Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Barking Mad

There are parts of Los Angeles that seem like heaven. Think of all those elegant houses in the Palisades, the cool funkiness of Venice and the rustic charm of Topanga Canyon. But they all have one thing in common that, to my ears, make them seem like hell. Every tick of the clock, day or night, is punctuated by a bark, woof or yap.

I’ve spent the last two years technically homeless in Hollywood, house- and dog-sitting for various friends in some pretty amazing houses. So when Plus One gets optioned for a million dollars (don’t tell anyone, but I’ll take half a million) and I’m in a position to buy my own home, I should know the best areas.

What I’ve learned is that you might think you’ve found your dream home, but just when you’re settled comfortably to read a magazine, write a chapter of your latest book, gaze at the fabulous view, meditate, nap or just—as I love to do—savor the silence, someone’s dog will start barking, setting off all the other local mutts in a choke chain reaction. It’s enough to try the patience of a saint, even Francis of Assisi.

I’ve become quite fond of Julia’s dog, Muttley, but I still don’t want to own one. Or, nightmare of nightmares, live next door to one. When husband Colin and I were recommended Mariners Village in Marina Del Rey as a good place to rent an apartment, their No Dogs policy was a massive plus for me. It is not, as son Max describes it, a retirement community, nor, as Colin thinks, an Hawaiian holiday camp trapped in the 1970s. You be the judge:

So imagine my devastation when, as Colin and I sipped wine on our balcony, marveled at our happiness and gazed across the stunning courtyard with its gently gurgling water feature, a neighbor (a bachelor for sure) started whooping and a-hollering during Monday night football. Lucky for him there wasn’t a gun to hand. Instead, we decided on the Tuesday night to sit on the balcony and talk in slightly raised voices about Sad Football Guy. Funnily enough, he’s quietened down since then.

It seems the apartment above is used exclusively for torrid trysts. We can hear every moan, groan, gasp and rattle of the headboard. I thought it was an earthquake the first time I heard them and ran for cover. While this has totally put me off the idea of ever having sex again for fear of being overheard, Colin seems to be inspired and views the cacophonous copulation as a challenge. I can’t go into too much detail as my parents and children are still alive.

It’s said that moving house is right up there on the stress-o-meter with the death of a loved one or divorce. Two months in, Colin and I are still enjoying married life, although there have been a few tense moments—especially in Ikea. Colin hates Ikea. We couldn’t agree on a sofa or dining chairs. I finally agreed that he may be right and we opted for his—more expensive—choices. And we spent big bucks on a decent bed, which I haven't regretted in the slightest.

He didn’t like any of my paintings that I’ve been storing since Julia and I stopped living together (so she could shack up with Arthur, the Armenian acupuncturist). So we’ve started our own art collection that we can’t afford.

I agreed that I would only buy the bare essentials for the kitchen. I had to concede, as I unpacked my latest purchases from Crate & Barrel, that a caviar dish, mortar and pestle, and ramekins are not exactly essential.

Colin thinks it was obsessive-compulsive to spray WD40 on all the squeaky gates in Mariners Village. Over-functioning maybe, but certainly not OCD—that’s crazy behavior. I guarantee other residents will wonder why no one thought of it before. Colin doesn’t think they were bothered by it in the first place, otherwise they would have done something about it. Bollocks.

If he was starting to annoy me this weekend with his criticism (OCD!), my love and respect for my husband knew no bounds by Saturday night. Saturday morning, he accompanied me to the Buttercup furniture emporium on Venice, where I begged him to agree that we should have the coffee table that cost $500 over our budget. And the antique Chinese piece for the television to sit on. “If it makes you happy,” he said, “but I think they’re too big for the room.”

How we struggled up to our second floor apartment with them. We got them in the car in the first place because two blokes helped us. As we wiped the sweat from our brows and looked at them once they were in position in the apartment, I said, in a classic Little Britain moment: “I don’t like them.”

So we took the unbelievably heavy items down to the car again and Colin took them back to the store for a refund. God bless America and her “no questions asked” money-back guarantee. He didn’t complain, roll his eyes, or say: “I told you so.”

Then, because we couldn’t fit both me and the furniture into the car this time (we don’t know why, OK? That’s just the way it was), Colin had to do the Trader Joe food shop alone on the way back. There was a lot of it, as we were having friends over for Sunday brunch. “Our life is one long dinner party,” he moaned as we unpacked. Enough with the criticism.

This morning, as I was towel-drying my hair, I asked Colin, not at all in a nagging or controlling tone, if he was going to shave before he got in the shower. He said huffily: “Are you going to shave under your arms?” And mumbled something about being married to a Frenchwoman.

At the time of writing, I want you to know, dear reader, that my pits are hair-free. My legs are a bit fuzzy, though. Marriage is one big compromise.