Mr. X Marks the Spot

Photo by James BunoanIllegally Converted Industrial Space, Laguna Canyon
Mr. X, painter
Rent: $1,400 per month

Mr. X is 47 years old. He is a painter—a fine one—and that is all you get to know about him because he really doesn't want to lose the space in which he has been illegally residing since 1993.

His friends rag on him sometimes, he says. "You're in your 40s," they'll tell him. "When are you going to stop living like you're in your 20s?" But that is so much bullshit: I don't know anyone in their 20s who could afford such a fabulous industrial space on the canyon road. Chris Isaak is whispering from hidden speakers as we venture onto the cactus patio. It is filled with bizarre varieties of danger and spikes. A neighbor's avocado tree sways overhead. It bears beautifully.

Inside, the large, maze-like place is surrounded by his critically acclaimed works. A big, beautiful Buddha (the slim, feminine, almost Kali-ish type) watches over things; he traded a painting for it to an importer friend. The first room holds a tiki bar he built himself. Under the resin is the photo of him in a grass skirt. Sadly, he doesn't drink much anymore. When one's hangovers start to last three days, it's time to admit you're growing older and just watch everyone else get stupid. Atop the tiki bar are a smile pile of flower petals and a Jetsonish lawn sprinkler he got in Antwerp or Brussels. He plans on giving it to a friend. Nearby are the Elvis shrine and the de rigeur crimson vinyl booth that looks like it was liberated from a lonely DuPar's. His kitchen—just one end of the living room—is merely cabinets carved from a beautiful rich wood.

A large work space through one door is surprisingly tidy. There, large, realist figurative paintings show his friends drunkenly showing cleavage and panty. Marvelous!

Beyond that are two bedrooms: one, free of much dcor, is for his 18-year-old son, who comes to visit. Mr. X's bedroom holds a bed high on a dais and covered by a red Navajo-type blanket. A tiny corner table next to his bed is saved from girlish daintiness by its spotted-cowhide cover. Looking down on it, atop a terrifying ladder, is a sturdy loft space furnished with pea-green sectionals and carpeted in resistant beige. Does it get hot up there? It could, but you see all the skylights open. Don't yours?


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