Monday, August 10, 2009

Moving to the Penthouse

Using my dining room as command central became increasingly impossible. L.A. Youth needed a home of its own.

Our “angel” was the James Irvine Foundation in San Francisco, which wrote a check in late 1989 for $100,000, our first truly big grant. I rented space on the top floor of an art deco building, in the mid-Wilshire area. It was a small office which we grandly called The Penthouse, despite the elevator that malfunctioned for months at a time and the ceiling that leaked whenever it rained. There was even a built-in shower, which we put into service as a storage closet.

The building’s advantage was its proximity to those sections of Los Angeles where our writers tended to live, though some had long bus rides to reach us. The disadvantage was having to co-exist with the panhandlers, drug addicts and petty thieves who wer4e fixtures in our neighborhood.

One morning, we found a business card under the door with a note from a police officer: “We have your computer, please call.” It turned out that our office had been burglarized the night before.

I was horrified, but I had to admit our burglar was gutsy. He had climbed the outside fire escape, broken through a door and carried the computer down a rickety flight of stairs to the street. There, he hid it in the bushes while he got stoned, which proved to be his undoing.

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