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There are loads of those “there are two types of people” saws. Well, there are many types of people, including people who have colorful tales of their first shitty apartments and those who don't. Personally, I think one's first apartment, be it a basement unit that leaked when it rained, or a ramshackle three-bedroom bungalow with six roommates, is an important developmental stage–the chrysalis of the young adult, if you will. It helps to give you perspective, and a sense of Pollyanna optimism as you lay down roach powder behind your fridge, to remind yourself that at least you can stand upright in the bathroom in this place.

So, here's the plan: I'm going to give you (hopefully) humorous rundowns of the different places I've called home since I moved out of my parents' house in 1997, and, if you are so inclined, you can tell me about your most colorful housing situation in my comments. That would be cool.

<lj-cut text=”Shithole the First: 955 Chadron Ave. Apt #7″)

This was my first apartment ever, shared with my then-boyfriend, now husband Todd. This was the attic of an old Edwardian Four-Square. It was a space which had a lot of potential; had it been finished out sensibly, with built-in bookcases and bureaus in the knee-walls, and a functional bathroom all in once place, it would have been a wonderful apartment; funky, with a nice view in three directions. It was not finished out at all sensibly, however, and was actually very awkward to live in. Due to it being an attic with dormer windows, the apartment was a complex warren of alcoves, and it was only a practical living situation for us because we're neither of us very tall. It was hotter than seven hells in the summer, and colder than a witch's tits in a brass brassiere in the winter, due to nonexistent insulation in the attic-spaces around the dwelling unit. Attention must be paid to the bathroom, for there wasn't one. There was a toilet in a small closet off the kitchen; when we had first looked the place over, I had assumed the doorway was to a pantry of sorts, and didn't pry (the apartment was still occupied by the previous tenant). This “water closet” suffered the sloping ceiling effect, as it was set into what had originally been a storage closet. Todd, who is 5'8″ had to duck to take a pee, and there was about 1' of space between the toilet seat and the opposite wall, prompting my Dad to suggest that one just drop trou and back in.

Where, you might ask, was the shower, or indeed the sink? Well, the shower was a wobbly free-standing fibreglass contraption which I now believe was meant to be a liner in a proper shower stall. This chamber of ablution stood in the bedroom, beside the entry to the closet, so our clothes were always slightly clammy. The bedroom carpet deserves mention at this juncture. It looked like it had been salvaged from a lower-quality specimen of Mexican-American restaurant–a hideous combination of red, orange, brown, and black, tesselated, yet swirly, looking like something that was shat out of the bowels of hell. This charming flooring was considerably mildewed and decaying all around the shower, and I shudder to imagine what the floor joists underneath that looked like. The sink, lest we forget, was the sink for the entire apartment, that being the kitchen sink, and was largely unremarkable; a 1930s enamel affair, prone to rust spots, but which could be scrubbed to a reasonable respectability with a dose of Barkeeper's Friend.

The kitchen decor was otherwise composed of an electric stove, with which I ignited my cutting board one memorable occasion, and a 50-year-old refrigerator bearing the appelation Coolerator. It wasn't cool, though its capabilities as an “erator” may be up for debate. What it was was unrelentily pungent, and its foulness would seep into any foodstuff placed within its hoary depths, unless said food was first hermetically sealed up in Rubbermaid, Tupperware, Sterlite, or similar. I have an outrageously large collection of “serving saver” bowls from those years in the Campus View Apartments.

The living room had the same basic layout as the bedroom, and was shaped roughly like a T, with the leg of the T being the dormer alcove, and the bar being the other two alcoves which didn't have windows. This room sported deep-pile shag carpet which would be beloved of present-day hipsters, and would have been retro, if it hadn't been vintage, and would have been ironic if it wasn't just gross and old. No amount of vacuuming could ever get it clean, and loathsomness would burble up from its depths upon occasion–shrivels and bits and crumbs of stuff we had never before seen in our lives. 20+ years of students living among the shag had taken its toll. Being as I'm a dressmaker, and I had my “sewing room” set up in the alcove by the window, shag carpeting and I were not a good match. I shed straight pins, and the carpet ate straight pins, then regurgitated them back up into the soles of our feet.

Let me digress for a gross story: When I was in highschool biology, our teacher told us that if you sat butt-ass nekkid on a floor with deep shag carpet and clenched your anal sphincter, it would latch onto the shag. I never, ever went fully barefoot in that apartment, for fear a previous tenant had been hoovering the shag up his or her bumhole. The carpet was turd-brown, so there was no way of telling…

Todd and I stayed in that apartment from May of 1997 through August of 1999. Before we first moved in, the landlord said he'd repaint the place and shampoo the carpets. To out dismay, on move-in-day, the place reeked of cigarette smoke, the carpets looked like a gnoll had been camping on them, and there were fist-holes in several walls–straight through the drywall in three places in the watercloset and down to the lath in the living-room. I fussed at the landlord until he agreed to give me paint and knock off the first month's rent, due to the place being in a dubious state of liveability. I bought a pound of plaster at the lumberyard (actually the kid who sold me the plaster didn't know how much plaster constituted a pound, so I got more like 5lb, and used the leftover for crafts). I found that I am actually quite good at patching plaster, a skill I have used in times since. I found this landlord, who was very lazy, could be manipulated via offers to do what I wanted if it resulted in less work for him, so I convinced him, the following summer, to let me dig up the backyard of the place for a garden; less for him to mow!

There were two truly great things about this apartment: It was about two minutes from campus on foot, and rent was $175/month. Even though we only made $5.15/hour each at part-time jobs, we were able to keep up a pretty decent standard of living, with such cheap rent, no student-loan bills at the time, and no car payments at the time. Because it was a student flophouse, we were subjected to some decidedly “whacky” neighbors, choice amongst which was a pack of would-be-fratties (our college didn't actually have a Greek system, but these dudes would have been Chipsters given the correct setting). On one occasion, I'd hung out a couple of loads of laundry on the line behind the house on a Saturday morning. The Chipsters threw a party, as they were wont to do, and apparently their toilet got blocked up at some point in the night. No problemo, righto? They threw open a window and whenever anyone had to let out some Coors Lite, they'd just piss out the window. Brilliant idea, eh? So brilliant, I took a basket of piss-soaked towels to their door and demanded $10 in quarters, due upon receipt, to repair the ravages of their excesses.

Good times, good times.

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