The apartment complex was huge... and like shadows, my neighbors and I passed each other on our way to and from work. I never knew any of them. I rarely saw anyone else and even when I did, they avoided eye contact and scurried down the long corridors until they disappeared behind a closed door.
To keep me company, I had my cats-- kittens at the time--and a couple of potted plants. I kept the green plants on the gray concrete just outside my door. There, they happily soaked up the golden L.A. sun amid the colorless expanse of SoCal apartment living.
Not a week had gone by when I got a knock on my door. It was my apartment manager.
"The plants have to go inside," he said. "Each unit has to appear uniform from the outside."
I spoke up-- fought for my plants' sake-- but ultimately, I trudged inside with my green plants, afraid maintenance would steal them in the dead of night. I placed them in the windowsill, in front of the blinds so they could still see the sun. Life went on. Then, days later, another knock. It was you-know-who:
"Tenants cannot place decals, flags, or personal items in the windowsills."
"These aren't flags. I'm not protesting war or advocating abortion-- they're just a couple of freakin' plants!" But I lost the battle. The plants came down. In the days that followed, they only saw glimmers of sunlight in the shadows of despair. Their leaves were partially eaten by my cats. They wilted with sadness.
... this time into a townhouse with more than one room. There was a little sliver of green space just outside the door. We had a shrub and a little tree and just enough room for my plants to rejuvenate. And there was even a patio for my cats to frolic and bathe in the sun. We planted grass and aloe vera and laid decorative brick. We had a little garden oasis in the midst of this urban jungle called L.A. Things were peachy for a good, long while.
Then about a month ago, the HOA decided to utilize money from a recent legal settlement to redo the landscaping on the grounds. Loads of perfectly good trees and thriving plants were hacked and unceremoniously thrown into dumpsters and replaced. Three-lane highways of sod were unravelled. Things looked streamlined and manicured, but the old plants were just as good.
A week ago, we got a notice from the current HOA board. It said that any extraneous plants, home decor, decorative bricks, etc. on the little sliver of green space just outside the door would have to be removed by 8 a.m. Thursday-- two days later!
This little sliver of green space, that pathetically represents more "yard" than many Southern Californians get, was apparently not ours after all. To HOA, it is considered a "common area" and therefore, each homeowners' green space would have to look identical. The old landscaping was being torn up and replaced by new landscaping-- chosen by the HOA board.
We grumbled as we tore up the dirt and dug up our plants-- picking out each slab of brick that I felt like throwing at them. A few doors down, one of our neighbors was in mourning. She had an entire rose garden outside her door. Each day, bright red and peach-colored roses greeted her. Even on bad days, she'd marvel at their beauty. In two days, it was gone-- vanished. Not a rose petal in sight.
Power. Stupidity. All the land on the Earth is a "common area."Can't we all just enjoy some green space? Why does an HOA have to spend time putting ridiculous restrictions on it?
Today, as I peered through the blinds, I saw them. Four people from the HOA board standing outside our door, clutching their little clipboards.
"They're making the rounds again," I thought, as I watched.
One woman counted the plants and made note of their types. The four of them scribbled on their legal pads. They shook their heads and talked amongst themselves. They stood in front of our place for an eternity. I know they saw the decorative bricks. It had been four days since the 8 a.m. deadline and we'd failed to tear all of them up. Even the lady with the roses had sadly done her duty.
California is bankrupt. It hasn't rained for months. We have mandatory water restrictions. Unemployment is among the highest in the nation. And with corporations destroying humans and humans destroying the Earth, why should anyone give a flying f**k whether we all have identical plants outside our door?
Send the roses to the landfill-- the thorns will come for you later.Copyright 2009 by KLiedle