vacate 1514 Manhattan Place in order to turn it into a “sober living” facility, as he’d done with Estrella Ave. We made files on each of the tenants; it was tedious, but I was getting pretty good at it.
The irony here was that the Manhattan house had turned into a crack house par excellence, permeated by this keen chemical reek and a humid darkness that dwelled behind drawn curtains. I went to turn in the eviction papers at court and the gentleman receiving them said, “That bastard Wylie. What is he up to now?”
Around this time a funny thing happened at the bank, the Korea Town B of A branch, where I went to deposit rent checks to pay for Jim’s massive utility bills on all the properties. As soon as I got there, I saw two medics bring in a stretcher. Inside I saw a Korean man lying back on one of the lobby chairs. Another medic was trying to put a brace around his neck.
“Don’t touch him,” shouted one of the stretcher bearers.
The smiling Thai teller I knew gave me the lowdown. The Korean started a brouhaha with a black man whom he had touched or said something to that didn’t sit well. Whatever it was, I can still see a big guy in a suit jacket, no tie, sullen and aggrieved; he’s the one who delivered a roundhouse punch and bloodied the Koreans nose. Weird scene. Loading the Korean in the stretcher and people in the bank going about business as usual. It was likely something racial. Who knows?
Earlier that year, on March 19, a young man named Rodney King led Los Angeles police on a long chase that ended in him getting handcuffed and getting the crap beat out of him.
Grady Miller is a humorist. His latest humor cavalcade, “Later Bloomer” is available on Amazon.