Quiet night. Cold front has us all down, low, homebodied, sheltered in place. Chat is quiet. Phone is quiet. Internet is quiet. Been home all day, restless evening, nothing doing. I get stir-crazy like this and don’t feel like life is lived right if I’m home alone all day, and them old feelings come raging back, making me risk the exposure. Shoes on and mad dash to get espresso from Epoch before close. First trip out today, at 9:30 pm. Got to the place, empty lot, Ian at the reg, Tiff keeping company. “Espresso, no Topo, add $3 tip”, I breathe through my mask. Wave hi to Tiff. Ian looking at shutting down early, slow night. Pace the patio until the cup of dark warm love appears from under the plexiglass screen. Turn the corner to stand at my rental car to enjoy the moment in the open air. The paranoid homeless street preacher dying of cancer beelines toward me from a distance, says, “Hey old-timer, how ya doin’.” Already a third into a fifth of engine cleaner. I just can’t have a moment. So we spit about coffee, booze, smokes, cars, politics, until he goes off the rails. Luckily espresso is quick. I tap out, head to the grocer. En route coughing, hacking up the loose stuff, my chest has been a problem of late. My denial is strong. Seems I have problems keeping the traffic on the southbound lanes going down the right exits, so sometimes I take the hit when I swallow. Of course my lungs complain. This cold will take some time to adjust as I take out all my winter clothes and remember how to bundle up, learn how to adjust the thermostat at my new apartment for heat. I should feel pampered and whole, but all the lights are on, it’s cold, I have a cough, I’m alone, and my soul is strapped down by all the nights in all the back bedrooms of all the cold trailers I’ve lived in beyond the city limits of my hometown, not knowing what drama will appear to make me want to disappear. I should be my own man, accomplished, motivated, successful. But I’m a restlessly bored geezer nagged by hungry ghosts. I guess that’s the true spirit of Halloween.
Physical possessions are a curse. Especially when you have to move.
We spend our 20’s thinking, “I need more stuff.”
We spend our 30’s thinking, “I can afford this stuff.”
We spend our 40’s thinking, “I have too much stuff.”
Is it really a universal truth that if you need something, it will become available to you? And when you no longer need it, will you be able to overcome the sunk cost of acquiring it and let it go? What is the real value? And is this line of thinking just part of the consumption game plan?
“Need it? Buy it!”
That’s too pessimistic.
On the personal balance sheet, I’m fully moved out of my last place. Nine years to load stuff into the space, nine weeks to move it all out. And my spine is paying the price.
I should get acquainted with the process of selling much of the stuff I bought. Because the next move will be just as brutal, and I still have a storage unit to empty.
For those of you keeping score, I’ve found a new apartment. It’s about a mile south of my current home, in my previous neighborhood. It’ll be nice to get back there, since that area is closer to my usual haunts. But it won’t be this place.
Nine years, two months. Four jobs. Countless shift rotations and neighbors. The longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life. Watching the slow march of time take its toll on nearby businesses that shuttered after decades of service. Dark windows and empty parking lots, and now the land is cheap enough for vultures.
It’s a long time to rent a place and call it home. This apartment, for most of that time, was just a closet where I stashed my shit while I was out and about. But with the COVID-19 lockdown, I finally made it home, because I had no other choice.
But now I have no choice but to leave.
It has taken me a long time to adjust to this place, and learn the patterns and schedules of my neighbors and how to deal with their quirks (and they mine). We finally got into a groove.
But now I have to relearn. That’s the hardest part. The new place is certainly shaped weird, which I kinda like because it’s unique. But how are the neighbors? Will I hear bumps and rumbles from overgrown speakers powered by overgrown egos? Will I have to deal with unassigned parking where everybody has their unassigned spot, and don’t you dare take it? Can I grapple with the idea that I will be the freshman tenant that everybody sneers at while I figure out where I fit? Can I deal with a new place where no windows face the sunlight? Should I invest my energy into making it a home beyond the lease term?
See, I don’t know the future. I won’t really know until I move and start settling in. It’ll be a long adjustment, a shellshock-inducing event. I already feel numb, which I take as a kindness from the uncaring universe. My hope is that it’ll be good, at least in the greater context of me spending my life making bad choices and never investing in my own home (if ever was a time for that, it’s now, but have you seen how much real estate costs now?).
I dunno. I’m a fuckup sometimes, but I find serendipity and luck out with saving throws and generally just ride on whatever comes along, bitching the whole way. So whatever. No gods, no masters. Whatever. Nothing means anything. The bulldozers are on their way. Whatever. Fuck this apartment. Long live this apartment.
2020 keeps fucking delivering. Last month, I called my landlord to renew my lease. It was then that he let me know, sotto voce, they’re only doing month-to-month from now on, and the reason is because the private owner of this 44-unit complex has been in a year-long contract for sale to a corporate owner, and the deal was set to close soon.
The corporation is a developer.
This will be the first time in my life that I’ll be evicted because my home is getting demolished. But I’ve gotten used to places I’ve lived no longer existing.
The sale is still held up in city hall, with the zoning changes and site plans still under approval. COVID19 isn’t making it any faster. The hint I’m getting from the landlord is that we have until October 31 to get out, but nobody’s said anything solid yet.
The only official word of anything is a note pinned to every door last weekend:
[redacted] Apartments is under contract and being sold to a new owner. We are in the process of getting information regarding the new owners intentions for management, but it is our understanding that there will be a 30 day notice of nonrenewal given at the end of September (the anticipated close), for an October 31 move out. We wanted to notify our residents in advance.
So, as if this year isn’t debasing and unbalanced and chaotic enough, I’m getting the carpet literally ripped out from under me.
- The sale fails because the plans don’t get approved before contract deadline, meaning the current owner has to regroup and write leases with current tenants and scramble to fill the units that’ve been empty for months.
- The sale succeeds, but the new owner wants to maintain the property as a multi-family apartment dwelling, meaning they will write leases with current tenants and scramble to fill the empty units. The leases will be at grossly inflated rates for profit, and some tenants will me moved around so they can remodel (which affects me, because mine missed the remodels years ago).
- The sale succeeds, and the new owner is a developer, so they evict all of us and demolish this property, the empty restaurant behind us, and the appliance repair shop next door, and combine all three lots into one so they can dig a hole and build a 5-story mixed-use midrise.
With so much in the air, I’ve decided the only sure solution is to move.
I’ve been here nine years. It has taken me being in quarantine the past 5 months to finally make it feel like my home and not a closet where I stash my stuff while I’m out and about. I never quite fully took advantage of the place, never had people over, never threw wine and cheese parties, never got my balcony set up for hanging out, and didn’t quite make full use of the antennas that I’ve hesitantly hung in the tree outside.
I’m looking around nearby neighborhoods for a new apartment, and have set a ceiling on what I’m willing to pay. Aside from the 5-story mixed-use midrise already next door (the reason why the tax on this property tripled in 3 years after it was built), I think I’m paying only slightly below market value for the square footage. So there’s some wiggle room.
Life comes at me fast, and I’m doing my best to hold it together. It’s a lot of work.
Dreams are bullshit and mean nothing, generally. But sometimes they can be used to reveal where your head’s at.
Here’s where my head’s at:
- I’m hanging out with a lot of people, out in the world. Finally, there’s society. We’re talking, having fun. Sun’s out and everything’s green and warm. Blue sky day. This girl and I are actually hitting it off: flirting, poking, laughing, working toward something good. And then it’s interrupted when we watch a plane crash into the blind school three blocks away. It’s the second crash there in as many days.
- I have a nice, large apartment, lots of windows, ready to move in. Then it starts raining into every window because they’re all open. The floor gets soaked until I can close them all. I clean up and leave the apartment into a restaurant, back of house, where people I know as friends are waiting on diners. Masks everywhere. I can’t find my way back home.
- Then I go downstairs, remember I’ve moved to Paris, France. Everything’s wonderful; I’m well-traveled and finally living abroad. Somehow, I know Français. I cross the street to head to the market, and everything around me transforms into the decayed ruins one sees in urban exploration videos. I’m now on the destroyed edge of town doing parkour across the detritus while trying to evade sécurité.
Generally, my most intense dreams center around the stuff I’ve been mentally working through or things I experienced during the previous day. The concerns most front-and-center in my mind echo loudly among the random firings of my neurons during REM sleep; the resulting dreams are my best interpretation of the chaos. Usually they evaporate in the morning sun like SF Bay fog, but these three vignettes have hung on me all day like condensed sweat, fouling any sense of sanctity.
So yeah. That’s where my head’s at. These dreams mean nothing other than to highlight my lack of hope in the future. Things can be great and happy, then it can all collapse and decay and molder in the blink of an eye due to uncontrollable outside forces.
These are heavy times. Take care of each other out there, and check in on yourself once in a while. We have to keep going, just in case there actually is a future worth hoping for. We’ll come back home.