THE ECCENTRIC NEIGHBOR

When I left San Francisco, I came back to Orange County, and took a small apartment in Santa Ana, in a charming inexpensive neighborhood, the street lined with tall eucalyptus trees. At first I worked in a nightclub behind the bar, but that came to an end. And I searched for work. My neighbor, an agreeable young man, was working in the driveway, mysteriously painting patches of transparent color on old windshields, then smashing the windshield with a loud clatter. In those days…about 1972…windshields broke into thousands of tiny flat diamonds. I told him of my job hunt, and he said I could work for the people he worked for. He held up a small glass bowl, covered with the colored glass diamonds. A candleholder, he declared. It was charming and pretty. He requested extra windshields, and I was hired. I learned to glue the flat bits on the bowl and then grout them like tiny tiles with an intense black grout.
My neighbor was surprising and eccentric. He had a much loved cat, who like himself, was a vegetarian. We chatted as we grouted candleholders. One day he invited me in his place, and I was stunned to see that the entire walls of the apartment were stained pitch black from the black grout. Wow! The grey cat rubbed on my legs purring. Indicating the walls, he said, “that’s why I moved the work outdoors.” Well, kind of too late, I thought.

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