The Stuntman in My Driveway

Ever since my Greedy Foreign Landlord began trying to evict me from my rent-controlled Craftsman bungalow, I've been more tempted than ever to leave Hollywood for good. But then something curious and wonderful happens to remind me how much I love this carnival of a town despite my abject failure all these years to find a remotely viable way under The Big Top. I love the stars on the sidewalk, for example, whose installation and upkeep, I recently discovered, are financed by the "surprised" and "flattered" celebrities they pretend to honor. I love running into Faye Dunaway at Ralph's, where I once tapped her shoulder to say that a wad of bills was falling out of her back pocket like a trail of crumbs for the poor and obscure. "Mommy Dearest," I mouthed to a couple of Oblivious Hipsters behind me.

Most of all, I love that this is the only town in the world where a girl can encounter a Big Hollywood Stuntman without ever having to leave the house. Lately I've been looking out the kitchen window to discover a grizzled, weather-worn Marlboro Man who walks with a slight limp dismounting a Ducati on the communal lawn. This is my cue to step outside in my nightshirt, toting a bag of garbage.

"Hey, doll," he'll drawl with one of those cocky Chuck Yeager accents shared universally among airline pilots and other he-men. Very few people could get away with calling me "doll" without my returning a withering scowl—not some gay, girlish smile followed by a warming blush. Then the stud up and winks at me, working a knowing stick of Dentyne between his teeth. Who but The Electric Horsemen could pull off that kind of maneuver? Infuriatingly, though I'm known for my easy way with a quip, I can never come up with a thing to say to the guy in return.

The object of my affliction is apparently the forbidden boyfriend of my new neighbor who looks like Sharon Stone, only ten years younger and not so crazy around the eyes. This according to my other neighbor, the "retired" stripper, now a "hairdresser," who jealously reports that Sharon's wealthy parents are supporting her fully until such time as the acting thing happens. "She's practically forty," she'll say. "I mean give it up, already." I resist the temptation to bring up our advanced years, or the help from my real daddy and her sugar daddy, respectively. The former is a big softie; the latter, either a rock impresario or the deposed dictator of a small African city state, depending on how you phrase the question.

I'm told that Sharon's parents don't much care for the Stuntman, since he should be doing the providing by now with what they're paying these days for self-immolation, jumping out windows and driving cars off cliffs. Sharon told them the relationship was over, and only sees him in secret lest the folks cut her off for good. While I know very well I could never handle that kind of show pony with or without parental consent, I like him anyway. He's a big, strong manly-man, and those are all but impossible to come by in this town crawling with self-absorbed girlie-boys endlessly staring in the mirror to ponder that sparsely populated soul patch.

Last night I went outside and overheard a group of neighbors who meet that general description whispering about how I'd been formally served with eviction papers. It felt like those two weeks when you've given notice at a job, only to be treated like some leper who showed up in the snack room begging for stale doughnuts. Since any act of solidarity might be interpreted as one of disloyalty, the other tenants absently grabbed their dogs by the collars, ignoring the yappy greetings of my two fat old wiener dogs. Only puppies the day we moved in, it was as though all three of us were already long gone.

That's when the stuntman parted the crowd of impotent townsfolk like Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western, kneeling down on one knee to give my scorned babies an approving pat before looking up at me—and then, like an afterthought, at the stars. "Beautiful night, isn't it, doll?"

"It's Hollywood, Stuntman," I told him. "Everything's beautiful." At last, a signature witticism, met with a bona fide chuckle.

Even after nine years here, it's still too soon to say if I'll stay for good or cut my losses and head home. But all in that one moment between me and the newfound hero on my lawn, I was finally sure of something: my landlord has no idea what kind of girl he's made the mistake of tangling with.