Wayback Wednesday: Living by the Crack Park

The summer before last, when I was up in New York for my annual summer visit, Shannon and I drove past one of my old apartments in Troy, and I made her stop so I could take a picture. I had been thinking it might be fun to start posting photos of my past (that is, pre-blog) life here at some point, so I decided to grab a photo while I was in the neighborhood. It was almost six months later that I posted my first Wayback Wednesday post based off that idea – and yet somehow, a whole ‘nother year has passed and I still haven’t posted the photo that started it all.

And so, here it is:

To the immediate right of the alley, top floor...
To the immediate right of the alley, top floor...

This was my second post-college apartment, where I moved with Wendy and Marlene in the summer of 1994. I broke the lease on my first apartment to move in with them because this place was so cheap that even with the penalties I incurred I was still saving a ton of money. And by “so cheap” I mean: we paid less than $200 per month, each. For a three-bedroom apartment.

It will come as no surprise then, when I say the neighborhood was dicey. When I would tell people where I lived, they’d say, “Really? By the crack park?” Oh yes, really – on at least a couple of occasions I opted to drive around the block a few times before parking rather than interrupt the drug deal taking place on my front porch. (Though in defense of my ‘hood, I was double-shifting retail and waitressing gigs, which routinely got me home after midnight – it’s not like this was typical daytime activity or anything.)

In addition to perhaps being on the wrong side of the tracks, it was also a strange apartment. My bedroom (the top-floor window to the right of the alley) was so small it allowed only two feet of clearance around my full-size bed, not even enough room to open the closet door. I don’t really remember where I kept my clothes, since I don’t think my bureau fit either, but… well, it was a long time ago. The living room was all in shades of sea-foam green – carpet, walls, flowery drapes. There was, initially, no shower – just a giant claw-footed tub (to this day the best tub I ever had) – though our landlady did eventually install a shower head and wraparound shower curtain.

When I think about it now, I remember it as being dirty, not because we didn’t keep it clean, because we (mostly) did, but because it had an air of decrepitness and despair about it, in that way badly maintained older buildings often do. It was somewhere I wanted to make better – I even cut up some of the carpet at one point with an eye to fixing up the wood floors – but I lacked the resources (both money and knowledge) to do so.

As I’ve been writing this and briefly describing just the apartment and the neighborhood – not my life there – it has occurred to me why it’s taken a year and a half to share this photo: I have a lot (a. lot.) of emotions tied up in that place. It was everything that is awesome and awful about being 23 and learning to be an adult. Any memories I could share here would hardly even begin to tell the story.

But if I could spend about a week sitting on the floor drinking cheap wine and listening to “Exile in Guyville” on repeat, I could probably do it justice.


Random note: every time I attempted to type 1994 in this post, it came out 1194. It’s as if my subconscious considers this apartment so far in the dark recesses of the past that it might as well be in the Middle Ages.

Also: Strangely enough, the building looks neither more nor less crappy in this photo from 2010 than it did back in 1994. Wonder why that is?

Mission (Mostly) Accomplished

The week of Memorial Day, I posted a list of 10 things I wanted to do over the summer, based on a suggestion from the Daily Post site. It was, I thought, fairly ambitious for a three-month season, given that it involved a fair bit of travel, but I was determined to give it a try. I checked in on the list once in July, and again in August, each time making a decent amount of progress. Now that Labor Day is drawing to a close, and with it, the summer, it’s time to take a final accounting and see how I did.

1. Go to the beach. DONE! I went to Cape May in August.

2. Go to the Adirondacks. DONE! I took a day trip to Lake George and Prospect Mountain in July.

3. Eat steamers (with beer). DONE – TWICE! I had steamers both on my trip to New York and while in Cape May.

Aaaand they're off!
Aaaand they're off!

4. Go to the races. DONE! Last weekend when I went to my mom’s in Binghamton, my sister was also visiting from Texas, so we took a quick day trip to up to Saratoga for the races. We had a ton of fun, though we both lost more money betting than we won – as usual. (Neither of us inherited our dad’s knack – or patience – for handicapping.)

5. Have drinks down on the waterfront. DONE! But not, I’ll admit, in the way that I planned. I had envisioned going to one of the bars down on the Potomac, but instead, I did a fair bit of drinking along the Hudson on my trip in July, and here in DC, I (finally) discovered the joys of happy hour along the Anacostia in Yards Park.

6. Go to a Caps rookie or training camp practice. DONE! I went to development camp not once, but twice – on a Wednesday afternoon before my skating lesson, and again on Saturday with my brother and nephews for the final scrimmage and fan fest.

7. Read five books. 80% DONE! I read four books, and am (so says my Kindle) 15% of the way through the fifth. The completed books are A Game of Thrones, Naked Heat (Nikki Heat #2)Thursday Next: First Among Sequels, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I’m currently reading The Game by Ken Dryden, which is supposedly the best book ever written about hockey.

8. Buy a new grill. DONE! I bought a little (think camping-size) propane grill in July. It has done good work ever since, most notably in grilling lots and lots of sweet corn from the farmers’ market.

9. Start doing yoga again. DONE! I still have a ways to go to getting a regular practice going again, but I’ve almost used up the first pass (six classes) I bought.

10. Go to outdoor concerts. DONE! As planned and ticketed, I saw Arcade Fire down in Charlottesville with my brother and Mumford & Sons with sprite and Rudi at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

If my math is correct, I think this list is just a hair over 98% completed, which I think means my summer was pretty damn great, overall. (It ended on an awfully sad note, of course, but I am going to block that out for now, if no one minds.)

I don’t know if having a list actually made me do more with my summer, but it kind of feels that way, so I’m thinking of making a similar plan for fall, to run from now until… Thanksgiving? December 1? (When is the transition from fall to winter, anyway? I’d say it’s before the solstice, but not as cut-and-dried as Labor Day is for summer, that’s for sure.) If you’ve heard me mention something I’d like to accomplish, please remind me of it in the comments – or suggest something you think I’d like.

And, of course, tell me what you did this summer!