Sunday, November 6, 2011

Falling in Love with the Mountains - Part 2

In my last post I alluded to the fact that Brian's apartment in the mountains was a little ... dumpy. But, oh boy, you seriously would have been surprised. It looks pretty nice on the outside, doesn't it? I was sure encouraged as we drove by. But, allow me to take you on a little tour...

You first notice that there are several, seemingly abandoned, full-sized semitrailers gracing your view in every direction.

For the most part, their sides have been stripped and they are slowly and silently rusting away. Odd, you think. You drive up to the back of your building and are thrilled to see that there is one in the grass just to the side of your steps. It looks to have been there for a while, as the grass underneath it is completely dead and brown. Super fun, though, you find you have neighbors living underneath some of them.

Your youngest child actually finds that the word 'beaver' is one of the five words he knows how to say and asks for them by name each time you pass one of the trailers.

Holding your suitcases, you make your way up the cracked, concrete stairs (being careful to not step on the edge of the bottom stair for fear that it may crumble underneath you) and prop the unusually heavy door open with a heavy, 5 gallon bucket located conveniently inside.

The smell is the first thing you notice about the dark hallway in front of you... an unpleasant mixture of dog, cat and old, rotting wood. Tufts of animal hair swirl into the air as you roll past them to find your apartment door, and you suddenly feel a desire to step back outside into the fresh, April air. You glance at the unclaimed pile of old mail sitting on an abandoned computer desk across the small hallway as you unlock your door, and then realize that you're standing on an old, ratty doormat decorated with prancing reindeer surrounded by faded, checkered squares of red and green. You wonder why they chose to put a Christmas doormat at the foot of your door when, clearly, there was no intention of ever switching it out.

As you step across the threshold of your door, you peer questioningly at the poster of Audrey Hepburn staring back and you, and sadly discover that the cat smell that was wafting into the hallway is, indeed, originating from your own living space. Before unpacking your suitcases, you grab the broom and start in the second bedroom. Big enough to hold a set of bunkbeds, a small round table, and then leave just enough room for a sleeping bag on the floor, this room only takes a minute to sweep, but you realize that this must have been the cat's headquarters... you come away with a dustpan full of hair and kitty litter and wonder what, exactly, the cleaning crew that came in before you did during those hours they were supposed to be taking care of such things. You next travel the step-and-a-half across the hallway and enter into the master bedroom. This room has even less floor space - the queen bed in the middle of the room and the dresser at the foot of it leave enough space to run a sweep of the broom along three sides of the bed, but you diligently get down on all fours and make a couple of sweeps underneath the bed for good measure. Your dustpan is only half full this time. After another step-and-a-half, you begin to sweep the main living space. Most of it is covered by an area rug and you realize you'll have to pull the vacuum out as well. You sweep the little space underneath the bamboo dinner table with the glass top, knowing that your children are going to lodge food in all of those tiny cracks and wondering how many children (or adults) before you have done that same thing.

You open the door to the bathroom and slowly shut it again. You'll come back to the bathroom.

The kitchen is the size of a hallway. Long enough to hold a refrigerator (with a missing handle), a stove, and a few drawers on one side, and on the other side, a top-to-bottom washer and dryer (that smells of mold and didn't dry your clothes), a few cupboards, a dishwasher and a sink. You will soon find out that when you open the dishwasher, the door spans the entire width of the hallway and blocks your only path to the sink. And when you pull the bottom rack out, the dishwasher tips forward out of the counter - giving you somewhat of a scare before you realize that it catches itself at the back before crashing to the floor. At least it works, however... you will also learn that the residents in the apartment kiddie-corner to you can only use their dishwasher as a giant drying rack. As you sweep the kitchen, you notice that the window by the sink has a giant post-it note saying DO NOT OPEN, and you wonder what would happen if you ignored it.

You vacuum the rug, the couch cushions, the couch itself and then do it again to make sure... and then, just because, you vacuum the tufts of hair out of the main hallway as well. One of your neighbors comes in as you're doing so and doesn't know what to make of it. You hope the vacuum is working properly...

Eventually there's nothing left to do but the bathroom. You've put it off long enough. You try not to gag as you run your Clorox wipe along the toilet, picking up hair and sticky, yellow smears along the way. The floor underneath the toilet hasn't been cleaned in so long that the film looks a little hairy as you cut through it on your hands and knees. The tiny counter and sink are sprinkled with foreign hair and soap smears, the tub shower looks to be growing mold in all the right places, and you hold a nasty conversation in your head with the head of the cleaning department as you scrub. You eventually end the conversation by being glad it's not you signing their pay checks. Once all the 'disgusting' is gone you notice, how did you not notice before?, a giant, flaking hole in the wall next to the tub. A foot in diameter of flaking drywall and paint (that you will later learn is full of lead), dusting the ground underneath. Out of the bathroom you carry your final dustpan load, move your belongings into their places, and make peace with the situation. After all, home is where your heart is, right?

Besides, if you're feeling like you need to get out of your cramped/dumpy living circumstances, all you have to do is walk outside. Remember that huge grassy field in the first picture? Heavenly for having foot races, games of tag, and - of course - wheelbarrow races.

It's also alight with countless fireflies every summer night.

Or, you can just take a stroll down the blue ridge parkway and stop to wave to the cars passing underneath the tunnel.

It's true, your house might not be awesome, but... have an incredible backyard.


  1. Oh no! For some reason I'd pictured you living in a decent but small apartment. Not something scary!!

  2. Life is exciting! You made me laugh have such a good attitude about things...even if it is in "hindsight"..! And, you did have the most lovely backyard!

  3. Ew ew ew. If there's one thing that makes me gag, it's other people's hair. You are a brave, brave woman!

  4. I can't believe this green place is seriously in the same country...

  5. Yeah, the place sounds awful, but all I can think right now is, "I want to move." The last pictures in this post are gorgeous!