In 1980 East Hollywood/Silverlake was a neighborhood on the verge of becoming a gay enclave. Los Angeles City College was the hub sitting on Melrose Avenue. Gentrification was on the verge with the opening of a ninety-nine-seat gay theater and boutique family restaurants. We had our own gay bar. The Asians, Latinos and Gays were beautifully integrating. It was the first time we owned property. At twenty-eight I was able to put down a deposit and qualify for a loan. My spendthrift ways were paying off. Both our names were on the property deed of Gilbert Place.
As a child I wanted to emulate my mother. My own house where I would be the happy homemaker. Gilbert Place fulfilled my aspirations.
I loved decorating the bungalow style home built in 1923. The eleven hundred square feet included two small bedrooms, a separate dining room, large kitchen, pantry and a breakfast room nook. The nook had yellow flowered wallpaper that captured the western sunlight coming through the matching solid yellow mini blinds. The butcher block wood table with rattan metal chairs finished off my favorite space. The dining room had built in shelves to display china.
The second bedroom was Scott’s office. The apartment we lived in previously had a bed in the second bedroom. Scott told his parents “We are just roommates.”
With our new home I told Scott, “I don’t want a second bed. Your parents have to accept we are lovers.” Since we cohabited since 1974, Scott’s parents were an albatross. Scott’s activism and gay pride was such a contrast to his subservient position with his parents.
The pantry was only large enough for a washer. Without a dryer we searched for sunbeams to hit the clothesline. With few closets we bought an antique armoire.
The fireplace was complete with a plywood mantel. On both sides there were blue tiles engraved with pelicans. The fake logs were the only heat source. Even with window treatments that included blinds and ceiling to floor heavy drapes, we froze in the winter. Space heaters did nothing to stop the draft from the multiple windows in each room. When we asked the real estate agent if there was a furnace he said, “Don’t worry about it. It never gets cold. You have the fireplace.”
The garage looked like the leaning Tower of Pisa. We couldn’t open the door for fear it would collapse. Gilbert Place was a cul de sac which had the disadvantage of cars driving through and spinning around when they realized it was a dead end.
In 1981 we took a three-week vacation. Exhausted from jet lag, we fell into the backdoor to Gilbert Place. The door was pried open. Had a woodpecker attacked the wood door frame? We dropped the luggage and scurried through the house looking for damage. Drawers were spewed open.
“Oh no. The jewelry box has been emptied. My father’s gold watch is gone.” Four years ago, my Dad’s blue sapphire college ring had been stolen. Is this a sign?
We ended up putting up window bars to alleviate any fears of this happening in the future.
But it was ours. The challenges inspired us. We planted herbs in the garden. Rosemary and parsley grew wildly. The bougainvillea vines covering the backyard patio was home to outdoor parties.
The ceiling was plastered with glued white sound proof tiles. We suspected there had been rain damage and this covered stains. In 1985 the sweltering summer made for a restless sleep. I feel a crash falling on my head. “Ow!” I scream. “Scott, something has fallen on me.”
“It’s one of the ceiling tiles.” He pushes it off my head.
“Am I bleeding?”
“No, you are fine. It barely hit your head.”
“It looks like the glue disintegrated.” I told him as I looked at the tile.
When we returned from our first vacation since the installation of black prisoned window and door bars, we were comforted as we entered. Exactly as we left things. As we began cooking our first home cooked meal I reached into the utensil drawer.
“AHHHHH” I see a foot-long rat that was decomposing. Nestled between serving spoons, a can opener, and knives are the remains of the rodent. I suspect this is one of those situations where not having a sense of smell is a blessing. I hollered for Scott. A shirking scream came bellowing through Gilbert Place.
“Gordon come here. I found something in the toilet.”
As I enter the bathroom, I see Scott is standing in front of the toilet bowl. I see another dead rat. Floating in the toilet bowl. The stiff long tail pointing to the ceiling. Must have been searching for water. I hadn’t been taught to put down the toilet seat cover before leaving for vacation.
It was time to move but in 1986, our axis came to a halt and leaving Gilbert Place was put on hold