I flew out of New York on Friday, November 7th. The flight was fun because there was internet for my laptop. I got off the plane and was picked up by my good friend Eric Saez, who got me my job five years back at the Barking Dog. He’s been in LA for more than three years now, and plays guitar in a really amazing band called Casxio that is being looked at by some major record labels.
I decided to try to find a place to live before I actually moved, and lucked out by finding a peculiar arrangement through Craigslist. Every time I explained it to people, I got weird looks and skeptical inquiries, and rightly so. But my instincts were right as it’s exactly what I had imagined it to be in my naïve little head.
A guy named Andre Bauth from Colombia rents rooms of his house out hostel-style. So that means I have a roommate, and there’s about nine or ten other people living in the house. Andre finds most of the people through recommendations to cut down on the skeevy factor. Living in the house are people from Spain, India, England, France, and Ecuador. And of course, my roommate is from Rochester, New York and went to the same high school as my cousins!
Everyone there is in the same boat. They’re trying to establish themselves, and need a place to be grounded for a while as they get things going without breaking the bank. Everyone is really cool and gets along real well. Quite a few actors, including Andre:
Pretty good, huh?!
So sure enough, the place is a few minutes away from my buddy Eric Saez! So that is convenient, and it’s nice to know I have a friendly face so close.
The first full day I was there I went and bought a car. I was looking to spend 2500 and found something for 1600. I took the subway down to Long Beach (yes, subway…you can take the kid out of NYC…). I was at this guy’s house for like three hours as he fixed stuff. A real cool and nice guy, he buys cars and fixes them up and sells them. And it was cheap. A ’96 VW Jetta, Green, stick shift. I got a good feeling from the guy.
One of the quirks of the car was that the starter was funky in that you had to turn the key and push up. It took me quite a few tries before I could get it to work. Fernando told me he could fix it, but wouldn’t be able to get the parts until Monday. So I decided to take the car and make a date for later in the week.
I drove away, and pulled up to the next block to get gas and brace myself for some Los Angeles freeway driving. I pulled up to the wrong side to get gas, and so I went to start the car to swing it around and it would not start.
I kept trying and trying, but for some reason I couldn’t do it anymore. So I called Fernando and he walked over and helped me start it. You have to have the key facing a certain way, and I kept trying with it in the wrong way.
I drove back home and was a bit terrified as cars weaved in and out of lanes at 70 mph. I only missed two exit ramps the whole way, which I considered to be a victory.
I got home and ate some food and then passed out hard.
The next day I woke up and walked around the neighborhood. I’m living in North Hollywood, which is a really cool, funky, upcoming place. There’s a lot of coffee shops and second-hand/vintage stores. I ran some errands and hung out with Eric Saez at night.
The next morning I was prepared to go job searching. I had a nice outfit, got some resumes printed out, and had a list of restaurants to hit from scouring Craigslist. I unlocked my car, which was parked on the street across from the house, and the car alarm went off.
Sweet mother. If I’ve not expressed this sentiment to anyone yet, I just want to make it clear that I have always hated cars. I vowed to never drive one again when I moved to New York City, and I was a bit uneasy with the idea. This is exactly the type of thing that reaffirms my intense disdain.
I don’t think I’ve popped a hood in over five years, so even that was hard for me to figure out how to do. I have NO idea what to do, other than try to start the car (which you can’t do b/c the alarm is going off, that’s the point).
After a few excruciating minutes, the next-door neighbor walks out. He’s a real cool guy in his mid-thirties, and he seems to know more than me about cars (he knew how to pop the hood). After about a half hour of trying to take this node off the battery then that node, calling Fernando, etc, we give up and he suggests I get Triple A. I decide to wait til that night. I hop on the subway and take it to one of the five places I was going to go. At least I got one.
The next day Triple A came and found a kill switch. Score. He told me that when the switch was to the left, the alarm would be disengaged. It puts my mind at ease, and I go about my day. Later that night I went to a Los Angeles Kings game. I took the subway there so I don’t have to deal with parking, and I score a ticket for 10 dollars flat. That’s the advantage of the team being in second to last place in the league. I drink a few beers and feel much better.
The next morning I head to the Laundromat. I lock my car door before I go in and hear a little honk. I’ve heard that little honk before! When I finally leave, I know what’s going to happen, and it does, the alarm goes off when I unlock the door. Nothing I try in this cramped parking lot at a busy intersection will work. I do exactly what the guy told me to do the day before. Over and over.
Call #2 to Triple A (you get 4 per year). The guy comes and does something completely different. He tells me how to do it again. I get my ass to the alarm place and have the thing disarmed. Fifty bucks. Bummer, but no big deal.
That night I decide to go get the car Smog Tested. Yep, California. As much as I like this kind of law and wish it existed everywhere, I didn’t particularly like it when my car failed it. The guy told me what I needed to have done and sent me on my way. I called Fernando and he said I could drive it down there the next morning and leave it with him until he had the starter fixed and the stereo fixed and the car ready to pass the smog test. Sweet.
I had gotten pretty good at getting around by public transportation, and I was going to be going back to New York for two days, so it was fine by me to leave the car with him for four days and pick it up when I got back.
I hopped in the car at 9am, directions printed out on the passenger seat. I had to take three freeways to get there – the 101, 110 and the 405. The 101 was pretty congested, but I got through. I almost missed the exit for the 110, but some nifty maneuvering got me over there. Score one for Jesse.
As I got onto 110, three lights started going off under my odometer and I noticed that the hood of the car was piping smoke. Score one for Los Angeles.
I started to panic, and realized I needed to get off the road as soon as possible. Traffic had brought me to a complete halt. After ten seconds the car in front of me started to go. I went to follow but nothing happened. My car was completely dead, and I was in the middle lane of the highway, smoke billowing out from under the hood.
I tried to start it. Nothing. Cars are honking at me.
This is the part where I lose my “gee golly it’s all part of the LA Experience” attitude and I start screaming expletives at the top of my lungs. Had I been on a Broadway stage, the folks in the back row would have appreciated my effort. I start to consider getting out of the car and walking to LAX airport with no intention of ever stepping foot in this cesspool again. One last try…
How about a little Casxio before you go? Here’s video from a live show, with Eric Saez on the guitar: