Van Nuys: The City That Never Sleeps Without a Noise Machine

When I first stepped into my apartment, my mouth literally dropped open. I ran to the right, confirming there was a kitchen, then to my left, confirming there was a bathroom. Then I grabbed the scared Building Manager by the collar and shrieked, “GIVE ME THIS GOTDAM APARTMENT!”

I had one week left before I had to be out of my old place, and I was desperate. I’d been looking at studio apartments throughout the Valley, and couldn’t believe how excruciatingly small and expensive they were. One was in a jail-block-like row of rooms in a guy’s backyard; one was so small a bed wouldn’t even fit, one didn’t have a kitchen, and one was on the ground floor right next to a gas station, aka “rob me!” central.

So when “Large Studio with a View” ending up actually being very large and with a great view, I jumped on it. What I didn’t know was what that view came with.

The View, if you’re looking up: Beautiful mountains and palm trees. 

The View, if you’re looking down: An alleyway where homeless people take dumps, scream at God, do drugs, and sleep.

There are things you just don’t know until you move into a place. This was one of them. The first night, I had just closed my eyes, when I heard a noise so loud that I jumped out of bed, thinking someone had broken in. It was actually a person below my window, going through the dumpster. Oh yeah – my building’s dumpsters are directly below my windows.

Every five to ten minutes, a different person goes through those dumpsters, day and night. You hear them coming, because they’re pushing a grocery cart that rattles on the cement, bouncing the empty cans around, letting you know YOU’RE NEXT.

One night, after a particularly bad day, I came home pondering whether my life was a dumpster fire. Then, I smelled smoke, heard yelling, and looked out my window to see: MY DUMPSTER ACTUALLY ON FIRE.

Actual photo of dumpster fire/my life.

Another time, a tenant from the front side of my building – so without any knowledge of what really goes on in the alley – left a nice but very naive note by the dumpster:


What he didn’t realize was, it’s NOT ONE PERSON! It’s person after person after person, and they’re not in the polite/reason-with-me business, they’re in the unmedicated, nothing-to-lose business, and ain’t nothin’ better than taking a hot dump behind our dazzling dumpster!

Most recently, I was enjoying the last 50 Shades of Grey movie (only ironically, though, I SWEAR), when I heard a lot of commotion from the alley. It went on longer than usual, so I sighed, got out of my chair, turned off all my lights (so I couldn’t be seen) and opened the window to look. Two men were beating up a third. The victim said, “I’m sorry!” And the main guy said, “It’s too late! Get on your knees!”

Now, at this, I thought, well, crap, I can’t let a guy just get shot without saying SOMETHING, so, for the first time ever, I yelled out the window, in ascending volume, “I’m calling THE POLICE GO AWAAAAAY!!!!,” and the main guy immediately stopped, looked up, and said, “We called the police!” Then, the kicker: “He’s a child molester!”

REALLY?! The ONE TIME in 6 years I yell out the window, I yell at the ONLY situation where a beating is not only okay, it’s encouraged?! Heck, I’d love to come out there and curb-stomp him myself! Ugh.

The dumpster noise has lessened a little, because our building finally put up a metal fence around our dumpsters. But I watched a newly-homeless guy (face was way too clean; luggage was way too new and color-coordinated) climb out of a fenced-in area across the alley this morning, so, you know, life finds a way. 

I know homelessness is a real issue that needs real answers from people much more smart and compassionate than I. In the meantime, I’ve added a second noise machine in my never-ending attempt to stay sane in the Nuys.

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