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One Night in Santa Monica

The Apartment Building at 1323 11th Street

During most of the 1970s, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment on 11th Street in Santa Monica. I was on the second floor, with the bottom floor being a carport. On the way up the back stairs to my apartment (#10), I had to pass #8 and #9. I am giving you this detail so that you will be able to better see what happened to me on night around 1978.

I was returning from Von’s Supermarket with a bag of groceries. As I walked down the alley, I saw two young Armenian men crouching behind a car with a trailer loaded with furniture. They motioned for me to take cover. I surmised that they were moving into one of the apartments (the building owner was Armenian), but I had no desire to wait for man indeterminate time in the dark, cold alley. So I continued on.

As I turned to mount the stairs, I saw my alcoholic white trash neighbor Merle standing at the top of the stairs with a rifle. I greeted him: “Hi, Merle. How’s it going?” He complained that those damned kids who were moving in made too much noise and giving him a headache. He added: “You’ve always been a good neighbor to me, Jim.” So he moved to one side and let me pass.

As I turned my back to him to go to my front door, I was conscious that I had just done something irrecoverably stupid and that I might be shot in the back. I turned the key, entered my apartment, and fell on the floor, breathing heavily.

Within minutes, the Santa Monica Police arrived and arrested Merle. I never saw him again. Shortly thereafter, his wife Ursula moved out. One neighbor had told me that once, when he knocked on the door of #8, Ursula answered the door stark naked. I, however, was deprived of that experience.

Actually, except for that one incident, Merle and I got along all right.