Welcome to My House
I live in historic Los Angeles, a.k.a. the hood. No place I’d rather be.
Los Angeles is a city full of utterly hideous construction. But not my super-cute house, with its Batchelder tile fireplace and Craftsman charm, built in 1924, before there were building codes, when this was the fabulous place to live in Los Angeles, when the old Red Line ran from here to downtown, which was also very fabulous then.
Prefabrication did not exist then. Constructed lovingly with human hands, the walls of my house are not square, the floors are not level, and all the windows are a different size, even the ones right next to each other. There is no insulation, although we added some in the attic because it was just too drafty for me.
The garage and chimney fell down in earthquakes long ago, but this old house is holding strong. When the earth moves, wood construction flexes and does not crumble. The soil is sandy here, so after it rains, various doors will not shut. Mostly the house shifts and settles again and this resolves, but not always.
I paid a contractor to tell me where to install my TRX so I would not pull the the house down. I would not be surprised if my Power Plate shakes the room I have made into a gym off the foundation and down the block one day. One must simulate collagen repair with appropriate exercise. It is a worthwhile risk.
I love the Craftsman layout. The living area is separate from the sleeping space, for ease of entertaining and intimacy, but so cozy you never feel lonely, especially in my house where you can feel anyone walking anywhere else in the house via the vibrations on the original, stunningly beautiful, unstable wood floors. Living in a my wonky, crooked, structurally shifting house that bends but does not break, I am at home.
I would like to report that the bug populations are thriving over here in the hood. In fact, just once I would like to enter my house without being stalked by bees, spiders, yellow jackets or flying beetles, and even lizards. Have you ever heard a cricket inside your own house? Marvelously deafening. It is an ongoing battle to keep the spiders from taking over. We never know when one will be there, just saying hello. That brown recluse spider is not such a recluse. We host many black widows, too, but I prefer delicate shades of neutral in ombré with faint patterning over jet black with a bam! of red, which seems a bit attention-seeking.
I just realized I do not have a pic of our eight-legged roommates, as am I always running for the vacuum not my iPhone and a smile when I see one. The spiders out here in the hood are so well fed by the bug abundance, that they build piles of nests on the trash cans and all over the front porch. The pods of eggs look like an alien invasion, and yes we have seen the little cuddly spider babies scamper about. Sometimes we take a mini blow torch to the egg pods because they are so hard to destroy and those little babies are not at all cuddly. We turn the hose on the wasp nests. They have shown us who is boss.
On the day we moved in, we had excellent sweet and sour pork at a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner. It had wall of 2 inch thick Plexiglas in front of the registers, something we only seen at a post office. What had we done, buying in this neighborhood?
“Perhaps we should have had lunch locally to discuss buying the house,” Mr. Pennington said. Good thing we didn’t. Being here is fabulous. No matter what direction I walk in, I will run into a liquor store or a donut shop, a convenience you cannot imagine until you have lived it. The best donut shop is on my block. It is open 24 hours. How about that for luxury. I donut even have to cross a street to get there. Yes, I have been, in the middle of the night for a sugar fix, as I am sure you are wondering. I may have even been drunk. Were you wondering?
There seems to be a great tradition among white men to write excruciatingly whiney songs, which I could tolerate better if there were more than three chords or an interesting baseline. Over here in the hood, music is way better: creative and poetic use of language, complex rhythms and song structure. People are happy to share it with you without your even asking. It tends to be a bit sexually explicit for my taste, but then I prefer an intellectual seduction. What is that? are you wondering, in this the age of “hanging out and Netflixing.” That is the reason Mr. Pennington did not mind me dancing with French firemen while he was home in the hood.
If you want to fit in here, you say, “Hey, how you doing?” to strangers. You do not only say hello. You definitely do not ignore anyone. That would be bad manners and you would stand out. People often call me, “Hey, Beautiful,” and yes, that is my name.
I have to warn my dinner party guests before they come, that this is a neighborhood “in transition” but we like it just as it is, it need never change for us. Even so, we will leave space for them to park in the driveway.
I go to the book club at my local library for the stimulating conversation and locally made pizza. I shove my cashmere robe and cashmere joggers (I highly recommend lounging in luxury, find it on sale at Lands End or Neiman’s in January), my bespoke blazers I had made at Sam’s Tailor in Hong Kong, my tweed from Ireland, and silk blouses I picked up on sale in Beverly Hills for a price so low I am blushing, and anything that needs ironing into a bag and walk to the nearby Korean dry cleaner. They do an excellent job, and PS it costs way less that other parts of the city. More $$ for my narcissistic clothing budget!
The great City of Los Angeles is building a Metro stop right nearby my house in the hood. I will be able to walk to it, and I could not be more pleased. There really is no place I would rather be. Driving in this city is terrible. You cannot get anywhere. I love public transportation. I get to mix with the masses. I load up my bag super heavy. It is the best exercise. I ride the Metro, then walk and sometimes even get on a bus. Shocking, I know. Insider secret: the DTLA DASH is excellent.
I have a disabled Metro card, which I applied for because I thought it would mean someone would have to give me their seat if I flashed it. Sometimes I really do need to sit down. No, I just get a discounted fare. Oh well. Riding the rails, I get stuff done: listen to a book or study Japanese. I get to feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair—freedom! Kind of like I imagine riding a motorcycle might be. I would not know, because I avoid high-risk activities. I have been through enough.
I am aware of the racial tensions as the demographic changes, which is happening in urban areas all over the country. As long as you have an internet connection and Amazon Prime, you can live anywhere and still get almost everything you want.
The long-time resident most hostile to us is my neighbor’s cat. The weekend we moved in, we ate ice cream sandwiches, lying on the grass in the sun, enjoying our yard!, when Fat Cat viciously scolded us from his perch on the fence. Not even a “Hey, how you doing?” first. So rude. It was clear, he wanted us out.
Years later, Fat Cat still lounges in my backyard, taunting me with his hunter stare, letting me know who is boss. I tried to win him over with kitty treats, but he was not having it. I watch him prowling around my property at night on my security cameras, chasing bugs. He is one tough kitty, roaming the streets of the hood, outwitting the possums, raccoons and pit bulls. When I returned from Paris, Fat Cat appeared in the dark of night on the sidewalk and stared at me for a long time, which was a touching welcome home. His other way of telling me he loves me is by climbing all over my car and leaving dirty paw prints. I ❤️ you too, Fat Cat!
I am really not a gentrifier, even though I seem like one.
I am here, and I love being here, because I am highly allergic to most of Los Angeles. Where I could live comfortably was a big problem. A place I never went growing up, where I do not fit in, that reminds me of nothing, is the place I’d rather be. My case of PTSD, which is a bit on the complex side.