Celebration: A New Tradition (For Me)

Mike, a friend at work, said something interesting to me. We were waiting for the bus after work and we were discussing my move: which movers to hire, how much to pay. Then he asked if I was going to celebrate my old apartment before I moved out. I said no; I didn’t know what he was talking about. Mike has a ritual, a tradition, when he’s moving, before he moves in fact. He gets some wine, or whisky, maybe something to eat, and he celebrates his home.

You sit back and reflect, reminisce about the time you spent in your apartment. You remember the good times, the bad times, the best and worst things that happened to you while you were living there, the people who came over, the parties.

I don’t know if he gives a toast. I didn’t ask.

But it is a great idea. Celebrate your home. I have never done anything like it, just packed up and paid somebody to move my things.

I haven’t even celebrated a new place when I moved into it. I have always been too tired to do more than gnaw some fast food or pay for grocery delivery – something that can be eaten fast, on paper plates, and fulfils my immediate requirements: to be nourishing, fill me up, and taste good.

So, I am going to celebrate my last two apartments, belatedly, the first one I got when I moved to Kansas City and then, in my next post, my previous one, the one I lived in for 16 years.

The Studio Apartment on 49th Street

January 1998. I moved in with next to nothing: the clothes on my pack, one other pair of jeans, four or five T-shirts, some socks, and underwear. And that was it, really. I had trusted in the kindness of strangers and believed people who said they would take care of me when I got to Kansas City, hook me up with furniture and good job leads. Yeah, and they knew someone who would hire me right away, as soon as I came to town. All I had to do was show up and tell them “J” sent me. I don’t know why I believed that. If it sounds too good to be true…

It was a studio apartment, a small, tiny little kitchenette right inside the back door, with a mini fridge, with a small freezer compartment. I could slide a package of chicken in there or work a couple of pints of ice cream and an ice tray but that was about it, and nothing would stay frozen during summer when the hot humid air seeped into the refrigerator through the dry cracked seals around the door.

I had a full-size bed, a microwave oven, a small couch, a chair, a small television, and I had managed to squeeze a stationary bike in there, as well.

I lived on the first floor – no steps to climb.

Best and Worst of Times

I honestly don’t know what the best of times were. It was so long ago.

I reconnected with beams and rice here. I hadn’t had it in over a decade easily. I was in the store one day, in the canned goods aisle and I spotted a can of red kidney beans. The thought, the memory of hot beans poured over a bed of white rice moved my hand. I bought a couple of cans and a small bag of rice and rushed home, excited. I looked forward to it all day. The first bite, the first chew of that dish – the first time I had ever made it – took me back to my childhood. I felt like it took me back to myself, and I felt grounded. Real. Whole. Any time I needed to get my feet back on the ground, I made beans and rice, and a big bowl of it. Or meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

The worst time, easily, was a Sunday, the day the plumbing in my building backed up – into my apartment. Whenever someone poured liquid into the sink, or showered, or flushed the toilet, especially, all the water came up, in my kitchen sink, in my bathroom sink, in my toilet, and in my bathtub. I was terror struck when it happened. I tried to use a plunger to …something…and it didn’t work. And after that I was helpless, helpless to watch as whatever people flushed down their toilet spilled over the edge of my sinks and toilet and bathroom, finally, and flooded my apartment.

I called building maintenance and they understood exactly what my problem was. And said they would send someone to unclog the pipes for the building and extract all the filthy soapy toilet, bath, and shower water out of my carpet…tomorrow.

Tomorrow? Yes. Well, what am I supposed to do now? Where am I supposed to stay? I can’t stay here, with the apartment floor flooded with -. Well, you’ll just have to find a place to stay for the night, like a motel.

Flabbergasted, I stayed in the apartment, tiptoeing around the soaked carpet, just long enough to gather my work clothes, money, staff ID, a water bottle, and some food, nothing that needed to be heated, just something to keep my stomach from growling. Then I walked to work, ten minutes from my apartment. I ended up staying, sitting, sleeping in one of the custodial closets at work, one I was sure the security officers wouldn’t open, especially if the closet light was off. I woke early, washed my face, then slipped outside, and reentered the building at my normal time, clocked in, and worked, swearing to myself I would move as soon as my lease was up.

When I got home, my carpet was drying, and clean – steam=cleaned. The plumbing was fixed. And i forgot about moving after a few months.

I am an introvert, so the best thing, always, is having my own space. Just someplace I can go to and close the door and not have to be bothered by anybody in the world. It is a place where the world doesn’t exist, for the most part. The world is outside the front door, outside the back door. I am inside, where I don’t have to deal with it or acknowledge it until I step out of the house again. So, the best of times, almost always, were just being alone in my apartment, doing as I pleased, not having to follow someone else’s rules, or interact with them, continually.

I moved in 2005. August. The real estate company that owned the apartment building almost doubled the rent, from $275 a month to $500 a month, priced us out, sent us running. Deliberately. They said they wanted to renovate and get a college crowd in there, a college crowd that could afford the higher rent.

What did I leave behind? A bike. That’s all I remember. In conclusion? It kept me warm, safe, protected, and covered. I wasn’t sleeping on the street. The electricity and water worked. I didn’t like having to leave it.

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