I’ve wanted this for ten years.
For ten years, Hollywood was our home. A 2nd-story apartment where we clicked the pause button as the sirens sped by, couldn’t fall asleep because Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard had a live band performing in their parking lot, or were jerked awake as people surfed through the dumpster between 2 and 6 a.m.
My daughter grew up hearing helicopters circling overhead and dogs searching below. Every time an ambulance raced by we plugged our ears and yelled encouragingly “Go save a life!” so that she wouldn’t be scared that something bad was happening somewhere too close.
(For ten years I had to deal with street parking; none-too-happy when my car got towed because the Academy decided the lower class working folk who didn’t have garages should be banned from parking on the streets—to make room for the dozens of limousines idling, emitting exhaust and waiting for their millionaires; the actors, producers, directors, etc., who puffed and primped up at the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, crossing their fingers that they would the one soon clasping an Oscar, never knowing I had missed the televised pinnacle of their career because I was walking the fifteen blocks to get my car out of impound to the tune of $325. Phew! Thank you for your patience; I obviously had to get that off my chest.)
My daughter got used to walking up to the Arclight to see a $16-a-ticket movie and passing people who lived in boxes or camped out in dark building corners, trying to keep warm, trying to get some sleep, trying to escape the rain, trying to be private in public. A visiting friend of hers would literally walk on the other side of me and grab for my hand. My girl would lean down and hand the homeless man a dollar.
She grew up hearing different languages, seeing different customs and styles of dress, coming to realize that the world she understood in her own home was not the same as the one next door, or the one below—that each person’s world through language, culture, tradition, profession, experience, and choice could be different, strange, interesting, and delicious!
The Hollywood flats (so-called as not to be confused with the moneyed of the “Hollywood Hills”) were good to me, my first home after my husband left, the first apartment that was truly mine—from having the only name on the lease to the extra security I had to pay for being the only name on the lease. But, I felt safe. I felt in the mix of the city. I felt anything we needed was accessible.
We would walk the two blocks to watch the dated Christmas parade every year. We walked to the fire station to donate to “Toys for Tots” after my daughter had picked out just the right toys. It was to that station that I repeatedly and religiously took her—to show her how to vote—most spectacularly the time I cast a ballot for America’s first black president.
Thank you to Marta, Patricia and Nieves for being such wonderful, friendly, helpful and generous single-mom neighbors. Thanks to Joseph for loaning me a double ladder so I could break into my second story apartment when I locked myself out. Thank you, Jaime for helping me not break my neck. Condolences to our neighbors at the far corner who lost their teenaged son to a bullet, from his friend’s gun. Lovely and tragic, “real world” versus Disney fantasy, surface superficial and deeply profound; that’s our Hollywood. Thank you for being just the home and neighborhood that I needed, when I needed it.
Now it’s South Pas. Instead of looking up into the sky and seeing my site edged by multiple- storied apartment buildings, I look up into the sky and see my site edged by millions of leaves. Instead of apartment buildings with windows covered with sheets or layers of foil, I look into windows and see cozy living rooms with fireplaces.
I stand outside on the sidewalk with my friend and have a glass of wine, looking over to my new neighbor across the street who’s entertaining guests on her front porch, waiting for the littlest trick or treaters. I look further down and see multiple couples sitting on their porches, chatting, watching the night descend, the traffic of little feet and parental bodies heading our way.
Now, my daughter jumps up excitedly every time she hears rustling little legs, so excited for her first Halloween handing out candy. We quickly run out. I run over to my neighbor and hawk a couple of bags. Within ten minutes we are down to our last four pieces. I speed walk in my sandals, my head happily floating from red wine (I don’t drink much anymore, and as thus am a complete lightweight; it’s rather sad) and get to Rite-Aid before all the shelves are empty. A good thing about buying so late is that the bags are now 2 for $5. I’ll take six! My daughter sighs when I return, relieved, as she was just about to hand out an energy bar and sacrifice an unopened nail polish to the next trick or treater.
The three teenage bellies in my home are full of savories; I hope to diffuse the jolting effects of sugar inhalation in the hours to come. Now’s the time to head out. Into the night.
The streets are a swarm of people. Orange cones have been put up to divert traffic. Kids have to wait in line to get their candy. Wait in line to get candy? Lawns are cordoned off to discourage foot trampling. I step into the street just to get clear of the constantly moving mass of people.
(You have to wait in line? Like for minutes at a time? Like all the way down the front walk? That’s still taking time to compute.)
The costumes are a blast. The house decorations fun, creative and creepy.
Some costumes are better than others…but, it all makes for a perfect “first” Halloween. Enjoy, especially if you’re one of the people who were so kind as to let me take your picture. Many thanks to you all and I’ll see you next year.
©2011 Halloween, South Pasadena Style by Kat Ward