Why I left my big-daddy swank man-cave-slash-grotto just outside of Ladera Heights…

The short answer: it was too expensive in proportion to its inconveniences. After discovering the secret of Fox Hills, I have lived on Flight Ave. twice, two different leases in two different decades. This little stretch of Flight Ave. might be called West Rancho Inglewood Hills by a really bad real estate agent. In my blurry vision of Los Angeles Black history, my Flight Ave. represents rental property with the highest concentration of Black ownership. This historical theory crumbled to dust under the reality that almost all of the Black owners have sold out to 3rd parties and in any case, the day-to-day property managers will be mainstream concerns. What is also very real is the gentrification of what an officer of the Inglewood Police Department from the 1980s would consider Black neighborhoods.

Leaving Flight Ave. (again)

It is only in this area of Los Angeles I have felt like a member of large community and part of a cultural continuum. I can take my two, youngest children on bike ride through this area (where we would eventually have snacks at Simply Wholesome) and it would feel like a Black pride parade punctuated little Black kids—especially Black boys stopping to stare at us having fun like we dropped out of sky as aliens from another planet. It would feel great to see other adult-child bike rides a few weeks after, feeling like I was part of making a small but significant change in direction from self-destruction to community. This feel-good stuff kept me close to Flight Ave. in spite of the realities.

Here is a reality: I called the police for the first time in my life because of a little Asian girl (an adult actually…barely) living upstairs. It was a noise complaint. The police showed up at about 3am. I let them in the gated building. They could hear the music playing and the people laughing. They told me to go inside my apartment before they knocked on the door (because I was just standing there just waiting to glare at these self-centered assholes).

I never call the police myself. This noise coming from upstairs was so persistent and continual that I was actually forced to literally risk my life by calling on law enforcement. Yes: the noise was like COINTELPRO/neo-Stasi torture. This adult kid exerted complete control over my ability to sleep and therefore make a living. Let me state this again: some complete stranger, who began her day at night effectively took control of my ability to contribute financially to my children’s lives. And what is worse is am almost certain that the only reason why this crap-heap of humanity got so close to me is because an older relative/associate paid rent on her behalf (an elder Asian lady caught me one day and robotically introduced herself to me as my “new neighbor”—I never ever saw this old lady ever again since that one meeting a few days after that bratty adult kid moved in).

This is the second time a series of events loosely like those above has happened to me on Flight Ave. The pattern features gentrifying young people treating their adult living space like a playground. There is gentrification through home ownership and then there are underemployed adult kids who are dumped into a community because of relatively low rents—and relatively lax property managers not taking serious, professional precautions around screening non-Black tenants for a Black neighborhood. What this racially implies is that I am unable to rent in “my own” neighborhood because I am cock-blocked by human waste from outside of my community. This has effectively forced me to move to into a so-called “white” neighborhood (with crappier amenities) because the property managers in (some) of these “white” neighborhoods screen their tenants better.

This last building on Flight was the best place I have ever lived since I left home at age 18. It has hardwood floors. It has a washer and dryer in the unit (I expected my children to use it more than they did). It has central air. It has its own parking space (at the rear, opening into the alley). But it also changed hands three times: I made out rent checks to three different companies in less than 12 months. I habitually choose lower units because I do not want my kids (who visit me on weekends) to be stomping over the heads of a silently suffering neighbor. This last unit on Flight was a rear lower unit: its living room window overlooking the clean alleyway—and my children discovered on the first day they came to visit that there was this “old white guy” digging in the trash cans and then sitting in a chair in the shade of an open garage door for a space completely dedicated to his independent recycling activities. Some idiotic, undereducated, self-described “white guy” might assume that it would be a Black man’s fantasy to see not just one but several old white guys digging through trash. I found it invasive of my privacy and yet more white privilege in action—even in the throes of poverty.

Leaving Flight Ave. (again)

You see, these alleyway recyclers were not seen as prowlers or creeps by the women (of any skin color) in the neighborhood (most of my neighbors are women, by the way). In fact, it would be a common occurrence to see me driving home from work (late at night because I had to into work late in the morning to get around the night noise habits of my adult kid neighbor upstairs) and as I pull into my garage the “old white guy” would be holding court with several fellow gentry, shooting the breeze about politics and pseudo-neighborly bullshit like that. There is reason why certain areas are designated as commercial and others residential. There are reasons why certain homeowners get together to persuade their local government to make searching trash cans and recycle bins illegal. There are also reasons why renters are preferred over homeowners: we are relatively powerless compared to an owner—so these self-appointed recyclers can move around your designated trashcans at 7:30 in the morning—and when your apartment owner/manager does not care about it there is little you can do short of vigilante shit.

Both the “old white guy” and the adult kid are dramatic victims of the economic downturns of late. But the problem with victims is that they cannot care about others without being exceptional people. So these two, average, regular victims of the economy worked together to make my life quite unpleasant. And then my sink overflowed with grease and flecks of rice to my kitchen floor and even to the precious hardwood planks. Some of them were blistering. That was it. I shelled out $1795 a month for a year and a half just to find out that my pipes are shared with the tenant upstairs? The answer to that one is no. Here are other discoveries for the price of admission:

  • The weather seal at the bottom of the door was worn away (a maintenance guy repaired the sides not the bottom) so flies could just walk into my living room.
  • Flies gave birth in the giant trashcan right outside my window. I never opened the living room window.
  • Somehow our trash service was so special it was billed monthly through a shady company that sent me bills in the mail I dismissed as fraudulent for months.
  • The air circulation hood in the kitchen covered a hole that conveyed a seriously cold draft in the winter time. It made me choose carefully were to sit in the living room during winter months.
  • My floors were built on top of a special kind of concrete that could somehow refrigerate so well I often imagined I was walking just above a solid block of ice.

Decades of “life” in California apartment buildings has made me an armchair architect and a wanna-be structural engineer. I now loath the idea of the apartment house—which, to me, are apartments made out of wood. These houses do not block sound and transmit the most ridiculous creaks through the upper floors to the lower ceilings. Along with walking like a stereotypical ninja, it is tragic that the fad of sporting wireless headphones has not caught on with the adult kids out there. These losers can put themselves to sleep with their favorite loser TeeVee show with “hipster” headphones on—leaving the beauty of silence available to all who would indulge in appreciating this basic human right.

I also look forward to rental listings in the future that take silence seriously. I am willing to pay a premium for a ‘certified-quiet’ building. It has taken me way too long to realize that “luxury apartment homes” are loud, adult kid magnets and I want to see the next Pollyanna, hipster trend that makes noisy neighbors as toxic as nicotine addicts smoking tobacco in public.

Related Links