Renter's Rules

Neighborly Revenge With the 'Dear Girls Above Me'


dear girls above meBad neighbors should be avoided at all costs, since there are so many ways that living beside strangers in the close quarters of an apartment building can go wrong: hearing the awkward sounds of copulation; inadvertently catching late-night arguments in which you shouldn't be involved; smelling the consequences of a disregarded room.

But as with most things, you can find a silver lining -- if you pay enough attention.

Charlie McDowell, president and CEO of Cloudbreak Productions, saw an opportunity in launching witty, hilarious and engaging website called "Dear Girls Above Me," which originated on his Twitter account, @charliemcdowell, earlier this year. On his site and Twitter feed resides a collection of his brief letters to two effusive, oblivious girls who live in the Los Angeles apartment above him.

McDowell talked with RentedSpaces about the inspiration for "Dear Girls Above Me" and the response it's gotten, and offered some advice to readers who have bothersome neighbors.

Rented Spaces: Can you please introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Charlie McDowell and I'm an alcoho -- Oh, wait. Sorry, different interview. I apologize. My name is Charlie McDowell. That is all.

Can you describe your apartment, how you found it and the neighborhood it's in?
I found the apartment because one of my best friends lives in the building as well. It's a really cool, old building -- only problem is the walls are paper thin. That, mixed with extremely loud talkers, equals "Dear Girls Above Me."

What gave you the idea to start "Dear Girls Above Me"?
I honestly don't really remember. I had been writing down things they had said for a few months, thinking I would use it in a script one day. I woke up one gloomy morning to them having a 40-minute conversation about what to do if it rained. I yelled from my bed, "Shut the hell up, invest in an umbrella and be done with it." They can't hear me for some reason, which makes the "relationship" feel very one-sided. But, anyway, I randomly logged onto my Twitter account and wrote a couple "letters" to them. I think I had 11 followers (10 of whom were my friends). I got a few responses and people started re-Tweeting them. Then it just got bigger and bigger. I remember there was a point when I realized, "Crap, now I gotta keep writing these damn letters."

How much of what you share is true?
Everything I share comes from the truth. Of course, as a writer I am able to take poetic license in what I write. Since Twitter only gives you 140 characters, it's impossible to take every conversation and simplify it to a single short quote. In saying that, yes, the girls are very real; yes, they are extremely loud; and yes, I may now open the windows so I can hear them better. It's sick, I know.

What's your favorite DGAM letter?

What's your offline relationship with the two girls (whom you've dubbed Cathy and Claire) like?
I see them in the parking lot, laundry room and the hallway. They really don't pay much attention to me. To them, I'm the weird bearded guy who giggles like a schoolgirl every time I see them. I can't help it -- seeing them is much more exciting than a celebrity sighting.

Are they aware that you're doing this?
They have no idea.

What's the response to this been like? Have there been any unique or memorable reactions?
Well, when I first started doing the "letters," I was shocked to hear from so many people with loud-neighbor stories. I've never been in a noisy living situation before, so this was all new to me, but there has definitely been an overwhelming response. It's nice to know you're not alone in the world. I would say the most unique reaction was a couple of girls who made "GAM" (girls above me) hats and t-shirts. Those girls have almost as much free time as I do!

Are these two girls your worst neighbors yet? If not, who was the worst and why?
Yes, by far the worst neighbors. But, at the same time, without them "Dear Girls Above Me" wouldn't exist. So, it's a bit of a love/hate "relationship."

How will you feel when they are no longer the girls who live above you? Is Pinkberry your second favorite place to eavesdrop?
Pinkberry, the mall, Sephora, "Sex and the City 2" screenings, nails salons -- these are the places you will find me.

Knowing what you do now, if you knew those girls would be living above you, would you have moved into that apartment to begin with?
Well, I already lived in my apartment when they moved in. I love my place and am not going anywhere, so it will have to be them. Although, I don't think they are planning a move anytime soon -- trust me, I would hear about it.

Lastly, do you have any tips for readers who live in apartments next to, above or below irritating neighbors?
Well, the way I look at it, you have two options. One: You can tell them to shut the hell up and/or complain to the landlord. Or two, the much more passive-aggressive approach: You can write down everything they say, put it in a blog and find humor in the situation. It's not the worst thing in the world -- I've actually learned quite a bit about the opposite gender. Hopefully it will work to my advantage one of these days! Until then, it's just me and the girls.
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