The next chapter in an extraordinary “riches to rags” story.
In Episode 3 of Broke A$$ Rich Kid (coming out June 17th), Sid moves into an apartment building around the corner from skid row, into a bedroom barricaded from the rest of the apartment by a shower curtain, and infested with bugs. Sid’s experience was bad, but depending on your barometer for pain, it may have actually been more pleasant than my own real life experience confronting the characters who lived inside the Victor Clothing Building. Bad enough for someone in a healthy state of mind, but even worse for a kid who had grown up in a gated community and who had never lived without a safety net.
Chilling at a Russian family banquet in the 90’s
The man who lived down the hall from me had an awfully loud voice, and this was especially disorienting because he constantly spoke out loud. I’m talking top-of-the-lungs shouting that would make James Brown envious. It took almost a year to realize that he did this to survive. It’s something I saw a lot as I observed the homeless on skid row. As long as you’re still trying to communicate with the world around you, even if it’s only to yourself, I realized, you’re alive. It’s the quiet ones that we have to worry about. And boy was there a Quiet One at the Victor Clothing Building.
The Quiet One
He moved in about ten months after me. He had freaky hair, Edward Scissor Hands meets Madonna, that always looked like he was wearing a wig, and seemed to silently seduce you with a glance. His friends would show up at the building, and since he lived right above me on the third floor, I became accustomed to the language of whistles they used to exchange drugs at all hours of the night. Once he dropped his keys onto the fire escape outside my bedroom window and I woke up at 4am, eye-to-eye with his plastic face. He didn’t say a word, just gave me the coy smile. Eventually he was evicted, and every once in a while I would see him outside the Metro Street Station, begging for change.
The Blonde Woman
Every year you had to go through a financial recertification process in order to live at the Victor Clothing Building. The purpose of this meeting was for the Blonde Woman to analyze your finances, and then decide whether or not you were broke enough to keep your apartment. If you made more than “X” amount of dollars, you were forced to leave.
There was no bigger shame for me than having to go through this process once a year. It was a reminder of how far from the tree I had actually fallen, and I hated staring my financial reality in the face. But what made it even worse was having to do it with the Blonde Woman. She always brought her kids with her, and they were perfect, these children. 1994 Toys R Us commercial perfect. She’d sit there going through your financial failures while her children played checkers under the wooden desk in a place where the elevator never worked, drug deals happened underneath your bedroom window, and fire alarms blasted rude in the middle of the night while I tried to sleep.
The Blond Woman’s final letter to me
These experiences were often times annoying and dangerous but they were also helping me. After about a year of living at the Victor Clothing Building, my panic attacks started to become less frequent, and after two years they were gone. Going broke was actually benefiting my psychological health, and I could feel myself becoming more present as a result of the fact I was living on my own.
Allen E. Landver is the creator and star of Broke A$$ Rich Kid, a comedic web series based on his own riches to rags story in Beverly Hills. Broke A$$ Rich Kid is premiering at the New Media Film Festival on June 17.