I do not know who Uschi Obermaier is when I visit various guest houses in Topanga. I’m just looking for a place to live and Topanga seems reasonable, other than the considerable fire risk.
Topanga is located about 20 minutes drive north of Venice/Santa Monica in Los Angeles. Many people refer to it as “Topanga Canyon”, as it is located in a canyon and along the sides of both mountains that make up the canyon’s sides.
It’s a long, narrow, winding canyon and it hasn’t burned in almost thirty years. The Mad Scientist is careful to advise me to make sure whatever road I live on has multiple exits, so that I could drive away from the fire.
I do, but I still know the speed at which fire can move through a canyon and am pretty sure if it ever does spark that everyone living in Topanga will be burnt alive.
It’s so pretty though.
Rolling green hills fading into the blue of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re lucky. If you’re high enough up the canyon. One’s elevation predicts one’s status. The smog line is a few hundred feet below the guest house I’m looking at.
I fall in love with the guest house the moment I enter it. I have to have it. It’s $2500/month, which is a ridiculously high percentage of my income at the time. I don’t care. It’s perfect. I have a six mile view. The ocean visible on clear days.
The German woman who shows me the guest house seems nice, and definitely cool. She acts far younger than she is, says that she is an artist – and I feel fine about sharing property with her. It does feel strange to look up the hill to her house and realize how much better of a view she has.
I borrow money from The Mad Scientist to pay the security deposit. He writes out a check directly, and I stand over him telling him the details.
“She’s German so her name should be easy for you.” I say.
“What is it?”
“First name Uschi.” he writes it down.
“Last name Obermaier.” I say. He drops the pen.
“You’re fucking kidding me!” he says.
“Uh, no, I am not, do you know her?” I ask.
He doesn’t answer me. Instead he pulls up Google and types in her name.
My eyes widen at the number of results.
Uschi Obermaier was a model in the 1960’s who was famous for squatting in a famous collective in Berlin, and also for dating the Rolling Stones. No, I mean, all of them.
She toured with them and became a sex symbol, an icon of the times.
There’s a documentary about her life. The Mad Scientist immediately downloads it and hands it to me on a flash drive. There are also tons of naked photos of her.
But now, when I meet her, she is in her mid-60’s, and definitely has had some shoddy work done on her face. She doesn’t look like a former model to me.
I move in.
I get the moving truck stuck for a minute in the driveway and then use The Mad Scientist’s SUV and tow strap to unstick it. It impresses Uschi Obermaier. For me, complicated driving and parking with a loaded vehicle is one of the many skills I’ve picked up from decades of Burning Man.
The place is beautiful. I love it. I work from home so it’s perfect to spend time there. There are travertine counters and granite sinks and every fixture is designer and well chosen.
There’s a lightning bolt in rivets under the kitchen counter that reminds me of Ziggy Stardust.
A wood stove. A hot tub just for me that never works the entire two years that I live there.
It’s a wild ride, that period of my life. I’m living at the edge of my means, having a blast, and keeping healthy.
I end up meeting and working with my yoga teacher. Commuting from Topanga to Venice every day for yoga is the usual extent of my errands, other than to pick up medical marijuana. I’m pleased by the equidistance of my place from Malibu, Venice, or Woodland Hills, all of which contain dispensaries.
I’m in the vaporizer phase of my use, it’s not until just after I move on from The Slave Quarters of Uschi Obermaier, Topanga that I get into dabs. I do, however, have my first dab ever while I’m living there.
But that is a different story. I always said that I would someday live in a loft and have lots of lovers, and now that I am living in a loft – I set about the rest. I have some good times in The Slave Quarters of Uschi Obermaier.
There is something unsettling about living in the shadow of a woman known for her beauty. It bubbles any issues I’ve ever had with my own beauty to the surface.
Topanga is a strange little city. The population is small, and it does have an insulated, mountain hippie/art town feeling… yet at the same time it’s very Los Angeles. I attend some of the local town events. Topanga days. Their Earth Day festival. It’s all very rich hippie.
I’m heating the place with wood heat because it’s cheapest, and because I can get a workout doing something real with my body in the process. I swing by Temescal Canyon Road a couple of times a week. There the forest service trims Temescal forest and leaves rounds sitting by the side of the road. I can usually roll one or two of these into my trunk, often with the help of various Mexican Americans there for the same purpose.
Then I back it up to the splitting area and roll the rounds out again. Split, stack, tarp. It’s a fun game. Even though I could flip a switch for forced air heat at any time, I never do. I have vague memories of living on wood heat from when I was a child, but this is the only time in my adult life that I do all the work myself, except cutting down the tree. I did that once. It was enough.
Uschi Obermaier, though, turns out to be a pain in the ass.
She’s overly involved in what I am doing with the property in ways that simply aren’t legal. We butt heads more than I’d like. I have to ask her for permission to do almost everything.
I have parties as much as I want to, no ragers, grown-up quiet dinner parties, but the parking situation is always fraught with tension and my guests report negative encounters.
This comes to a head when she tries to evict me for having The Plant Whisperer stay a night when I wasn’t at home. She is convinced he’s been living with me and when I explain that he’s just staying over a lot because he’s my boyfriend and doesn’t live in town, she won’t take that answer and serves me notice. I know that I could fight it, but leave anyway.
This is the only time I’ve ever been threatened with eviction, and by this point I’ve had enough of her interference and though I’m still deeply in love with the place and the location, but after two years living in The Slave Quarters of Uschi Obermaier, it impacts my social life and my relationships. Priorities.
Living in The Slave Quarters of Uschi Obermaier is beautiful, but really I deserve to sit at the adult table in the main house, and I know it.
Anyway, who makes floors out of softwood?
Lovers I had while living in The Slave Quarters of Uschi Obermaier: