Red Dixon moves from city to city, county to
county. Eight houses and three counties in less than five years.
Pizza men and gypsies, they got something in common.
Zach and Red are
looking for an apartment, but only one has any money.
”Zach do you have enough for a deposit?”
”Yeah, I’ll have enough.”
”Have enough? What do you have now?”
”I’ve got like $100 and I get paid next week,
quit worrying about it.”
They apply all over the place, Red even has his
roofing boss write up a letter saying he makes $1,200 a month on
that day job. He could, too, if he could stop smoking out every
night and dragging himself through the day, sweating and trying
not to fall to the ground.
Red takes a pizza over to the pool where the
apartment manager and her friend are tanning while their
boyfriends swim. She’s Hawaiian or something, smooth brown skin
and long limbs.
”How hard is it to get into this place?”
”Not too hard; you should apply.”
It’s not too hard, but it’s too hard for a
couple of 18-year-old pizza men.
... “So, do you like the place?”
”Great, it looks great.”
”Let me tell you about the neighborhood watch
Red sees the machine gun mounts on the roofs.
You need that kind of stuff in Stockton. The whole setup aims to
keep drug dealers and gangbangers at bay. Red figures it might
be kind of a nuisance for his crew. None of them are really
”A large snake would be OK, right?”
Red’s getting kicked out of his first pad for
corrupting the children. After months of getting up early to
take them to school, in exchange for a $100 off the rent, months
of listening to the scream of the alarm, saw through sheet
metal. He figures it might have something to do with the couch
or perhaps the vomit stains on the carpet.
The biggest problem at the first house party was
that bottle of Cinnamon Schnapps. It was an optimist’s half full
before anybody got there. Fifteen minutes into the role of host
Red lost track. He remembers Jon pushing him across the room,
stumbling and falling over the glass coffee table and cracking
the back of the leather couch. He remembers waking up in a pile
of scarlet filth and the stain that wouldn’t come out of the
carpet no matter what he tried.
The couch was even more a problem. He couldn’t
find anywhere that could fix it before the weekend was over so
he put a bunch of tiny nails into it and hoped whoever plopped
down next would take the blame.
”Zach, how’s that money situation?”
”Don’t worry, I’ll have it.”
”That’s what you said last week. How much do you
”At least $50. I had to buy some new clothes.”
Red couldn’t hate Zach. He had it hard, parents
divorced. Dad didn’t want him hanging around too long with the
new wife and son. Mom was marrying some rich guy and Red is
supposed to do the valet parking for the wedding. Zach buys
clothes when he’s depressed. He smokes no weed, drinks very
A week earlier, Red’s cousin said “if you ever
need a place to stay ...” so he calls him up, moves on in. He
finds out his cousin’s wife smokes, has for more than 30 years.
She smokes maybe two, three hits and keeps the stash in a little
Red smokes out in the second bedroom, smokes until he can’t move
and just lays back on the bed staring at the spackle ceiling.
Red pays no rent, but he loans them $50 which
become a gift.
He keeps looking for a place to live, finds a
bunch of little studios lined up near Patterson Road, up against
Highway 99 and just behind McDonalds. He puts in some calls, but
nobody calls him. The cousins’ place is great, until they ask
him to leave.
Red knows there is a God. On the first day of
newspaper production class at Delta College, he’s sitting next
to this guy who’s got to be a stoner.
”Where do you live?”
”In Modesto, with my cousins. They’re kicking me
out though. I’ve got like a week.”
”No way, man! I could really use a roommate to
save some money.”
So the next day Red is loading his stuff into
Jon’s truck. He runs into his cousin’s wife in the kitchen while
he’s washing the dust off his hands. She tells him they wanted
him out because he never helped around the house. He’s a
teenager. They never asked. What did they expect.
”I like to smoke a little weed,” Red tells
Jason, his new roomie.
”Me too,” Jay says. “I quit for a while but I
just started up again last week.” He pulls out a bag of really
cheap Mexican dirt and a glass pipe. After a few minutes, they
start unloading the truck into the little two-bedroom house out
by Oak Park.
Then AA turns Jason into a big pain. He sleeps light, barging in
on Red and the guys in the middle of the night to tell them to
shut up and complain about the smoke.
So Red’s first apartment is in a pink complex
called Rose Garden, only blocks from UBT, the University Behind
Target. Local lore has it a Vietnamese gang once took over the
apartment of a rival leader’s grandmother here, holding her for
days. There is an underground economy the next block over, where
you can buy shots of Jack for $1, six packs, cigarettes and
maybe even a dozen eggs, all of it available in every apartment
building, every night and every day, every floor or more.
When Red moves his girlfriend in, he starts
paying more rent out of the kindness of his heart. Roomie Dennis
still acts weird, maybe because his sex buddy just graduated and
took her ass up to Humboldt. Pledging never to room with anyone
he isn’t screwing, Red packs it up for Lodi.
He marries her a few months after they move into
their first place, but she gets mad every time he visits their
neighbors. Troy’s got a Japanese wife, too, and a friend who
brings over an ounce of bud every two weeks. It’s way more than
Troy can smoke but he doesn’t want the friend to stop coming so
he always pays and he tries to get rid of the stuff before it
dries out. Red goes over there for five minutes while his wife
entertains the guests at his birthday party.
He can’t maintain, she knows he’s been Bogarting
Cal Berkeley writes him a letter and they move again, this time
to El Cerrito, just to one side of the BART tracks. She only
really hears the trains’ thunder when she calls her family back
© Red Dixon