Sunday, April 11, 2010

Memories in and Around the Apartment Building

This is a short excerpt from a book I am writing, "1970 - Ground Zero"

The apartment building that my father and I moved into, which still stands as I write this, was a large Craftsman bungalow style, multi-unit building from the era when the area around USC was wealthy; sort of the Beverly Hills of the 1920’s, by now a tired and lower socioeconomic neighborhood. Upon visiting it recently, I discovered that the building is now on the registry of Los Angeles Cultural Landmarks (#461). That fact makes me somehow feel validated; the place that is so a part of my earliest thoughts and memories is recognized by the City of Los Angeles. The apartment had about 40 units with balconies overlooking the side walkways and neighbors’ yards. The outside of this building was brown with stone pillars in the front. The outside porch had a cement floor and a large porch swing attached to the beams under the large awning.

 I spend a lot of time on this porch swing looking over the balcony and into the activities in the street. The apartment building was very dark inside. With the exception of the front lobby entrance and a small window at the back of the long hallway, there were no other windows that lead into the middle hallways. My father, who liked to scare me, told me that the entrance lobby was haunted. I think scaring me made him feel his connection with me was stronger in that I would seek comfort from him and stay at his side. I always imagined that as I walked through the dreary lobby that had not one piece of furniture in it, I was passing through the bodies of dead spirits.

The managers’ office was off this lobby. They were an older, Caucasian couple. The astonishing thing to me at the time was that they had an authentic, working siren light inside their special manager’s apartment. The kind like you would have seen on an ambulance back in the 1960’s; round, tall, and the light circles around inside via a rotating motor of some kind. I was relentless in asking them to turn it on for me. They seemed to me to be the one glimmer of humanity in the building.