Mar Vista: Life in the Beach City

By the time I finished high school I had moved twenty-four times and been to twenty-four different schools. My living experiences had stretched from San Francisco, the beach in San Diego, and Waikiki, along with many places in between. During World War II my mother moved us into the country to lessen the threat of bombs. There I finished Santa Rosa Junior College and moved to Berkeley to go to school and then to work on the Manhattan Project. After I married Larry his job was in the Empire State Building and we moved to Manhattan until the war was over, then back to Santa Monica where we determined to stay in one place to raise our four children. Then, after twenty-seven years of teaching I retired and found a home in Mariposa, the gateway to Yosemite National Park. After living there twenty years in one house, daughter Holly came to stay with me until 2008, when we moved into an apartment house in Mar Vista, Los Angeles, where we have now been for two years.

Mar Vista is Spanish for View of the Ocean, and although we cannot see the ocean, it is only a fifteen minute drive, and we go there often.

Our apartment is on the third floor at the precise intersection of two boulevards—Sawtelle and Palms, half a block west of the 405 Freeway. Life swirls around us continuously. The four way traffic lights under our west window has continuous traffic, which entertains us with the sounds of honking horns, car crashes, police sirens, and tire screeches as well as fire engines. Major construction goes on six days a week—a bridge over the freeway to the east of us, and new buildings across the street enlarging a private school to the west of us. At night, when we leave the windows open, we hear drug dealers arguing their territory from the sidewalks.

As we park at our assigned space in our lot, and walk into the courtyard of our complex my heart fills with joy at the beauty. The gardens circle a huge swimming pool and Jacuzzi, with a forest of trees towering over the buildings, as well as plantings of bushes and flowers that delight my soul.

There are more than two hundred apartments. When Holly said she wanted us to live in a multi-cultural neighborhood, that is what we have—it feels like we have neighbors of every color, race, and religion living in our complex.

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This morning I piled my laundry into the hamper, added the bottle of detergent, picked up a roll of quarters and headed for the laundry-room with trash disposal chute, twenty steps down the hall.

I was loading the washer when the door opened and a man came in and dumped his trash down the chute. I knew him from meetings many times in the hallways. He is one of three autistic adults who live in an apartment south of us down the hall. He wanted to talk to me, and I wanted to acknowledge him. He was pointing to my wrist watch and was trying to tell me something. Then he pointed to his watch, which was digital. He kept repeating sounds I could not understand and pointing to my watch face and his own. Then he was showing me some sign language, making a fist and then holding out the forefinger and middle fingers of each hand, and repeating the same words again and again. After several minutes his caretaker came looking for him, and told me he was trying to tell me it was April 22, on his digital watch it read four twenty-two. I repeated April 22, and he smiled with satisfaction. She took him back to their apartment and I finished loading the washer.

As I came out of the laundry room our next door neighbor to the south came with his two preschoolers to head down the three stories of steps. His wife, a black Jamaican, locked their door and followed them. She is a film producer. He is a cameraman, and looks like a sun-bleached blond surfer. They had been away for a trip and I asked the little boy where they had been. He easily answered, “Trinidad.” The mother added that they had been visiting her mother, their grandmother. I was particularly delighted with them since the little girl had hung a May Basket on our doorknob on May Day.

Across the hall from us live several Japanese young adults. They keep to themselves and speak little English. At this point a young man came out wheeling his laundry hamper. I said I was sorry, but I had just loaded the washer, and he answered politely that he would walk down one flight of stairs and use the machines on the second floor.

The head custodian’s name is Igor and he was born and raised in Russia. He told us that after taking his wife back to visit her grandmother in Russia last month, he was unhappy with the attitudes of the people and couldn’t wait to get back to California. Contrasting life in our apartment in Mar Vista with my home in Mariposa it is a great delight when something is out of order. We phone Igor and within an hour someone shows up at our door armed with tool kit, and within a short time everything is fixed.

When we come home, as we open our door we look across the living room through the sliding glass doors onto the balcony. There live our western neighbors—a family of pigeons. Mama pigeon is completely occupied. Papa pigeon wants to mate, and she is busy with nesting and feeding her two fledglings. She has a nest with two eggs and her two fledglings huddle close by. She and Papa pigeon spend a lot of time feeding them, and Papa spends time chasing away the two fledges from the previous generation. The pigeons are busy all day, and as the sun goes down they nestle in, cooing goodnight to each other and to us.

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