Washington Street, Downtown Los Angeles – $350/month
When I was 20, my parents told me it was sinful to move out of their house while I was unmarried.
I responded by packing one box and leaving it here.
I made the rest of the move about six months later,
quietly and quickly packing up everything I owned on the one day both of my parents were at work.
Two friends helped me out, navigating downtown LA,
where I had never set a toe before.
My first night here,
there were gunshots in the neighborhood.
I still got up at 4am to bike my way to my downtown job at Starbucks.
Plucky little 22 year old me.
I kinda want to give her a big hug.
The house was built in 1906,
which provided charm,
built-in bookcases, and poor plumbing.
I shared this space with five other women–
bought and put together a loft bed from IKEA;
swept ants off of the red linoleum in the kitchen;
Shared day old sandwiches and pastries from Starbucks
with my new roommates (cheap groceries FTW).
One of the girls fell asleep every night with the DVD menu
for “Alias” playing on loop.
I often fell asleep on the futon (what else) in the living room
while talking to The Boyfriend on my clunky old cell phone.
The bathroom had a pink chenille shower curtain around the ancient tub.
I hung twinkle lights underneath my loft bed above the teeny desk
on which I graded papers for my other part-time job
as an English teacher.
This was the first place I was able to be myself–
I took dance classes at USC,
stayed out irresponsibly, gloriously late,
called The Boyfriend whenever I wanted for however long I wanted–
It was wonderful.
3rd Street, Mt. Vernon, Washington – $250/month (ish?)
Oh, this place.
I moved here to be with an old friend just for the summer in 2005;
The Boyfriend and I caravaned up from LA together,
my IKEA bedding bright and cheerful on the backseat.
It was…pretty janky.
There was the neighbor downstairs who played bad techno
all day and all night,
and wouldn’t respond to polite knocks
followed by polite notes
followed by “OH MY GOD WOULD YOU SHUT THAT OFFF!?!?!!??!?!” at 4am.
It reeked of pot,
which probably explained the unresponsiveness.
There was also the other strung out neighbor
with an abusive boyfriend
who made the mistake of threatening to break her arm
while my friend and I were home.
We called the cops on his sorry ass,
let her use our phone to make a call to her mom,
and watched her cat for a week.
…She didn’t press charges. He came back.
The apartment itself was a teeeeeeny studio,
with a teeeeeny stove
and a teeeeeeny bathroom
(the toilet of which plugged up on a constant basis,
often forcing us to drive to Wal-Mart to pee,
since they were the *only* place open all night)–
but this place also had sunlight,
and my friend,
and teacups and tea and silliness late into the night.
I don’t miss sleeping on a cot, though.
Nadal St, Saugus, CA – $400/month (then $600)
This place has some unfairly poor memories for me,
since I moved here after The Boyfriend and I broke up,
and I started teaching full-time at the Crazy-Ass School from Hell.
I lived with two roommates,
and spent most of my time here grading papers and crying.
Once or twice a week, we went to our friends’ house down the block
for massive poor people potluck nights.
We ate a lot of Very Bad Pizza.
There was a family downstairs who started off their mornings
(and ours!) with Ranchero music in their truck stereo,
cranked loud enough to rattle our windows out of their frames.
We had two parking spots and three cars,
but lacked the sense to have a rotating parking schedule,
which basically meant that I hardly ever parked in the lot,
since I usually got home really, really late from teaching.
After a good bit of unnecessary drama,
one of the roommates moved out,
and the other, Ruth, became one of my dearest friends.
We found a tacky red velvet couch at a Salvation Army,
decorated the kitchen in complementary shades to go with the couch;
I optimistically bought a bougainvillea for the balcony,
and proceeded to kill and resurrect it at least four times.
Poor zombie plant.
we stuck sequins on our noses
with eyelash glue to see how nose rings might look,
and we made an impetuous decision to get our noses pierced together.
We hovered in the waiting room of a tattoo parlor in Lancaster,
giggling nervously and swiping the insides of our nostrils with Orajel.
I love that I did this with her:
She moved back to Wisconsin to help her family out in 2006,
so I couch-hopped for a bit at this next place:
Oakridge Dr, Santa Clarita, CA – $170? $200?/month
I first lived in these apartments when they were dorm housing
my senior year of college,
and some of the girls I knew then had an open corner available–
I dragged out an air mattress,
stored my assorted boxes wherever I could,
and did my best to stay out from underfoot
(the Boyfriend and I were back together again at this point;
I spent a lot of time at his house).
They were very kind.
…And then every. single. one. of. them. got. engaged.
So I moved again:
Granada Ave, Los Angeles – $625/month (ie: WAY TOO DAMN MUCH)
was an interesting situation.
It was a big Spanish-style home
(the red house in the photo above),
built in the 20s, converted into sixteen bedrooms
that the landlord had the balls to refer to as “apartments”.
I shared a bathroom with four other women,
and he charged each of us between $550 to $700 per month for a single room,
a shared kitchen, and a shared bath.
We were also required to clean the common areas–
there was a $50 fee if you didn’t clean it to the landlord’s satisfaction
My room was one of the nicer ones–
it was a converted porch,
with yet another loft bed,
but I had my own entrance,
so I never really had to interact with the other housemates
unless I wanted to do so.
The only real disadvantage was that sound carried absurdly well;
and I would often find myself marching down those stairs
to politely ask gang members to please turn their music down.
…They usually did.
my hour-and-a-half commute started eating my soul,
and then the landlord decided that we had to be responsible for taking the
full garbage cans (at least five of these) from the back patio
all the way down those 85 stairs to the street.
Glenway Dr, Inglewood CA – $625/month
I found this place with a friend from work–
our landlord was awesome,
our neighbors kind,
the parking terrible,
and the commute painless.
It was a simple, standard two bedroom apartment,
but we could open our front door and get a breeze off the ocean,
three miles away.
The bathroom had one of those glorious coil heaters in the wall,
which I used constantly.
We had a big kitchen, a big living room,
brand new carpet that shed on EVERYTHING,
and the most uncomfortable (but free!) couch known to man.
Steph was a great roommate–
Thursday nights were sacred to watching bad reality TV together;
we went to go see her boyfriend DJ at parties;
and because she had little in way of decorating stuffs,
she was totally cool with me making our space homey.
I moved when I lost my job at our company after living here for two years.
Mariposa Ave, Sierra Madre CA – $550/month
My current home,
and my favorite thus far.
I moved in on the rainiest January day known to SoCal,
stayed on the couch till March,
when friend Laura got married and moved out.
It’s a pretty standard three bedroom, two bath,
with poor maintenance and really bad wiring,
but I love the people who have lived here.
My room is grey,
looks east to the sunrise,
and is blocked from nosy neighbors
by a very obliging tree.
I have an enormous desk (thank you, LauraJane!)
that houses most of my crafts and hobbies.
My closet is big enough for my clothes,
and there is even room for my costume trunk on the landing outside my room.
The library is across the street;
I can walk to a lovely coffeeshop and a local pub.
This was my dog’s first home.
I walked all over this little town when I was out of work–
the houses are beautiful,
and people actually stop to say hello when they’re out walking.
I once warned The Boyfriend that if I ever moved to Pasadena or Sierra Madre,
that I would never want to leave California.
…and I don’t. I love my little town.
I love my apartment,
vaguely moldy walls and all.