In This Case Only, a House IS A Home

Something New
Something New

Once we were packed, it was easy enough to rally a few of our friends with the promise of beer and eternal gratefulness, and moving into this place was as simple as putting in several full days’ worth of work after coming home from having performed a full days’ work, two weeks straight, without any time off. On moving day, we woke up, began working at 6 AM, packed and loaded the truck, drove to Salem, unloaded the truck, and felt terrible afterward. I was able to get the mattress on the floor in the bedroom, set up the living room to be somewhat comfortable, and then passed out from exhaustion. As an office drone, manual labor is not exactly my forte.

The absolute worst part about moving is living out of boxes for the period of time you are still in transition. The new home is not yet comfortable, full of new smells and sensory input, and devoid of all the things that you need to live day-to-day. Even when everything we owned was under the same roof, it was like camping without the added benefit of being in the woods. This particular house was unique, too, in that it hadn’t been occupied for some time prior to our moving in. A stale, dusty pall hung over everything for the first few days, where the promise of a home-cooked meal, finding the right clothes to wear, or even locating a cup to drink from, was nigh impossible.

The house we found in Salem was originally built in 1926, but via at least two remodeling jobs, it is fairly modern by comparison. While a property management company handles the home as a rental, it technically has a specific owner. While I spent some time on the State of Oregon records site, getting some specific information about ownership history only goes back to 2010. Apparently, the owner prior to that lost the house through not being able to make payments, and it was acquired by the current owners at that time (probably in the fallout from the economic crisis that screwed everyone over several years ago). Anything prior to that will have to come from the Oregon Historical Society, and I haven’t had the time to make that particular endeavor just yet.

Aside from the carpeting in the upstairs loft, there are hardwoods throughout the house. Our downstairs basement has a weird room that was added on later, and if the Zig-Zag Man Graffiti and roach clip I found are any indicators, my suspicion is that this weird room was the “party” lounge for the previous tenants. (Though, why they would want to party in that room is beyond me.) While the property records show that there are “four” bedrooms, there are only three if you count the loft. Most likely the loft used to contain two rooms, but is now a continuous space. In spite of the fact that the bathroom is downstairs, after some discussion, we decided to make the loft our bedroom.

On the main floor we have a massive living room, a massive kitchen / dining room, and two bedrooms. I say massive, but this is mostly in comparison to the amount of space we had previously. The living room is probably two, if not three times larger than the one in our previous apartment, and the kitchen is at least six or seven times larger. (No shit; our old kitchen had enough room for one person in it, and no two appliances could be used simultaneously due to space concerns.) The two bedrooms are not much bigger than what we had previously, but not having to share any of these walls with anyone is an incredible luxury that I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy.

The hot water is extremely hot, hotter than anything I’ve ever been able to get out of a faucet or shower in recent memory. As a fan of extremely hot showers, this is incredible news to me, though the actual shower / tub fixtures leave a lot to be desired. Our fridge is a little lame-ish, and with good reason: prior to the house being empty, the previous tenants got drunk one night and decided to beat up the fridge. We also have those very same tenants to thank for the brand new dishwasher, as they left the previous one sitting with stagnant water in the bottom of it for a number of months before they disappeared into the night.

While I feel as if this is a bit of a palace, the house is not without shortcomings. There’s a bit of wear and tear in all of the rooms, some of the windows are drafty, and it is apparent that many of the recent repairs have been done with less-than-professional fix-it jobs. The aforementioned electrician – a family member of the owner, it seems – appears to be the gentleman who handles any on-sight problems, and after a few conversations with him, I suspect that everything he knows abuot repair is self-taught. He is also the source of our information about the tenants previous to us, so I have been taking his comments with a grain of salt. Still, with a couple-year-old garbage disposal, a front and back yard, and no major structural / functional issues, I can’t really say that I’m upset in the slightest.

Our house is on the corner of the block, and we only share a fence with two people: an older couple without children on one side, who we met on the first day we moved in. Aside from the fact that they are quiet and seem to work quite a bit, they are very pleasant, but keep very much to themselves. Our back fence is shared with then and a K-9 Unit County Sherif, who we have yet to see, let alone meet. However, it seems that he works quite a bit, and is otherwise quiet and absent most of the time.

Initially, a lot of people I know said it sounded terrible to live next to a cop, but I was quite jazzed about this turn of events for a number of reasons, none of which have to do with him as a person. (He could, very well, be awful; I do not know.) Living next to a cop – who parks his car in his driveway during off-hours – is the best possible scenario for someone, regardless of their personal lifestyle choices. From my perspective, we have all of the benefits with none of the drawbacks that usually come with police encounters. His presence sends a very clear, “Don’t even think about it,” message to anyone who might try to fuck with our house, and the crime report statistics that I looked into for our neighborhood reinforces that notion undoubtedly.

Another way to look at it is this: when he’s around, that means he’s off duty, relieving me from any potential encounter that could lead to being arrested for any questionable behavior. Unless I’m blatantly trying to break the law in broad daylight in a way that draws his attention, I have a feeling that having him as a neighbor could be the best security device anyone could really ask for. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are 100% safe. Shit happens, and I can’t say for sure what the future holds. However, I do know that if anything does happen to us, we have the best possible neighbor to call on for help.

The neighborhood itself is a fairly suburban, something that was not lost on us when we moved in. It appears to consist largely of family type houses, with a typical small town vibe to it. As someone who grew up in Cottage Grove, Oregon, there are a lot of similarities: kids ride their bikes / skateboards around, couples are doing yard / gardening type things, and there are corner markets everywhere. (One is a block and a half from us.) There’s a Senior Center, a Recycling Center, and a few bars not too far from the house, and a little further away, auto mechanic garages, and other kinds of run-down businesses.

A look at the crime history of the neighborhood reveals a typical small town kind of vibe, too. Minor break-ins and theft, and violence minus weapons seem to be the largest problems that our neighborhood suffers from if you get outside of our immediate intersection. Other than that, there isn’t much that seems any more or less extreme than what we found in Portland. There is a fairly nearish set of train tracks, and we can hear the train periodically. However, unlike the high traffic intersection we used to live next to, our street is incredibly quiet. Once we heard a drunk guy yelling at someone’s house in the middle distance, loud enough for us to hear it but not loud enough to be annoying.

The only initial concern we have are pests, specifically ants and squirrels. At some point during the last remodel, something found a way into the falls / floors of the house, and seems to prefer the area between the first and second floor. We hear occasional scurrying around, and a chewing sound from time to time, which seems to indicate something that has found a comfortable place to live, and is doing a little remodeling of its own. The ants are fairly harmless; they have not yet been able to get into anything that we need to eat, but are clearly fearless and able to get just about anywhere on the first floor. I have yet to spot them in the basement or the bedroom. Currently, these issues are unresolved, but our Electrician friend has been notified, who has plans for the squirrel(s), while M has a few ‘home’ remedies that she believes will take care of the ants.

On the whole, shortcomings and all, I am in love with the new house. Most of my adult life has been spent in apartments or in a house living with “some guys,” and while there is nothing wrong with that kind of lifestyle, there is something about living in this house that feels more like the places I lived with my parents as a kid than anything has felt like in the interim. This could have something to do with the fact that M and I are trying to create a very domestic environment, and I’m sure the fact that we are getting married next year plays a role in this feeling, too. But living with a bunch of dudes is a very specific kind of lifestyle, and unless you are all on the same page about how the house will look / function, nearly everything devolves into a party house.

There is something about building this life together in a house that I’m very excited about, and other things about it that are terrifying and cause me to cry out in fear and concern. But this is life, isn’t it? Home is where all of the neuroses, all the horrors, all the happiness, all the sadness, and everything that is not the façade we put on comes out. Home is where we are not perfect, where mistakes are made, when we say the horrible things we can’t say in public, and where we cry uncontrollably because we don’t know any other way to respond. But, for some reason, I have chosen to build this place around M, and in this town, and for all the reasons that it is a bad idea, it is also the best idea we’ve ever had.

My only hope is that, after we come to know Salem for what it is and what it offers, we don’t change our minds.

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