Saturday, April 11, 2009

Apartment People

by Ruth
Thanks to the economic slump, many of my friends (the non-China variety, anyway) seem to be buying houses this year. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get really jealous about that sometimes. I love houses. I went through this phase in middle school of wanting to be an architect. I borrowed the whole collection of house plan books from our local library and poured through them. I stocked up on graph paper and designed a bunch of my own houses. When I realized that architecture required a whole lot of math, that plan died really quickly, but I still like houses.

I know that I have it pretty good here. Our apartment is really nice and big. But an apartment is just not as cool as a house. I was reading part of Beverly Cleary's autobiography recently, and she said her mother told her not to trust people who lived in apartments. Something about those kind of people not being stable enough. Sure, it was the 1930’s, but I thought that was pretty funny. And possibly true. We don't even stay in one place long enough to successfully grow house plants.

Our apartment is only a few years old but it already has some interesting quirks. For example, last night a bird tried to push through the paper cup blocking the hole in the wall. It freaked me out a little at first because it reminded me of a certain bat episode when I was younger. Then I thought about how it was a little strange to have a paper cup forming part of my wall.

Over the past few months, the outer walls have become covered with dark spots where some kind of nails from the wall joints show through or maybe rusted through the plaster. They have gradually become darker until the walls now look like they have a pox. We asked the school if we could paint the walls but they said no. They do own the apartment, so I guess that is reasonable. I really miss being able to paint, though. Sometimes I just browse through enjoying all the different paint colors. Since we can’t paint, I was hoping to hang something up to cover part one of the diseased walls.

But today we discovered that while the inside walls of the apartment are indestructible concrete that destroys anything less than extra strength nails, the outer walls are flimsy plaster which crumble under the pressure of a nail. Instead of covering up part of the wall, we just ended up with a couple of caved in spots in the plaster.

With the coming of warm weather, we have had a lot more interactions with the kitchen drain, as well. It feels like interactions, anyway, with the drain speaking through a variety of different smells. There is the classic bad drain smell that wafts up whenever someone in one of the eight stories above us flushes the toilet. Then there is the rotten egg smell. The old garbage smell. The garden dirt smell. And the most original so far – the browning hamburger smell. That one was actually kind of nice. It made it seem like I was cooking. I don’t mind garden dirt either; it smells like wet dirt after a warm rain. I just don't think it fits very well in the kitchen.

There are many things I am thankful for, though. I still think our laundry porch is pretty cool, with the clothes racks that can be raised and lowered. The heated floors make a big difference in winter. And hot water in the kitchen sink makes washing dishes nicer. And the paper cup thing is a little funny. So long as the bird doesn't succeed in pushing it's way through. I should put something more durable in there, like a plastic water bottle.

And maybe some day I'll be one of those house people. I'll settle down and commit to a real houseplant. I'll settle down and live in one place for forever and ever or at least three years. That sounds nice.


Ginger said...

Ah, yes. Some of the quirks...

That kitchen drain smell may be the floor drain - if the water in the trap dries up, all the sewer gas comes up. Solution: pour water in your floor drain & see if it helps, at least for a few days. If that works, you can try pouring cooking oil in it - it doesn't evaporate as fast as water.

The wall spots could also involve mold - have you tried spraying a couple of them w/ bleach to see if it helps?


Adam might have said...

we talk about houses all the time. its hard not be jealous a lot. we have friends here who buy houses and we just sit and think, "we should do that." sadly, houses cost lots of money. anyway, know you arent the only one fighting this battle, even half way across the world...