Fotos, Los Angeles

31, Palms & the neighbors’ kids

My building's 31

I’m cheating a little with this one. The 31 above is on the building I live in. It’s followed by two other numbers. I cut them out. Of course, I would live on the 3100 block of my street.

I’ve been living in the same apartment for nearly 11 years. I moved in two days after I turned 20 with 3 other women. Over the years, they all moved out and I got new roommates. Work, graduate school and the promise of rent control kept me here.

Only a few of my original neighbors remain. In recent years, families with small children have moved in (or had a child). Currently, there are about 8 kids living in the two adjoining buildings. They’re all under 10 years old. The youngest are toddlers, the oldest probably 7 or 8.

The kids have developed a friendship/sometimes rivalry. They play in the driveway right outside my window and drive me nuts with all the noise. They run up and down, ride their bikes and scooters, slam the doors of the laundry rooms, play on the stoop right outside my door, and scream as they play tag. I hear their arguments, whining, crying, occasional scolding from a supervising parent or older sibling. When I have to drive my car out or in, I’m extra cautious, always worrying one will dart out from the stairwell or laundry room. In the summer, their play time goes until after dark.

When I’m most annoyed, I’ve considered leaving a note on the corresponding apartments: THIS ISN’T A PLAYGROUND! Below it, I’d include a map to more appropriate play places such as the playground half a mile away or the high school track/football field around the block. I fantasize about hiding the toys they leave littered on the driveway or even running them over. Oops. I’m passive aggressive, but not that passive aggressive.

To be fair, the kids are usually polite when I interact with them. If I ask them to watch out for cars, they oblige. Only once or twice have they done something I’d consider truly egregious. One kid — ironically my favorite — sprayed me point blank with a water hose. His mom apologized to me and he was punished.

Lately, I’ve been listening to the kids play. It provides some entertainment. One of the younger kids just got a bike with training wheels and it’s interesting to see how the older boys treat him. They talk about movies and cartoons the way I used to with my friends and cousins. Another boy, always breaks in to tears by the end of play session. He often tells on the other kids. Sean calls him a snitch.

My favorite, a chubby four-year old and new bike owner, chatted me up through the window a couple of weeks ago as I made dinner. “We all need to do exercise,” he said. I agreed with him. What’s better exercise than running around and playing with your friends?

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