So before I fully get into the shadiness of the "Shady House", I'll have to introduce you to an important character of this story: my car. Some of you remember the Sentra I had in Seattle but when things started to get rough, I couldn't keep up with the payments so I had to say "bye bye" to her. Then there was the old Cadillac Deville that I bought off of Troy which, needless to say, was cool to get around Seattle, but there was no way I was going to drive that gas chugging boat down to LA.
So when I finally flew down, I had no car. I mentioned earlier that my grandmother had sent me $1000 to help me find a car, but that's all the money I could really put towards one and that's really not that much to get something reliable. My cousin's boyfriend knew someone who was selling his '93 Civic and eventually that's what I ended up buying.
It was, by far, the most ghetto car I've ever owned. The whole suspension was messed up beyond comprehension. The whole car would shake when I went over 40mph. The back passenger side tire would knock incredibly loud when I got over 50mph since the bushings were wore down the metal. It sounded like someone was banging a hammer against the back of the car as I drove. When it came to the front suspension, it was dangerously loose and whenever I'd hit bumps on the freeway, I'd clench my teeth because it literally felt like I was driving on ice and at any moment, the wheels on the car would break off, sending the body one way and the wheels in the other. It was so loose that if you pushed down on the hood, it would bounce so low that the front bumper would hit the ground. There were times where I even had to anticipate the sliding of the steering so I can overcompensate on the turn.
Oh, and did I also mention that it had no brakes? Yeah. You know how when you brake, the pressure increases gradually as the speed slowly decreases? Yeah, there was none of that going on. I made sure to stay a long ways behind the car in front of me because I literally had to go "pedal to the metal" when it came to my brake. I had to pump it to the floor three or four times until it I got down to a safe speed to where I could keep it on the floor and skid to a stop. The brake pads were worn down and I pretty much was running metal on metal.
To give you an idea of how many miles were on these racks, when I got it, the mileage was over 250k. Yeah, you read that right. What's worst was that they had taken the fuse out that powers the dash board so along with not seeing how fast I was going, the mileage never increased so who knows how long the number's been stuck at 250k+ miles. It could've been over 300k for all I knew.
Cosmetically, the interior was literally tore up from the floor up. There was no rear view mirror, the AC was broken, the stereo was broken, the glove compartment didn't close, and 1/4th of the driver's seat was ripped off so I had to get used to driving with no cushion beneath my left leg. Boy, that was incredibly uncomfortable to drive with and ten times more uncomfortable to sleep on (I'll get to that part of the story later). The plastic beneath the steering wheel was missing and the wires were sticking out and looked as if ten million people tried to hot wire it but didn't know what they were doing.
So why did I buy it you wonder? It was the cheapest I could find ($1200) and since they had rebuilt the engine only 4 months old I didn't have to worry about THAT breaking down on me. Plus, with the amount I'd be driving around, I knew I'd be getting good mileage with a Civic. Bad thing about the engine though, was that the guy who built it was into street racing so there were aftermarket parts in the engine that made it impossible for me to pass the smog test, thus making me unable to register the car and update the tags on the license plates.
So with that, I had my much needed form of LA transportation. It seemed that every aspect of my car was illegal and I definitely knew the meaning of "riding dirty". But what started off as a $1200 purchase turned out to be an expensive ass project.
Also, back before I got kicked out of my aunt's place, my cousin flew up from Hawai'i and we drove all over the place sight seeing. Stupid me thought it was a good idea to try and drive to Vegas since it was only three hours away. We ended up making it but needless to say it messed the car up even further and I had to call my dad to use his credit card just so that we could get back to Cali. The damage was a little over $2500. Yeah, I know, I'm an idiot. But at least it got my breaks and my rear suspension fixed! The front suspension, however, still was loose and it was only a matter of time before I hit a bump on the freeway and lost complete control of my car.
Now at the Shady House, time was against me in terms of fixing up my car before I kill someone (or myself) and finding a job. Within the first week there, I still hadn't heard back from any jobs, three guys got kicked out of the house for crazy ass behavior and the more I spoke to the other people in the house, the more I heard about some shady ish.
It also turned out that Bob had just recently gotten out of prison. It didn't bother me since he was pretty open about it, although it was weird that he never really got into the reason why he was locked up.
In the second week, inspectors started to come over to the house. One inspector came to look at all the rooms to see what the living situation was like. He told Bob that they city has no restrictions about how many people could live under one roof just as long as, structurally, everyone has access to all the rooms in the house. In other words, he told Bob the house was cool as long as he put a door in our garage aka "room" that connected it to the rest of the house. Also, I guess the neighbors got suspicious because of the amount of different people going in and out of the house at all hours of the night because at one point in time, I heard the house was being staked out.
This second week was also the week that I got the flu. LA was cold at that time of the year and I remember that I couldn't fall asleep because I was so cold and couldn't stop coughing. I kinda feel bad for the other guys in the room. Nah, actually I don't. I was running out of bread and in retrospect I think I got sick from the combination of lack of sleep/nutrition, drinking the tap water and stress. One of the guys in the house cooked some soup, chicken, and pasta for me and I remember thinking how it felt so long since I've eating something that good.
Towards the end of the third week I started to get over my flu but the job hunt still wasn't going well. Then out of nowhere, a bunch of people started to move into the house. They were turning up like flies on shit. Come to find out all these people moving in were the people from the first house. Then I hear that the reason everyone was moving in was because Bob was pocketing everyone's money and not paying the mortgage so the house got foreclosed. That's when we find out what Bob went to jail for: fraud. At one point, there were 37 people living in this four bedroom, 2.5 bathroom house (that's including Bob's room so in actuality it was 3 bedrooms). It was impossible to get any privacy and I found myself spending a lot of time in my car and playing my ukulele to keep from going insane. During every second of the day or night, at least half of the people in the house were up. It was like the Real World house on crack minus the fun.
One of the guys who slept in the tool shed brought his brother, Brooklyn, over just to show him how messed up things were getting. Brooklyn was an actor who had a house about five minutes away. Needless to say, he was trippin out when he saw what we were going through. As we talked about the situation, he mentioned what a good idea it would be if it were actually done legitimately, maybe limiting it to two people per room and how he was now throwing around the idea of doing it to his house so he could move in with his girlfriend. I told him to keep me posted and he went on his way.
That's when I finally got a break! Well, sort of....
After weeks of no work and no food, I was able to book a Production Assistant gig that shot for four days, two days in Beverly Hills and two days up the street from where I lived. Good news was that it paid cash AND there was catering so I was able to take home food. Bad news was that it was a student film so it paid $20 a day. More bad news was that with practically no gas in my car and absolutely no money to fill the tank, I calculated that I had enough gas to work one day at Beverly hills and the two days when they shot up the street. But it was weird (and kinda sad) because when I booked the gig, I remember thinking, "It's been so long since the last time I felt this much relief and happiness"
And just like that, cha-ching! I had some cash on me. Wasn't much but you have no idea how rich I felt having $60 in my pocket. First thing I did was put $20 towards gas, $20 for groceries, and the last $20 I kept as "savings" just in case something came up.
Finally, on a Monday, with 8 days left in the month, I get a call from Virgin Airlines about an interview. I was ecstatic! Finally, I get a break! I applied to that place when I first moved down to Cali about five months prior and it was about time they called me back! I forget what position it was for, but I remember that I didn't care. I had no choice but to get this job.
Then, three days later, on Thursday, something else amazing happened. I get a call from Gamestop for an interview that Saturday. It's retail but who cared?! Things were finally looking up for me! I had a Virgin Airline interview on Friday and a Gamestop interview on Saturday! Woot woot!
Those four days till the first interview, ironically, went by much slower than the four days I was given to move out of my uncle's place. That Friday morning, my other aunt (my mother's sister) called me to tell me that she was in town for the weekend and that she wanted to meet up for dinner. She was going through her umpteenth divorce and was in the process of moving her stuff back down to Long Beach from Oregon. I told her it sounded good and that I'd meet up with her after my interview. So with that, I put on my suit, jumped in my death mobile (I mean my car) and headed down the 405 (one of the busiest freeways in LA) towards LAX.
The whole way down the freeway I was thinking about how I was gonna nail the interview. I don't mean to brag, but up until that point I was 100% on all the interviews I ever went on.
About 5 minutes into my 45 minute drive, as I was making a slight right turn on the freeway, hit huge bump and immediately I feel something wrong with the steering. It becomes extra loose and the only way I could describe the feeling is by comparing it to the last scene of Cool Runnings when the lines of the bobsled become loose and the skates start wobbling uncontrollably right before it crashes; that's how my car felt. So, expecting something bad to happen, I took my foot off the gas and positioned my car in a place where no one else was around, all the while taking note of the semi-truck that was in the lane behind me.
Just as I did that, the back of my car went into a tail whip, sending me out of control, and swerving in and out of my lane. I finally skid to a stop, going from 60mph to 0mph in a matter of seconds, with my car finally coming to a rest with the nose facing 10 o'clock. As all this was going on, my first reaction was to look behind me and brace myself for the semi-truck to hit me. My heart raced as I heard roar of its horn, watched the driver slam on his brakes and come to a stop about 20yds behind me. Luckily, I had made sure there were no cars in the adjacent lanes but the cars caught in the near vicinity were slamming on their brakes and swerving around me which eventually cause the traffic to quickly pile up.
Stuck in the middle of the freeway, completely blocking the second to the left lane in a four lane highway, I immediately tried putting the car in first gear to at least get in the far right median so I can check out the damage to my car.
Ahh! It was stuck and wouldn't move forward. Not even an inch! I put it in reverse. Still no success. I got out my car, and walked around the front, checking on my tires and avoiding the impatient people squeezing their way around me and my car. When I got to the passenger side, I saw what was wrong. "Woooooow," was all I could say, "Really?"
My front passenger tire was turned all the way in, perpendicular to what it should be, as if making a wide left turn, despite the steering wheel being pointed forward. "Can you move at all?", I hear a voice say. An older man in his forties stopped and was walking towards me, avoiding the major traffic that I was now responsible for. I shake my head and shrug. I didn't know what to say. I felt helpless.
"Get in," he said, "I'll kick the tire forward and we'll get you off to the median."
And that's what we did. I got in my car and this man literally shuffled next to my car and continuously kicked my tire, keeping it straight so that I could get to the median. Once there, I shook the man's hand and thanked him as he wished me good luck.
I sat back in my car and called the Virgin Air lady to try and reschedule my interview. She apologized and said that it was a group interview and that they'd find the person to fill the position by the end of the day. I thanked her, hung up the phone and began undoing my tie. I listened to the cars whiz by and with every passing vehicle that shook my car, I wished that my car could trade places with theirs.
T.I. said "Life is like a chess move, make your next move your best move." But what was my next move? For the first time since I've moved down to Cali I felt that I literally didn't have a next move.
I was still in the negatives in my bank account so I couldn't get a tow truck. If I did get a tow, where would I tow it to? If I towed it to a garage, then what? It's not like I had the money to fix the car. On top of that, it was Friday and I had to be out of the Shady House by Tuesday. Four days....FOUR...DAYS...everything seems to come down to four days...
So there I sat in silence for who knows how long. Listening to the noise from the traffic, feeling the heat from the sun, wiping the sweat on my forehead, and staring at the cars going by wondering what was I going to do.
"Good luck," the man had told me before he left. I chuckled. Good luck? I needed a little more than a little luck to get me out of the shithole I was in.
Oh, and did I mention I didn't have any insurance?
Part 1: Where's the Love?
Part 2: Moving Day
Part 3: The Shady House
Part 4: False Salvation
Part 5: Four Star Hotel
Part 6: Do Unto Others
Part 7: So Close, Yet So Far
Part 8: Dent of Hope