Friday, August 18, 2006

Moving Day! (Post-Uni)

Well we’re movin on up, to the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Jefferson's Theme


(Recommended: go back and read Lords of the Slum before taking on this bad boy)

February 2002.

Even though we were all still friends, it was widely acknowledged among the group of us that we really needed to see a bit less of each other. Tempers were fraying, everyone was tired, we had all gotten new jobs that were a little more stressful and demanded that we be a bit more responsible, so no more drinking till 2:00 am on a Tuesday. The girls were working shifts, which further added to the tension.

The original idea was for all of us to stay together, but just buy a bigger house to give us more room, and take advantage of the booming housing market. But we could never agree on a location in the city, or how much we wanted to pay, or how long we'd commit to staying there. So, we were pretty much screwed on that one. Besides, in the 2 years I lived there, I was the only one able to save up any money for a downpayment.

So, I figured, I've got a pretty decent salary, and my girlfriend's got a new job and she's holding her own too, we should be able to get a decent place, right? Not when your significant other is towing along an anchor in the form of a $50,000 student loan, you can't. But, it was confirmed that my roommate and his extra-drippy ex-girlfriend were leaving no matter what, because she couldn't stand us, and we couldn't stand her. I definitely didn't want to rent again, I wanted to get into that hot condo market, but we couldn't afford much. So in a rush, we decided to buy a condo out in the East end, which, while it had its moments, was basically a disaster. If I had to go back and play my cards differently, I would have found new tenants and held on to the rental until after the student loan was paid off, while buying a condo from plans in the neighbourhood I wanted to live in, waited until it was built, moved in, lived there for about a year and a half before my transfer, and sold the place for $70,000 more than what I paid for it, instead of making a paltry $2,500 on the condo I ended up buying before deciding to rent an apartment in the very neighbourhood I should have bought my condo in. But that's neither here nor there. And I'm not bitter, of course not. Pssh.

My other roommate has this knack for lucking into some great arrangements. He found himself a cool little house to rent on the west side with a few of our other buddies, and got a great deal from the owners. I was really relieved and happy for him, because I was worried we were leaving him up shit creek by moving out. Turns out he got the best deal. Not that I'm really surprised.

Anyways, this house had a rec room, and he decided to celebrate by buying a ping pong table before we moved out. Which, of course, was set up in the middle of the living room for our entertainment. Drunken ping-pong is close quarters is the shit.

So my other roommate and the oozing wonder moved out, leaving their bedroom empty. Originally, the plan was to pack up all of our boxes and leave them in that room until we were all to leave a few weeks later. But that plan was quickly scrapped.

See, the house the remaining roommate was moving into had no garage and was pretty wide open to the elements, which was bad news for the new sport bike he had just bought. His solution was to build a huge box that he could use to protect the bike from the wind, rain and snow. And now that there was an open bedroom, it seemed like as good a place as any to build it.
So he builds his box in such a way that it was basically being held together by 4 toggle bolts and you can just unscrew it and collapse it down, so that he could fit it out of the door and out of the apartment, but decided to leave it assembled in the guest bed so that he didn't wear the bolts out.

My girlfriend and I start packing up our shit, and stacking everything out in the living room, around the ping-pong table. The remaining roommate packs up his shit, and takes up the wall on the other side of the ping-pong table, and the kitchen. There are boxes EVERYWHERE. Such is life when 7 people are moving.

So, of course, we get a call from building management:

"Hi, this is building management, we'd like to show the apartment."

"I don't think that's such a good idea."

"Well, we are legally entitled to showing the apartment when we know you're moving out."

"We're aware of that, thanks. We're not saying no, we're just saying it's a bad idea."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, dumbass, we're moving out in two days. That means there's boxes and shit everywhere, and the place is a sty. We gave you 60 days notice. We kept the place clean for you to show it in that time, but now, we're in the middle of moving, so find another apartment to show if you want to attract a new tenant."

"But yours is the only three bedroom available."

"Then show them a two-bedroom, and say that 'your place would be just like this, but with an extra bedroom'."

"No. We're going to show your apartment."

"Fine, suit yourself. But you're gonna regret it. And all those repairs we requested didn't get done by themselves, either."

My roommate comes in.

"Who was that?"

"Building management. They want to show the apartment."

"Did you explain to them what it looked like in here?"

"Yep, and they want to show it anyway."

"So, what are we gonna do?"

"Fuck 'em. By the way, it's best of three, and we're tied at one. Your serve."

It's pretty interesting when you live and spend your time with a small group of people for a long time. Certain things just become accepted. Like there's an ant colony living in the cases of beer stacked 6 high right across the kitchen wall. Or the freezer door is held together with velcro. Or no one bothers sweeping away the roaches (both kinds) anymore. Or there's a punching bag collecting dust in the corner. Or that all the furniture comes from three different goodwill stores. Or the half bath smells like a McDonalds bathroom. Before cleaning. See, you sort of build up a tolerance to that stuff. Then someone steps in from normal society, and they get their fucking minds blown. And then you think "yeah, I guess that's not really normal, is it?"

The super knocks on the door. We don't even stop the rally. "IT'S OPEN!"

By "IT'S OPEN!", we meant "You can open the door about 18 inches before hitting a pile of boxes!". So the super walks in with what appears to be a charming young couple, full of hope and dreams and happy thoughts...which all got flushed down the crapper in about 0.06 seconds.

The young lady walks into the apartment and immediately kicks over the nice pile of warped parquet tiles we had stacked on the floor.

"Oh, don't mind those. One night a few months back, our toilet exploded and flooded the apartment got shit everywhere and warped the tile, so it popped off the floor. But I'm sure they'd fix that before you move in. Right Mr. Super?"

But that didn't hold her attention for long.

"You have a ping-pong table in your living room?"

"Yeah." While taking a swig of my drink. "Nothing beats beer and ping pong."

"But how do you get to the other side?"

"Silly, we climb over it. Besides, usually all these boxes aren't here, so try to imagine this place without them."

"I'm trying, but it's hard."

"Tell me about it."

Desperate to find a selling point to the apartment, the super turns to the kitchen, sees the pile of dishes in the sink, the half-packed boxes, the wall of beer and the velcro on the freezer door and does the smoothest 180 I've ever seen.

"Yeah dude, just forget about walking into the kitchen altogether."

So he goes to the major selling point of the apartment, the beautiful balcony. You know, the one hidden by the former circus tent drapes. So he goes and opens the drapes, stepping out onto the balcony, half of which was taken up by the frame of the weed tent (the guy who had moved out took his tarp with him) with readily visible extremely vulgar stoner vandalism, along with what remained of the circus tent frame. Again, the young lady turned to us with a look of disbelief.

"You guys sure have a lot of lumber up here."

"Oh, yeah, that. Actually, it used to be the frame of the fourth bedroom that we built out of one third of the living room. Because there were seven of us living here at one point, you know. And those sheets hanging up there were the wall."


She looked like she wanted to ask us more questions, but thought better of it and said something in quick, hushed tones to her husband, who by now was completely turned off of moving in, but I think he must of thought we were pretty cool guys, 'cause he just smiled through the whole thing like he was the only one in the room getting the joke.

They walked past the two bathrooms...with "Dump Entrance" signs nailed to the doors of each. They left well enough alone there.

Then they get to our bedroom, which was fine, with the exception that there were no drapes in the window, just a sheet stapled to the wall. That was probably the least shocking thing they saw.

Now, onto the empty bedroom. That is, the bedroom that was empty except for the 8 x 5 box in the centre of the room, and sawdust and power tools. I watched the lady go into that room, and she seemed to be doing some advanced, lost form of calculus to figure out how that box was going to fit through the door to get out of the room. She probably figured we kept bodies in there. Or we were growing weed. I thought of throwing her a bone, but I was just too amused by the whole thing.

All of a sudden, her brain aborts the mission, she turns on her heel and starts heading out.

"I think we've seen all we need to see, thanks." The super's shoulders slumped and his face harboured the look of a defeated man.

"Really? We could show more. The mismatched tiles in the bathroom, the water damage in the master bedroom... what would you like to see?"

Of course, I cut off the super before he caught up to the couple, who would have probably set an Olympic record getting from our door to the elevator.

"Now, I told you showing this place was a bad idea. Did you listen? No. Now, if you guys can just keep your shorts on for two days, we'll be out of here, and this place will be empty. You can fix everything that you never took care of while we lived here, and then you'll actually have a chance at renting this place instead of wasting your time. Deal?"


We were gonna be nice, we really were. But then they ended up double booking us on the service elevator, being assholes about it, and wanting to charge us extra to undo the booking. So, we just didn't throw out any of the lumber on the balcony, and left all the garbage and sawdust in there to rot. It's not like we gave real forwarding addresses anyway. And they had already given us back our deposit. We all wanted to take turns taking a shit in the busted-up half bath toilet without flushing, leaving a mountain of unflushable shit in there. But even we weren't that mean. So with that, we all went our separate ways (east side, midtown, west side), but we can't deny that the two years we spent in that apartment made us closer than we had ever been before.


Since my transfer earlier this year, I now live about 500 km away from my friends. The ones who live the closest to me, anyway. I miss them terribly. I love my wife and son, but it's different. When I'm not around my friends, I feel empty, like there should be someone by my side to have beers with and rehearse with and help me out with the yardwork and barbecue great meals and talk shit with, but there isn't. I guess I've been writing about all this lately because these memories are good, and it makes me feel like my friends are close by while I'm typing away. I can still hear them laughing, still hear their voices in my head, clear as the day the memories were made.

I know that I made the best choice for my family by moving here. I'll have career opportunities here that I never would have had otherwise. As will my wife. My child gets to grow up surrounded by parkland, instead of gang turf. And my starter home here is bigger and nicer and newer than any home I could have ever bought there.

I guess I just didn't think that the sacrifices I had to make would hurt so much.


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