Thursday, August 25, 2011

Adieu

I find it hard to fathom that 4 years have passed since I moved to this sweet hideaway on Washington Road. A small apartment hidden behind a large driveway fence and a forest of bamboo trees. It was the perfect bachelor spot. I knew from my first walk-through that it would be home.

I was still in my final years of grad school, but doing an "externship" (full-time clinical duties, no academics). My mother had recently underwent surgery and began a long rehabilitation that is still in progress. I had lived at her place while in school. The last time I had had my own apartment was in 1998 at the now long gone Alpine apartments on Olive Ave. It was exciting to have my own space again.

The first month, I had almost no furniture. I purchased (and slept on) a sofa with a hide-a-bed from the previous tenant, who now lived in the unit upstairs. I learned from him that my small place was even smaller just a few years before. His girlfriend, who also lived upstairs, told me that the living room had been enclosed and "looked like a postage stamp". The landlord had removed one wall and opened it up to the kitchen area. The apartment was not spacious by any means, but just fine for one guy. Side note: the place had/has 2 bathrooms and 1 bedroom. This was because of an addition/remodel at some point. I learned from my landlord's foreman that my place was once a traditional 2-story house. Even in the earlier part of the 2000s, he had difficulty selling it.

My electric bill averaged about $35.00 per month. No joke. Even during the punishing summers it never went north of $55-$60. This was due to low ceilings and plentiful shade from said bamboo forest. Can't say that about too many units in the Palm Beaches.

After moving in I quickly indulged in the benefits of bachelor living: any kind of music as loudly as I wanted (or at least to a level that didn't tick off the neighbors), eating at places besides the dining room table, and a relaxed attitude toward housekeeping. However, the place was always fairly clean, unlike the apartments of my 20s, oh boy. I had my first real pine Christmas tree there, too.

In 2009, the couple upstairs purchased a house a little out west and moved on. They had been looking even before their baby was born. Their unit was the same size as mine; way too small for 3. A young woman and her boyfriend moved in a few months later. They fought a lot, loudly. She was a waitress in her father's Palm Beach bistro and had late hours. She and her friends would begin parties up there at 2 A.M. The couple was there for about 6 months. They were friendly kids, though we never actually hung out with them. The current tenant is a very nice (and quiet) middle-aged guy, an ideal neighbor who we've gotten to know a little. I'm continually ashamed of how bad I am with being neighborly. It's not getting any easier as I age.

I also got married in 2009 and now had a wife and kitty sharing my little space. It was obvious almost immediately that it was no longer sufficient. This was mainly because we had too much stuff, which cluttered the living room and prohibited any attempts at having guests. We stuck it out for over 2 years, but even earlier we began looking for houses and apartments. We originally considered purchasing something but we both realized that we are ready to bolt out of Florida in the not-so-distant future. It is only because of family and my great job that we've stayed this long.

It IS possible to make such a small spot (not sure of the square footage) liveable for 2 people. We talked of using IKEA models, like peeps do in NYC, where units tend to be small. I once read an article about a guy in Tokyo who was able to fit a surprising array of furniture into a 500 square foot apartment, then change the configuration every month. One thousand or so change-ups were photographed and featured in the article. Hard not to be inspired by that.

But, we've finally taken some steps and now we are moving to a much larger place that goes against some of my current criteria: gated community of homogenous units, not in an historic district, many retirees. I was adamant about living in an older style place with wood floors, my preference. So, I've compromised a bit in the name of more space, but it was necessary. Yes, there are several historic neighborhoods in Eastern West Palm Beach with amazing homes and apartments. Mostly homes, though. If I were still single, I'd be just fine with living in these funky old school walk-ups that you find behind those gorgeous old homes off Flagler Drive. Many would find that a case of arrested development, perhaps. People seem to have this idea that you're supposed to live in a "normal" place.

In a strange bit of paradox, I'm NOT fond of "old Florida" apartments/condos with their jalousy windowed doors and terazzo floors. They remind me of the prototypical Florida senior quarters. Depressing.

No, our next place is not that old, even if some of the neighbors will be. It is a quite attractive unit in a very well maintained complex to which I'm acclimating quickly. We sat during our screening and listened to all the rules and regs. Our interviewer was quite blunt about the plethora of "crotchety old folks" who tend to shoot off their mouths over the smallest things. We're used to that noise; my wife and I both grew up here.

I will document the new chapters of condo life semi-regularly. But right now I have to once more reflect on this closing chapter. A lot happened over these four years here. Graduation, marriage, an as-yet-to-be-disclosed-on-this-blog huge discovery about my identity. This apartment will live in my memory like the previous ones, all distinguished in some way. But this last one was just so liveable, a real haven of calm. I will often reflect on the peace of the swaying bamboo outside of my bedroom window, watching my cat bat the neighborhood felines through the glass of our French doors, hearing the specific sound of the front gate as the door swung open. Little things. What was so special about this one? Maybe it was the clandestine landscape; one felt as if he was nestled in a secret retreat. I will miss it....

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