Our first apartment in LA was in Los Feliz, just east of Hollywood. Before we moved here, our brother-in-law Sonny drove around looking at apartments for us. He found us a reasonably-priced place in a great location. We filled out all the paperwork over email and got the apartment even though all we had seen of the apartment were a few dimly-lit pictures.
It didn’t really matter, because any apartment in Los Angeles is a palace compared to any apartment in New York. The day we arrived, we were speechless. It looked so huge. Our stuff hadn’t arrived yet, so we spent the first three nights sleeping on a foam mattress we borrowed from Sonny & Julia and drinking wine out of paper cups.
One of the biggest selling points of the apartment was the fact that we didn’t have upstairs neighbors. At my previous apartment in Brooklyn, the upstairs neighbors had made me very tense. They fought loudly and often. I always expected that at any minute I would hear a gunshot followed by a massive thump. And one of them wore what sounded like wooden shoes. And she paced back and forth in her 12 X 12 apartment for hours on end. I could never figure out what she was doing, because you could clear the entire apartment in 4 steps.
The only thing above our LA apartment was a patio that was shared by everyone in the building but no one ever used. We did have a downstairs neighbor, a very nice fiftysomething Cuban man named Herve who wore his eye makeup with such regularity that we were pretty sure it was tattooed on. He had a dog named Booboo who he would call to from his porch at night: “BOOOOboooo! BOOOOboooo!” We could sometimes hear his TV through the floor and he sometimes played his disco music a little loud, but overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor.
After we had been there for a few years, Herve was forced out by a rent increase and three hipster kids in their 20s moved in. They weren’t there very often, leaving for weeks at a time to go to Ibiza or wherever beautiful young hipsters go. When they were there, they partied loudly every night until about 11, and then they’d go out for the rest of the night. Which wasn’t such a terrible schedule, because they were usually gone by the time we went to sleep.
When they moved out, another couple moved in who were the exact opposites of the hipsters. They never made a peep. And when I exercised in the apartment — which I did very rarely — the woman in the couple would knock on her ceiling with a broomstick handle instead of coming up to talk to me about it like a civilized human being.
One day I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, and she knocked on the ceiling. I went down to confront her.
“Hi,” I said, “I was sitting on the couch just now and I thought I heard you knock on the ceiling.”
“It sounded like someone was stomping around,” she said.
“No,” I said. “I was sitting on the couch.”
“It sounded like a hippopotamus,” she said. “It was really loud.”
“Well, I exercise sometimes in the apartment,” I said. “You’ve knocked on the ceiling before when I’ve done that. You don’t need to knock on the ceiling, though. You can just come up and ask me to be quiet.”
“That must have been it,” she said. “You must have been exercising.”
“No!” I insisted. “I exercise sometimes, but this time I wasn’t! I was just sitting on the couch!”
“Could you get a rug?” she asked. “That might help.”
This went on for awhile until I finally told her I would appreciate it if she stopped knocking on the ceiling and I walked away. I never exercised in our apartment again, but to be fair, she never knocked on the ceiling again, either. Thankfully, they moved away after about 6 months, I guess because they couldn’t handle my hippopotomusian-bulk.
The final neighbors pushed us over the edge. They nearly pushed the entire neighborhood over the edge. It was two women in their 20s. A few days after moving in, one of them bought a puppy. That night, she put the puppy out on the porch and left. For hours.
As we learned, the “cry it out” method does not work for puppies. After about two hours of incessant crying, people in the neighboring buildings began shouting out of their windows for someone to “shut that beast up.” I thought they were going to start throwing shoes and tomatoes. At 2 in the morning, we finally could take it no longer. We woke the building manager up and told him the neighborhood was on the verge of blowing up our building. He immediately got on the phone and called the tenants, who came home and brought the dog in about an hour later, still yapping.
The exact same thing happened again the next night. Only this time, the building manager couldn’t get in touch with the tenants. The dog yapped straight through until about 5 in the morning, when the tenants got home from work or the club or wherever it was they went at night.
This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sarah wrote a terse letter explaining to the neighbors that their dog had ruined the entire world and everyone hated them. It wasn’t really that bad. Sarah’s nice. It was the nice version of “your dog has ruined the entire world and everyone hates you.”
Later that day, we got a knock on the door. I opened it to find an incredibly cute twentyish British girl standing in my doorway.
“Hello,” she said in an adorable British accent, “I live downstairs, and I just wanted to tell you that I’m terribly sorry about the dog.”
“It’s not a problem,” I grinned, little cartoon hearts flying around my head.
“He belongs to my roommate, and she works at night, and we didn’t know he barked so much, and it will never, ever happen again.” Smiling and fluttering her eyelids.
“Great!” I said. “Thank you so much for coming up. Really, you didn’t need to do this.” Which was true; she really didn’t need to do that.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said, solemnly. “I’m so sorry he disturbed you.”
“No problem,” I said, “bye now.”
And she went back downstairs. Her apology made no difference; we were already on the hunt for a new place to live. But it was still by far the most neighborlyiest thing I’ve ever seen a neighbor do in response to a complaint.
A few days later I went to see the Ben Stiller movie Greenberg. The movie ends with a big party scene in which Ben Stiller’s character decides to go to Australia with his niece and her friend. The friend looked extremely familiar to me. Long story short: it was my downstairs neighbor. I met her on Sunday, and on Wednesday I was watching her on the silver screen. These are the kinds of things that only happen in Hollywood.
Just this morning I read an article about how she’s going to be the next big thing. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone called her “a sorceress of an actress.” She’s in this movie. She’s the British one.
If any reporters stumble on this looking for dirt, I can tell you this: she’s a good neighbor. But her roommate’s dog is kind of an asshole.