UNITED STATES—In the weeks after the play’s successful run (one satisfying performance celebrated to the hilt), I showed rooms out and distributed three-day notices. “The agony,” I noted in my journal. The ecstasy was handing old good tenants, like Pedro and Tava at Estrella Avenue who were moving on and out and hopefully up, their deposit refund check.
The weeks after the play saw the first action with my screenplay, “The Persecuted,” which until now had only persecuted me, its author. I started meeting with a U.S.C. guy named Greg from Nevada, introduced to me by Hisham the cinematographer because Greg was looking for something to produce. We started meeting at House of Pies on Franklin and Vermont. Horror, teens, sex and Satan can’t lose, I thought handing him my screenplay. As it turned out, Greg was looking vaguely for something to produce and more specifically for survival in Hollywood. What came out of this was nourishing conversations that can come only from a decent person who earnestly toils in the same artistic sweatshop.
From the first day I derived an almost guilty feeling of coming alive when discussing my work. A light bulb blazed in a drab horizon. I was opinionated and passionate for a moment, every few weeks at House of Pies. As helpful ideas came from Greg, I realized how ready I was to launch a rewrite at the slightest suggestion; back in January with all my heart I truly expected to close the book on this venture and receive a big fat paycheck. The thing is: I came alive in this way. That is the essence of genius, to be enthused about what you are doing. Others may kindle that enthusiasm, you yourself must feed it. These meetings with Greg were the mother’s milk of my genius.
Meanwhile, plenty was going on at my old house on 1980 Estrella Ave. The family who were going to move out got their door pried open and somebody ripped off their TV. (Hey, it was hard work lugging one of those tube sets.) They blamed it on the couple in room #6, Edward and Valerie Jones. The newlywed couple got recommended to me by Mr. Jones’ mother while I was working at a stand for the U.S. Census Bureau in 32nd St. Market. What were the odds I would be chatting with this nice lady, and it turns out her son was applying to rent at the very house I managed? It was kismet.
“Now you rent to him,” she said. “He’s a good boy and they’re just starting out.”
It wasn’t but a week after the TV set got robbed, and it all blew up in room #6 one combustible night. Quicker than you could say three-day-notice, the Jones were gone from Mac’s spacious room with the wondrous window bay, which hadn’t seemed to bring good luck to any of its dwellers. Edward threatened his wife with the neck of a broken vodka bottle, himself full of vodka, diet coke and crack fumes. Shouts, cries, wallops.
The police were called while tenants hid in their rooms and heard Beverly’s cries and Edward’s shouts—“Shut up bitch.” The police certainly saved the day. With the cops you win some and you lose some. The case of the Jones was a definite win, especially for Beverly.
She had a cut on her arm that needed 30 stitches. Wylie, the owner, was sympathetic to her dilemma, and offered to let her stay at the hotel on Wall St., not the finest, but there she could be away from a homicidal man.
Edward called his own mom bitch, as the police took him away, and she lost all respect for him, but she still put up money for the $15,000 bail to get out. It’s funny how some people suddenly get into the big money when bail is involved.
When I finally stuck my nose into the room to see the aftermath, I saw on the wall slightly above their headboard a marriage certificate from a Las Vegas chapel with a few drops of blood on it. The certificate was dated from April a year before. So much for the Jones’ newlywed status.
Shockwaves come from when people we want to believe deceive and they behave in ways we don’t like. The Jones were indelible, and I have learned from them and others like them: even after being a building manager, stay human, hold disappointment at bay and keep the door open, at least a crack, to hope and love.
Grady Miller is a humorist and author of “Late Bloomer” (on Amazon) selected from when he used to be funny.