Last weekend, my husband and I drove out to the town where I lived when we first met, to get our favorite Chinese fast food. While we were in the neighborhood, we decided to cruise by the horrible little duplex where I lived back then.
Surprisingly, it had been significantly improved since I lived there. There was new siding and a new roof and my guess is that the property had to have changed hands because I can't imagine my old landlord paying for those kinds of updates.
When I moved in I had just turned 23, so I was obviously a late bloomer in the "leaving the nest" department. I'd found the place in the newspaper and my first walk-through was enough to convince me that it was worth the $275 a month rent even though it was the only place I looked at. I guess I was really ready to move.
My first act as tenant was to convince the landlord to remove the horrible carpet, which covered perfectly acceptable hardwood floors, and to pay for paint so I could repaint the living room and bedroom. I also had him haul away the unspeakably hideous mattress that lurked in the living room closet behind a Murphy bed frame that I had no intention of using.
For a first apartment, it wasn't too bad once I'd made a few improvements. I spent my own money to buy a couple of boxes of sticky tiles to cover the ruined kitchen floor. The paint and some curtains and Wal-mart blinds did wonders. I covered the bathroom windows in frosted plastic film.
When I moved in, the inside of the oven was so dirty that I thought the enamel was brown. It turned out to be blue once I'd dissolved all the gunk away. I imagine the fridge was horrid as well, but I've blocked the details from memory.
I had minimal furniture, but I did my best to make things match with spray paint. Faux stone finishes were popular at the time and I went through several cans of a teal and black color to complete the early '90s style I was going for. My tiny bedroom had only a twin bed, a dresser, two PA speakers and a mixing board.
The only piece of wall decor I had was a print of Robert Rauschenberg's Rebus that was already there when I moved in. I left it for the next tenant when I moved out.
One of the worst things about the place was the water pressure. There was practically none. In fact, every time I needed to do dishes I would start filling the sink and just walk away because it took so long. I accidentally let it overflow more than once.
The place also lacked a shower, so I was forced to purchase a hose/shower head device that attached to the bathtub faucet. It wasn't really long enough for a proper shower, but it got me by. Of course, the water pressure was just as bad in the bathroom as in the kitchen...
When I moved in, I had one cat named Kato. I could tell he was lonely, so I got a kitten from my vet's office to keep him company. Friday was a pee cat, and her 16-year reign of stinky terror began with the destruction of a really cool mid-century sofa that a boyfriend's parents had given me. Sigh. Fortunately, she was otherwise a lovely kitty.
I liked hanging out in what passed for a yard and I even planted daffodil and tulip bulbs. It's possible that the daffodils remain today.
Because I'd grown up away from the city, it didn't occur to me that it was a bad idea to simply leave my bicycle outside my kitchen door. I didn't notice that someone had stolen it until one day when the boyfriend I had at the time came over to pick me up to go bike riding and it was nowhere to be found.
Later on, after I met my husband-to-be, we decided to get a place closer to where we both worked. The rent at the new apartment was $375 a month. A huge increase! But I could afford it and not long after that, the company where I worked moved less than a mile away from the apartment, which made things even more convenient.
No one was more surprised than I when I received a check for my original deposit on the duplex shortly after I moved out. I hadn't known it at the time I moved in, but I later discovered that my landlord was the most notorious slumlord in the area. From what I could gather, I might have been the only tenant who ever got a deposit refund. I guess my improvements must have outweighed the cat pee smell!