Monday, November 7, 2011

Animal House

I left off last week with the story of the office building that inspired me to move to California.

Today I thought I'd share the tale of my transcontinental move and how I ended up here at the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity on the campus of UCLA. Although old time Bruins might remember this was originally the home of Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Let me also state upfront that I was never a frat boy and abhorred that whole cultish Greek society thing. The only reason I visited a fraternity house while in college was to drink their free beer while feigning interest in their stupid club.

I knew from my summers at Syracuse that frat houses rented out rooms to boarders. It was an easy way for Chip or Wentworth or Tadpole to put a little extra money in their pocket to purchase thesis papers from students who actually did the work.

With that in mind and with my parents already getting on my "OK, now you've graduated from college what are going to do with your life" ass, I packed a duffel bag, emptied out the bank account (that was a short process) and bought a one way plane ticket to El Lay.

I had no idea why I was moving to Los Angeles, other than it wasn't as cold as Syracuse, NY and it wasn't as dismal as Suffern, NY. I didn't have any job prospects and didn't know a soul in California. But none of that seemed to matter to a gung ho 22-year old kid.

Los Angeles had writing opportunities, beautiful blond shicksas, and beaches, and I wanted to be in the same zip code as all three.

Well, as anyone who watches Survivorman will tell you, shelter is the first priority. So I made my way from LAX to UCLA, where I had hoped to secure a boarding room. The problem was, school was still in session and would be for another month. None of the frat houses, and I trudged up and down Gayley Ave. to talk with every one of them, had any vacancies at the inn.

I was within a minute of snatching up a good sturdy cardboard box and making my home on the gritty, urban streets of Westwood.

But then I ran into Joe, the 75-year old groundskeeper at the former AEPi house. He was an old Jew from the Bronx who had shown promise as a welterweight boxer. Joe said I could have a room in three weeks and that until then I could sleep on a mattress on the roof of the building. For $75 I'd have a place to sleep, shower, and shave.

Notice I didn't say shit. The toilet facilities were so repulsive, I opted for the public bathroom at Sepi's Subs just down the street.

Here's what the rooftop of my first official California home looks like.

It wasn't bad sleeping under the stars. The temperature was mild, the campus was beautiful and the stars were plentiful. Sadly, however, no one had informed me about June Gloom -- a California Coastal condition that moistens everything in its path, including my sleeping bag, my clothes and my three pair of underwear.

My roof-sleeping, wet-clothes, no-pot-to-piss-in adventures didn't seem very amusing at the time. But it did to my father. Who said, with great Springsteen-like acuity, "Someday you'll look back on this and it will all seem funny."


george tannenbaum said...

I was wealthy compared with you, Rich.

I found a two-bedroom apartment on W. 112th Street. I kept the smaller bedroom for myself and rented the larger one out for $250. That allowed me a room for $90/month, roaches included.

Berk said...

All joking aside, I am forever in your debt.