Monday, March 19, 2007

The Ugliest Building

I wish I could show you a picture of the ugliest building. Google Images yields no results. The company that leases space in the building doesn't even bother showing a picture of it on their site. I can tell you that this is where it's located, next to a depressing McDonalds and across the street from a moribund IHOP. I can tell you that this is what it looks like from above (below and to the left of the arrow). You see that "penthouse"-looking mini-building on the roof? I worked there for 16 months, from late 2002 to early 2004.

I didn't like the job I had in the ugliest building. I didn't hate it though. My reasons for disdaining this building have more to do with the general mood of true emotional despair that permeated the musty hallways and sluggish elevators. Sure, I look back at this job as the low point of my post-Chuck E. Cheese-working career (I worked at Chuck's back in '84 if you must know, for 2 weeks.) And yes, at my ugliest building job, I was "laid off" for "budgetary reasons" by a boss who twice made comments about "Middle-Eastern men"that could be perceived as insensitive at the very least and racist at the very most.

But the tepid beige rectangularness of 15720 Ventura Blvd. is what I'm here to talk about, as well as the feeling one would get when pulling into the ridiculously ill-designed parking lot out back each morning, a feeling that one had made a decision to sell a portion of one's soul for a slice of one's life, so buck up and drink your vanilla coffee, grad school is fucking over!

If you drive by the ugliest building today, you'll see that, from the outside, the building is not spectacularly ugly. Oh sure it's ugly. And no less an expert than obscurapersona agrees with me on this. We drove by the building together yesterday and not even the Blades of Glory billboard on the roof could shine a spit of light on the dark torpor (even in 80 degree sunlight) of that multi-use office building. No, what sets this building even farther apart from the tiniest inkling of feng shui is the interior: flaking ceiling tiles, spotty brass handrails in the too-often-broken elevators, cement morosity in the randomly locked stairwells. Not a good place to spend a 110-degree afternoon in the Valley heat. (though I must say: the restrooms were spotless!)

The "suite" of offices in which I worked (wishfully referred to as the "penthouse" in the mailing address) was/is a tacked-on mess. Thank God for the giant billboard that protected us from one-half of the valley heat (we got to see the back side of the billboard, thus saving us from an image of a certain accurately nicknamed L.A. radio personality during our 8-to-5's for most of my 16 months there.)

Am I going too far? Am I writing too negatively? Nah, sometimes you just have to let it all out. I should mention here that I really like where I work now and where I worked in between 15720 and now. I really do like buildings. Most of them.

In the halls of 15720, there are real estate agents, specialty doctors (when I worked there, one tenant drove a car with the personalized license plate of "DRHERPEZ"), and, up on the roof, a for-profit public policy educational/social research firm. On the ground floor there is a massage therapy institute. But what there is more of than anything else in this building are therapists.

Now why would a therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist/clinical social worker/counselor think that this soulsuck of a property is the best place to set up practice? Why would people want to work on their deep-seated and surface-ready personal issues in the saddest place in the San Fernando Valley? Sure, business is tough, with the glut of helping professionals in the greater L.A. area. But really, even a two-story stucco dingbat office complex on the Van Nuys/Arleta border is better than this crappy crapfest in tony Encino (the family compound of this man is just up the hill from the ugliest building. Shirley Jones lives in Encino. As did Phil Hartman. He died there too, a block from the UB.)

I won't blame the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer's tragic death on the ugliest building. But I do think I can at least partially blame one suicide (a man jumped off the 6th-story fire escape at 7 in the morning; the parking guy had to wave us past the tarp) and one murder (another man killed his wife in her therapist's office). I'm not saying that a better choice of real estate by mental health professionals would have saved these lives. I'm just saying choosing the ugliest building didn't help. Oh and some guy died in a shootout in the IHOP across the street... and these were just the deaths during my short time there.

Why am I writing about this today? Well, I did drive by the place yesterday with Alex, the music on Jack-FM temporarily forgotten as we sneered at the monstrosity (among many ugly and beutiful buildings on Ventura Blvd.) We were on our way to see a tract of Eichler homes up in the north valley. On our way there, I wanted to give her a part of my past. It's important to do that sometimes, to give the people in your present, the ones who will be in your future, a piece of your past... even the sort-of-sad murky recent past.

Ending on an up note, I was 23-9 in my first-round tournament picks. 11 of my Sweet 16 picks are still in it, as are 6 of my final 8 and all of my final 4. Not an amazing performance, but I have a shot at something special. Yes I do.

1 comment:

O.P. said...

Wow... so much to comment on. 1st... I must commend you on your first (I think) architectural critique. Well done.

2nd... I absolutely love that you used the word "soulsuck" in your description. Is that a band? If not, it should be. And either way... I am definitely planning on utilizing it in my vocabulary on a regular basis. I mean, we're in Southern California; so much of which is a "soulsuck."

So... thanks for the tour. I will remember it when pondering your past - in the future.