Friday, January 21, 2011

Tales of an Apartment Dweller, Part I: The Ramble

I never thought I would have so many apartments under my belt, let alone a few comically small ones. I had always wanted to live in a big city, sure, but a teenager hardly thinks about square footage. My first two apartments in the Pennsylvania mountain town of Lock Haven were fairly spacious, especially the second one. It was across from a KFC and above a head shop (for the uninitiated, that's a store where they sell things with which to ostensibly smoke tobacco and other hippie accoutrement such as Bob Marley tapestries and hackey sacks).  So, full of weird smells, but amply sized.  The first one lacked a dining room, but as it was just me, the bar in the kitchen did quite nicely for dinner, even with guests.  The only real problem in my first apartment was the raging theological debates between my Lebanese, Muslim landlord and his American, faintly evangelical, wife, which I could hear through either the very thin walls or the oil heat registers. (They had the majority of the house; I had one third of the ground floor).  I'll go out on a limb and say a husband and wife should probably be on the same page, theologically speaking.  I digress.

We had an 18-month stint in a tiny apartment in Rochester.  700 very oddly shaped square feet, with a gigantic bathroom and a monster of a refrigerator.  We had to rearrange if we wanted to have more than two people sitting at the table.  Looking back, we did a crap job of tiny apartment management at that place.  For one thing, getting a dog - even a small dog, maybe especially a small dog, because they tend to be more energetic - definitely breaks some small apartment and life rules.  Then we moved to the Gigantor of apartments just a block away.  Pardon me while I swoon in remembrance.  *Sigh*  1500 square feet.  Gloriously weathered wooden floors.  14-foot ceilings.  Two storage lofts.  We bought big furniture, got a table that went to 90" long, and the Husband constructed some "rustic" bookshelves to go along one wall.  Last year we had a 13-foot Yule tree.  My swooning, unfortunately, is interrupted by the memories of paper-thin walls and jackass neighbors who ignored the no-smoking policy in many ways, the domestic disturbances, having to hear Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea being sung along to time after time, having to hear far more intimate activity than I wanted to... so many irritants.

And then.  Wham!  The Williamses move to Georgetown.  If you are unfamiliar with the Georgetown neighborhood of our nation's capital (in our case Georgetown/Burleith, but that's splitting hairs), it is charming, walkable, full of luxury SUV-driving twits, renting yuppies (that's us) and students (also us), but most of all, old, with rowhouses galore.  We live in a Georgetown special feature, the English basement.  What it is:  most rowhouses here have 3 stories.  The first is half-below street level, the second half-above, and the third, of course, just on top of the second.  Our front door is down half a flight of normal stairs, has a full-sized window and door out front (a bit of a rarity), and then the back (our bedroom) opens directly onto a nice fenced-in patio/garden area that is about as long as the apartment itself.  Other English basements have itty-bitty corkscrew steps going down; I don't know how people even move their stuff in.  The insides are largely the same, although, again, I think our two bedrooms and 1.5 (more like 1.25) bath may be somewhat rare.

But oh, how tiny it is.  I remember reading a comment (joking) about standing in a living room of a Georgetown house and being able to touch both sides of the front room at the same time.  It's not far off.  I would say the place is, at most, 1000 square feet.  Maybe less, and the ceilings are pretty short.  That's a living room, 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining nook, and 1.5 bathrooms in 1000 square feet.  I can plug the vacuum into an outlet in the front room and go all the way back to our bedroom at the other end.  And... it's okay.

So that's where we live - next up is how we live. We've gotten pretty creative in order to make our existence in this wee place more of a joy than a chore.

Ha!  Was I ever off on the square footage... turns out it was just over 600.

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