Sunday, February 3, 2019

Newly Normal

It pours on our final day in our Silver Lake office.  I am soaked after loading the last of the stuff I need to work from home.  My two employees, who I call “the boys,” although both are well into their fifties, are stuck loading heavy boxes of film wrapped in trash bags down the walk street to their new digs.  It seems, that with the bait of a huge amount of money in an escrow account, that our nightmare tenant will be moving out in March.  My business and Spuds will share the upstairs unit of the duplex.  Despite being on the deed and mortgage and having a separate address, and utility meters our tenant, after not paying rent for over a year, has discovered that there is no permit on file for the separate unit.  She has driven the upstairs tenant of twenty-five years to move and given her threats of violence we are unable to rent the unit, hence the decision to move the office and my unflappable employees there.  Then, as soon as the squatter is gone, Spuds will move in.  With regard to the unit that we hope is being vacated, we will have to either pay to have a permit issued and if that’s not financially feasible, rip out the kitchen and bath.  The apartment has been registered and inspected by the housing department every year and the tenant, until she stopped paying rent, lived there comfortably and without complaint for seventeen years.  But it does seem that the end is in sight and at least we will be able to fearlessly enter the home we’ve owned for decades.  We are cautiously optimistic that over a year of agita, housing inspectors, courtrooms and death threats is winding down.

Spuds asks, “Now that you’re not working, can you pick up my pants from the tailor?”  “I’m still working!” I snap.  “We’ll maybe if you give yourself a lunch break…” he inveigles.  But it is different.  There’s no reason to get dressed until it’s time to go to school.  I can slip out and run to the market or unload the dishwasher while a file is uploading.  But even though my productivity, such as it is, hasn’t been reduced, somehow working in a schmata and fuzzy slippers makes me feel indolent. 

The polar vortex and Number One Son in Chicago are this week’s source of anxiety.  He comforts me by sending a picture of himself outdoors and shirtless.  He is promoted to sales manager for a chain of fancy donuts shops.  They participate in a big donut festival and he is jaunty and at ease when interviewed on the local news.  He is anxious about the stores being closed due to the freezing weather but suggests bringing donuts to homeless folks in warming centers.  The mayor’s office contacts him for a commendation.   After leaving a good job in Los Angeles, it’s taken him a few years to find a satisfying position in Chicago.  And I presume that eventually he’ll get real sick of donuts.

Spuds keeps busy too.  As a freelance art-handler he finds himself turning down work.  This week he is driving David Hockney paintings from the artist’s studio to the gallery.  The works are so valuable that insurance requires them to be transported in the truck one at a time.  Spuds relates offhandedly about spending an afternoon in the gallery with Hockney himself supervising the installation of an upcoming show.  Spuds’ girlfriend is the archivist at a gallery and most nights they hop from opening to opening. They are planning a trip to Brazil. Not shabby.

Himself and I both do a lot of moonlighting to offset the disaster with the evil tenant so I seldom require him to socialize.  An exception is a screening of my colleague, John Cannizzaro’s film Beatrice of 9.  John makes experimental films and the current production is a large-scale deeply personal abstract memoir.  John’s received acclaim at a number of festivals but his work is certainly not destined for commercial success.  His films are self-financed (and due to his position at my company, pathetically under-financed).  He’s made a number of wonderful 8mm films, edited in camera.  The Dante inspired Beatrice of 9 combines several decades of these films with some new material and a wonderful original score.  The film screens at the Velaslavasay Panorama, near USC.  This off-the-beaten-track eccentricity has a charming garden with a fireplace and grotto.  There is an old-fashioned film theater and a gallery of panoramic photos.  Spuds and his lady friend meet us at the screening.  There are folks at the reception that he hasn’t seen since high school.  I am touched by how warm and affectionate he is when meeting old friends.

After a hiatus of a few months, my regular Friday writing has crept over to Sunday.  Sometimes it is hard to get started.  My faithful readers number about the same as attended John’s screening and my own endeavors require far less effort and zero money.  Sometimes though it doesn’t feel worth it but John’s drive to create for the pure satisfaction of having done so inspirits me.   Our legal problems seem on the cusp of resolution. The kids are all right.  I’ll adjust to the home office and try to keep up these meager scribblings, which sometimes feel just like blowing off steam but, once in a while, feel almost like making art.