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.