Trailer Park Confidential

My Short Life as a California Dreamer

One holiday weekend, Nick was cleaning out the glove box in his car and getting lugged up when a park resident called the police on him. He was already pretty faded when Newport's finest arrived, so they hauled him away, even though he wasn't driving the car. I stayed with his hysterical mother for a little while. Her eyesight was failing, and she explained that she had seen someone suspicious inside her son's car so she'd called the police.

I called the Newport Beach Police Department to see if I could go spring him, but they were adamant on keeping him for an overnight stay, away from the wheel of a car. That's when he lost his driver's license, and he never did get it back. The next day, he took a taxi as far as his pocket money would carry him and then hoofed it the rest of the way home. My doorstep was his first stop.

"Do you know who called the cops on me?"

I never told him it was his mother.

Not long after, his mother died. His father and siblings decided to send him to a detox clinic. Nick tolerated the clinic and then jumped off the wagon. It didn't take long for the neighbors to come to me with "concerns" about Nick. A full-time resident, a sweet elderly woman, had found an unopened bottle of vodka hidden in the bushes behind a neighboring unit. Apparently, Nick was being monitored by his brother, who was taking it upon himself to drop by at unexpected times and shake down Nick's trailer for stashed hooch. He threatened to haul Nick back to his father's house if he found one drop of alcohol in the place. But Nick had hid this particular bottle too well, forgetting its whereabouts.

Soon, one of the park busybodies was on a paranoid mission to get a fire alarm installed in Nick's trailer, on the chance that he might pass out drunk while smoking.

When she told me of her idea, I told her she should talk to Nick. Talk to a full-timer? She walked away, saying, "Maybe some of us can get a petition going so that he has to get a smoke alarm."

The rich folks were heavily into petitions and lists. Ever since the word came down that the city might kick everyone off the land when the lease expired, they'd all hired attorneys to find a loophole in the lease. When the city began soliciting bids for projects on the property, the homeowners association, made up mostly of part-timers, encouraged park residents to make financial contributions. Many of the rich old birds volunteered to pay almost double their current rent if the city would let them stay put. They were impervious to the concerns of their full-time neighbors. The active members of the homeowners association—the rich ones, anyhow—responded to those residents who did not contribute to the legal-fees kitty by posting a deadbeats list on the park bulletin board just outside the office as a way, they told me, of shaming them in public.

Marinapark had become tense, and everyone felt it. Vinnie became obsessed with keeping undesirables out of our private lot. There is no gate at the park entrance, only a sign that reads NO PUBLIC PARKING that is often ignored by desperate inlanders crunched for parking during the summer. This was a royal pain in the ass, since there is no easy way to tell the difference between a freeloader and a guest of one of the residents without stopping them and actually asking, "Hi, who are you visiting, please?" Vinnie took a more direct tactic: "WHOA! What are you—braindead?! Can't you read the sign?!"

I got pretty good at spotting outsiders vs. extended family members. But being a watchdog is not my bag. I always despised this part of the job, especially after having people flip me off, threaten me, or try to run me down just because I wouldn't let them park. One day, a white El Camino pulled into the park with two guys looking like neo-Nazis. As I stood up to put the guest/trespasser question to them, the driver put the bird in my face and continued on into the park, yelling, "Fuck you!" out of his window as he headed toward the guest lot. He parked. I began to walk after him with nothing but a clipboard and a whistle for protection. The two slices of beef got out and began walking toward me.

"What is your business here, please?"

"Fuck you!" said the driver as he swung at me, grazing my jaw enough to knock me down. Then both of them sprinted between the trailers. By the time I got up, they were gone. So I had their car towed with a policeman standing by for backup. I never took a chance like that again; no flunky-ass trailer park job is worth disfigurement.

Summer faded. The Santa Ana winds came up, the deadbeats list blew off the bulletin board, and the rich residents went nuts.

"Did someone tear it down, do you think?" one asked me.

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