I didn’t hear the full story until this year, about an event that shocked my mum at the time. It happened about 25 years ago when a neighbor in my hometown of Brentwood Glen, West L.A. decided he’d had enough of my two older brothers and me and the rest of our friends who with us ran wild (according to him) up and down our street. He threatened to take us out. It now sounds sort of cool to have been so bad that we drove a man to consider such extremes. A death threat! And him the hitman!
We didn’t get up to anything worse than most kids back then. Those were days when children still ran in the streets and didn’t get ferried by mom and dad to a full schedule of extracurricular activities in the safety of clubs, homes and schools. For us, the streets were our education and our playground. And our house and in particular our garage had become a choice place to hang out when we came in off the streets. My parents were extremely lax. We knew few boundaries other than to call home if you weren’t coming back at a reasonable hour. For the most part we were good. Yet for some reason we drove a man livid to the point of canvassing for our expulsion from the neighborhood. And then the death threat. It may have been the bonfires we made of leftover fireworks. Or the paper airplanes we lit on fire and threw off our roof. It may have been the half-pipe we put in front of our house for skateboarding. Or it may have been our attempts to make music, me on bass and my brothers on drums and vocals. It was punk. Other kids joined and we played fast and hard (and probably rather poorly, even though some of the kids did go on to make something out of it). My eldest brother turned the garage into the headquarters for his independent music label Upstart Records, producing Southern California punk bands like Red Scare, Circle One, Shattered Faith, Stalag 13, Hated Principles and Killroy. We filled the garage with a huge wooden stage that went concert to concert and then back to the garage and our jam sessions. Bands would spend the night at our house after concerts and my mum would make them scrambled eggs in the morning.
All this pissed off one man.
I can’t recall what happened to him and his threats. I think he finally moved away.
The episode is now back in my mind because it is to an extent repeating itself. The entire apartment building where I live in Buenos Aires seems to have it out for my family. The threat isn’t death. It’s eviction.
I have figured out that there are three or maybe four families in this posh building in this posh neighborhood – Recoleta – that want rid of us. The circumstances are not the same as my childhood. This time it is because we own a dog. She’s a lump of fur that does little more than sleep and hang out with the kids. She rarely barks and rarely moves, except when she greets us or anybody else at the door. Or when a crumb falls to the floor. Then she’s quicker than lightening. But a dog’s a dog and the building’s bylaws ban dogs and say that’s grounds for eviction.
Should we fight? Or should we just call it quits and let the boring and stuffy folk live with their own and keep to their own?
We’ve been through this once before, at our previous apartment where we lived after leaving our quiet home on the coast, our pine tree paradise. A woman of power, i.e. an oversized and rude lawyer, saw me and my dog – aka four-ton – enter the building when we moved in. She called the administration who called the doorman to verify the size. “Yeah, it’s big,” the doorman said. So the oversized lawyer called me and gave me 30 days to get rid of four-ton or move out. The reasons: dogs are mucky and belong in the countryside. I tried to point out that dogs are man’s best friend and have lived with them in harmony for centuries, except a smattering of pit bulls and a few other breeds. She didn’t listen and pressed for the dog’s ouster. I decided to investigate her claims and went to check out the bylaws. Sure enough, it said nothing admissible in court. The laws on dog possession were so nebulous that I chuckled and left even as the building manager said, “Yeah, but…” The dog population soon grew at the building and the oversized lawyer sought other ways to complain including by suing for emotional damage or something.
We left to enter a bigger battle.
Should we leave again?