Don Juan of Loosmore

 

I've lived in Cypress Park for 6 years. It's a tiny neighborhood. Less than a square mile probably. It's rare that even a native Angeleno will know where the Rhode Island of LA is. We're below Mt. Washington, east of Elysian Park, north of Chinatown, south of Glassell Park, Highland Park & Eagle Rock, northwest of Lincoln Heights & west of Montecito Heights. That's the most succinct way I can describe it. But most of the time I say we're close to Pasadena.

When my boyfriend (now husband), roommates, roommate's dog & I moved to Loosmore Street, we knew we stuck out a bit. No doubt the sight of young white people in a 99% Latino neighborhood rings the warning bell of gentrification. Despite that, I'd say we were not made to feel unwelcome. It didn't take long to expect a wave or a hello. At this point, we feel quite embraced.

 Whenever I'm out gardening, the neighbors come out of the woodworks with tools for us to borrow. Our neighbor Ralph, who dresses like a cowboy, told his gardener to weed eat the strip between the sidewalk & street in from our house. My pit bull has learned not to cross the property line of Uno's domain- he's the morbidly obese one-eyed chihuahua catty-corner from us. A mariachi band lives down the street. Seeing them emerge on a Sunday morning in full costume always makes me smile. Hearing them perform is even more enjoyable. Especially when it strikes up as a soundtrack while sitting around the patio fire pit. They're very good.

We get avocados, papaya & beer from Ralph. I know the sound of his immaculate red pickup's engine without looking. He adores Seth & asks about him every time I see him. He came over & sat on our porch when we had our yard sale last year. Seth smoked him a tri tip when we found out he lived alone. There was a papaya the size of a watermelon & a case of Budweiser on our porch the next morning.

The first time Seth & I attempted to hang Christmas lights, Ramon came running to offer his ladder. He made us salsa one time & pozole another. We exchanged phone numbers & he keeps an eye on the house when we're gone. Once a year he'll return all of the tennis balls that made it into the tiny strip between our houses. Last week he gave Seth a stump to split logs upon. He let us use a beam from his roof to anchor some string lights.

We neighbors look out for each other. Greg was the first person to come to my defense when I got into a wreck turning from our street. Ramon tried to talk parking enforcement out of giving me a ticket. Fernando made sure I didn't get fined for leaving my trash bins out too long. Seth & I rescued a domestic rabbit that wandered too far from his cage. We also returned the boxers that kept escaping their yard.

It's not all idyllic of course. Even though our street residents put on a spectacular show for the 4th, we get annoyed with the constant presence of fireworks. Our dog really struggles. Just one pop & he goes into hiding. Multiple pops & he trembles. Olli & I have been chased to our gate by the little pip squeak barkers that know how to escape their fence. Rocky sh*ts on our “lawn.” We hear Ramon's landline with our windows shut because it's so goddamn loud. When he does laundry my whole driveway smells like artificial flowers. Anytime we put some piece of junk out for the city to collect, Ramon thinks someone will steal it. He scoops up whatever it is & promptly returns it to us. Diesel, the backyard pittie next door has kept us up at night whining. The two times he got loose, he came straight over & got in Olli's face. You can rely on the sound of Jamil complaining via Facetime as he struts up & down the block. Someone owns a parrot with an eardrum-shattering squawk. I've opted to drive my dog to the park for walks because there's so much broken glass & roadkill on the sidewalk. Seth & I have a running joke that you can never drive down our block without avoiding at least one unattended double-parked car.

But I love Loosmore Street in Cypress Park. This is the longest I've lived anywhere since I left my childhood home. I became a fiance & a wife while I've lived here. I've become a dog owner. I've discovered I enjoy tending to cactus & succulents. I've fought the September death heat with an inflatable pool. We've hosted BBQs. We've hosted parties. We've hosted Stanley Cup, Super Bowl & World Series viewings. We've hosted visitors. And we've hosted friends in need of a place to crash. This home has been good to us.

At some point Seth & I will move somewhere else. I think the hardest part will be the knowledge that the neighbors surrounding won't be coming with us. We'll have to start all over. That's something I really didn't consider until recently.

The old man that lives across the street has been nameless to me- the language barrier has prevented little more than “hello” & “thank you.” I've waived at him for 6 years. We have a sliding gate that encloses our driveway. He's always been quick to hurry over & close it for me if he's outside. He would bring me lemons. He would always wave & smile when he was out walking arm & arm with his tiny wife. If it was sunny, you could count on seeing him in a neon green cap. I wish I spoke enough Spanish to compliment him on it. For 6 years, I've probably seen him every single day that I exited my front door.

As I was pulling into the turn lane to enter Loosmore Street one day, I saw flashing lights in my rearview. I had time to turn before it was close enough for the obligational emergency halt. As I soon as I turned, I saw Fernando, the old man's son, standing in the middle of the street. I waived, but he didn't see me. He seemed worried, looking out at the intersection. And then as I pulled up to our house, I saw something I'll never forget.

We learned later that the old man had been feeling faint that morning. The family decided he should go to the hospital He collapsed en route to the car. His younger son performed CPR until the paramedics arrived, which was just seconds after me. It was hot & Ramon brought over an umbrella to provide some shade. I could hear Rosario yelling for Rocky, who was curiously bounding around the lawn as they tried & tried to get a response from the old man. I watched in horror along with the rest of my neighbors who had appeared. I realized I was crying when Seth put a hand on my shoulder.

There was a glimmer of relief. Ramon let us know that the old man was still unconscious, but breathing when they took him away.

Seth & I watched the old man's house religiously for clues about his condition for the next several hours, but kept our distance out of respectful reverence. Fernando likes us, but he's furiously protective of his family & we didn't want to pry until some time had passed.

The old man died the next day.

Our street will never be the same. I think about him all the time. I look for him at the sidewalk, on the porch, around the corner, in the street. And I think how odd it is that this person was such a constant player in my daily routine, yet I never knew his first name. Nor he mine.

What did I actually know about this old man? Nothing, really. I never stepped foot in his house. I never said more than a few words to him. I have no idea what he did for a living. All I can really say is that he was consistently friendly & thoughtful. That was enough to miss him.

Since news of his passing reached us, so did the confirmation of what we should call him. Juan.

Seth told me that Jamil sent him a screenplay to read. I giggled until he told me the subject. "It's about this street." Whether the script is worth reading or not, I know no story of Loosmore could be written without Juan as a character. And that makes me glad I was here to cross paths with him for a brief time. May he rest in peace.

 

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