I have lived in the unheated basement of a decrepit mansion so windy and uninsulated that the entire thing was called the Ice Castle. It had a condemned fireplace in every room and oversized proportions, including one room large enough to dance in. Some said it was built for the British Consulate, and possibly that was true. By the time I lived there its beauty was so rustic that the the upstairs ceilings collapsed from the weight of the rain that poured through the shingles. The slum lord showed up afterward in the newest Mercedes sedan to explain that he could not afford to fix the roof. His wife, sitting impatiently in the car, was wearing a fur coat and everything but a tiara.
I have lived in a refinished basement filled with tiny odd-height windowless rooms and large spiders that you could hear run across the linoleum.
I have lived in the attic of a small temporary house built of raw logs one hundred and thirty five years before, to shelter a family while their brick home was being built. In the basement you could see the floor beams had been hewn flat on one side only, and the bark left on the rest. It was possibly the third house in the village, and when I lived there, there were still less than twenty. There was one stop sign, and you picked up your mail at the general store. The surrounding farmland and forest rolled gently, and as the village was on the highest of these rolls, you could lie on the roof and watch thunderstorms pass in the next county. When I left, subdivision stakes had been inserted in the fields.
I have lived in an ancient three room cottage heated by a wood stove and surrounded by a 1960's suburb. The cottage was so overgrown that we had no need of curtains. You could see the branches from the front yard oak out the back window, and a lilac bush leaned gently in over the bathtub.
I have lived in a two-storey house built on the top of one of the highest hills, one foundation post being a still rooted stump. Two views ran over tree tops to ocean and the third was of green mountains that waited to receive the sun each night.
I have lived in a metropolitan apartment so small I laughed when I first opened the door. It was there I learned the only thing that really kills cockroaches is WD40. It was the sort of place you gave up waiting to see if an elevator was working and went directly to the stairs to climb 11 stories with your bicycle. One evening I listened to the news barking "man found stabbed to death at ..." my building. I stopped listening to the news after that. When the police knocked I gave them coffee. They were surprised to find anyone who would answer their door. The fire alarms went off most nights. The fire department would respond about every five.
I have slept on a variety of sides of roads and in vehicle seats and in strange one night places when I travelled by time by thumb, reliving an earlier era of hitchhiking. I also spent a while in what was no longer a Salvation Army and not yet a Youth Hostel. A fine empty building in an interesting harbour town.
I have lived in a modern middle-high-end condominium with good views, the latest in thin veneers, and surrounded by highly paranoid people with barking lap dogs and fertilizer green grass.
I have lived in a prototypical 1960s suburb in the prototypical 1960s, which is a strange enough experience to deserve its own book.
I have lived in canvas tents beside both oceans and an inland sea feared by mariners. One night I experienced the sudden violence of one of its storms and assure you now that I will never go on its water except on threat of death. There was no warning.
I have lived in small houses that the rich called cottages, and who owned their own in which they lived half the year. I never knew why they came. Nothing ever happened there and I always wanted to leave.
I have lived in a stucco box overrun by time and traffic, stationed on a corner not yet given up to commerce. It was on the bottom of a hill and near three cheap bars. You listened to the Harley's and Cameros pull away from the lights all night long.
I have crossed the country five times and moved on each end and have forgotten more places than I have owned cars.
I have lived in a comfortable brick row-house in a mixed neighborhood between a Greek section and a Chinese section. I miss the smiles and food, and wonder if they're related.
I live in a 1950's apartment with a dull exterior and a generous mid-century modern layout that is unexpectedly fashionable again. The glass end has an ample porch opening into a third level view of trees from the park below. The view is blossoms, sky, and green. Downtown is two blocks away, and the ocean nine. It is at all times warm, cool, calm, and exciting. It's owned by the man who built it, and kept up perfectly by his courteous retired son. The park acts as an extended front yard and not only mutes all sound but provides a gentle walk separating home from hurry. It's the first place I've ever lived that I'm anxious to get back to, even if gone for only half a day.
In all places I've returned to close the door on the world and sagged into a chair glad to be home, but in none have I been so very glad to be here. This one is a keeper.
This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2001 Owen Briggs
last modified on 07 may 01