September 28, 2004

hotel california

It's interesting to observe this little 8 unit microcosm of the apartment universe. Eight families coming and going -- intersecting for brief or lengthy moments.

There's Tim, the maintenance man from Texas who finally moved into one of the units because he works here and it makes it mighty convenient. He had to borrow some cash from his kids to make the deposit and he's thrilled to have a place by himself. He started out with just a chair and a TV in the living room but he's adding more as he can. We share freshly baked cookies and cinnamon rolls and stuff from the garden. After getting into an accident that totaled his car he found a real cheap silver blue car that despite the bashed in front end, drives just fine. Like him, a little worse for wear but proud of his heritage. There's the couple that adopted the cat that was left behind who used to live in the apartment they now live in. How was the cat to know it couldn't go inside anymore.

Then there's the family that just left after living here 6 years. I tried to imagine 4 people living in 880 sq ft. They wanted so much more and so the husband bought a shiny new truck. That shiny new truck and troubles at work meant they stopped paying their rent. They were told to pay or leave. They left. The daughter left a 6-year best-girl-friend next door. They left an herb garden and tomato plants thriving in that spare dirt between the big tree and the rose bushes. Before they left, the wife showed me all the herbs and told me to tend them and the daughter gave me something she had made and told me I was her favorite neighbor. The week before they left, items of a life were displayed on the lawn with a yard sale sign. Little was sold. When they left with everything roped down into the bed of two pickup trucks, two giant trashbins were left full of furniture, mattresses and dishes. They left in tears to an uncertain life. I cried, too, as I put her pretty drawing on the fridge and knew I wouldn't hear her cheery little "Hello Mrs Kitty" anymore. The pathos here is palpable.

Now there's the new couple moving in. Like the family who left, it appears they can't afford a moving truck and so the trips keep happening, one carload at a time. Clothes on hangers, small boxes. They look tired already.

We live in a little garden paradise. It's beautiful with grand sweeping trees, generous flower plantings, large grassy lawns and sidewalks that cross over for wonderful figure eights for the kids to ride on their bicycles. But we're all here for different reasons with different pasts and futures. For some, it's the best they've ever had. For some, it's a sanctuary away from a bad relationship. For some, it's the most rent they've ever paid. For us, it's the lowest rent we've ever paid since we got married. For us, it's a safe little haven that allowed us to get out of the desert and not over commit to a location or expenses before we found jobs and got on our feet coming back to CA. It's been wonderful not to have a big mortgage while I get my business going and allows Gregory not to stress out while he's building up sales in his new showroom in SF. It's less to clean and worry about.

I've stopped feeling guilty as I park my Porsche every evening next to their battered and bruised vehicles. I enjoy sharing my baking and vegetables from dad's garden as much as I now enjoy the basil in her abandoned herb garden. It's a talkative and personal community so I've enjoyed the camaraderie. But as Gregory and I talk about where we want to move to in the New Year, what size house we want to rent so that we can reassemble part of our world that has been stored in boxes in a 10x20' storage facility, I realize we have options available others do not.

All those esconced here are on different journeys. For us, it's a gentle, safe resting spot until we choose to leave. For some it is the Hotel California.

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