Downtown Diary, the Last One: Part 2

Jenni Burton had a weekly column in NewspaperTree from 2004 to 2007. Maybe longer. This month she moved out of the Abdou Building for the last time. This is Part 2 of a two parts. Read Part 1 here.

I’m the daughter of three generations of refugees. Tarsus to Cairo to Los Angeles. West Jerusalem to East Jerusalem to Beit Hanineh to Los Angeles.

My family in Los Angeles, The Armenians of Cairo and Jerusalem, told us we were crazy.

They would know. They’re landlords now. They moved to the US and bought property all over Hollywood. An historic hotel. Houses in Laurel Canyon. Properties in Pasadena and Glendale. Because they would never be tenants again.

My cousins in Santa Monica said we were crazy. My great aunt’s family in Laurel Canyon and Melrose said we were crazy. We put so much work into properties we didn’t own? Each morning I woke up and opened the kitchen window to look at the Juárez skyline, I laughed.

“La Biblia es la Verdad. Leela,”

“Im sourig, Im hokis-du khent.”

I laughed because they were right.


Today is October 7th

We will be out in seven days. Two days after that will be our 12th wedding anniversary. Silk. Instead of a nice dinner, we will be hauling furniture, preparing for the biggest garage sale of our lives, selling our memories piece by piece.

The couch that Al Jorgensen gave us when we moved in together.

The chairs where I nursed my children.

The craft table where the kids and I spent long summer hours painting.

The shelves Justin made for me for our fifth anniversary.

Our audio and screen printing equipment has found a new home at Glasbox, where we will be able to continue working until we can make a permanent space for our work. Our own space, that we own.

This winter, after I graduate, the cycle will begin again- renovating our new home, a mid-century number on the Westside where skunks regularly invade my back yard and doves fight over my figs in the summer heat.

I have traded pigeons for doves.

Split pea shag for cream colored shag.

Arts and Crafts for Mid-Century.

Asphalt for xeriscaping.

A roof-top for a garden.

I can see myself walking into the living room with the same bucket with the same bleach and degreaser and GooGone and gloves, and I will rip that nasty-ass shag from the 80’s out of my living room and dining room with the same relish. I will wipe the leftover adhesive down with GooGone and watch it melt off of the concrete. I will scrub and scald and sanctify the house as my own.


Tomorrow the doors will all open one more time.

We will work until we can work no more, hauling, packing, trashing…

And then we will open our doors

And the neighbors will open theirs

And we will share our wine

And food

And music

And dance

Just like we used to

And maybe I will invite my landlord Bahram the Frenchman

Or is it Pierre the Persian

But only if he lets me yell at him in Armenian

Like the family that we are.

Maybe I will offer him the hospitality of the tarof- the tariff- the bargain of civility

A ritual of offered gifts and pleasantries.

Oh no I couldn’t.

Oh no you must.

I guess I’ll bring pomegranates and figs to share my peace

If he brings me an apology.

You never call.

You never write.

Why did I find out from a friend?

And then I can cry into my apricot jam and tequila.

Let my youth be torn from my skin

Shag carpet from concrete.

And once again, Justin and I will build something beautiful together.

Jenni Burton is a mother, dancer, teacher, writer, and printmaker. She will miss many things about living and working downtown. She will not miss the endless construction. Have fun with all that, kids.

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