Wednesday, March 9, 2011


That's a picture of my very first apartment. To you, it looks like the shit hole it was, and still is (I drive by there all the time, just to say hi).

I was 19. I was young, idealistic, and owned every MTV buzz bin tape ever made (grand total: 2).

And I had shitty taste in real estate.


It was in a year that still seems like a dream to me. 1999.

It seemed like every other song on the radio was Dishwalla's Counting Blue Cars. Lou Bega had a little bit of Mardi Gras in his life; before there was OMG, there was bizarre.

In that year, there weren't a lot of people with cell phones, most of them had "Dr." before their name; the only text messages were those scrawled across a post-it, and coming home to find a voicemail on my answering machine was one of the best feelings ever.

What you can't see from this view is the Harley Davidson phone my roommate owned. When someone called, the headlights flashed, and the engine revved. You had to talk into the seat. We would've gotten better reception from trying to place a phone call from an actual Harley Davidson.

The floors were hardwood, and leaned to the side, like they were exhausted from thousands of feet walking across them. After living there a month, I recognized every creak, every groan, every grumbling complaint from the floor as I walked across it.

It seemed like every new friend I met knew someone who'd lived there before. Their first question was always "Is the bathroom still pink?"

It was.

Not a cute, ladylike pink, but more like a gaudy, whorehouse pink. The bathroom clashed with the rest of the house, which was apathetic; mediocre at best. It was as if the bathroom had decided to rebel from the rest of the house and instead of picking a respectable profession, it ran away and joined the circus.

Despite all these things, I loved that apartment with an intensity that I haven't felt since. It was my first place. Sometimes I'd come home and just hug myself with the sheer giddiness of being in a place that was mine. Ugly, creaky, no cable, and smelling of car exhaust, but mine.

I met a lot of questionable boys in those days. Those were the days that I thought it was rude to say no to a date if the boy wasn't an outright psycho.

I ended up meeting a couple of real winners.

There was 'try to move in after three dates' boy'; 'have a seizure in my bed while playing with a strobe light' boy; 'stalker boy (originally known as: try to move in after three dates boy)'; and '45 year old dad with two kids older than you' boy, just to name a few.

The 'stalker' was actually pretty entertaining. He'd leave notes on my car telling me I looked pretty. Sometimes he'd put a box of candy on the top of my car, and I'd find it, melted in the heat of summer.

As stalkers go, he wasn't fear inducing. Mostly, he just made me laugh. If he was a better quality of stalker, he would've been a Dr. Pepper, instead, he was the cheap knockoff stalker: trying to be Dr. Pepper, but forever just Dr. Thunder.

I think the worst thing the stalker ever did was leave a dozen dead roses on my doorstep. I wasn't freaked out, I just thought he was a moron. Throwing away money on roses, and then letting them get all dried up? Just dumb.


When it was time for me to move out of that apartment, I remember how heavy I felt. It was like ending a friendship. I felt like I was leaving a big piece of me behind.

I walked over the creaking floorboards, one last time, thinking about the next people to live here, how they'd probably frown at the way the floor leaned. Would they learn to love this place the way I had?

I still drive by there, just to make sure the place with so many of my memories is still there. Each time I see it, I breathe a little easier.

I wonder if houses have memories, the way that people do.

I wonder if the stalker boy still thinks I live there.

I wonder if the college age kids living there have as many crazy stories from that place as I did.

Most of all, I wonder if the bathroom is still pink.


Robbie Grey said...

"It seemed like every new friend I met knew someone who'd lived there before..."

Sounds like the house I live in now. Apparently this was a pot plantation back about thirty, forty years ago.

Travis said...

Well, you've done it again. You've forced me into a position where I'm probably going to steal from you. I think I might write about my first apartment soon.

Oh, and freaking amazing as always. How in the ever loving HELL do you know how to use a semi-colon?

Happy Frog and I said...

'I still drive by there, just to make sure the place with so many of my memories is still there. Each time I see it, I breathe a little easier.' I do that with a couple of places I used to live. Good to know I'm not alone. It's funny because 1999 was the year I truly felt trapped and desperate to escape whereas you were in the right place for you at that time. I do love your posts.

bluzdude said...

It's always tough leaving an apartment... when you first see it all empty, you're thinking of all the stuff you're going to do with it.

When you're leaving and everything is bare, all you can think of is what used to be there and the things you've done.

One question: how did you ever find the Pepto Bismol in that bathroom?

caterpillar said...

Makes me wonder too....if the bathroom is still pink....there are so many memories attached to all those places we have been it, we have stayed good it would feel to go back to visit...

Shopgirl said...

I had a car that was ugly, bouncy in a way that was neither comfortable nor fun, and things were always peeling or falling off of it. I loved it and was so proud driving around in it.

I'm glad you kept a photo, but what about one with that pink bathroom?

Maryx said...

Wow.. I love this!! I am yet to have my very own apartment. I've only shared. With housemates or my mother. Not complaining though..

slommler said...

I never had a "first" apartment all by myself. When I left home, it was married and a place we owned together. Well rented that is! What a special feeling that must be. And the bathroom is probably still pink for sure...ha!!

Anonymous said...

Is it bad that I'm curious about a picture of YOU? But I think you've indicated you're anonymous before. Not sure.

Sally-Sal said...

Robbie Grey:
Ha! Any good photos left from the previous owners?

Do it. It's fun to think about your first place.

I forgot to mention the drunk guy who lived next door. He'd come outside, and address the entire neighborhood. Sometimes he'd yell "God Bless America!" before passing out on his lawn. Sometimes, he'd single the Star Speckled Banana. Good times.

Happy Frog and I:
Driving by is like reliving who you were. I'm sorry 1999 was a bad one for you.

I was a poor college student. Pepto Bismol was a luxury item (and it cut into the cost of beer).

I've thought about visiting it. Just long enough to ask them if the bathroom is still pink :)

I had a car like that once. I called her 'Lucille'. It took a can of spaghetti-o's and a stadium seat just to keep the front seat upright.

I never took a picture of the pink bathroom. It was an eyesore. But I wish I had.

I miss having roommates sometimes. But, sometimes it's nice to be able to wear a t-shirt and drink o.j. straight out of the carton :)

I think it probably is. That's just part of its 'charm'. :)

vampire guts:
Well, as much as I'd like to think I'm anonymous, I'm really not. My friends and family read this blog.

I'll email you a picture, if you want.

Robbie Grey said...

I've seen one old photograph, circa 1930's CE. When we first bought the place, and even sometimes now, people would either talk about living/partying/knowing someone who lived there/all of the above, or refer to it as the Coen House. After a few years now, it's at least being thought of as the red and white house with Buddhist prayer flags out front.

Happy Frog and I said...

I agree, it does feel like that. It's OK, it made me who I am now and I'm stronger for getting through it. x

light208 said...

A lovely post. I especially loved the line:
"It seemed like every new friend I met knew someone who'd lived there before..."

I own a house with creaking floorboards and can also recognise every freaky sound it makes in the dark. Places with character are the easiest to love.

otherworldlyone said...

I loved this and I know exactly what you mean. :) The first place I lived away from home (with roommates) was really terrible. And allllll up in the ghetto. But man, I loved it. Mostly because of what it represented.


downfromtheledge said...

I was also 19 in 1999. And idealistic. In my first apartment with avocado shag carpet. Living with the boy I thought I was going to marry back when happily ever after seemed plausible.

Unlike you, I have no desire to drive by the place, or even enter the city.

Ahhh, to be 19 again and still believe there are wonderful things ahead.....

tennysoneehemingway said...

It's funny, I've only ever grown attached to one place I've lived in for my whole life, up to this point. I don't even really love the house we live in now and we've BOUGHT it. Funnily enough though, it's in the same street we live in now but at the other end. I've never felt as at home as that old place. I wanted to rent or buy it when we got back from overseas but it was already taken. And it isn't the street either. There was just something about the house that I felt connected to. I still don't know what it was.

Sally-Sal said...

Robbie Grey:
Every place I've ever lived in, I leave something behind. A photo, a piece of jewelry, something.

And every place I've ever lived, I find something interesting.

That house had this wonderful painting. Beautiful, but haunting. I'd sometimes spend hours just looking at it.

Happy Frog and I:
I think making it through something like that contributes to who you are as much as the positive things in life. It looks like you've taken a bad situation, and turned it into something better. I'm impressed :)

I agree with that 100%. It's the imperfections that turn out to become the things we love the most.

Mine was pretty ghetto, too. There was an apartment complex close by, and sometimes I'd hear the neighbors yelling. I worked with one of the girls and she was always yelling at me to call the cops on her boyfriend.

There are still wonderful things to be had. Sometimes, they're just a little harder to find. :)

Some houses just feel like home. I don't know why, maybe it's the house, or the area, or whatever, but I know what you mean.

One Girl's Story said...

I absolutely loved it, it reminded me of my first place, the way you tell your stories just keeps the reader captivated!

I am happy that you are now a part of my collection of must reads!