The Dingbat of Harvard Boulevard

I can’t disentangle dingbat apartments from the memories of the years I have spent in Los Angeles.

In 2015, when I was twenty years old, I moved into a dingbat apartment in Los Angeles. I painted the walls canary yellow because I had read somewhere that yellow walls inspired optimism and serenity. I am twenty-eight now; I have lived in five apartments since that dingbat, and I have yet to experience a serene day in Los Angeles.

Like many people, I moved to Los Angeles to stake a claim in an ethereal coolness that I believed to be contagious and ubiquitous in that city. I just knew I’d catch it. What it offered to me instead was boxy overhang apartments outfitted with war-time appliances, a term I would quickly discover meant “doesn’t work.” Dingbat apartments were an economic invention in the 1950s that made it possible for twelve families to live in a single apartment building sitting atop a parking garage. The dingbat could accommodate the post-war increase in population with affordable construction prices and offered a scrappy version of the American dream to tenants. Often, their exteriors were painted in pastel colors and emblazoned with mid-century atomic-s…

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