Sunday, September 26, 2010
The Wild, Wild West...
Go West, young man!!! These famous words from New York Tribune founder Horace Greeley echoed in my head.
It was a little over a decade ago.
I had spent the day house hunting for a rental. My wife and I were expecting our second child and larger environs were required. We loved our little house on the Eastside. All 900 sq. feet of it. It had a lovely view off the top deck of the Ali Baba Golden Dome framed between the trees.Unfortunately, an active two year old, a 120 pound Akita, and another on the way made our idyllic little family scene a trifle too cramped. We needed a bigger spread.
After tirelessly scouring the Eastside for more space , it became evident, that we would have to spend well out of our budget to get that space. So with a little trepidation, and much self entitled Eastside superiority, I started to go slumming on the Westside. I had been warned.
You'll miss Backbay....
You want your kid to go to Estancia?
What's on the Westside?
There's a lot of Mexicans.
So I knew what to expect......or so I thought.
Driving the quiet tree lined streets , I began to feel excitement. The rents were affordable, with large yards and three bedrooms. Yeah, 1033 sq. ft. isn't big but compared to what I was used to , it was definitely an improvement. Try as I might , it was very competitive finding a suitable rental. Then, lucky me.....Lola died.
I know it sounds bad, but I was getting desperate. After weeks of driving and searching , scanning the Daily Pilot and Register, (this was pre - internet), I was beginning to lose hope. The Westside ,I was beginning to find out was a very competitive market. Imagine my relief when I drove by Lola's son in law pounding in a "for rent" sign in her front lawn.
Lola was the original owner. She had lived in the house for over forty years. Raising her family, and planting her gladiolas. She was well into her eighties when , peacefully, she passed away in her sleep. In her own home, in her own bed. I hope to one day do the same.
I pretty much rented the house on the spot. I had to clean out her furniture, paint the greasy brown paneling, and yes, even clean her food out of the fridge .....but we had a house. It wasn't ours, we didn't own it, but they would take a huge dog, and it had, a two car garage. The house had three bedrooms ,a small green bathroom, and a one person kitchen, but the huge spreading oak tree in the center of the backyard was heaven. We were suffering under a sweltering August heat, and my wife would come home 8 1/2 months pregnant , put on her Tahitian pareo , and sit under the shade of that tree , cooled by the Westsides ocean breezes.
Over time we discovered what we didn't miss. The constant rushing sound of the 55 Fwy was replaced by a peacful quiet. Occasionally, sounds of boats on the ocean would carry on the breeze. The natural beauty and wide open spaces of Fairview park with it's views of snow capped mountains ,Catalina, and the Huntington Plains stretching to Palos Verde, soon replaced our favorite trails of Back bay. Walking the Canyon Bluffs we found frogs and raptors, snakes, and skunks.
The quiet streets provided some peace of mind, teaching my four year old daughter how to ride a bike.Soon we were riding down the Santa Ana River trail to splash in the surf. The meat market on the corner had the best marinated carne asada, and adobo chickens thighs. Victoria Elementary we discovered was a great school , with an active PTA, and more awards than they had wall space to display.
Yeah , we fought many battles.
The drunken plumbers who would stage pitbull fights in the cul de sac have been evicted. The crack houses have been cleaned up , the worst offenders, moved away or incarcerated. The Mexicans were never a problem ,but the imbedded pockets of White Supremicists have long ago been run out of our little neighborhoods. Good Riddance.
My family and I were, one day, able to buy our own little house.
Over the last ten years in this economic real estate cycle many of the "Freedom Homes" have been completely renovated. Many have been completely torn down but many others have been renovated and cleaned up retaining thier particular post war scale and charm.
We walk our quiet streets at all hours in peace and safety. Chatting with our neighbors over newly planted yards. And always, one more dilapidated structure finds the capable hands of a new young family making their stake.
The progress is subtle but constant.
Watching my daughter give a valedictorian speech for the TeWinkle graduation in the newly erected Jim Scott stadium, I looked out over this beautiful place we call home. After ten years, the growth has been amazing to be part of, and rewarding to witness.
We're definitely not done. We are constantly striving to make these streets a better place for our families and neighbors.
We are constantly vigilant that our efforts aren't going to slide back into the neglect that once personified the Westside.
Today we have a sense of real accomplishment.
We came west to carve out a new life for ourselves and our families.
I understand, in a small way ,what those turn of the century pioneers must have felt.
We fought the frontier ,....and we've won.