The next door neighbor moved away. She was a young mother with a towheaded kid. She always dressed up like a fifties pin-up and wore frocks that exposed the ink on her sleeves. My living room window sits across from hers, so I could see her doings: the middle-aged guy who suddenly appeared, the months in which the her kid—the Aryan child—conveniently disappeared to summer camp, the tense arrival of the ex who reluctantly took custody of the kid during the start of the School Year and, now, the finale: the sudden pack-up, the formation of a new family, the happy ending.
Now, I can see the various couples who are coming to rent the apartment across the way. So, it’s like that Hitchcock Movie—Rear View Window—only it’s Front View Window and I don’t need binoculars.
Each new couple, I’m sure, is envisioning themselves in this new life. There has been a young family with outrageous hairdo’s and avant garde geometric clothing. There has been an interracial couple–an Asian man with hippie pony-tail and a woman with hair too red to be natural. A gay black couple sat in the court yard and I could hear them discussing their son who was at one of the musical conservatories nearby.
I live in a duplex—a real 1920s showplace that has been kept in immaculate condition, as if it were a brass button on a khaki military uniform: spit-shined and bright and neat. It’s in a super-cute neighborhood—the kind I often gravitate towards—with a youthful population belonging to the liberal arts college, Occidental, that dominates the landscape a few blocks away. Everybody says in hushed tones, “Barrack Obama went there.” Nobody ever says, he very quickly transferred.
I live a block from the “hipster strip,” the zone that is in the process of being wrestled away from the recent waves of Mexican immigrants who themselves displaced the working class whites who once lived in this barrio, one of the oldest sections of Los Angeles.
It’s a desirable spot—set in the middle of what some may call urban blight. Liquor stores, graffiti, empty lots, taquerias—all of these are counterbalanced by vintage stores, record shops, vegan restaurants, galleries. There’s even a shop with a 45 minute wait for 8 dollar donut. Every house is either run-down or polished into a representation of a certain kind of upper middle class, striving lifestyle.
My house is set off from the street in a miniature wilderness. There are raccoons and hummingbirds and possums in my yard so you can forget that you are in the middle of ugliness. Yet just a block away, garage band artist types with their arm tattoos and their unique hairstyles roam their feral path. Every second Saturday, there is a city sponsored Art Walk and people from the Westside come to gawk at how the bohemian set live.
It’s a landlord’s market in Los Angeles; rents are at an all-time high; and my landlord not only knows he can charge the top rate but, also, that people will audition like show ponies for a place kept up so immaculately. He is also on a mission, because he has recently moved to Portland to live a dream of a bike-able city. “I’ve been wanting to do this for years.” And though he is putting up a front, he only has a week to find a suitable tenant.
The apartment has been a flurry of activity, with crews of work people tramping in and out. Rudy is now sitting in the living room, waiting for couples to come by to check out the new digs. And I am sitting in my living room, enjoying my Sunday coffee and the view from my Front View window.
This is the thrill and the discomfort of a life with so many windows—windows that open up into other people’s windows. I can watch people like television. And every once in a while, I get a pang and realize that they can watch me, too. I wonder what they see when they see me seeing them. I’m sure that they see me and remark with astonishment about my resemblance to the late, great Jimmy Stewart.