I woke up this morning and immediately turned on the a/c. I can’t recall the last time I had to do that. Its hot!
So posted my friend Hope. I envied her. Air conditioning. We’re in Silver Lake, in one of those California Spanish houses that Walter Neff in Double Indemnity said everyone was nuts about 10 or 15 years ago. Which would be about 1930, on the money for this place. It’s one of those pads people slow down to look at as they pass. We did. Came down our street once by mistake and turned around in the driveway. I remember saying to my wife that I wished we lived in a place like this instead of the cute but shaky bungalow we had off Sunset. We had earthquakes then, and the slightest temblor would wrack the joint and it would shudder and creak and let us know in no uncertain terms that the earth was shaking. We got used to it. But when a crackhouse opened up next door in what is now an overpriced if charming brownstone it was time to move. We couldn’t believe that the place we’d seen by mistake that day a year before was available. There had been a gang killing on the street a few months back, some innocent kid cut down, wrong place, wrong time, and that made prospective renters nervous. The landlord thought we were the nicest and sweetest married couple he’d ever seen. Gosh. I didn’t tell him about playing drums in punk rock bands. Said we hated parties. Swore we were virgins. Didn’t mention the cats. We got the place.
But this place is old school. In fact so old school that it doesn’t have the kind of windows you can put an air conditioner in. Not one. That’s old school. When Silver Lake grew from hunting lodges to rich people those rich people sweltered in front of metal fans. Raymond Chandler typed and drank and sweated over there on Micheltorena Hill. Air conditioning back then was the stuff of modern office buildings. Mulholland had an air conditioned office atop his big dam-shaped building downtown. Is the building designed to look like the San Francisquito dam? I’ve always wondered that, though no way to compare the two now. And the Bradbury Building you’ve all seen a zillion times without knowing it (though not Double Indemnity, unfortunately) was no doubt air conditioned back then. I worked there once, for a week. Worse job I ever had. When the secretary tells you on the first day that the problem with her boss is that she needs a good fuck and no one will ever give her one, you know it’s time to leave. I lasted a week. But I loved the building. I think that’s why I stuck it out a whole week. You can’t believe how ornate the place is, like walking around inside a baroque sculpture. You couldn’t help touching everything. And it was very air conditioned, unlike our place. But the Bradbury Building is in the middle of paved over everything downtown, the streets and walls and cars and buses and sweaty pedestrians all radiating heat, while we live on top of a hill, with breezes, even a zephyr or two, nearly all of the time. Plus we have an ingeniously designed fan system, lots of fans, strategically placed. They suck out hot air and blow in cool air and swirl it around and all the calendars flap and papers are blown off the table and I stay up late writing and thinking and listening to strange African music in all that moving, flowing, billowing air. It works. Not as good as air conditioning. There’s nothing like being buried beneath the covers in a cold bedroom on a hot night. But sleeping in a continuous stream of air works too.
We moved in here on one of those hottest days in forever. We have two flights of stairs, but as I was much younger then and macho to the core, I had planned on doing it all myself. My wife hired a friend to help me, fifty bucks and beer. We tossed in a pizza and laughs. We have so much more stuff now that when we finally move we’ll probably just burn it all and pretend we lived in the hills and lost everything in a summer inferno. Easier that way. This being California I’ve met several people who’ve lost everything to the flames. They seem well adjusted enough. Of course summer infernos imply a dry wind, which would actually be nice right about now. I’d turn off the fans and open the windows and let it flow though the house. Sheets of paper would lift like little magic carpets and float about the room. The vase full of flowers would blow over. My wife would yell and pick up the flowers. I’d turn up the music and the strange sounds of Mauritanian guitar would bother the neighbors out on the sundeck next door and they’d wish I go back to jazz again. Wait till the weather breaks, I’d tell them, wait till it’s cool again. Right now it’s gnawa time. And the music drones and circles and I can’t understand a word but it blends with the wind and I disappear entirely.