King Farouk

In this picture you can see a purple Cadillac directly behind my father. It belonged to our neighbor, Flo. She worked as a hair dresser, and was a little dotty. Don't get me wrong, she was nice, but a little dotty. Flo was a widow. Somewhat fearful, but determined, she was fond of taking shots into the back yard with her pistol when she suspected prowlers about; she did this once while we lived next to her, and before we moved in (according to neighborhood rumor).

She kept a plaster bust of Queen Nefertiti and a yapping little dog in her backyard.

As low-class as our house looked, hers was worse - it was pink. And she once confided to Mom and me that she wanted to paint big polka dots all over the house, and glue a resin object - I don't exactly remember what, a rose or something - in the middle of each dot. She wasn't kidding. I managed to talk her out of it, citing the practical difficulty of finding a good, all-weather outdoor adhesive that would adhere to stucco.

That Cadillac had originally been a respectable metallic powder blue. Flo took it to Earl Scheib and had the world's worst paint job put on it. I write this not merely because the paint she selected was a lurid shade of purple, but because they painted right over her waxed paint finish. (That was an unspoken part of Scheib's ad pitch "I'll paint any car for $29.95!") No surprise, then, that soon the paint was peeling from the car, flakes blowing off during Santa Ana windstorms.

I never saw a car in that two-car garage. On the rare occasion that the garage door was open I observed limitless numbers of boxes.

That big billowing tree in her front yard always smelled awful in cold weather - I have never since encountered a tree quite like it. I maintained it smelled like burnt popcorn, others claimed it smelled like dog crap. Obviously it had an evocative, hard-to-pinpoint odor. I didn't care much; when I was a kid I used to climb in it and chew sticks of Clark's Teaberry gum there.

You're probably wondering who King Farouk was. He was Howard, Flo's older son. He was the neighborhood blowhard - every neighborhood has one. The Lincoln Street Farouk got his nickname from Mrs. Millar, the nice Scottish woman across the street. She granted this to him on account of his expansive persona. As with any good nickname it caught on so well that everyone, even Mom and my normally charitable wife, took to calling Howard this.

Anyway, Howard was something or another in the Burbank Police Department, as well as being a minor elected official of some sort. He used to visit the Lincoln Cafe, and was fond of looking out the window and citing what articles of the Burbank parking codes the other customers were in violation of. Mom finally got rid of him as he was bad for trade.

The neighborhood originally got up in arms against him when he and his family moved in with Flo, and pretty much displaced her. She was relegated to one bedroom, where she once had the entire house to herself. Farouk, not being happy with a common two bedroom stucco, financed expansive home improvements (which included a second story addition built without removing the old roof) and overbuilt the place for the neighborhood.

One of my greatest joys as a teenager was watching for Farouk in his front yard when pulling up to my house, rolling the windows down and blasting some rock station that I had specifically tuned for his benefit (I normally only listened to KFAC, the classical station). The Faroukian stare made the effort worthwhile.

Historical note: King Farouk I of Egypt lived from 1920 to 1965, and was widely unpopular due to his ego, wasteful, imperious ways and enormous girth. (My Egyptian high school friend Shokralla Shokralla had this assessment: "He was big and fat. Ate all the food.") Farouk was forced to abdicate, something we could never manage with Howard.

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