In order to tell the story of how I ended up in the Hollywood Hills, I have to explain how I got there: my temporary roommate.
I wanted to finish my RTW trip in L.A. because I felt like visiting after being away for more than a decade in Pennsylvania; and I’d also agreed to help produce a friend’s web series. I needed a place to stay on a very limited budget for two weeks, and answered an ad in my former neighborhood newspaper.
It was placed by a woman who sounded nice over the phone. This wasn’t Craigslist; it was a neighborhood paper I’d read faithfully for years, and was sure received classified ads only from nice people, right? I gave her a thorough online inspection, and she passed, on paper. (Don’t we all?) I’d rented a car; I could flee anytime. Not like that woman in Single White Female. Right?
After almost a week of being under her roof, I have to say that except for a few quirks, it’s fine. She’s a songwriter with two platinum albums, an artist and author. Visually, she reminds me of Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom) with a touch of Mia Farrow. Jewish, to boot. I’m always a bit envious of tall, thin, blonde, attractive Jewish women with great arms.
She’s from Toronto, and says her love for L.A. is so intense that when she returned to her cold hometown for awhile and then came back, she was so grateful, she went out and bought forks adorned with palm trees.
And she’s smart; with a nice, dry sense of humor. She wrote a biography about the treatment of Jews in Switzerland in World War II; has a passion for historical research and The History Channel; and Einstein quotes are bathroom reading material.
But her guilty pleasure is Two and a Half Men. Everything stops when that’s on. And Oprah. There’s an O magazine library on the coffee table in my room, arranged just so.
Her mother, she informs me, graduated with Cloris Leachman and is still a working actress at age 85. They’re very close. Her dad was a perfectionist, and so is she. Meticulous would be putting it mildly. I can appreciate that because I’m also anal; but living with someone for years has forced me to long since deal with the fact that nobody’s perfect.
I, who usually sweat all the details, found myself playing Oscar Madison to her Felix Ungar, a la The Odd Couple. I’ve started calling her Felicia Ungar; it’s my little joke with myself. (Whenever I feel guilty about that because she’s so sweet, I remind myself that I paid for the room and the privilege. Besides, I’ve already told her jokingly to her face that she’s a pain. She seemed to take it fine. I hope.)
I put a glass on top of O, figuring Ms. Winfrey could protect the coffee table. My door was open, and I thought I heard her say “coaster,” when she walked past. Miffed, I no sooner asked for one, and it was handed to me. In a nice way.
This sign leading to the front door pretty much says it all. She said it came about after someone distributing flyers startled her on her patio when she was scantily clad. Hey, who can blame her? But it’s one more contraption to contend with.
She likes Buddha and dislikes people with “negative energy”; and can’t tolerate the cooking of red meat in her kitchen. (I later found out she doesn’t even like it if it’s ordered in a restaurant in her presence.)
I don’t cook or eat much meat, but like a good corned beef sandwich every now and then. I was at Art’s, considered a pretty good deli, and ordered one with lovely Jewish potato salad to go.
It wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized in horror that Ms. Ungar wouldn’t share my enthusiasm. I had to hide the heavenly reeking meat and pickles somewhere in her refrigerator. I hid the bag in a veggie bin while she was asleep, and then had the whole schmear in my room at the ungodly hour of 5 in the morning; then carefully disposed of the evidence — I mean — wrapper.
She also advises leaving the toilet lid down, because the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui teaches that doing so will increase wealth, because it keeps more money from going down the drain.
Now I know how guys feel when they’re hounded to keep the seat down. In my book, the seat being up is a far worse offense than the lid. But no use getting my panties in a bunch over it.
And she can’t understand overweight people. She knows a guy she says looks like Octomom. “How could he do that. Why wouldn’t he try to look his best?” she wondered, as I sucked in a stomach inflated by way too much pasta and gelato in San Diego’s Little Italy.
She’s a stickler about recycling, but I’m sure she’s bound by city rules. That’s why I made sure I gave the take-out container that held my (ahem) IHOP chocolate chip pancakes a thorough rinsing before delicately placing them in the recycle bin.
But she informed me in a polite note that the container had to be washed, and put in the bin just so. Probably the same at home in Pennsylvania, but I guess the trash collectors there overlook a lot. But then I got a verbal lesson in how to break apart containers because I didn’t do it the right way. Several times.
Dem’s da rules. I’ll be Oscar Madison for my remaining nine days here — but who’s counting — because she seems to mean well, and the price is right.
Besides, she just told me, as I sat working in my unmade bed in my room that looks like it’s been hit by a minor L.A. earthquake, that she thinks I’m terrific. Yes, I am. (Smiley emoticon here.)
She’s been in L.A. for decades and belongs to lots of networking groups. That’s a plus. Because she enthusiastically invited me along to that event the other night that I’ll always savor.