Thursday, September 16, 2010

Burton Street

In the Historic Downtown district where I live, there are glorious old homes that have been converted into apartments. Some of the homes from the exterior look to be dilapidated. But behind uneven porches and chipped paint, these diamonds in the rough are coveted by students, professors and lovers of unique architecture alike. These apartments are hard to come by because when you find one of these gems of your own, you stay forever.

I had one of these old beauties. Three in fact. My mom and her husband own several historic properties and rent them out for a living. After living in the dorms for a bit, I bargained with my parents to let me rent one of theirs. The house I lived in had three apartments in it: a studio, a one bedroom, and a two bedroom. I lived in them all.

Living in an old home is very different from living in new construction. There are the uneven hardwood floors that always leave one table leg two inches off of the ground. There are gigantic windows that are painted shut and require custom length drapes. There are gas furnaces that churn and moan melodically in the winter, heating those ice cold wood floors that aren't insulated because insulation didn't exist 60 years ago. At least that's what my mom told me when my feet turned blue every winter. There are claw-foot bathtubs underneath huge, individually paned picture windows. There is the wonky electrical wiring that guarantee to power down the entire place every time you dried your hair. There are the ancient walnut trees that tower over the driveway and hurl walnut shells at the hood of your car while the birds sit in the branches, crapping on your car. Crapping so much that it looks like someone attacked your car with a paint gun. Ahhh, memories. But you get used to it. Because no matter how many little annoyances (quirks, I like to call them), you can't get fourteen foot ceilings with transoms above every hand-carved door leading to fireplaces in every room in an apartment complex. It evens out.

My mom fixed up what needed fixing and helped me acquire some antiques. My place was cute and quirky; it was all me. I had friends over whenever I wanted, but I spent many a night holed up in my place dreaming of my future and what my life would look like when I grew up. I hoped it would look a lot like Burton Street.

My best friend also lived in a spectacular house across the street from me. Her place was even more glorious because it had everything mine did PLUS it was on the second story, so it was like living in a tree house. We both had private backyards that I grew a vegetable garden in and huge front porches that we filled with potted plants and rocking chairs. It was picturesque. Except that it wasn't exactly in the safest of neighborhoods. You see, Burton Street is smack dab in the middle of the hood. My driveway connected to the street behind which fostered subsidized and government housing. In the four years that we lived there, we witnessed a meth lab explode, numerous drug deals transacted in my yard, and even a knock on the door from a total stranger asking us to hold his dope while he was in Afghanistan. We declined.

Even with all of the crackheads be-bopping around outside of our houses, we never felt unsafe. Jamie and I watched out for each other from across the street and we had a great neighbor that looked out for all of us girls on Burton Street. George was always tinkering on old cars in his backyard and would intimidate the drug dealers from coming through my driveway. He was always out back or sitting on his front porch in his robe. We're pretty sure he never wore anything under that robe but we never dared glance there to find out. Shudder at the thought. He nicknamed me Strawberry Shortcake because whenever I baked something, I always brought him a plate. I later found out that he is diabetic and lost a foot due to complications after I moved out. I probably should've brought him more fruit and less desserts....oops. There was a community on Burton Street and even though there was profuse crime all around us, it was apart of the community that we loved. We embraced it. I'm kidding. It scared the crap out of us. JD had my house regularly patrolled and I was no stranger to the 9-1-1.

I loved Burton Street so much that when I got engaged to JD, the only hesitation I had was leaving it behind. I plotted how I could convince him to sell his new construction townhouse and move into my mom's 60 year old rental. You can imagine how that went over. It was sad packing up and leaving. So sad that I waited until the last possible minute to begin the process. It was a single defining moment that propelled that process along. My neighbor that lived in the connecting studio had bulimia. I listened to her wretch her guts up all day and night. One day, I came home from work to find little bits of carrots and lo mein noodles covering my slanted hardwood floors. She backed up the septic and her barf exploded in my apartment. After that, I was ready to move.

JD helped me move everything to his place the week of our wedding. He didn't understand why I would ever miss $400 electric bills and pocket doors that were always off track. He saw an old house that needed work while I saw a beautiful, quirky home. It was my home. After I moved, my brother and sister in law moved in for a few years. They loved the same things that I did about Burton Street. They are gone and now another friend lives there. There is something special about that place that draws people to it and makes them want to stay forever. And I'm pretty sure it's not the crack. 

My living room

All of my furniture was hand-me-down antiques from my mom and grandmother. That green velvet couch was awesome beyond words. 

My bedroom

complete with glass tiled fireplace.

I never knew what to do with the second bedroom. 

I ended up doing Pilates in there.

That mammoth brown thing is the Warm Morning gas furnace. It roars warmth. 
I wish I had photos of the dining room and kitchen to share. Isn't it darling?

1 comment:

  1. Aly I have read this blog a thousand times and have just read it for the one thousand and one time. I miss Burton St...and I still wish I had that awesome green couch of yours. Hope all is well in Cali.