Posted by Elliot Steingart
Looking for a place to rent is like starring in your own episode of “House Hunters.” In contrast to yuppie newlyweds sharing how much they like the fenced in backyard where all three of their Golden Retrievers can run for hours, I’m standing in a 400 square ft Hollywood efficiency saying, “I like how there is a stove.”
Most people rent in Los Angeles so there is intense competition when a decent apartment hits the market. When a less desirable unit is ready, I’m the guy that goes in to make sure everything is okay. I spend my free time chatting with apartment managers and feigning interest in studio apartments.
“I really like how it’s one big room. No, it’s great. It’s like living in a really large cubicle.”
I stop my car in the middle of a street whenever I see a sign for West Side Rentals. The Subaru behind me flicks me off and West Side Rentals tells me the unit has already been rented. It’s like I’m being told to f*ck off twice.
I keep searching and try to imagine my life inside each of these units I see like the newly remodeled top floor unit on S. Oak Knoll Ave. When I took that left onto S. Oak Knoll for the first time I envisioned growing old on this quiet Pasadena street lined with oak trees, walking distance to work. I liked the high ceilings, and the idea of Pasadena where I could wave an American Flag in the Rose Parade and vote Republican.
My co-workers Stacey, Kimi and Matt all approved when I took them for a visit.
“It’s super nice.”
“Oh, and there’s a pool too.”
“And you can walk to Panda Express!”
I didn’t mind that Evan, the apartment manager kept calling me Elias since she was now taking me to see #14, the only available upstairs unit. When I walked in Evan’s office a girl was filling out paper work.
“She’s interested in the downstairs unit. ” Evan told me. “She will take a walk with us upstairs so she’s not just sitting by herself.”
We entered #14 where the current tenant left boxes and dirty towels on the floor.“Are you ready to put down your deposit?”
“How about I let you know after the weekend?”
After driving away, I received a phone call from a 626 number.
“Hi, Elias. This is a courtesy call to let you know that the girl is going to be taking that apartment.”
I expanded my Craigslist search to other parts of Pasadena. One ad appeared daily in different forms: “Garden Apartment!,” “Ready Now,” and “Your New Home Awaits…”
Each time I clicked on the ad I felt empty inside. I flagged the user for abusing his posting privileges, but figured I might as well at least see this 750 square ft unit on S. El Molino, close enough to El Paseo in Old Town.
I met the older gentleman in his 70’s whose craigslist ads I despised. I shook hands with this soft spoken individual who led me towards my new home, an unimpressive, outdated brown carpeted one bedroom apartment.
“So how’s Craigslist working out?”
“I’ve posted a little bit on there.”
“So I’ve seen,” I said to my new friend whose ad now has more flags than the Rose Parade.
My co-worker Andrew suggested I consider Highland Park which he described as “Up and coming.”
I drove through York Street at night and seemed to pass an endless strip of liquor stores and guitar shops. It didn’t seem like this area was up or close to coming. Andrew asked me what I thought.
“It’s not for me,” I replied politely.
“Why? Are you too good for our neighborhood.”
“It’s not even like that. I just would just never ever live there.”
Over Thanksgiving weekend I took my parents on a driving tour of Silverlake around the reservoir and down to Franklin through Los Feliz until we landed on Rodney Street, a pleasant side street situated between Hillhurst and Vermont. As we waited to get buzzed into a three story building we looked through the names on the intercom and identified Wasserman and Isaacs, nearly one Jew per floor. Brenda, the friendly Romanian apartment manager showed us a beautiful studio with hard wood floors, new kitchen tiles, a large walk-in closet and a balcony with views of Wasserman’s apartment.
“What do you think?”
“It’s great. What do you guys think?” I asked my parents.
“We both like it,” my mom responded. “But, it’s up to you.”
Brenda invited us into her home to discuss the terms of the lease. I asked about the utlities as grown men were getting wacked in the nuts with whiffle bats on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
“Im about 90% sure I want to live here,” I told Brenda who I’m sure was thrilled I still possessed a good 10% of self doubt.
Imagining late night meals at Fred 62, hikes in Griffith Park, and living in an area as fun to pronounce as “Los Feliz” compelled me to forward my Sports Illustrated subscription to Rodney Street. I’m excited to invite people, or a person to start with, and see how much room there is with my bed, couch and record player. My mom suggested purchasing a divider to make the studio seem like it has two rooms. I’ve looked at dividers on Overstock.com, but not sure how I feel about the idea of a giant Tetris piece next to my bed. Meanwhile, my mom is busy researching historical facts about Los Feliz.
“Did you know that Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse while living in his uncle’s house in Los Feliz?”
“Yes because I too read the Los Feliz Wikipedia page.”
I also know that “Rebel Without a Cause” was shot at the Griffith Observatory and “Swingers” was shot at the Dresden Room. It’s a shame my episode of “House Hunters” will not cement itself in Los Feliz cinematic lore. If Walt Disney can sketch the beginnings of Mickey Mouse in Los Feliz I too can thrive here, or at least continue blogging for the Jewish Journal.
There is much to discover in Los Feliz and much more to learn about the new studio and how it will smell since I’m the only one living there. If the place smells I cannot blame anyone else. It won’t because Los Feliz will be a fresh start. I just know it.
5.24.13 at 11:43 am | Taking the Socks off
5.17.13 at 2:11 pm | Bee Sting, Projectile Vomit, Stanley Cup and more!
4.22.13 at 11:10 am | An unforgettable trip to a romantic destination
4.12.13 at 11:23 am | Making an unlikely new friend
3.25.13 at 1:39 pm | Learning about the Man I will become
3.8.13 at 4:59 pm | Moving on up
5.17.13 at 2:11 pm | Bee Sting, Projectile Vomit, Stanley Cup and more! (66)
3.1.13 at 3:25 pm | No brainer (11)
5.24.13 at 11:43 am | Taking the Socks off (10)
November 23, 2011 | 12:54 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
I developed my first ever crush in 2nd grade on Alyse Katz. She was pale, and beautiful and good at times tables. Imagine sitting next to the girl you’re in love with every single day in math class and then being mean to her. How great love was.
It’s been a while since I have liked someone as much as I liked Alyse in second grade. Recently though, I have developed a grade-school crush on Kristin, my exotic neighbor who lives right down the steps from me. My crush is harmless since I know Kristin has a boyfriend, not just any boyfriend either. From the pictures I’ve seen on Facebook he’s about 6 feet 6 inches with olive skin, dark eyebrows and broad shoulders. He looks like a Greek God. How can I compete with Stavros Costmopolous? He would stuff me like a grape leaf. Stavros, whose real name is Jerry, lives in San Diego. Fortunately, I have a major proximity advantage. All I have to do is walk downstairs.
On a recent weeknight I was all set to open a nice bottle of wine, a Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc ( Fall 2011), but I couldn’t find the wine opener. I decided that this was my chance.
Kristin’s roommates, Marissa and Caroline, usually answer the door. No one answered when I knocked so I rang the door bell. Rather than stick her eye through the peephole, Kristin lifted the curtain to identify who was at her door—a true example of courage.
Kristin and I have shared many small moments in the last few months like the time she organized a yard sale on our front lawn to benefit one of her nursing school classmates wrongfully placed on academic probation. I helped by purchasing the 2005-2006 Los Angeles Clippers Media Guide for $2. We’ve chatted a lot on the phone, mainly about me blocking her in the driveway. Through these interactions I am offered glimpses into her studious personality, forever hitting the books for her next nursing exam.
Kristin welcomed me inside her empty house wearing pajama pants and spaghetti straps. We entered the kitchen where she handed me the wine opener with a smile that seemed to suggest I was up to no good. Should I ask if she wants to play nurse, I wondered.
“Are you stoned?” She asked.
“No, Why? Do I look stoned?” I removed my glasses so she could check my eyes.
I opened the bottle and offered her a glass.
“I have school tomorrow,” she said.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the night. Can you blame me?”
There is that tense realization that surfaces from knowing you are home alone with a beautiful girl who has a boyfiend. The cat Minerva walks into the kitchen, but you are still the only other male in the house. You stay as long as she asks you questions and as long as she wants to talk about how she spent her month off from nursing school, her chances of getting a job after she graduates in June, and being 30 years old and not wanting to live with roommates anymore. She clarifies that she likes Marissa and Caroline, but would prefer to live somewhere that has her own furniture, and art work.
“I would prefer to live somewhere that has more color.”
“You should like the white walls. It’s like you are back in the hospital.”
“That’s not a good thing.”
I wait for Kristin to shift her feet outward to signal our time is up, but her feet remain pointed towards me.
“I like visiting your house because it reminds me that this is how a home is supposed to look.”
“I’ve never seen your house.”
“It’s the same layout as your house, just not nearly as presentable. I bought a Living Social for a cleaning lady, so hopefully that helps.”
She pauses and says, “I’ll visit after she cleans the house.”
Living Social well spent…
A few weeks later a red truck is blocking our driveway. I knock on Kristin’s door to identify the culprit, and to my surprise a towering figure with a flannel shirt and handle bar mustache answers the door. Stavros!
“Hey, sorry about that.” He began. “Parking on the street was really tight and Kristen said it would be okay. Sorry again, I’ll move the truck right now.”
I wait for Stavros to pull the truck to the front of the driveway. He waves at me at which point I roll my window down.
“Cool stache by the way. Is it for Movember?”
“Yea, thanks man. We are running a 5k for cancer tomorrow.”
“Good luck,” I shouted.
“Alright—take care, bro.”
So Stavros is no longer the Odysseus archetype I imagined, but a guy named Jerry sacrificing his face for the fight against cancer. I still have a crush on Kristen, but it helps to now know the guy who would kick my ass.
November 16, 2011 | 12:55 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Success in your 20’s is relative. Sure, I may drive a Hyundai and work for a growing internet company, but all I’ve ever really been is someone’s roommate. For the last three years I’ve lived with roommates in an area without a definitive name; some days it’s Fairfax, other days, Melrose.
In the summer of 2008 I moved into a furnished apartment on North Hayworth with Dave, someone I met senior year at Torrey Pines who had a small room available with views of the Hollywood Hills. Two days later Dave told me he was moving out leaving me 30 days to furnish the place and find a roommate.
I auditioned roommates on Craigslist and the safest bet was Steve, a UCLA Law Student from Korea. He and I got along well enough until he told me he lost $50,000 gambling and would have to move out. I didn’t understand.
“If you had $50k how come we never had a toaster?”
He left with the garbage can which incidentally was the only time he took out the trash.
Ryan, a buddy from Pittsburgh I hadn’t seen since high school, moved from Alabama to replace Steve. That first day I sat on the balcony with Ryan reminiscing about our days playing soccer at Allderdice, telling him how he would love the neighborhood and the carne asada burritos at Benitos right across the street.
He didn’t care that Stacey, my girlfriend would stay over most nights. I cared more than him. He didn’t have to share half the bed with her. When Stacey wasn’t around Ryan and I would walk to “Benny’s” for a burrito or play Madden games that resulted in me going to sleep a loser. Once Ryan let a girl he was dating borrow his favorite sweatpants. When they stopped dating three weeks later she posted pictures on Facebook wearing the sweats. The stress of life at 340 Hayworth was letting these girls get into our pants.
When Ryan told me Ben, who in third grade karate kicked me at my neighbor Matt Glunt’s house, was moving to LA, I was both excited and ready to defend myself. The three of us moved up the street to a duplex just north of Melrose, above three girls in their late 20’s. Stacey and I broke up shortly after the move and Pippin, Ben’s pittbull/boxer mix, became our favorite female confidante who Ryan and I tried stealing away from Ben unsuccessfully nearly every night.
Life was simple in the neighborhood. I drove two miles to work at Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, roughhoused with Pippin and met new OkCupid dates at the Snake Pit. Ryan and I transitioned from Madden to NCAA Football making bets like the loser has to walk to the gas station to get the winner a Diet Mountain Dew or in my case, sour cherries. Ben gave me karate lessons in our backroom.
“For this move you have to be comfortable with your sexuality,” he said as he sat on top of me holding my wrists.
“I ‘m comfortable with my sexuality, but this seems funny. And it’s not helping that you’re wearing a purple belt.”
We barbecued on the weekends and spent most nights together in the living room watching sports or HBO but still lived independently. For Ryan that meant skating down to Fairfax to chill with the homies at the Hundreds. When Ben wasn’t editing videos in his room, he drove to Karate practice and I discovered Melgard, a beer pub on Melrose and Gardner that would become the destination for my monthly comedy night.
When we moved in to the place Denise, the Realtor, wanted to make sure we didn’t play any loud instruments. Ryan didn’t tell Denise his drum set would occupy the corner of our living room.
Instead he simply said, “I play the flute.”
I left the room to stop myself from laughing.
“You should hear him play. He’s one of the best.”
Then Ben tried convincing Denise that Pippin was a friendly dog and not a killer pittbull like she thought.
“She’s only half pitt.”
“She doesn’t even talk to that side of the family,” I added.
Thankfully Ryan never once played the drums and Pippin didn’t destroy the house, but we stopped caring about the condition of our house, the same place where plants went to die. Dishes piled up so high in the sink I began sneaking handfuls of plastic utensils weekly from my office to avoid the responsibility of putting the dishes in the dishwasher. That’s the only reason I wore cargo pants to the office. We became negligent to the point that even after buying the services of a cleaning lady on Living Social we still haven’t made the call.
You get to a point when you realize you don’t have to live this way. It’s not just the condition of our house, but the commute to my job at Goldstar in Pasadena that no longer makes sense. Beginning the first of the new year, I’m going to leave the neighborhood to move to my own place. I am sad to leave and hope I will not be forgotten. Maybe the girls at the gas station will miss the guy who buys $1 lottery tickets and Diet Mountain Dew. Ryan and Ben will either find someone to replace me or move elsewhere. If they choose to stay I hope their next roommate makes his living as a dishwasher.
Now I search Craigslist for one bedroom apartments, and visit Walk Score to see the walk-ability of my new neighborhood. My mom wants me to live in a Jewish neighborhood, but there is no Jew Score to tell me how many Jews live in my neighborhood. I’m not basing my apartment search on whether or not I can have Sunday conversations with Sam, the butcher. Though if I live near other Jews maybe I’ll find a Jewish girl from Michigan’s Upper Penninsula with whom I imagine frequenting the Silverlake Farmers Market on Sundays and one day settling into a quaint two bedroom on an Eagle Rock hillside. For now I’m more focused on secured parking and on site laundry. I have yet to find an apartment on Craigslist that comes with a Jewish girlfriend. I still haven’t checked West Side Rentals (too expensive).
I’m planning to move to Pasadena where no one knows me. I think about my upcoming anonymity when I run at night passing for sale signs on empty storefronts on Melrose from my favorite LA Realtor, Houmin Mahboubi. Maybe Houmin will have more luck listing on the East Side?
I run past Yawnee, my favorite hairdresser at Vous Salon who in exhange for my glowing Yelp review, gave me a bottle of $15 shampoo. What will become of my sideburns?
I pass Melgard’s large outdoor patio on Melrose and Gardner where I side-step smokers and skaters. After a year and a half of building the show from nothing, I wonder if “Melgard Mondays” should even continue.
I avoid running into parking meters and blow past the outdoor diners at the Foundry. When I circle back around I peer into the local pizza shop, Tomato Pie and give a head nod to the friendly proprietor, and wave at the Israeli kid next door working at Booyah’s Frozen Yogurt where I splurge for fro-yo topped with jimmies and gummy bears.
Even if I move to Pasadena I can’t replicate the life I lived in the neighborhood or replace roommates who became my best friends. I’m ready to join a gym and wash dishes and maybe start performing comedy more regularly. I’m motivated to live better. That’s what it means to move on.
November 9, 2011 | 12:35 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Two months after my Grandma Leona was diagnosed with cancer I received a call from my mom insisting I drive down to San Diego to see her before she passed away. I had never waited for someone to die before, let alone my loving grandma, the matriarch of our family who always told me I was the next “Steinfeld.”
Leona had a sharp sense of humor, and often made us laugh unintentionally. “I hope I’m not going to hell” she would say. To which we explained Jews don’t believe in hell. I’m guessing her version of hell was someplace with too much schmutz.
Leona was not destined for hell. She raised four girls, including her nieces Janice and Cathy, whose parents died when they were very young. She also took care of her husband, Norman as his health declined in the late 70’s and later her father who moved in with her for the final 10 years of his life.
Every September Leona would fly from San Diego back to her hometown of Pittsburgh to stay with us for a month. She would babysit my sister, Ariel and I and let me watch “Empty Nest” even when I was grounded from TV. After school we played gin, and ate her famous chocolate chip cookies together, and when we went “upstreet” we held hands like a strictly platonic Harold and Maude.
And now on a moment’s notice, our entire family representing both coasts, arrived in San Diego to wait out the inevitable death of the eldest member of our family, someone we all loved and included.
When I arrived at Aunt Barb and Uncle Larry’s house my parents walked me into my Cousin Ari’s room where Leona was laying on a home care hospital bed hooked up to an IV. She looked ghostly, but seemed at peace, unlike her grandson who could hardly look her in the eye without crying.
Later Rabbi Rosenthal visited her room. “Now is the time to tell Leona what she has meant to you,” he advised.
Grown men broke down in that room and my mom and Aunt Barb told their mother she was their inspiration and best friend. I leaned over my 4’9"grandma who at this point shared the bed with Alfie, Aunt Barb and Uncle Larry’s Bedlington Terrier, and Jake, her 3 month old great grandson. Seeing a dog and baby cuddling with grandma on her death bed made me smile.
“You probably know why we are all here…so you can finally tell us who is your favorite grandson.” She still had enough in her for a laugh.
We left her room not knowing if we would ever see her again. We relied on the medical opinions of the family doctors, Uncle Larry, and my Cousin Josh.
“It could be tonight, it could be tomorrow. We don’t really know.”
“She would want us to celebrate her life rather than be sad.” My mom continued to reiterate.
Despite the horrible circumstance, the entire family reunited: Ariel, and cousin Robyn, both pregnant and their husbands Brian/Bryan, cousin Ari, the jungle DJ living out of his van, my cousins Josh and Abby and their two baby boys, Jake and Tyler, Adam and hot girlfriend Sierra, and Sami, Max and Sasha, cousins in their 20’s who could finally sit around the table and participate in an adult conversation with the likes of Uncle Marc, Aunt Judy, Aunt Janice and Rich, and Aunt Cathy, and David.
Thursday night Uncle Larry left to round the hospital so Cousin Josh stood on call downstairs with Grandma. As we drank wine upstairs, snuck out back for a smoke, and told jokes by the fire, Josh kept Grandma alive.
On Friday mom and Aunt Barb spent most of the day by grandma’s side, as did Aunt Cathy. Meanwhile, Delhi, Leona and Aunt Barb’s housekeeper, worked off the clock tending to her friend, Leona. The rest of the day the family split up and eventually came back to the house for dinner and drinks.
Saturday morning my dad schooled me in tennis. When we arrived back at the house Cousin Adam and I played FIFA. In the 80th minute my mom interrupted the game.
Those of us inside the house slowly entered the room. There she was with her eyes shut and mouth open. I stared at my grandma who was now merely a lifeless body. We held each other realizing this was the last time we would ever see the matriarch of our family. 92 years of life had stopped in an instant.
After leaving the room we waited for the others. Ariel, Sami, Sasha, and Aunt Janice came down the steps. We stood in silence, stunned this was now the conclusion.
The rabbi returned and asked us to share our memories of Grandma. She was the “peacemaker who could always keep a secret,” said Aunt Cathy.
Cousin Robyn remembered hiding Aunt Leona’s hair nets.
My dad remembered calling Leona’s office when she worked at the Pitt. Her boss would answer and reply “She’s here, but not all there.”
I shared the time grandma volunteered to type a homework assignment for me and typed a whole story about tuna fish I made up on the spot.
That night some of us watched “The Big Chill,” a film that seemed to capture what we expereinced. After the movie, the cousins and I escaped to Dave and Busters. Cousin Max left with a pair of D & B underpants.
About 40 people attended the funeral. Uncle Larry composed himself better than any of us could.
“I first met Leona in 1967,” he began his eulogy.
“I was in love with her daughter. I knew the first time I met her, that I was also in love with Leona.”
I looked to Josh and Ari, my cousins I wanted to be like the most growing up. Now at 26, I still needed approval from my older cousins to see if it was okay to cry at grandma’s funeral. Not like it mattered; I was defenseless.
“At 92 she was still driving and playing Mahjong three times a week. She was truly at peace with dying and she died in front of the people she loved most—her family. I knew Leona almost as long as my own mother. I will always love Leona.”
During the end of Leona’s life our family spent five meaningful days together. In between playing “Words with Friends” on our iPhones, we became a group of people who could talk to each other, and laugh and cry with one another—a family. Before my grandma passed, my mom asked her if she had any life lessons. All she said was “Be Kind.”
If only we can continue to live like Leona.
November 2, 2011 | 12:04 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
The exciting part about being single is you never know who you are going to sleep with next. It can be anybody, really. Knowing me, most likely an artsy liberal from OkCupid. I’ve been on the site for almost two years so at this point “Mr. San Diego” is a seasoned veteran.Though I grew up in Pittsburgh, I moved to San Diego when I turned 17. I figured Mr. San Diego would get more dates than Mr. Pittsburgh who I envision drinking an Iron City wearing a tank top and jean shorts. Mr. San Diego at least wears sleeves.
With a few decent enough photos of yourself and a fairly witty profile, you can meet a lot of women. The problem is when Mr. San Diego, the once genteel internet dater turns into “Mr. Weeknight.” An average Tuesday for Mr. Weeknight: two drinks at home, walk to Melrose for two more drinks with someone with whom all you have in common is occasionally you both like to eat pho.
Mr. Weeknight expresses his love for Eagle Rock, and how he enjoys the music of “Mumford and Sons,” but beyond that nothing personal.
“So, do you have any siblings?”
“A brother, or a sister?”
“Just a sibling.”
It got to the point where the bartender at the Snakepit would know that I’d bring a different girl with me each week. She would pretend she didn’t know me so things never got awkward. I would tip her an extra dollar out of gratitude. Even though many of these dates led nowhere I continued on. For every lackluster first date at the Snakepit with Kelly, there was the hope of Rowie at the Surly Goat and the promise of Alana at the Village Idiot.
And then, something happened. I woke up and realized I didn’t know who I was sleeping next to. It wasn’t a woman….I sucked in my stomach then exhaled and it was what I thought it was: my belly. I felt my chest and it felt like I was forming man boobs. I don’t like to think they were man boobs, rather boobs that would belong to a lady, but still.
Was I gaining weight from all these mistake dates? Was it worth going out with someone who told me her version of camping was a hotel without room service? How about my date who saw a heavy set woman at a restaurant and told her friend she should be on the anorexia diet? Would this be my future?
I sat lounging in my living room with my feet up mindlessly watching TV when a few proud men wearing tank tops appeared on screen. “My guy friends started making jokes when I told them I joined ‘Weight Watchers for Men’. That’s okay because I’ve lost 50 lbs. Who is laughing now?”
Weight Watchers for Men, what a novel idea, I thought. I need to lose weight, and I’m a man. Plus I always liked tank tops; I was born and raised in Pittsburgh not San Diego.
I am now three weeks into weight watching. I get 35 points a day which allows me to eat all the fruits and vegetables I want and anything else in moderation.
I am counting every carrot and tracking everytime I run, play basketball and soccer. It’s fun and it’s already working. Weight Watchers is turning into Date Watchers. If Date Watchers isn’t already trademarked, I’m sure we could help other online dating addicts. Date Watchers could help you track how many emails you send and how many responses you get. Everytime you go on a date you can track how much you drink, spend and then track the outcome. Eventually you may realize for all the time and energy you put in, you probably aren’t seeing quality results. Then again, maybe you’ve found your GifelteBitch, I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m watching how much I date because dating non-stop isn’t healthy for me. Instead of my alter ego,“Mr. Weeknight,” I’d rather be a better fit young bachelor who can confidently meet someone the natural way—in person (at a bar).
I am running during the week, eating healthier and feeling better about myself all while eliminating the mistake dates. Now who can help me trademark Date Watchers?