Please forgive my sudden re-write of Casablanca. But I am simply prone to dramatic re-interpretations from classic cinema when my life gets thrown into upheaval.
It's not happening this year, but apparently in the near future the stretch of street that I live on (called the Hamilton Road Corridor) is going to be re-zoned for commercial use; that it's just a matter of time. One of those sleazy real estate agents that speaks in a hushed whisper, like he's a funeral director, and in a way he is because he's come to put the best spin on the worst possible news... Already the vultures are out, trying to buy our houses out from under us. "They are willing to make a very attractive offer -- just consider it."
I was horrified. I love my little house so fucking much. I looked at so many houses in the space of three years before I found this one and fell in love with it the moment I set foot in it. The thought that in the foreseeable future it might be paved over for a Burger King or something awful like that just tears my heart to pieces.
But what can you do? Lie down in your driveway and stop the steamroller of fast-food enterprises called progress?
If you've read my book, Twilight of the Immortal, then you will be familiar with Alla Nazimova's incredible home, the Garden of Alla; a Spanish villa that was in the middle of a sumptuous nowhere, paradise for as far as the eye could see. She built many guest bungalows on her property and a big underground swimming pool -- it was shaped like the Caspian Sea because Nazimova was from Russia. And all of Hollywood came to play at her Garden of Alla, until fortunes turned and Nazimova was forced to sell her villa to people who turned it into a hotel and she wound up living in an apartment above her own garage...
And then in the 1960s, the whole place was bulldozed over and they put up an ugly strip mall. Joni Mitchell immortalized it in her song "Big Yellow Taxi" -- they paved paradise/ and put up a parking lot. And now, that paradise that was in the middle of a sumptuous nowhere is in the center of West Hollywood and you can barely find an available sliver of space to park your car. And I stood in that regrettable parking lot and withdrew money from the ATM at Chase. Does it get more commercial than that?
When something as jawdroppingly awesome as Alla Nazimova's world gets paved over, I think of my tiny house, and what comes to mind? Quotes from Casablanca: "it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." But, of course, in my case it's just one crazy lady and 6 semi-tame cats...
In one way, it's like a blessing; it's like being given a horrible prognosis: "You've got six months to live; you're incurable. So go out and make the very best of your life that you can." At least I know the end is in sight; I can try my damnedest to soak it all in. Countless times already, I have stood in various parts of my yard, at different times of the day or night, in all kinds of seasons, and I have truly marveled at all the beauty that was mine; the towering trees, the daffodils & hyacinth, the roses and lilacs, the lilies and honeysuckle that return so faithfully every year; the way the snow looks, falling on the tall trees in the moonlight. It has all been just breathtaking for me, and I wanted to sear it into my memory so that when I lived to be one hundred, I would have these wonderful things to remember. Now, it's looking like I'll get to start remembering them when I'm, like, fifty-four. It sucks.
I do need to downsize, I know that. This house is too big for me to live in alone, it has never been affordable for me and I have struggled with it for going on 7 years already, but it is still heartbreaking to know -- not just that I have to let it go-- but that it will become some sort of commercial establishment and the true beauty of this place -- the rose bushes, the lilac tree, the honeysuckle thriving on my arbor, the maple tree that's almost 60 years old -- will return to dust. And that my squirrels, my raccoons, my groundhogs, my chipmunks, my rabbits, my skunks, my possum, my field mice, even my blind little moles, and all my various birds will have to find somewhere else to live. It just hurts.
[Alla Nazimova's home on Sunset Boulevard in 1918]
[One block away, after the march of progress...]
About Marilyn Jaye
Causes Marilyn Jaye Lewis Supports
The Film Council of Greater Columbus, Columbus, OH
The Adrienne Shelley Foundation, NY, NY
Paralyzed Veterans of America, Washington, DC...