Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our House Is A Very, Very Fine House

The parenting blog on has a feature titled "Off Topic Tuesday," which allows the bloggers and commenters to talk about non-parenting topics. I think this is mostly because Peter Hartlaub, the lead blogger, likes to talk about growing up in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. I can get behind that. Like him, I also grew up in the Bay Area in the 70s and 80s. In fact I mostly read the blog because of "Top of the Hill, Daly City!" and the old Nut Tree.

This past Tuesday the discussion was "The Best Place You've Ever Lived." I noticed that the definition of the "the best place" had a lot to do with how close the house/apartment was or is to whatever the resident thought were good things to be near - the beach or ocean, restaurants, schools, etc. I was thinking about this, and the place I've lived the closest to all those kinds of things was the house in which I grew up: My elementary and high schools were within walking distance, as were the Junior Museum; the California Academy of Science; the Japanese Tea Garden; UCSF with its community pool and fun summer classes like Circus Skills; the Children's Playground, the Panhandle, and not too far from Sharon Meadow, Marx Meadow, and Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park; Rocky Road Mountain; and Haight Street with its roller skate rental shops and cafes (this last when I was in junior and high school, as I wasn't allowed on Haight until I was a teenager). We spent a lot of time at Baker Beach and at the Exploratorium. The corner grocery allowed us kids to sign for candy on our parents' accounts.

As I write all this down, I realize how lucky I was to live in such a place. I haven't lived in a place so close to everything as I did then. While I was thinking about the post on the other blog, though, I was thinking about my favorite place I'd lived as being the house I shared with Jujubi, Phil, and 17 other people across the three years I was a sophomore, junior, and senior in college. One block from campus, it was university owned, and had one bedroom for a triple, one for a single, and one double. There was a fireplace, a kitchen with yellow tile counters and a breakfast nook, one and a half bathrooms (including a tub), a livingroom with a plate glass window, a separet dining room, a huge basement, a backyard. On clear days we had a view of Mount Rainier from the window on the stairs. This house was known as Our House, after the song, and the Dance In The Living Room House, or DILR House. More formally (well, hardly "formally"), it was called Eleven Twenty Three, after the address.

The university thought it was a six-person house. Most of the time, only five of us were officially living there: soph year, Jujubi, Phil, Mrs. P (before she was Mrs. P), Bink, and I lived there. Junior year, Mrs. P and Bink had moved out and a friend moved in, along with two freshmen, one of whom left college after a couple weeks and the other of whom moved into a dorm at the semester break. Senior year Jujubi, Phil, and I were joined by two others of our friends. In the meantime, though, we had one friend or another sleeping on the couch for a semester or boyfriends sharing sleeping space. Since all the keys had "Do Not Duplicate" printed on them we left the door unlocked.

At that time, Tacoma wasn't much of a place to hang out in. The only place to hang out close to the university was a bar, so if you were under 21, which I was most of my college days, and you wanted to go out you went to Denny's or Dunkin' Donuts on 6th Avenue or up to Seattle to the Last Exit. There was a grocery store and a 7-11 within walking distance, and a public library and park a long walk away. Bus service was marginal so without a car it was hard to go to the mall, a movie, or Point Defiance Park.

But I didn't want to go those places most of the time. I was really happy to be at home. Because we were on the main approach to the campus, everyone came to the house all the time. On snow days, I would get up in the morning to one or several friends drinking coffee on the couch - people whose classes started earlier than mine and learned classes had been cancelled once they got to campus. When we had cast parties, from down the street you could hear people singing with Steve Miller, "I've been to Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to TACOMA!" If it was a warm fall or spring day, Phil would grill chicken or hamburgers, sometimes on the front lawn, and people would stop by on their way home. On the colder evenings, they would come by for some of Jujubi's great bean soup and beer bread.

At the time I credited Jujubi with the power of making that house feel like home. Maybe it was because she had such a nurturing vibe and I felt like a kid most of the time (I was, but I didn't think so then). She and Phil were the love in that house, and I just kept the door open. Our friends brought in a lot of love of their own, and that's what made our house so very, very fine.

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