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First Addresses, Seared in Memory

The New York Times has published a few columns asking writers to describe their first apartments, I suppose it's a fitting topic for a writer in the city, or even anywhere for that matter. Where we live is essentially such a distinct part of our lives, yet the moving into a new apartment or even living in a dorm and being matched up with a housemate who may or may not become one of the closest friends you've ever had in life. Perhaps your first apartment on your own was with a spouse or significant other. Perhaps it is your first apartment in which you lived alone?

I liked the topic myself, maybe because it was so personal. As a result it might be a worthwhile exercise to answer the question myself. I thought about it and realized that I could write about all sorts of apartments that I'd lived in over the years. I could talk about my freshman dorm room in college, my college apartment above my grandmother's house, the apartments I'd had while interning in college.

I wonder if it's a question of describing where you live, after all it's a place you spend so much time and exert so much energy. So maybe I could write about the households I've lived in. I lived with the family of a co-worker in her house before buying the house I'm living in now. After three sets of tenants, six different housemates, and a complete gut remodel, including a whole separate garden level apartment where a basement once stood. Each one moment in my life which I could write about.

However I think the first time I was on my own, would probably be that apartment I first found when I moved to Massachusetts. I didn't live there very long, sometimes you don't remember the things that seem to happen so quickly, yet might show some significance.

My Apartment in Metro-West.

I moved to Massachusetts with one suitcase, and five or six small boxes. I had few friends, and few contacts in this new place. Initially I'd stayed with an old girlfriend from high school. I slept on the futon in her living room for about two weeks while I got settled. She was kind, and welcoming, but she had a husband away in the service, and her own family to attend to.

I commutted 50 miles each way to NH from work. And started just to look around for a place to live.

At the time, I didn't really know what I wanted. I certainly wasn't going to buy a condo or a house. Thus I'd have to look for an apartment, or room to rent. My job had set me up with a housing coordinator, but she was only able to show me the apartments in big complexes. I'd actually signed a lease and made a deposit for a complex near the office, when I went to look at a room for rent which I'd seen in the local paper. After looking at it I decided to take the place, and forfeit the $500 deposit I'd put down. The place was cheap, and the amount I was saving by sharing the place, would more than offset the lost deposit in a few months.

It was mostly furnished, and all I brought was a bed. Later on I would get a pair of dressers to put my clothes in, but for the most part that was it. As a whole it was somewhat comforting. The place itself, was a small 800 sq foot condo in a moderately sized building. There was a pool, but it was only open from about memorial day to labor day. I think I swam in it once that summer, and then never again. There was one laundry machine in the basement, which took quarters.

I shared the condo with a guy named Michael who owned the place. Michael was a New Englander, a hockey fan, and staunchly independent. I think there was a bit of Irish in his background. He was a very hard worker, trying to pay off his bills and make something for himself. He had a full time job working for a carpet cleaning service, and worked evenings at the Holiday Inn. He was in his early to mid 20's. He'd served in the Navy, and was now a member of the reserves. He kept the apartment pretty spotless, being a professional, instead of vacuuming, he'd steam clean the carpets, and furniture once a month.

He taught me tidbits about the city as I lived there. I learned where to park in order to take the subway into the city. He was single, and was experimenting with various dating services. One of the services organized a Boston harbor cruise as social event .

One weekend a month and two weeks later that summer, he was away with the folks in the reserve. I dissapeard for two weeks for training in Oregon. Although we shared the same living space, we didn't see too much of each other. It was a mixed relationship, he was rather busy with his work, and I was trying to become accustomed to this new place. I'm not sure if we became friends.

It was a distant, rather impersonal situation. I remember writing in December, as I watched my first snowfall from the window of that apartment, that I questioned where my life was going. I was comfortable, stable, and making friends in this new place, but I wasn't connecting as I was hoping. It was all somewhat unsatisfying, perhaps I even prayed to God to change my life.

As soon as I got back from Christmas vacation, I had my answer. Michael told me he needed the room for a family member, I think it was his cousin. So by the end of January, we parted ways. I think I saw him once more after that to pick up the rest of the initial deposit, then I lost touch with him. We didn't have too much in common, so not having anything else we didn't see each other after that. I can't help but wonder what became of him, if he'd given up the service before the war started, or if he somehow stayed onboard, got deployed with the reserves.

Although I found other accommodations soon after, I'll remember that first apartment. 6 months, that's how long I lived in my first apartment here.

September 28, 2006