Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Our villa in Mexico

I don’t travel much. I’ve only been to the Bahamas and Barbados, so an 8-day vacation to Mexico for my friends’ wedding was an incredibly exciting get-away. The house I was staying at was originally considered a “couples” house, but one-by-one, people’s significant others dropped off. Obviously, my ex would not be joining me. Upon arrival, my very good friend Natalie informed that she and her man had broken up. How wonderful! We’re both single in Mexico!

The trip ends up being something completely different than what either of us had expected. It turns into a vacation for the two of us. We do everything together and catch up on everything in our lives. It’s perfect. Natalie’s break-up is a little fresher than mine, so I guess I’m feeling a little more hopeful than her. I tell her on our second day together, it’s so great to know that on the other side of this, I’m going to find happiness. She’s surprised. “Wait, you’re saying you’re sure you’re going to meet someone?” Absolutely. Of course. “Oh God, I’m not.” At this comment, I stop and consider her fear. It honestly never crossed my mind, until just now, when she said it. Well geez, Natalie, I think I’m sure. “No it’s good! I’m sure you will.”

During the vacation, I also make a big decision about my life. I’ve been struggling with where I want to live in LA. West side? Downtown? Topanga? North Hollywood? No idea. All over the place with knowing what I want and it’s been incredibly frustrating.

So one day in Mexico, I get to talking with the bride’s sister’s boyfriend. Roffi. He’s a really sweet guy. He explains how people sometimes think they want to live in certain spot for certain reasons, but do they really take advantage of those things? Or do they just like knowing that they’re there. This blew my mind. Yes. I need to have them there. I need to be in LA, for sure. I need to be there in case I start auditioning again. I need to be there to meet people in the “industry.” I need to be near all my friends. I need to be a part of the LA scene.

What does that even mean?! I never go out. I’m NOT auditioning right now, or taking acting classes. Sure, it’s nice to meet people in the industry, writing or acting or anything to do with film and TV, but that’s literally the only thing. And that one tiny thing is not a good enough reason.

So what do I really need? Well, first of all, something I can actually afford. I’d like to not spend more than $1,000. I want to live alone. Non-negotiable. I considered it for a while, just because I could get a much nicer place if I had a roommate, but no, I like being on my own too much. I have to feel safe in the neighborhood. Seems obvious but not always easy to find. I need SPACE. Not in my apartment, but outside of it. I need an outside space where I can work on my signs. So I also have to be able to make a bit of noise, since I’ll be drilling.

I would very much LIKE to have a nice view and I would very much like to be able to walk out my apartment to some local stores or markets or restaurants.

Recently, AR’s friend Stacy moved from LA to Long Beach. We talked about how crazy Stacy was to leave. Then AR went down to visit her one night. “It’s actually really nice. And her place is so nice for how much she pays for it.” Yea, but Long Beach? Why would you want to live anywhere but LA??

So Long Beach it is! I email Stacy and she gives me a radius I might want to consider staying in, to keep away from the sketchier parts of town. She recommends I drive around and look for signs because often times, they don’t post rentals online. I hope she’s right, because I’ve been searching on Craigslist and found very little that I can afford.

I drive down one day. There’s one apartment I’m going to look at and then I plan on driving around. I get to the apartment early. It’s not open, so I walk down the street, exploring the area.

Yea, no. This is not a good vibe. I must be on the sketchier side of town. And there’s nothing but apartment buildings around. I drive to Stacy’s apartment and begin driving up and down all the streets near her. I’m not feeling well and my eyes hurt as I squint around, looking for signs. Finally, I pull over and call Mom.

I’m feeling very defeated already. “Well, don’t feel defeated, it’s only your first day looking.” Yeaaaa, I know. I passed a rental agency. Do you think I should stop in and ask them about the area? “Yea, it can’t hurt. Even if they can tell you how to best go about looking for a place.”

Thanks, Mom. I needed you to tell me it was OK to walk into a leasing office. Idiot.

The door is locked. Perfect. Closed. The blinds in the windows are open, so I peek through and see an older man in a tropical shirt sitting behind a desk. He clearly sees me. I think he must not want to be bothered, since the door is locked, so I start walking back to my car. The door opens.

“Can I help you?” Oh, are you open? “Yes. Come in.”

I start rambling about how I’m looking for an apartment. He cuts me off as we pass a bowl of snacks. He picks up the bowl. “Here. Have some.” I laugh. Oh no, that’s OK. Thank you.

He continues a slow walk back to his desk. He’s an older man, big, with gray hair. He’s got on some shorts which expose his legs, one of which has one of those cool leg brace things that the athletes wear, and he rocks a pair of running sneakers.  He sits behind his desk and motions for me to sit down, as I continue my ramble.

I choose to stand. He’s very slow and deliberate in his mannerisms and the way he speaks. He pauses before he speaks. “You’re looking for a 1-bedroom?” Yes. “What’s your price range?” (I’m wondering if I had any business walking in here.) Around $1,000. “A thousand. .. I don’t think we have any 1-bedrooms for that much. We have a studio for that….”

I think for a second. Wait, do I need a 1-bedroom? I guess not. The only reason I can think of that I need one is because I want my parents to be able to stay with me when they come out to visit, but that’s not the most pressing matter. I tell him… I guess a studio’s fine. As long as it has a kitchen. “All our studios have kitchens.” He points behind me to a stack of papers. I pick one up. “That’s what we have available right now.”

I look at the packet. Page 1. A studio for $995. Page 2. A 1-bedroom for $1,695. No fucking way. Page 3. A 2-bedroom for some insane price. And that’s the end of the packet. This is all you have? He kind of chuckles, as if I should know. “It’s been kind of dry for a while now.”

Fuck. That makes me nervous. I thought that once I made my decision to move south for more affordable living, it would be easy! This is no good. OK, so… this is all you have. “For now. There’s already two people chomping at the bit for it.” Jesus. I haven’t even seen the place yet and I’m feeling like I lost it.

Can I see it? “Well the tenant still lives there. I wouldn’t be able to show it to you until next week.”

Gary (his name is Gary) proceeds to tell me what I need to do if I want the apartment. Fill out the application, get my last two pay stubs from work, copy of my license, and $25.

I drive to the location to check it out. Even if I can’t get into the building, I can at least see the area. The neighborhood is absolutely beautiful. I park, and realize this building is two blocks from the beach in one direction, and three blocks from the main street of restaurants and shops in the other direction. The front door is open, and I walk right in. Up the stairs, and up the second flight to the roof. This door is also open, so I walk right up.

Sunset on the roof

WOW. This roof is amazing! So much space! What a great view of the ocean! I haven’t seen the actual apartment yet, but everything seems to be checking off on my list in such a good way.

I drive back to Echo Park, feeling good.

Oh, back to Mexico. Later that night, after my conversation with Natalie about finding happiness around the corner, I meet someone at the rehearsal dinner. He’s one of the groomsmen. His name is Stephen. I heard he was checking me out the night before (Anna Rose, of course, tells me this; she also tells me that he’s SO nice and SO funny and one the best guys she knows. I just roll my eyes).

We finally get to talking at the end of the night, at the bar, and do some whiskey shots together (terrible idea). I’m pretty drunk, so I can’t tell if I really even like him, or if I just like the attention because I haven’t had any in so long, or if we’re actually having really good conversation. Whichever it is, I have fun with him.

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