Counting things makes me feel all nice and relaxed.
That is, until I start to wonder if it’s a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder that has lain dormant for years. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that anyone who takes a careful look at their life can find some sign that they are three symptoms away from a diagnosis of OCD. It is the disorder of the season, from what I hear. If I can just sort of bitch-slap that thought aside, I can embrace the counting. I’m not in the front yard counting rocks or anything—I’m not insane. But if you know me, you may have noticed that numbers are somewhat important to me. I’ve counted jobs and car accidents, and for some reason I felt the need to add up all the numbers in my birthday. And today I finally sat down to count something I have wanted count for years: since 1991, I have moved thirty times and lived in five different states.
Is that a lot?
Never Make A Deal When You’re Drunk.
Once upon a time, John and I totally freaked out and moved to Cleveland. We had both been in Tucson, for seven or eight years and were once again sick and tired of the heat (as we are every year in June or July, so get ready). One night we went out for a pitcher of margaritas, decided to move, and sealed the deal with a handshake.
We are no longer allowed to make any decisions over a pitcher of margaritas. Just FYI.
Just months before, we had visited my sister, who lives just outside of Cleveland. It was fall, and the day Christin took us for a drive through the city and its outlying nooks and crannies, it was crisp outside, with beautiful leaves falling gently off the trees and the sun shining through a beautiful partly-cloudy sky. It was as though it was designed to make both John and I fall in love with the city. Seriously, it’s like my sister called ahead and had the scene professionally staged. We left from that visit smitten. Yes, with Cleveland.
We left Tucson at the end of August and lasted exactly four months in Cleveland before moving back. (I would like to take a moment to thank all of the people in our lives who never mocked us to our faces for the, um, quick turnaround, which, apparently, was predicted. And possibly bet on.)
In defense of Cleveland, which people seem to think is a shitty city, it is actually a fantastic city. It has gorgeous architecture, an amazing music scene, some pretty impressive record shops, and my sister. And for those of you who were super excited to have us back in Tucson, remember that we not only made my family happy by moving to Cleveland, but we made them (and us) really sad by leaving Cleveland. Just sayin’. Bittersweet, people. Bittersweet.
The apartment we lived in briefly was in an awesome old red-brick building, and we scored a place on the first floor, which was both good and bad. Good because I am really freaking lazy and hate stairs and bad because we happened to live under people who preferred to do their vacuuming at midnight. The apartment had wood floors throughout, the backyard had, like, actual grass and some trees with leaves on it, and it was walking distance away from a fairly “hip” part of Cleveland. The apartment was almost perfect. But the job situation, alas, was not. Let’s just say that the fact that I had to call myself a “relaxation specialist” and work for a control-freak psycho business owner did nothing to make me feel either warm or fuzzy about the future of my career.
However, our mailman looked exactly like Ray Liotta, but bloated and pock marked.
We moved back not just broke, but financially devastated. I wish that were an overstatement, but dude, it may actually be an understatement. If it weren’t for the good deeds done by some people in our lives, I honestly don’t know what we would have done. Our former landlords in Tucson allowed us to stay in our old place until we were able to find ourselves a place that fit our budget —in exchange for one massage. One massage, yo! People are nice! Unless they’re smokin’ the crack. Not so nice then.
Which segues quite nicely into . . .
The Drug Dealing, Prostituting Midget.
We chose our new apartment for its location, affordability, and lack of ghettoness. It was a tiny but charming one-bedroom in a small complex of four duplexes. When we moved in, they were all occupied by what seemed like quiet, nonpsychotic people. And for one month, it remained that way. The only offense my share–a-wall neighbor could have been accused of was her love of Jack Johnson and her need to play him loudly, thus sharing her love with others. I was basically forced to listen to mediocrity, like, twice. At the time I huffed and puffed about it, but just weeks later, I found myself yearning for the sounds of Jack Johnson.
And that is not a statement you will ever hear from me again.
The landlords were at least 85 years old. They seemed, well, like they needed to be placed. In a home. For, like, old people. They were sweet, but just really fucking old! I think that maybe—just maybe—they were blind. Or just a little blind. Can you be just a little blind? Watch. Now, just to punish me, the SIPNEL is going to see to it that I become just a little blind.
Our sweet little mainstream neighbor moved out one month after we moved in. Now, I’ve moved so many freaking times in my life that I have learned to just go with the flow, neighborwise . There’s never any telling what that situation is going to be like. Then, two things happened at once. First the neighbor kitty-corner to us either fell off the wagon or just decided to start advertising his beer consumption. He parked a shopping cart on our shared front lawn and began tossing his empties into it. Within weeks, it was literally overflowing with Budweiser cans, and I was overflowing with total disgust.
When our new share-a-wall neighbor moved in, everything was pretty quiet for a while, so I thought, well great! Dodged a bullet there! And then it became clear to me that our little neighbor (and when I say “little,” I am being inappropriately literal) was more than just living there. She was running a business, and business was booming. Cars began coming and going all day long. Different cars, different men, and at all hours of the day and night. She had people staying with her, on and off, of all different ages, and they were all very, very evasive. I seriously think that not one single person looked me in the eye the entire time we lived there. It was both creepy and sort of okay with me.
Pardon me while I get all new agey on you but, really, there was some bad energy going on over there. At one point, I walked by her unit as she was showering, and I heard her hock a loogie. I have never, ever, ever been the same. I realize that that has absolutely nothing to do with “energy,” but still, it was gross. And when I think of that time, all I hear is the sound of her hacking it up and spitting it out playing over and over again . . . So, to recap, there was both bad energy and phlegm.
We knew that whatever was going on next door was bad. I knew that she was dealing within the first two weeks of her moving in (because, apparently, I am a pro), but I still only assume she was also a prostitute. Let’s just say that she left little to the imagination, and she spent about twenty to thirty minutes with at least ten different men each day. Who knows? Maybe she was a tutor! Like, a high-speed, scantily clad tutor!
Then one night, John and I heard a body being slammed against the wall, and a few people shouting. And it wasn’t like, “you are such a jerk!” type shouting. It was more like, “I’m going to rip your fucking heart out!” type shouting. Something smashed, people were screaming, things were hitting our wall, and we called 911. After we talked to the police and found out that our neighbor had been assaulted but refused to talk to the police about it, we figured that it was time for us to move out. We found out the next day that some guy had freaked out and pulled a gun on her and threatened to shoot her but instead threw her up against a wall, stole her bike and took off.
So, it was a classy encounter.
We moved out one week later, but we left with memories, and a song that our friend made up to the tune of “Jimmie Crack Corn” that goes like this:
“Midget crack whore, and I really care!
Midget crack whore, and I really care!”
Basically, it was a win-win.
When I was 21, a miraculous thing occurred. I moved onto the top floor of a beautiful home, in a residential area of my hometown in New York, with two good friends of mine. We were in the house for less than a week when I glimpsed the people living below us and realized that I had known them years ago, as they were the parents of an old friend from junior high. They were amazingly nice people, and also totally deaf. Now, I’m not sure what you were doing when you were 21, but I was busy doing bong hits. Straight up. And I was doing them with a lot of people, late into the night, every single night.
It was a whole bunch of tomfoolery! Crazy kids, us.
At the time we thought ourselves pretty clever, and lucky, not realizing that when one sense is eliminated, all other senses are heightened. Whatever we thought we were getting away with, I can guarantee you we weren’t. One night, one of my roommates came home from being out and was so drunk he fell up the stairs, and then back down the stairs, and then back up, then down, and finally up, collapsing just in the doorway. It was so loud that I’m pretty sure that all hibernating animals everywhere came out of their holes and looked around. At the time we felt relieved that our neighbors couldn’t have heard a thing, but now, years later, I know that they at the very least felt it. And they probably smelled him coming a mile away.
This, not surprisingly, was one of the best and most blissfully ignorant times in my life. I’m pretty sure I have never laughed harder, nor had such close, intense relationships with people since. It was, like, deep, man. And I know for a fact that I have never hung another poster of Jim Morrison on my wall, or taped lyrics to a Pearl Jam song on my door, or lit as much incense. The final days in this apartment were so bittersweet that we all pulled our mattresses out into the main room and had what felt like a weeklong slumber party in preparation for our eventual separation. I am being completely serious when I say that the day I watched my roommates drive away in packed cars was one of the saddest days of my life. And it was the end of free bong hits, so that sucked. I knew, though, that it was a time that would never be replicated, and I think I knew too that it had left more of an impression on me than it had on my roommates. I suppose I could be wrong (although I never am), but for me, at the time, I felt like I lost my brother and sister all in one day.
That’s just depressing.
I Swear We Aren’t Wealthy.
And now I live in a fancy house. Well, we live in a fancy house. I clearly don’t live alone. Oh boy, what I wouldn’t give to live alone. The quiet! The free movement around the house! Dinners with herbs and vegetables that I like! But alas, I went all suburban and landed a man and had some kids. But the house that we live in right now is righting all the wrongs. The storage unit, the midget crack whore, the floors that smelled of bong water, the crazy drunk guy that lived above me and played his piano every night at 3 am, the apartment with no doors on the cupboards, the efficiency that was crawling with ants and buzzing with flies, the idiot decision to live for free in a house with a guy that ended up being a giant pervert, the extra bedroom of a hoarder, the apartment that was robbed . . . all of it is made up for by the fact that we have both a mountain view and a city view. We deserve the sweet, sweet deal we get on our sweet, sweet house. Because we have paid our dues.
Oh man, we have definitely paid our dues.