We sat by the pool at the Glendale Days Inn on a recent morning, drinking Keystone under an umbrella.
“Why in the world,” I asked, “would you live at a motel for, what, a year now?”
Terry looked at me like I was an idiot. Lisa, his sister — or, technically, “sister from another mister” — just smiled.
“Almost a year,” he replied. “It'll be a year in August. Why? Because I pay one bill. My electricity, my cable, my water, my Internet. All of it. If I want a new bed, I call downstairs. If I want my bed made, I ask for it.
“My brother told me that living in a motel is one step above homeless. Well, f*** him. He's the one with the mortgage.”
Terry and Lisa asked that I only use their first names in this story. Both have difficult and violent backgrounds, and the concept of their pasts creeping back on them — potentially with a lead pipe — is not an academic concern.
We met about a month ago. My wife and I recently moved from Burbank to a loft in downtown Los Angeles — a loft that needed a lot of work. One of those pieces of work involved redoing the flooring, a process that sane people stay far away from.
Given that I'm sane, or mostly so, and unable to do any handyman work outside of changing a light bulb without bleeding, we needed to hire someone to do it for us. And, we needed to stay somewhere for a few days while the work progressed. We chose the Days Inn, which shares space with the Extended Stay, at Pioneer Drive and Pacific Avenue.
It's rough. The place was apparently last renovated during the Ford administration, and we saw no less than three people placed in handcuffs during our four-day stay. The food in the restaurant is good, however, and the drinks in the bar are cheap. In addition, the staff is unfailingly polite and helpful.
Our room was on the smoking floor, a weird policy mandated by our cats. It smelled, well, like a smoking room. Because of this, we spent a good amount of time at the pool, also a favorite pursuit of Terry and Lisa.
Which is how I ended up sipping beer in the late-morning sunshine. Lisa said she moved in with Terry as her marriage fell apart, the result of “a 10-year drug binge.” She got clean on Jan. 1, 2011, making her perhaps the only person I've met to hold fast to a New Year's resolution.
Terry saved her life, taking her into the home he shared with four other guys in the West Valley. They moved to Glendale a few months later.
“Meth,” she said. “I used to smoke it every day. I told Terry to come get me or I'd be dead in a week.”
Lisa has four kids, ranging in age from 5 to 19. She loves her children, but says she doesn't like them very much. Being around them for more than a few hours is hard on her.
“Some people aren't supposed to be parents,” she said.
Lisa said she has known Terry for more than three decades, meeting when they were, respectively, a cheerleader and ballplayer in the Van Nuys Little League.
Their relationship was and always has been platonic. They don't make much money — Terry helps people with their finances and Lisa works with her ill mother — but they don't need much.
I asked how long they plan on staying. The answer was immediate:
“Indefinitely,” said Terry. “Rent doesn't go up here. This is our home.”
It's not a life I would choose. But they are as content as anyone I've ever met. That counts for something. Perhaps that counts for everything.
DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3234 and firstname.lastname@example.org.