birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Rebecca Horowitz

There were a lot of freaky characters down at the Catalyst on 15th and Alameda, before L.A. called that part of the city the Arts District. Back then it was just industrial by day and occasionally super scary at night, neither Vernon nor Boyle Heights but somewhere in between. There was a screeching, reeking scrap metal recycling plant just across the other side of our railroad tracks that we sometimes affectionally called “our backyard.” After dark Ashton and Tomas liked to get baked, talk shit, and hit golf balls over there off the roof.

The Catalyst Artist Collective was located on the third floor of a 15,000 square feet illegally zoned garment warehouse. We cooked meals on a one burner Coleman camping stove in case the City ever came through checking permits, so we could quickly hide the evidence of our residential living. The hallways were so immense we could ride our bikes around the house. A swing broad enough to seat three and a half drunk girls hung from the cavernous ceiling. The cast of housemates always varied, depending on who was passing through or breaking up, but when I lived there there were nine of us. The oil painter. The zany art director. A leathersmith with no sense of smell. (Lucky him). A jack of all trades who once advised, “Never tell anyone out here that you’re out of work, ever. Only say you’re freelancing.” I got a genuine kick out of all them. Except Roxy.

Roxy, who didn’t have a last name, actually did have a last name. I saw official looking mail addressed to her once from her Michigan hometown: her real name was Rebecca Horowitz. Roxy had fuchsia dreadlocks down to her sacrum and a slobbery Boxer named Attila. Attila was one of many animals who worshipped Roxy and served her as queen. Roxy applied black eyeliner as thick as her pinky finger and wore leather corsets with platform raver boots most of the time. She had innumerable piercings and an even more piercing voice—like a mashup of an over the top stereotype of an eighties phone sex operator crossed with an over the top eighties stereotype of a Valley Girl. Once Roxy hosted an all night orgy down the hall in a fake toilet that Tomas had built for the dream sequence of a movie he was working on. In the morning we found the remains of two of her pink dreadlocks, one on the floor and another in the bottom of the larger than life fake toilet bowl. It reminded me of how an endangered iguana jettisons the tip of its tail to escape from its predators.

First Job

We Had Cats