Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Apartmentalizing

It’s sad that we have to lose our sense of wonder and become jaded adults.

Remember how amazing it was when you first got out of your family’s house and into a place of your own? 

I moved out of the family house in pretty good order.  I commuted to college so I never dealt with dorms or off campus housing.  I knew I had it good at home… remember, we had The Barn.  And I was basically a pretty responsible kid so I didn’t really have any restrictions on my comings and goings.  I could have stayed much longer.  Hell, if we’d have had a bathroom in The Barn, I could have lived out there.

But after I graduated college, I figured it was time to flee the nest and strike out on my own.  Plus, I really wanted to shack up with my girlfriend.  So we engineered a pretty decent plan, even though it had to be semi-secret.

Well, the secret had to be kept from HER parents… mine were fine.  They were probably thinking, “One down and two to go.”  But while I was a newly minted college graduate, she was only a (college) sophomore, an only daughter and the baby of her family. 

So from the time I graduated, we began buying various house things, like dishes, sheets, towels, kitchen utensils and stuff like that.  We stored it in our attic at home until she could break the news to her folks.

We found a nice little place to live right there in Bowling Green.  She lived in town and was still going to school there, and I certainly liked the area.  Hell, as a commuter, I hardly got to spend any time outside the campus, so I liked hanging out there.

The apartment was a converted garage.  It was set back from a main house (which was also divided into a couple apartments).  We had 2 bedrooms, a living room, dining room and kitchen.  It had everything we needed.

The only problem is that I was the only one working and I couldn’t afford the place by myself, so we had to find a roommate.  As luck would have it, we had a mutual friend that was going to grad school there.  I knew her from my radio-TV-film classes and the college radio station.  We used to sit in on each other’s shows.  My girlfriend knew her from doing Community Theater.  (The Girlfriend was a theater geek… she acted in plays and directed the local children’s theater.)  So it was decided that we should all throw in together and that’s exactly what we did.

It was kind of like the old sitcom “Three’s Company,” except I didn’t have to pretend to be gay and I got to sleep with one of them.

The year we spent there is worthy of its own post, because it was, how should I put this… “eventful.”  (See, I never told the Girlfriend that I used to have a huge crush on the roommate when we were in school together.  While I never got anywhere with that at the time, I nonetheless didn’t see the upside to mentioning that little fact.  )

Hell, living with two women, the inside of the bathroom was only a rumor to me… something I’d heard about but had never seen for myself.  And there was always a tug of war going on about something… who messed up the kitchen, who had to clean what, who ate whose leftovers, what to watch on our only TV… it was constant drama. 

One time the Roommate made a crock-pot full of chili, then forgot about it.  For days.  It cooked all the way down to crust.  And then she still never did anything about it, so the Girlfriend picked up the whole thing and left it in the Roommate’s bedroom.  (Where it sat for another couple of weeks.)  And I STILL had to listen to the girlfriend complain about it.

Before 12 months had passed, the Girlfriend and I had broken up (amicably) and I was boinking the Roommate.  (Like I said, this place is a post or two by itself.)

So with all that going on, this place really didn’t seem like “mine.”  I was just a bit player there, so by the end of our lease, I got out of there like a bat out of hell.  I moved into a small efficiency apartment right up by the record store where I worked.

It had a kitchen with a counter, a living room and maybe a dining room if you divided it up, one small bedroom and a bathroom.  It cost me like $180 a month.  But best of all, it was mine; all mine.

That changed everything.  I mean; I didn’t have jack shit… I had a bed, a love seat, and matching chair from The Barn, a wrought-iron book case that served as a stereo stand, a 24” TV, my desk, and a couple of peach-crates full of records.  That was it.  And I felt like I’d hit the jackpot.
Same stuff, different apartment.

I’d come home from closing the store, crack a beer, sit in the chair and just look around.  I’d think, “Oh man… this is MY place.  I actually have a place.  Maybe I’m a grownup now.”

It still felt funny, thinking of myself as a grownup.  It was while I lived there that I first got called a “man.”

I was at work and told some kid we were out of something and he yelled across the way, “Hey Mom, that man said they’re out of Def Leppard.”

I was like, “What ‘man’?  I just told you… ohhhhhh…”

Suddenly I felt like Muddy Waters.
“I’m a M-A-N, man!”

It’s funny how those feelings are fleeting.  No matter how many more things you accumulate, or how much bigger a dwelling you have, it’s not quite the same as that first taste of adulthood.

I also it was there that I learned how to cook.  First, I had to unlearn what I learned about cooking from the Girlfriend.  (No, a can of peas does NOT require a half-stick of butter.)  And I can thank my brother for teaching me how to make a steak.  He caught me making one in an electric fry-pan, the way Mom used to.  (Note: never let the vegetarian cook the steaks.)

Ed said they made steaks at his frat house at Ohio State all the time… “Use the oven broiler… 5 minutes on one side, 4 on the other… done!

Boy, did THAT ever open up some opportunities.  Until that moment, I had no idea that you could make your own steak as good as the ones you got in restaurants.

Anyway, I lived there for about 8 months, before I up and moved to Cleveland to go manage my own record store.

Moving away from your home, to a town where you know no one?  Now THAT’s when you become a grownup.

And then you learn that sometimes being a grownup is over-rated.

26 comments:

  1. That is so very true. You are not yourself until you leave the nest and learn to fly on your own.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't think you ever forget your first apartment.

    Mine was a shit hole. The bathroom was pink, someone stole all my roommates panties, it wasn't in a great neighborhood, but I fucking loved that place.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm still not convinced about this whole steak at home being as good as restaurant steak thing. And Kamran keeps threatening to make me things like shrimp and scallops at home, which are way scarier than steak. I'm not even sure wine tastes as good at home. But I sure used to make a mean ramen in my dorm room.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Trash,
    Luckily I didn't crash to the ground too many times. Back then, when we were young, we could adapt to very primitive conditions. (Now, kids expect to move out of the house and directly into something just as nice.)

    Sally,
    I'm sorry about that. Would she like them back? If it makes her feel any better, I thought they were yours.

    Mundane,
    Maybe I shouldn't have said "restaurant quality." I should have said, "significantly better than any steak I'd had at home before."

    The Bowling Green apartment was the one where I learned about ramen noodle soup, which had been a previously unknown delicacy to me. The Roommate made me some when I was sick.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Other than dorm rooms, my first "house" was the 8x40 trailer Peggy and moved into after we were married--the one where you were either in the bed, or you weren't in the bedroom, and in which the only way for us both to be in the bathroom at once was if one of us was in the tub.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Being a grown-up is so highly overrated. I hope I never become one. ;)

    My first apartment was a one-bedroom I shared with my 1 and 1/2 year-old daughter. She got the bedroom and my bed was in the living room. It was cozy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I, too, have fond memories of college and post-college apartments and roommates. Well, mostly fond. There was once place I shared with three other girls that we called the Litter Box. Guess why. Thank god that was only a summer sublet.

    And for the record, I can cook up a pretty good steak.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ha! That made my day, bluz :)

    We also had a phone in the shape of a Harley Davidson. You talked into the part that was the seat.

    And when it rang? The headlights flashed, and the engine revved.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This brought back memories of my first place! I got out at 18, and loved it! I lived in a little studio for a while, then got a one-bedroom apt. I have never stopped loving the freedom of living alone, but once in a while I do miss he company of living with someone. Although, my stuff is ALWAYS where I left it :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. You also do fabulous grilled chicken.
    Remember the floor to ceiling pizza boxes in that tiny place in Toledo. You were always a collector.
    And the apartment in Cleveland was home to the Pop-Tart caper.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Snowbrush,
    Luckily I never had to deal with a trailer. To me, that’s taking “Spartan” living conditions to the extreme.

    Of course they have those here in Baltimore too. They stack them up 3 levels high and call them “row houses.”

    Raven,
    You’re too kind. I’d have had to put the kid in a cupboard somewhere.

    Need I remind anyone again that it’s a good thing I’m childless?

    Red Pen Mama,
    Litter Box? Let me guess:
    * You and your roommates were from the same litter?
    * You had litter all over your apartment?
    * You had empty 2-liter bottles of Coke all over the house, but someone mis-spelled “liter?”
    * You all pooped in a sandbox?

    OK, I give…

    Sally,
    Wow… that’s now my 2nd all time favorite phone.

    The champ belongs to a family friend that has a den that’s decorated in a “duck” motif. So naturally, they have a Duck-Phone that looks like a wooden duck decoy. And when it rings, it goes “Quack quack quack quaaaack.” When we visit, we call it from our cell phones, just to listen to the ring.

    Kernut,
    Enjoy that while you can! Sometimes I think living alone for so long ruined me for ever living with anyone else. The things poor Pinky has to put up with…

    I used to always know exactly where all my stuff was. Like pens… I always have a particular pen at my desk. Then when I go to use it, it’s gone. Then we fight about what pen she’s allowed to use and where. I’m like, if you need to write something in the kitchen, why not just use the pen that’s already in the kitchen and leave my desk pen the hell alone?

    Then I remember all the dinners she makes me and I chill the hell out.

    Mary Ann,
    Nah, I never had floor to ceiling pizza boxes… I couldn’t afford pizza delivery. Pop Tarts were another story.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Bluz, this is going to break your heart, but Snooki from the Jersey Shore has that same phone.

    But I'd love to have one. A quacky phone.

    My brother had this ringtone once, it was like, a porny music beat set to a chimp babbling. It was gold, Bluz, GOLD!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sally,

    See, I would never know that because I've never seen so much as a milisecond of Jersey Shore.

    I say she has that phone because she's foul.

    I'd love to hear the chimp ringtone go off during a board meeting or something...

    ReplyDelete
  14. My first apartment was at college where I lived alone. I'm not sure if that counts. When I finally finished school and moved from Cleveland to Boston I moved in with a couple of guys, and it was less than stellar. They were best buds and I always felt like an outsider. When I got my own place a few years later I finally felt like I arrived. It was a damn good feeling to do whatever the F I wanted to....when I wanted to.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Am I the only one who questions whether you have pants on in that picture, and just where that hand is? Perhaps I'm a bit warped tonight.....

    My (our) first apartment was a ranch cut into two apartments by wood paneling. You could hear the ice tinkling in the glass of our neighbors. We were newly married. One can only surmize they heard more than ice.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Guy,
    I've never lived with anyone I wasn't involved with, which was good for me. Given how much freedom you're giving up to have a roommate, there has to be a trade-off. So obviously I've never shared a place with another guy. One smelly hairy guy in the house is enough!

    DG,
    Hey, you've MET me... you should know that wasn't me in that picture! The red-headed dude is my buddy Rik, and he did indeed have shorts on. But remember, that was the 80s, when shorts were actually short, and didn't come down to your calves. Also, I've never been that white in my life.

    With border walls made out of paneling, I think I'd have to have some kind of permanent white-noise machine going at all times. Either that or some Judas Priest.

    ReplyDelete
  17. You know, I did wonder whether you'd done the dye job thing. Don't try to tell me that chair was never sat upon sans pants, however.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Back when my husband and I were first together, we had secret-living-together thing going ton, too. I couldn't tell my parents (he was a lot older and no one in his family cared). When he first moved in, I was living alone, but my previous roomie was still paying her half, since she was on the lease. But once that was over (since my parents were still paying the rent) I needed a room-mate.

    We found a girl who was nice and quiet and private and went home every weekend, so it was perfect. My parents lived far enough away that they didn't drop in unexpectedly, so I always had time to hide the evidence. And even though there were occasionally things of his in sight, they knew he spent a lot of time there and liked that I had a man in the house - especially since my roomie wasn't around on weekends and I wasn't alone.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Litter box: the previous tenants had had cats. Poorly trained cats. it was gross, but I was 20, living on the South Side of Pittsburgh. I just needed a place to crash on the nights my boyfriend wasn't available.

    ReplyDelete
  20. My first apartment was in Oakland and on moving day there was a dead body found outside of it in the dumpster.

    Oh memories.

    And in response to your comment on That's Church, Why didn't you have a three-some then?! Missed opportunity.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I bet you're an awesome roommate, Bluz.

    I, on the other hand, am a terrible roommate. Like, legendarily (is that a word?) terrible. I need to write a post on this soon.

    (The Guy thinks I'm great, but that's probably only because his last roommate was a meth-head who left hypodermic needles all over the place. So yeah, I mean, I AM pretty awesome compared to THAT.)

    ReplyDelete
  22. DG,
    I can’t say that it ever was… Even when I lived alone, I didn’t customarily wander about without pants on. And at that time, I was too broke to afford porn OR a VCR.

    Although there may have been a “liason” or two on or about the chair…

    Gina,
    Luckily, I never had to deal with the “Secret Living Arrangement” dance. TheGirlfriend told her parents before we moved in. (I was glad I didn’t have to be there for that conversation.)

    My prior girlfriend was another story. We never lived together, but her mother hated me (and told me so). She had to tell her mom that she was going out with her friends, any time we wanted to get together. Needless to say, that was a doomed relationship.

    Red Pen Mama,
    It’s funny what you can put up with when you’re that young.

    Cassie,
    Niiiice. Some Welcome Wagon. I guess she didn’t get her security deposit back.

    In fact, there WAS a missed opportunity. Perhaps I should blog that story tonight. It was at the Bowling Green apartment and amazingly enough, the Roommate wasn’t involved. I don’t know if the Girlfriend and her other friend were toying with me that evening or what, but I had a serious case of simultaneous “WTF? / This is the Greatest Thing Ever” going on. Didn’t pan out, though.

    Other than that, it was hard enough finding one girl that wanted me, let alone 2 at a time.

    Mrs. Bachelor Girl,
    When you get to sleep with your roommate, your first could of cohabitation problems are easily forgiven.

    ReplyDelete
  23. When I got my first job after college, as a reporter for the Fulton County Expositor in Wauseon, Ohio, I made less than $10,000 a year. With that paltry income, I couldn't afford much, but somehow managed to find a tiny apartment where the rent was $150 per month, including utilities. Yeah. I got what I paid for.

    It sat next to some busy railroad tracks, and I had to wait-out passing trains every time I had a phone call. I saw and heard things going on in the adjoining apartments in my building (the even lower-rent ones, where they shared a communal bathroom) that blew my naive suburban mind. It was horrific. And it was one of the best experiences I ever had.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The only problem I ever had with adjoining apartments was more "amusing" than "problem." My apartment in Schenectady NY... the apartment directly above me. Their bedroom was located directly above mine, and so was their bed, I suspect.

    Every so often, around 11:30 or 12, I'd hear the bed start hitting the wall. The funny part was that it was always over in less than a minute before I'd hear the footsteps heading across the floor to the bathroom. I'd be laying in bed thinking, "The Minute Man's at it again."

    I was always dying to know who it was... I figured I'd just start hanging out by the pool and look for the girl with the frustrated look on her face.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Crud. It wouldn't take my login and deleted my comment. *sigh* I'll try to recreate it...

    My first apartment on my own was 400 sq ft. I hated it. I didn't really get that wonderful "I'm an adult" feeling 'til I moved to Colorado (1,000 miles from my family) when I was 23 or 24, and decorated it the way I wanted, complete with miniature Christmas tree. :)

    Regarding roomies, I always found better luck rooming with guys than gals, and yes, that often led to boinking. ;) Having roommates is definitely an adventure, and it's really best left to young adulthood. God knows I wouldn't have the patience now.

    Tom and I had neighbors like you mentioned in your last comment, in the apartment below us. They were quite passionate, both in the bedroom and in their arguments. Ridiculous. They also had a fire start in their apartment when they weren't there. Tom ended up breaking in through their patio sliding door - they'd left something on the stove and it was just smoking. Geesh. That's also the complex where we witnessed a car fire right below a tree. Safe to say we didn't live in the best part of Dallas back then. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Cristy,
    Gah! I hate when that happens. Sorry…

    Yeah, like I said, I couldn’t live with just a run-of-the-mill roommate. I’d have to be involved, or else it wouldn’t be worth giving up sole control of the place. And it’s still tough… just ask Pinky… I’ve lived alone in apartments so long, it’s kind of spoiled me for any further cohabitation.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are like 'crack' to a blogger... Please help me get my 'fix' by leaving a comment! And be sure to check back for my reply. Consider it the Afterparty!