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Some Draft for class

19 July 2009

4337 Randolph Street
Maywood, California

There is a classroom now where my bedroom used to be.
Randolph Street is actually two streets – north and south is the best way to describe it, but it’s not noted on any map. A railroad bisects its east-west length, as it stretches from the LA River, into Maywood, Huntington Park and all points beyond.
My parents moved into 4337 Randolph sometime in the early 80s. The property, owned by my uncle and managed, as were his other properties, by my father, had our house as the only stand-alone apartment. Technically, would it be considered an apartment house?
On both sides of a wide driveway were planters with trees, bushes, shrubs and lawns. It was only after we had our house broken into did my dad install bars on the windows. He made sure to get the kind that opened up from the inside, in case of fire.
Across the house and the driveway stood a two-story apartment building, and on its first floor two garages were used by mom and dad (hers for household items like bulk cases of soda). Dad’s garage was his hub of business operations. Each time you’d open it you smelled the stench of paint, musty rollers and brushes, the distinct odor of rat poison and roach spray (purchased in Alhambra by the deadly liter) the scent of fresh cut lumber and the steady whirl and grating of the key duplicator. Each morning at around seven the workers reported to get their assignments, pick up paint, plaster mix and other supplies. On Mondays, they picked up their paychecks (Dad explained that this was done so that they wouldn’t drink away their money on the weekend).
Throughout the years the house and the adjacent apartments were painted pink, yellow and blue, but their last color was a dark forest green with matching trim. When there were only four of us, the house suited us just fine, with its two bedrooms and one bathroom. With the addition of my sister, we looked for room to grow. The natural choice was the apartment next door. They either moved or were asked to leave, can’t remember which. We first joined the house to their building and only used their living room for an extra bedroom. With the arrival of our second sister, we claimed the whole apartment. Now we had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, which broke down to a room for the girls (to share), an office for my dad and a room each for my brother and myself. (My brother got what was the old kitchen, which he didn’t mind, as it had a door to the outside). Curiously, my dad never removed the kitchen sink and the cabinets. Instead, he placed a large, smooth white countertop over the sink – his thinking was that if we ever moved or had to rent it out, he’d re-convert for a new tenant.
That never happened.
Sometime in 2001 we got word that the local school district wanted to build a school on our block. Soon there was talk of eminent domain and the government taking the property and what that might mean for us all. But then the tenants heard about the relocation checks, and all was well. The deadline to move kept shifting, from winter to summer, from June to August, but we knew the days would soon end and the day would come.
My parents used that money and some of their savings to buy a house – a real, freestanding, clapboard and shingle, chimney and fireplace, good ol’ American house, a few block to the north. My brother had already moved away, and I think in October of that year, I did as well.
I don’t remember looking back or crying or doing that that last walk through where you touch the walls one last time slowly and look out the window and sigh. It was all a rush to pack and not forget anything and make sure that the moving trucks were reserved.
In that frenzy, time washed over like a tidal wave, taking matter and leaving only faded recollections.
If they used a wrecking ball, I never knew. Only drove by once as it was fenced in, the windows boarded up, the lawns now past brown, the tree that we’d all gather around each year to harvest oranges had been cut down. Most likely heavy yellow diesel powered equipment was used, smashing against the green painted walls and scooping up piles of concrete, wood and plaster.
Years of cooking smells and grease that had made themselves part of the walls, galloons of steam that had fogged the restrooms in preparation for hundreds of days of schools, masses on sundays, meetings, interviews, parties; drawings we’d made on the backs of doors and hidden along door frames, blood from the fights with my cousin and brother, the pencil marks on the doorway that nobody bothered to follow up on; the closets where dry cleaning hung, where I hid from my brother, my sisters, my parents, and later, I found out, from myself; the doors that slammed so many times in frustration and opened in welcome of company, visitors, strangers, salesmen – gone. Piled up. Rubble. Stacks and piles of wood and plaster, pipes, wire. Gone, gone.

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3 comments

  1. wow!!! YOU are a great writer!!! It took me back to randolph!!


  2. Nice. Maywood, not a place I knew much about, but must be a great place if it produced such a talented writer and wonderful human being as yourself.


  3. Gustavo… You are soooooo undercover! Why did you not share this with me? I love it. O.k. homecut, we have to get REAL in 2010 and blow it up with our writing…la neta. Happy New Year to you hermano…



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