Each week in these columns I try to add a bit of humor. (The operative word being “try.”) When I’m struggling, occasionally I’ll analyze just what makes something funny. But humor is like sex. Too much analysis can be counter productive.
Growing up I was always drawn to comedy. With my late father, whose youth came during the Great Depression, humor was something we could share. My dad’s favorite comedians were Groucho Marx, W.C. Fields and Jackie Gleason. On Sundays, if we were in the car, there might not be much conversation but there was a good chance Jack Benny or Amos ‘n Andy was on the radio.
Years later it was my turn as I tried to get my father to see Woody Allen movies with little success until “Annie Hall,” after which he became a big fan. But for me, during the past 15 years, Allen’s making movies that aren’t comedies is like Michael Jordan playing sports that aren’t basketball. They both can do it, but why bother?
To Woody’s credit, he’s already hired “Slumdog” beauty Freida Pinto to star in his next movie. This could be bad news for Scarlett Johansson or good news for fans of international cinematic three ways (as long as Woody isn’t one of the three).
My greatest comic hero was Lenny Bruce. Until Lenny, standup comedy was basically “Take my wife, please.” From politics to religion, Bruce felt there was no subject from which he couldn’t mine humor. I generally agree, but the plight of a reader of mine tests that theory. As I write this, Cynthia Smith, who has lived in Santa Monica with her son for the past 14 years, is in court about to be evicted and possibly end up homeless. Other than all that, I’m full of mirth.
There are generally two sides to every story (sometimes three) but here’s what seems to have occurred. Cynthia (friends call her C) said she dropped her January rent check in the box on the second, but inexplicably, on the fifth, received a three-day notice. She left phone messages with the manager and landlord about the missing check but didn’t get a return call.
The last year or so hasn’t exactly been a picnic for C. She suffered a stroke in 2007, was found on the floor of her apartment by her son, and rushed to the hospital. C was paralyzed and blind in one eye, but four brain surgeries later, she’s made an amazing recovery (other than $40,000 in medical bills, despite having health insurance). Call me wacky, but if you were C’s landlord for 14 years, and one particular month the rent was late, wouldn’t you at least call to see that she’s not unconscious on floor?
On Jan. 8, C put a second rent check in the mail. Big mistake. If you ever get a three-day notice, hand deliver the check pronto. As a lawyer friend advises, “Do not pass go, run, don’t walk.”
On Jan. 10, C got the envelope back from the USPS marked “incomplete address.” Frantic, she finally reached the landlord on the phone. Daniel, the office manager, said “not to worry” that he was coming by Venice (where C runs a small public relations business) and would pick up the check. Ten minutes later, the landlord, Ziggy Dromy, called, and allegedly said C had to bring the rent that day or he would “fine and evict her!” (Eviction wasn’t enough?)
C offered to Fed-Ex the rent, but nothing doing. Should she have cancelled her clients and raced to Beverly Hills? Obviously. Legally, a landlord can refuse the rent after the three days have elapsed. And yet on Feb. 1, C gave the manager’s wife two checks, one for January and one for February, while a friend of C’s videotaped the transaction.
So, depending on what happens in court today, we may have two more homeless in Santa Monica — just what we need in this economy. All that could be worse is if it were Christmas.
To get his side of the story, I called Ziggy Dromy and left numerous messages. Finally Daniel called back but would only say, “The matter is being litigated for non-payment of rent.” Sometimes what we humans do to each other in the name of God or money is downright repulsive. (As Lenny Bruce used to say, “I hope I’m not out of line.”)
This apparent greed somehow reminds me of my previous landlord many years ago. I broke the news to him that one of our tenants had passed away during the night. His first words were, “Did he have a one-bedroom, or two?”
Lastly, if you catch any typos in this column, it’s quite likely it’s because I’ve got my fingers crossed in hopes that C doesn’t get evicted.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.