I found my apartment while going on a terrible date
“Just make sure you don’t order too much food, because I only brought a certain amount of money with me.”
My date told me this after the waiter at Bossa Nova handed us our menus. It was a Saturday night in Hollywood, and it was my first date in Los Angeles after I was offered a job at UCLA. I was looking forward to a date with a hot new guy to celebrate my accomplishment and my impending move to Los Angeles
I had lived in San Diego for 20 years. I moved from Chino, my hometown, to attend San Diego State University, and spent many years as an executive assistant in higher education. Over the years, most of my closest friends moved to Los Angeles, and life in San Diego became much more solitary. Between 2016 and 2018, I lost my father to Alzheimer’s disease, a drug-addicted boyfriend, and my confidence and enthusiasm to meet someone new and trustworthy.
In 2021, after passing my interview at UCLA, I was finally ready to move to Los Angeles. I was fully vaccinated and had stimulus checks posted to my bank account. But which area of Los Angeles would I call home? I couldn’t afford the luxury homes of Brentwood, but neither did I want to spend hours in traffic trying to get to my favorite Eastside and Valley neighborhoods – Eagle Rock, Glendale or South Pasadena.
The week of my interview at UCLA, I crashed at my friend Kim’s house in El Sereno. At her house, I was chatting with Antonio on the Hinge dating app. He was of Brazilian descent, tall, dark and handsome, and he was a teacher from Mid-Wilshire who was very charming on text messages. As the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants, I was thrilled to meet a fellow South American.
Growing up Latina in Southern California but not of Mexican descent always made me feel like an outsider. Living biculturally comes with many unique challenges, such as translating materials for your parents while trying to complete your Shakespearean homework and explaining to your parents what prom is and why it’s important .
Then there’s that added feeling of not belonging to a specific culture or place (e.g. telling my Mexican American roommate that I grew up eating casserole instead of tortillas and ají au instead of salsa verde). This has been my struggle of a lifetime, and the possibility of finding a person who could empathize in my future city excited me that afternoon in El Sereno as I exchanged messages with a handsome stranger .
As I was walking around the area behind Cal State LA with Kim, Antonio called and asked if I wanted to meet for dinner that night.
“I live in Park La Brea. You know that, right?
“Uh, no,” I said, “but I can google it.”
“You can park at my house, and I’ll drive us to the grove.”
He seemed like a nice enough guy, and I liked that he had a plan – a rarity in the dating app world – so I agreed.
Turns out Park La Brea is a behemoth of an apartment complex. It took me at least 15 minutes to figure out how to get into the complex itself, then walked around trying to figure out which building Antonio was in. I finally found it. He was wearing a flowy, button-up shirt perfect for the hot July night, and he had a giant smile on his face. He guided me where to park in this beast of a parking lot, and then we were on our way to the grove.
Despite being a native of Angeleno, Antonio hadn’t realized that the farmers’ market next to the grove was closing early. After seeing the locked food stalls and dim lights, he suggested we go to a Brazilian restaurant.
“It’s really good. I think you’ll like it,” he said.
As we waited to exit the Farmers Market parking lot, there was an idling black BMW in front of us blocking the exit. I thought the driver was on the phone. Instead of sounding the horn lightly, Antonio parked his Jeep, jumped out of the driver’s seat and walked to the driver’s side of the car.
I have to mention that Antonio was just over six feet tall, was muscular and had a shaved head, and had a bravado that would make anyone nervous, especially if he was standing in front of the window. on the driver’s side of someone at night.
The BMW sped off and Antonio got back into the Jeep.
“What happened? What did you say?” I asked.
“Aw, he just needed a little wake up call.”
At that point, I should have asked to be driven back to my car, but my desire to avoid conflict and my hunger outweighed my apprehension over Antonio’s odd behavior.
We arrived fairly quickly at the Bossa Nova restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. While looking for parking, I noticed how nice some apartment complexes on Hawthorn Avenue were. I saw twinkling lights hanging from a balcony and giant blue and gold flags waving in the light summer breeze that advertised “for rent” opportunities for buildings not normally known to have vacancies. I could smell the jasmine in the air and saw the little white flowers springing from the deep green bushes that adorned the facades of old Hollywood buildings.
“It’s kind of a cute neighborhood,” I said.
Antonio took a quick look around and said, “Hey, that’s a bit trashy.”
Once Antonio made it clear that he had no interest in spending more on me than you would at a farmer’s market stall, that he was an anti-vaxxer, that he was not really a teacher but a karate instructor and he was between gigs, I called him quits with him – but not with this neighborhood.
Hollywood is a chaotic neighborhood, but my charming 1940s apartment with crown molding and hardwood floors is within walking distance of Bossa Nova. This is a great first apartment in Los Angeles. This is where I lived when I completed a master’s degree remotely and when I changed jobs from UCLA to USC. And that’s where my current boyfriend snuggles up to me on the couch while we scour the Zillow listings for the next place I can call home.
The author is a freelance writer and a graduate of UC Riverside’s low-residency MFA program. She is working on her first memoir and her first novel, and she lives proudly in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter: @MichellePoveda
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