Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lords of the Slum (Post-Uni)

For all the fun that we were having, discovering the city, making our first forays into adulthood, dreaming the big dreams of the young, naive and overeducated, we were never able to rationalize the fact that...well...we lived in a total shithole.

My buddies had been living there for about a year before I moved in. They had two smaller places between them, but decided to get a larger place together to reduce the rent. However, they had just enough money to escape the worst of the ghetto living. That's to say, we weren't in any immediate danger of getting shot. As in, most of the gunshots we heard were from one street over. And that's about the best we could say.

We were living in what was referred to as the "Immigrant Ghetto", where various immigrants and refugees (some legal, some not) crammed themselves into apartments in the hopes of making it big in Canada. We were doing the exact same thing, except we were refugees from rural Ontario. So the other tenants sort of saw us as a novelty act, I think. We always figured, there's no way property management can bust us for having a circus tent in our living room, because there's probably 50 more of them scattered throughout the building.

Here's a snapshot of how shite this building was:

We had 1 1/2 baths in our apartment, but because of my one roommate's penchant for the McDonald's value menu, the toilet in the half bath was reserved for him, until he clogged it. Drano saved us for a while, but then the situation got dire. So on average, about every 2-3 weeks, we'd call the super to come fix the toilet. So he'd come up to our apartment, laugh at the circus tent, and use that snake thing on the pipes. Over and over again.

Well, you know, that snake thing doesn't really fix anything, it just pushes the shit further down the pipe in the hopes that it dislodges. But it never really did.

I wake up at five in the morning to banging on the door and screaming. I walk out to the hallway and notice that we have a river flowing through, coming from the half bath. We quickly put two and two together and realized that months of snaking the toilet had created a monster. The supers were yelling at us, saying they were going to take us to court and all this stuff. Apparently, a pipe had burst from the pressure caused by McDonalds-bred fecal matter and the water was causing damage all the way down to the 15th floor, from the 18th.

So, of course, we show off all of the service requests that we had made for the toilet, and that matter was resolved. Then, we start noticing how uneven the floors are, because lakes are gathering in certain areas of the floor, while others stayed bone dry.

So, our place smelled like Lake Erie for a week until we were able to finally get the smell out. The water raised and curled all of our lovely parquet flooring, so we stacked all the tiles neatly in the corner. We put in a service request for tile repair, but if that stuff ever got fixed, it was only after we left.


So, one night, we were screwing around in the building hallway, and one of my drunk buddies kicked the door to the utility room. And it broke open... JOY!

Once in that room...we noticed the Holy Grail of drunken mayhem...the door to the roof. Unlocked. HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY!

Now, I'm deathly afraid of heights (or more specifically, falling off of high things), so I peeked my head through the door and was satisfied with that. But, as every night went on and the utility room door still wasn't fixed, the guys came up with bolder and bolder plans.

One of my buddies still brags that his longest golf drive was over 900 yards. Yep, that's right, off the end of the building, bouncing through the mall parking lot across the street and over the parkway on the other side. We made sure to listen to the news the next day to make sure he hadn't killed anyone.

But that's not even the best one. One day, we decided that we should throw something off the roof, just to see what happened. We couldn't throw anything off the balcony of our apartment, or we'd be busted, so we figured if we dropped something off the roof on the other side of the building, no one would suspect us. Now...what to use? Eggs? Oranges? Pudding? Too small. This would be our only chance at this, and we had to think big. Ah, here we are...watermelon. One whole watermelon.

Now, the goal was to drop it from the top of the building into the dumpster. And we had to definitely make sure to pitch it far enough that it wouldn't land in someone's balcony. So we overshot the dumpster by about 4 feet. Damned if that watermelon didn't sound like a 12 gauge shotgun at impact. Total disintegration. The only evidence was the very top of the shell, and a little bit of juice had sprayed onto the dumpster. No pulp, no seeds, no shell, except for that one piece. We lifted it up, and the grass below it had also disintegrated. Nothing there but dirt.

But damned if later that summer, that wasn't the best fertilized patch of grass on the lot. I could barely contain myself as I walked by two months later and the supers were standing out in a lot full of dead grass, looking in amazement at this one round patch of the greenest, lushest grass you've ever seen...about the diameter of one medium-sized watermelon.


The building hadn't had any renovations to its old plumbing since it was built. There were leaks and sweating pipes everywhere. One of them was located in the wall between our bathroom and the master bedroom. So, we'd call down to have them fix it, as the walls on both sides would bubble and blister and crack and peel. So how would it get fixed? Remove the tile, shave down the blisters, replace the tile. Or, shave down the blisters and repaint. By the time we left that place, the whole master bedroom wall needed replacing.


The thing that pissed me off the most about that apartment, was our fridge. After years of sitting on an uneven floor, we just couldn't finagle the feet on it to keep it steady because the screws on the feet were so worn out. So it would rock forward and the doors would swing open. Particularly the freezer door.

It was the start of summer, and of course, barbecue season. Four renowned carnivores in one apartment, you're damn straight there's gonna be some charred meat on the menu. We went shopping on Thursday night and filled the freezer. Steaks, chops, chicken, ribs, you name it. We dropped about 2 bills, I think. We left town on Friday to go to a birthday party, and planned to return on the Sunday afternoon, in time for an official start-of-summer barbecue feast. Came back to the apartment on Sunday to an open freezer door and the smell of rotten meat.

First, we stared in disbelief. Then, we were all like, "it's just a little thawed out, it's still good, it's still good", then we cried, then we got really, really angry. I grabbed one of the drivers of the group by the collar.


"Do you have any idea what you're going to do?"


So we're roaming the isles of Home Depot. Axes, sledgehammers, chainsaws, all of these are looking like good options. As my cooler head started to prevail, I figured that we could just shim up the legs and make it at least lean backwards, but that wouldn't be enough of a conversation piece. Installing a clasp system required drilling a hole in the fridge...no good. Ah, here we go, velcro. Two stickers, then a velcro patch that you could put over them. We got home, one sticker on the door, one sticker on the side of the fridge, velcro holding the two together. Problem solved. And what a conversation piece that was. "My God, is your freezer being held together by velcro?" "Why, yes, yes it is. Why do you ask?"


After six months, one of the couples moved out, so my girlfriend and I took their bedroom (more on this later). But there was still the trouble of what to do with the circus tent. After all, we had spent about $60 in wood, we didn't want it to go to waste. Two things happened with it:

1) We built a frame for a hotbox tent on the balcony, which was covered with heavy duty tarpaulin (great for smoking in the wintertime). I think the guys even got cable and a LAN drop out there at one point. The frame stayed out there, complete with stoner vandalism (XXXX has a small penis! Fuck you, no I don't!) long after we moved out.

2) The stress of living together was getting to us, so we decided to buy a punching bag so we could pound it and not each other. One of those heavy 70 pound fuckers. A quick reconfiguration of the remaining wood built us a pretty handy frame for it. We wrapped some sponges and towels around the points that came in contact with the wall, and let the fists fly. So yeah, we had a heavy punching bag in our living room. At the point we had reached, this seemed like completely normal behaviour.

Me and one of the other roommates used to come home from work, put on the gloves and take turns doing 3 minute rounds on the thing for about half an hour before supper. One day a few weeks in, we were REALLY laying into it. So we get a knock on the door. It was this cute little Indian lady.


"Hi...can we help you?" (We're all breathing hard, sweaty and still wearing sparring gloves)

"I was just wondering if we were having an earthquake..."

"No, I don't think so, we wouldn't really be able to notice with our sparring."

"Oh...OH." (looks in and sees the bag)

"OH, you must stop the boxing, please. I am one floor below, and doors are rattling, pictures are falling, it's not good."

"We're very sorry. It won't happen again. *snicker*"

"I'm sorry you guys, I'm sure that's a lot of fun."

"Would you like to come in and try it out?"

"No, no thank you."


So, as I said, about six months in, one of the couples moved out. We took a bedroom, two other guys moved out into the living room part time (we charged them food and use of the one guy's meat freezer as payment, they only stayed with us about 3 days a week). And one other roommate's girlfriend moved in, which put us up to 7 people half the time. And what an interesting arrangement that turned out to be...

Like, when you live with people too long, you learn things about them you never should. Next entry will go into detail about one of those cases...


At August 17, 2006, Anonymous sailor said...

the watermelon story is yet another instant classic. i have tears streaming down my face.


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