Just as my essay on living in the servants' quarters of the Zane Grey mansion goes up on Writers' Houses, I'm packing to leave the apartment. There's a lot of sadness about the coming move because this is a truly special place-- I mean, how often do you get to live not only on a historical landmark, but one that has baby goats to pet when you start hating the entertainment industry so much you start fantasizing about leaving for Georgia, a state you've never even been to? I'll miss seeing the chickens running along the back walkway because chickens look hilariously dumb when they run; it's so great for a depressive. I can only hope that whoever moves into the quarters has an appreciation for the house, its history, and the backwards-swastika (doesn't mean the same thing!!) pendants hanging from the lanterns in the upper lounge.
So why would we leave a place filled with so much charm and character and detail for what basically amounts to a retirement condo celebrating the heyday of 1986? Well, there are two sets of reasons for the move, one having to do with tangible needs and the other mostly having to do with magical thinking. In the first category, we've come to understand we should acquire an extra room on the off chance that someday we want to have that bastard child. The second set of reasons starts with the realization that I've written each of my novels, including the secret third one that will never see the light of day beyond Geoffrey Litwack's room, in different apartments, resulting in the belief that if I don't move and write my new book somewhere new, I will fail at life. Also belonging to this second set is the belief that this house has become too personal and has too much personality, and that what's needed is a blank space where I can successfully impose my psyche on my environment and not the other way around. (Reading that back, I sound kind of like a serial killer, but of apartments, not people.) A.K.A., an IRVINE. Sometimes in interviews people will ask me if growing up in the planned community stifled my imagination, and I say no, no, not at all because it was a place that refused the outward expression of individuality, and so it was also the cleanest slate I've ever known. Fellow hometowner Will Ferrell has brought up the same idea about Irvine in some of his interviews. It's a non-place that lacks the ability to interfere with the mental room needed for creativity. (Irvine, if you like that for your city motto, go ahead and print that shit up on the welcome signs.)
I responded to the same blankness in the condo, with its white walls, its grey Berber carpet, its brass wet bar, its track lighting, its white shutters, its sliding glass door, its green frosted glass pendant light in the dining room, and hey, does anyone smell butter, because there's popcorn on the ceiling. While the condo isn't strictly part of a retirement building, when we walked down the corridors most doorsteps boasted either 1. stone critters (bunnies, ducks, so on) 2. signage that indicated the inhabitant was 'taking it easy' or enjoying being a grandparent 3. a welcome mat in a country font 4. a dried flower wreath or 5. small potted plants. The owner of the condo, a senior himself, nervously began to tell us that he thinks there's a couple "somewhere around your age" in the building and he's pretty sure there's a single mom who lives with her teenage son. "That's okay, we don't like to party," we assured him. When Brent and I got home and admitted to each other a weird longing to live in a totally depersonalized space, Brent immediately began Googling accessories for our own doorstep because we knew we'd need an "I'm retired, so don't ask me to do a damn thing!" sign if we were really going to do it hard.
The condo overlooks a pool, and I plan to take morning swims to 'improve my circulation.' I'm much more likely to swim in this pool than most others in Los Angeles because the simple fact is, I've got to have one of the better bodies in the building. So ogle away, neighbors. My boobs are up here. We're not going to take to separate beds like other couples in their Golden Years, but we have discussed each taking a bathroom so we can brush our teeth separately. (That's right, I'm braggin' a lil bit about still having all our teeth! Well, I have all mine. Brent's kind of another story.) For just a moment, we became fearful that we were responding to childhood memories of the Reagan-era aesthetics of our moms, but then we came to terms with the reality that both of our writing has a lot to do with nostalgia, so we decided to embrace it and maybe become younger at heart in the process. (Besides, 1986 was a good year for me; my school realized I was gifted.)
If you are in the Los Angeles area and do not possess psychotic beliefs about the ability of a place's character to sneak into your head (look, Billy Bob Thornton feels the same way about antiques as I do about apartments, so I couldn't be in better psychological company) and are looking to move come October, feel free to message me about living on the estate. A Craigslist post will be going up advertising the apartment in the next few days, so this is a chance to get a step ahead of the plebs.