Big Changes

The day after my last post, I made a choice that will change my life completely. Everything was suddenly thrown into chaos; I am moving.

I’ve wanted to move for a long time. Every spring I start thinking about it, and by fall I decide to hole up in my cave for winter. In the past few years, I’ve been saving for a down-payment on a mortgage. I look at real estate apps and dream about all the things I don’t have in my current living situation. Natural light to grow plants. A secure art studio that my cats can’t get into. More than four feet of countertop in the kitchen. A place where I don’t have to live with the daily noise torture of loud neighbours. Nothing on the housing market fit my budget. I didn’t want to move my immense hoard to another rental just to pay off the landlord’s mortgage instead of my own.

I was looking at run-down hundred year old houses, with charm and potential. Although close to the amount the bank might lend me, down the road they were destined for some expensive and necessary repairs. I worried about even qualifying for a mortgage, being a single woman who earns less than $50,000 per year. It doesn’t matter I’m a master of frugality, never missed a bill payment in my life, never even paid interest on my credit card. The bank prefers dual income households with steady incomes, not cat lady substitute teachers with fluctuating hours, trying to be an artist and a writer.

My apartment building is in a great location, has a good building manager who immediately follows through with issues, an underground parking lot that keeps my car snow-free in the winter, and utility prices are very low. The top floor has penthouse units, with a view over the river and downtown through it’s double story tall windows. On the last day of April, I returned from a walk to the library to see the “Apartment for Rent” sign in front of the building. I looked up to the balconies, and one of the penthouse ones had nothing on it. If that’s the apartment that’s available, I should take it, I thought.

I spent the rest of the evening googling buying vs. renting. If I was approved for a mortgage, there would be so many costs I hadn’t really thought of. Besides all the hefty maintenance expenses, my utilities would also go up significantly. I’d have to pay property tax. There are lawyer fees, realtor fees, building inspections. I once thought paying rent was a waste, but I would throw much more away with buying. The interest would be just like the nightmare of student loan debt I just woke from. And what if the house I chose became a curse and a burden instead of a source of joy and security?

Once again I turn away from what society expects, what I have ingrained deep inside that I feel pressured to need, but don’t. When it comes to relationships, I am independent. When it comes to employment, I am noncommittal.  I don’t need a husband, I don’t need a full-time teaching contract, and I don’t need to buy a house.

On May 1, I call the building manager, and I already know the suite available is the one I want and I’m going to take it. And it is, and I do, like love at first sight, like a key in a lock, like being one with the Universe. My mom comes to check it out, I try really hard to think critically if this is the right financial move and not just the best emotionally, but I’m already giddy, and I give my month’s notice of moving out the same day.

There will be different and potentially worse noises up there, snoring or an unattended alarm clock for example. But if I’m going to creep around in my home wearing ear plugs and noise-cancelling headphones, I may as well like the place! I will be moved in nine days, and have until the end of the month to clean the old place. I am giving myself a break from my May writing goals until settled in. I will have a new writing nook, on the loft overlooking that gorgeous view. Literally moving up in the world.

 

 

 

 

The Place I Live


I live in an apartment building near Downtown and weird stuff happens all the time. I know some of my neighbours well enough to have conversations when I see them in the halls, and I hear things out in the main door area. Over the years I have written down a few things that happened. I might continue to add to this.

Here is one from several years ago:

I get home from getting groceries, there is an ambulance with flashing lights in front of my building.  I hope the nice old lady down the hall is OK. In my apartment, I can see cops in the alley, and I listen to one talking to the lady on the balcony above mine. She is saying she saw a woman, but I don’t know what happened and I can’t hear her very well. The cop says it is a serious matter and she is asked to make a statement.

OK now I am curious! I go out into the hall and see Jeb the manager. “They don’t tell me dick,” he says. I look out the door, the police have sectioned off the entire block, several cars and lights flashing. A cop walks by with a dog, asks “are you looking to get out?” “No we are just wondering what the heck is going on? are we in danger?” “No maam you are safe but we need you to stay inside. This is a crime scene.” He said he could not say what was going on.

I go back to the front door to see if the ambulance is still there. It is, angry red lights everywhere. There is an empty stretcher, no one is around. I stand there listening to Jeb, when I hear someone coming down the stairs. Is it the lady above me? Maybe she can tell us what’s up.

No, it is a strung out crazy eyed woman, blood stains on her shirt and a white bandage over her heart. “I got stabbed…” she says in a frightened far away voice. She is being escorted by EMS toward the stretcher, Jeb asked who did it. The EMS tell her not to talk to him. He asks again.  Noisy neighbor across the hall comes out, says the cops were searching the bushes in front of his window. “What if I want to go to the store?” he asks. Lady beside me with the cat named Belle says the lady above me saw two women running through the alley.  Jeb adds that the stabbed woman is bi-polar, and brings strange people to her apartment to convert them to her religion.

Yup, just another day at my crazy apartment…

………………………….
My car was broken into, and I wrote about it:

“What They Didn’t Take”

To the thief (or thieves):
Please use my ID for minors to get into the bar, and not identity theft. Please listen to those CDs, they are solid gold, don’t waste the music!! I don’t know why you took A&W coupons, but I most regret the extra apartment keys you took. Don’t worry about getting the balls to pull off a home invasion, the lock will be changed. That keychain was from Crowsnest Pass. The digital camera was so insignificant I didn’t even remember it was there until hours later. Pawnshops won’t want a crappy old camera like that, but I hope that possibly you might learn the pleasure and fulfillment of photography, I hope my things enrich your sad and pathetic life. Thank you for the things you didn’t take.

I think it was a guy, because a girl would probably want my awesome mirror dangles. Unless she knew that I would know, and left them… or hates birds.

I knew right away what happened, because my glovebox was emptied on my seat.
It was not a hobo, because they would really want the Off wipes. Gosh, I will sure miss every single CD I owned since University, I threw out the cases.

The thief took directions to my dad’s place out of my Calgary map book before stealing it, leaving the page crumpled up on the seat. Thank goodness my dad will be safe.

One last lonely orange tic tac….but they took the empty Fresh Mints container, go figure?

They know I am a teacher, because they have my work ID. This lucky charm could not protect my vehicle, a kid-made creation of egg carton and pipe cleaners.

These spare running shoes are awesome, they don’t know what they are missing.

If it was me, I would totally have stolen this first aid kit with painkillers. Badguys don’t need bandaids?

Registration would’ve been a hassle to replace. But why do you need the inside of my ash tray?

……………………………

I was coming home yesterday, and I notice the street sweeping signs. There is a big sign saying today they will be doing AVENUES and tomorrow the STREETS. I usually park on the ave, so I go out of my way to park on the street. A few hours later my neighbor is banging on my door, saying the landlord told her to tell me to move my car. And I thought I was doing good parking where the signs told me to!

No big deal, I hate it when people park beside the obvious signs, maybe they put up new signs since I was out there? So I go outside, and the street sweeper actually honks at me, tells me NOT to move my car (as I am standing beside it) and that TOMORROW I should make sure I’m not parked on the street because they are doing the avenues today. Just like the signs said.

I turn to walk away from my car, after the STREET SWEEPER HIMSELF told me NOT to move my car, and my landlord is there, freaking out, telling me to move my car. I tell him what the sweeper said, and he doesn’t listen, continues yelling at me to move my damn car! The neighbor on her balcony is laughing.

I move my car. The street sweepers clean the avenue. I go take some photos of a cool billboard nearby, and when I return I move my car back to my usual spot, where it has obviously already been cleaned, and the signs are gone.

It’s late and I’m in bed, the landlord is out in the hallway banging on doors telling people to move their cars AGAIN. I don’t answer my door.

In the morning I find his note insisting I move my car.

…………………..

Noise Complaint

Boom boom boom
It’s as though there is a car in the parking lot
With a very loud stereo that you can still hear
After you’ve closed all the windows
But the difference is the car won’t drive away, the noise keeps thudding into my mind,
Vibrating the walls.

The lease says no undue noise disturbance will be tolerated
And this is certainly causing me grief
I asked to turn it down,
It was only slightly lowered, to a point that makes little difference
Now I’m only more frustrated my courage to voice my discontent was ineffective, futile.

I think it’s a video game
It sounds like explosions,
Helicopters, tanks and destruction
Elephants moving furniture in a narrow hallway
Ogres trying to break free of underground caves
Pirate ship war of cannons
Midnight machines pulverizing concrete
Slamming of bowling balls on lacquered hardwood
Buildings collapsing with the rhythmic crash of the wrecking ball.

I’m trying to get used to it
For the second night
I can’t keep wearing ear plugs, chaffing my ears sore,
Walking around as though I am deaf, unable to hear the gentle sounds of the outdoors
Or use the telephone
How can I accustom myself to the
Trembling and quaking of the earth with the rumble of volcanic eruptions
The collapse of a mountainous avalanche
Thunder of a thousand angry skies
The drum of a deadly giant’s resonant heartbeat
The smashing echo of soldiers ramming down the last defense of my sanity.

A skittish cat
Pacing, pacing.
A leery bird, flustered. Both and the same.
Unable to escape the anxiety,
not a single room in this would-be sanctuary offers comfort.

……………………………..

Something just happened to me that I feel like writing about. I am little shooken up, like when you wake up from a strange dream, and am compelled to record ‘Today’s Good Deed’:

I was streaming a new episode of Top Chef, when I heard a car alarm go off near my apartment.

Being naturally curious, I hit pause and went out on the balcony to investigate. I could see the small white truck with the flashing lights making all the noise, and I also spotted a dark-dressed figure that appeared to stumble and fall down. Drunk person? I could then hear yelling. Over the sound of the honking I could not hear the words, but could tell it was a woman.

The car alarm stopped after a few minutes, and I was still keeping an eye on the mysterious figure, now kneeling behind a car. After all, I live in a strange neighborhood, experiencing everything from a police shoot-out in the alley, to teenagers messing around in people’s backyards, to my car being vandalized… drug addicts and crazy people not uncommon, I keep an eye out.

I could now hear what the woman was yelling. “Help me.. help me.. help me.. please God..”

So I grabbed my keys and headed out there, not once reminding myself “Do NOT get involved!” Which I often need to remind myself of. But someone that I watched fall, and is now shouting for help, I should probably stop spying and go help her.

It was a tiny elderly lady, and she could not answer any of my questions like, “Are you hurt?” or, “Do you live here?” but told me God had sent me to save her, and then began sobbing. I went to the door of the nearest house and banged loudly. No answer. I banged even louder, and then tried the door. Finding it unlocked, I opened it and called, “Hello! Is anyone here? Someone’s out here calling for help and she might be injured!”

A woman in a robe and slippers came rushing out, and the elderly woman was saying something like, “Tell her it’s —” I couldn’t make out what she said. I assumed she knew the woman in the slippers.

Slippers was helping her up and holding her with one arm, and then looked at me with wide frightened eyes, indicating she didn’t know the senile old woman. I was wondering if she had wandered over from the church, if we should bring her there? Or bring her inside and call the police? When some people across the street came out of the house looking worried and I said loudly “Are you missing an elderly lady?”

Someone rushed over, exclaiming, “Mom? Oh Mom! Did you get out? I’m here, Mom, I’m here! Thank God you found her…” She explained they stopped for a minute to see someone and she must have gotten out of their vehicle. The elderly lady was still crying, but she could walk slowly, with two of us supporting her and holding her hand. I kept telling her it was going to be alright.

When I got back home, I felt like I had done my good deed for the day, wondering if the old woman had set off the car alarm as she wandered passed on her confused escape.

…………………….

Jeb was an old guy who lived in my building. When I moved in several years ago he was the building manager, mowing the lawn while drinking a beer. He’d stop to chat about stuff, always calling me Kate. I heard somewhere he used to have a three-legged cat. He collected natural items like rocks and fossils, he grew lots of plants on his balcony. There was eventually a new building manager. During the flood evacuation, which lasted over a week and people were threatened with fines for entering the “zone,” he told me he never left. No electricity or running water. Then I’d see him limping down the hall, one foot in a hand knit slipper. He started looking really old, and moving really slow. I’d see him and his hair had turned white, then gone. I came across him once coming around the corner and he startled me, he looked like a skeleton, sunken eyes, skin and bones. I always enjoyed seeing his door decoration at Christmas time, an old pair of miniature snowshoes. It’s still up, his car is still plugged in, but he’s gone. The building manager came to tell me, as the last tenant from the old days who hadn’t heard the news. Cancer. He said he had stopped eating. I’m thinking of Jeb today, I’m thinking how he kind of reminded me of my grandpa in ways. I’m thinking of all the departed souls recently, sorry for everyone’s loss. I’m looking to the cycle of death and rebirth, the price we pay for life.