When we arrived in Los Angeles--bright eyed and a bit overwhelmed by the size of the place--our first mission was to find a place to live. We had no idea where to start looking, but we had a general idea where the campus was and where my office was, so we somehow settled in San Gabriel, within walking distance to the Clearman's North Woods Restaurant, where we often enjoyed a burger, red cabbage salad, and cheese bread. (We stopped for lunch at this same restaurant 13 years later, when we passed through LA on our way out of California for good--a fitting bookend.)
A look though the newspaper for an affordable apartment was our first clue that we were no longer in the little leagues. In northern Michigan, we had both paid around $100 a month for a room. In LA, we were shocked that we were going to need to shell out more than $400 a month for an apartment. In one of those apartments, we saw termites floating in the toilet and realized that we needed to adjust our baseline. I don't remember exactly what we paid for our first apartment--I think it may have been closer to $500 a month--but I do remember it was on the second floor of a indistinct complex. It had two rooms and a very small kitchen, and we decorated it with two lawn chairs and a blow-up mattress.
I went to work immediately, and Tom filled his days building a resume and scouring the paper for jobs. Since we had only one car, Tom drove me to and from my office.
Shortly after we moved in, a neighbor knocked on the door and invited Tom to play poker. George was very tall, fair, mustached, and he smoked a pipe. He managed a local Friendly's, I believe, and was desperately in love with a Mexican woman whom he was trying to bring to California. He and Tom became fast friends and often spent afternoons lounging around the pool. I don't recall George being a good influence on Tom, but I do recall that he made killer potstickers.
Another set of neighbors, a couple from India, recently had a baby. The woman often knocked on our door to chat or to bring us Indian snacks. She also often paced back and forth in front of our living room window, singing to her baby. I have to admit that we sometimes didn't answer the door when she knocked, as it was difficult to bring her visits to an end.
About two weeks after we settled in, Tom was in a Kinko's getting resumes copied. When he walked out of the store, he saw that "some poor fella's parked car had been hit." Then he realized it was our car, totaled by a guy who only tell Tom, "I hit car."
Another two weeks later, it rained. We walked outside to crisp, clear skies and were shocked to discover that we lived about a mile from the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains, which we had never seen due to the smog.
Welcome to LA...