After returning from a run on Friday afternoon, I was alarmed when ice-cold water jetted out of my showerhead. I leapt out of the shower and went to use my roommate’s, but his, too, only produced frigid water. I called the management company, and the operator said she would send my favorite plumber over to take a look. I was already late for work, so I hustled to my friend’s apartment down the street to use his shower. The following night after playing a few hours of tennis, I was annoyed when I discovered that I still did not have hot water. I called the managers, and again, the operator told me that the plumber was still working on it and that it would be fixed by Sunday morning. Since I was overheated from tennis, I risked hypothermia and took a quick 3-minute shower in the icy waters (much like a violated victim from those Monday-night made-for-TV movies that aired in the 90s). After another run on Monday morning, I came back to find that I still did not have hot water. Furious, I called the management company who assured me it would be fixed by Monday afternoon. This time, I wasn’t in the mood to jump into a cold shower, so I stuck my head under the faucet and then gave myself a sponge-bath. I was relieved when I arrived home on Monday night to find that hot water had returned, but I was still irritated with my management company’s slow response. Over the last three weeks, I had been unable to use my bathroom for five days following the flood, and now the past four days due to the lack of hot water.
Throughout this ordeal, I waited with bated breath for the building managers to call and apologize for all of my hardships. Well, that call never came. Instead, I harassed them every day for a week to no avail. I finally told the messaging service that I was going to call the Santa Monica Rent Control Board if I didn’t hear back from the actual manager. I wasn’t sure that the Board would have any influence on this matter, but it sounded intimidating. About twenty minutes after my threat, the smarmy manager called me. Before he “let” me talk, he told me that he understood that I was “inconvenienced” with the flood, but that he felt that management had handled it in a timely and effective manner. As for the lack of hot water, he asked me to consider the number of days this past year that I had hot water, as opposed to the number of days that I went without. As far as I was concerned, this last statement put him in hot water. I spent the next ten minutes giving this sleazy slumlord a piece of my mind until he finally agreed to reimburse me for the “inconvenience.” He asked me to think about a fair amount, keeping in mind that only two of the rooms in my apartment were uninhabitable. I explained that I pay monthly rent for an entire apartment, not select rooms within that apartment. I sent him an invoice the next day, but it’s been a week and I still haven’t heard anything.
Apart from my ongoing issues with the building’s management, the creepiness factor of the Asian caretaker down the hall had intensified. The other night, I was playing tennis when I noticed someone watching me from behind the fence. At first, I thought it was just another homeless person, as they seem to run rampant in Santa Monica. But upon closer examination, I realized that it was my Asian stalker. I pretended like I didn’t notice him, but he stood there for at least ten minutes, occasionally waiving. I looked every which way, but never at him, and he finally left. The next morning, when I was on my way to pay the parking meter, I crossed paths with the Asian, who was sitting in his favorite folding chair smoking a cigarette. I tried to pass by him without engaging, but he stopped me and asked me if I liked his new table. Just then, I realized that he had placed a table next to his folding chair, probably so he could have a resting place for his ashtray. I just smiled, and then he added, “I think the flower on top of it makes it look friendly. Don’t you agree?” Yes, because if there’s one thing that a pedophile’s lair needs, it’s a table with a flower on top of it to charm the place up a bit. The Asian then followed me outside and proceeded to ask me if I had been playing tennis the previous night. As I paid my parking meter, I pretended that I hadn’t noticed him creeping around the fence and responded, “Yeah, I think so? How did you know?” Nice cover, Jamie. He then shifted gears and asked me if the car parked at the meter that I was paying was mine. Really? As if I just randomly walk up and down 7th Street and pay other people’s parking meters. I begrudgingly answered yes and then returned to my apartment, uneasy about the fact that my stalker now knew my ride.
My next encounter with the Asian needs a little bit of a back-story. First, in an effort to cut costs since I’m not yet working full-time, I have avoided joining a gym in LA. When my sister heard this, she became concerned because she knows how temperamental I can get when I don’t work out regularly. Therefore, she surprised me last month by sending me a few sets of free weights to use in my apartment. Now, four days a week, I go for a run on the beach and then lift weights in my living room while watching The Price Is Right (Side note: That show kind of sucks now…I think we need to start a campaign to bring back Bob Barker – I think he’s still alive?). The other thing you need to know is my roommate’s obsession with opening the blinds every day before he leaves for work. When I asked him about this habit, he told me that it’s good to let light into the apartment. I’m sorry, but the last time I checked, the couches didn’t need sunlight to grow. The only thing opening the blinds seems to accomplish is making our already hot apartment even hotter. So this past Tuesday, after I had returned from a run and was lifting my weights, I felt something lurking in the window. I cautiously looked over and saw the Asian standing there, watching me lift. Just like at the tennis courts, he started to waive. Creeped out, I nodded and slowly backed into my bedroom and away from the windows. A few minutes later, I peeped my head around the wall and noticed that he was still standing there. I was annoyed because I wanted to finish lifting, and it was time for the Showcase Showdown. So like any normal person would do, I got on the ground and army crawled my way to the window and closed the drapes. Later that afternoon, as I left my apartment for work, I noticed the Asian sitting in his chair at the end of the hallway. I was in no mood to exchange pleasantries, so I went out the backdoor and walked around the block to get to my car. At that moment, I realized that something definitely needed to change, so I’m now in the market for a new apartment.
Despite my housing issues, I have tried to remain focused on my professional goals. Each year, ABC holds a contest for aspiring screenwriters, and the deadline was this past Friday. To qualify, candidates were required to submit a biography and two scripts, one original and one spec. Since I had already completed a Modern Family spec script for a previous writing contest, I just needed to focus on finishing my original script. I worked tirelessly during the week to get it done, but as I put the final touches on it on Thursday night, a new storyline popped into my head. I decided to pull an all-nighter because I felt that this new subplot would significantly strengthen the quality of my script. Unfortunately, changing a script in the eleventh hour is not an easy feat, so by the time I had to leave for work on Friday, I still had a few pages to go. The contest’s website said that the materials needed to be postmarked by 11:59 PM on Friday night, so I still had some time after work to send in my submission. Unfortunately, I had also told my friends that I would see a movie with them after work, and because I still struggle with weighing priorities, I honored my commitment to my friends. When the movie ended, I raced back to my apartment, finished my script, and ran to the Kinko’s next door to mail it. I arrived at Kinko’s around 11:30 PM, but the gentleman behind the desk told me that it wouldn’t get postmarked until the next day. I scrolled to the contest’s website, and it clearly stated that anything postmarked after midnight would remain unopened and get thrown into the trash. Defeated and exhausted, I returned home and went to sleep for the first time in two days.
The next morning, I woke up to a call from my aunt asking me if I’d like to join them for Fathers’ Day weekend in Murrieta. They had tickets to see Spamelot at an incredible outdoor theater that I had been to a few times before, so I happily accepted the invitation. My aunt typically puts together quite the picnic spread for the show, so I figured I would swing by Whole Foods on my way to Murrieta to pick up my favorite salsas for the picnic. When I went to my bedroom to get my Whole Foods gift card, it was gone. I couldn’t believe it. My parents bought me the gift card as a birthday present in February, and for the past four months, I’ve only ever moved it between my nightstand and my messenger bag. It wasn’t in either spot. I spent the next two hours ripping apart my apartment, but still no gift card. Just then, I remembered the maintenance workers who had been in and out of my apartment the previous week, and that’s the only explanation that I’ve been able to concoct. I no longer had time to swing by Whole Foods, so I set off for Murrieta empty-handed. Because of traffic, I told my aunt and uncle that I’d meet them at the theater, but it ended up taking me four hours to get there (it usually takes less than 2).
By the time I arrived at the theater, my blood pressure was soaring. Thoughts of floods, creepy neighbors, missed deadlines, and stolen gift cards swarmed through my head and I couldn’t shake it. Fortunately, my aunt’s picnic spread didn’t disappoint, and I was soon lost in corn muffins and pasta salad. During Act II, as the cast sang out, “Always look on the bright side of life…,” I found myself totally engrossed in the play and forgetting all about my troubles back in Santa Monica. Even though I didn’t understand most of the play and it was a little harebrained for my taste, this dose of silliness seemed to be just what I needed. After all, most of my problems would be fixed as soon as I found new housing, and until then, I always had the Chez! When we got back to the Chez that night, I went straight to bed and I slept in for the first time in weeks.
When I woke up on Father’s Day, my uncle and my little cousin had gone golfing and my aunt was doing yoga. I helped myself to a little Father’s Day breakfast and then told my aunt that I was going to run down to the neighborhood fitness center. When I arrived at the gym, I became so enthralled with the variety of weight machines and the lack of Asian prowlers watching me work out that I ended up staying for two hours. By the time I got back to the Chez, it was way past lunch-time, and I was starving. My aunt whipped up some guacamole, and I devoured it while we stood around the kitchen counter talking for the next few hours. I am very close to my aunt, so I enjoyed being able to spend this time catching up. That said, I was hoping that she would leave the kitchen so that I could raid the pantry in her absence. My cousin, Jeff, and his wife, Whitney, were hosting a Father’s Day barbecue at their house down the street at 5:30 PM, so I knew that my aunt wasn’t planning on eating until the cookout. My aunt had invited me to join them at Jeff and Whitney’s, but apparently forgot to tell Whitney that I was staying for the cookout. She sent her a text message around 4:00 PM, and Whitney graciously responded that she had figured I would be coming. Since it didn’t look like I would be eating anything else until the cookout, I popped in some gum and tried to refocus my thoughts.
Arriving at Jeff and Whitney’s, I was famished. Fortunately, they had chips and salsa sitting out, so I continued to load up on my favorite high-sodium treats. Whitney’s parents were in town for the weekend, and I had a blast catching up with them. If you ask me, Jeff and Whitney both lucked out when it came to their in-laws. In the short time that Jeff and Whitney have been married, I’ve already started thinking of her parents and siblings as part of the Burkart family. Coming from me, that’s the ultimate compliment, as I think our family is the shit! It helps that Whitney’s mom raved about my blog for a good portion of the evening (Hint: If you flatter me in any way, I will most definitely like you). I caught her up on the recent events at my apartment, and she was adamant that I get out of the slummy establishment and move somewhere nicer. I obviously agreed, but it’s tough to move without a full-time job locked down.
After single-handedly devouring almost the entire basket of tortilla chips, I was looking forward to getting some protein in my body. As everyone started to make their way through the buffet line, the auditor in me came out. I noticed that the number of burger patties on the platter didn’t seem to match the number of consumers. It appeared that we were one short – AKA there were just enough for the number of INVITED guests. I kept quiet, as I didn’t want to make a big production about the fact that I had thrown off the food supply. As the line started to dwindle, Whitney realized the miscalculation and offered to split her burger with my aunt. I intervened and said that I’d be happy to share with my aunt, as I didn’t think it was appropriate for the hostess to go without. I even added that I wasn’t very hungry – lies. I grabbed my aunt’s plate and started to cut the burger in half. I did it so quickly that I failed to notice that the burger patty had slid to one side underneath the bun, so when I cut it, I barely got a sliver of the patty on my half of the bun. I didn’t want to make a scene by re-cutting the burger, so I just tried to load up on side dishes. As everyone savored their burgers around me, I did my best to ration my slice into a few miniscule bites. I was looking forward to going back through the buffet for more sides, but no one else appeared to want seconds. Fearing that I would look like a glutton, I popped in more gum and waited for dessert. Whitney made amazing oatmeal cookies, and when it appeared that not everyone was going to eat their entire cookie, I stealthily grabbed a second.
Whit sent me home with a bag of cookies and a jar of salsa (clearly she saw me going to town on the chips). When we returned to the Chez, I hung out with my family for a few more hours before finally hitting the road. As I drove away, I realized how thankful I was that my aunt and uncle had included me in their Father’s Day plans. Had I stayed in LA, I probably would have devoted the entire weekend searching for the (stolen) Whole Foods gift card and hiding out from the Asian. Instead, I spent the weekend relaxing and unwinding with family, returning to the hustle and bustle of LA a refreshed man. I am so fortunate to have family members living in California, as it makes this journey feel a lot less lonely. Side note: I devoured the cookies before I even exited the neighborhood. I drove for another twenty minutes before detouring to my favorite road trip hot spot, Taco Bell. It may not have been a juicy cheeseburger, but for me, it was the next best thing, as I love my TB. Really, I love all fast food. You know what they say…you can take the boy out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest out of the boy.