About two years ago, my wife and I responded to an ad for a one bedroom apartment for rent in the bizarre Bermuda Triangle where the 8 and Sports Arena Boulevard collide. Not quite ready to move at this point, we were intrigued by the Craigslist posting which described an apartment with natural wood floors, upgraded appliances and lots of natural light.
When we pulled up to look at the place, we were less than impressed by the exterior of the plain apartment building which looked a bit run down, and devoid of character. We wavered between giving it a chance or racing back to our studio apartment in Clairemont. We decided to take a chance.
We were met by an energetic woman whose perkiness was infectious. She gushed about how wonderful the place was, and how friendly the neighbors were. We looked first at a downstairs unit with a nice large kitchen, but a nearly non-existent dining space. This led to an open space consisting of a living room and bedroom, separated by two heavy wooden sliding doors that met in the middle. The bathroom to the left was relatively generic, but held a certain charm. There was plenty of closet and cupboard space, considering the size of the flat. We counted a total of eleven windows. Lots of natural light indeed!
We left feeling much more interested than we initially expected, but unsure if it was the place we would ultimately inhabit. We continued to look at other apartments, but would not move for another two months. When we were finally ready to make our decision, we found that an upstairs unit was now available in the same complex. When we called the property manager, she not only remembered us, but everything we told her. We were sold!
We were living in a furnished apartment until then, and moved in with hardly any furniture. We possessed only a cheap computer desk and chair, a couple of folding camping chairs, and a television stand with no TV. We bought a queen double air mattress to sleep on. We were in serious need of some real grown up people furniture, but that would come after painting.
We spent an exhausting weekend with meager supplies that were threadbare by the time we were scraping paint from the bottom of the cans. It was nice to relax when the job was finished, and we could marvel at the fireworks shooting off at Sea World from our kitchen window. From then on, rarely a night passed when we did not make the most of the opportunity to see the bursting variety of colors and shapes.
We ended up with and aqua blue living room, misty green bedroom, conch peach kitchen, and bright yellow bathroom. It was the perfect base for our beach cottage paradise. A large part of our furniture came from IKEA, Craigslist, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and Ross.
It was not long before we began to hear strange noises from the downstairs neighbor. The bang of a hammer here, the whirr of a table saw there, and the occasional thud punctuated our days. We soon learned the woman downstairs was in the process of perpetual renovation. Her restlessness manifested into a desire to constantly make over her apartment. It would become a regular part of the musical score of that place, along with the occasional burst of floor-pounding bass. I often imagined her downstairs, listening to the music and creating her pieces of work in a neurotic frenzy.
On our second Thanksgiving in San Diego we once again heard screeching saws and hammering noises coming from outside. Looking down from our window, we noticed our neighbor building a makeshift bar. She had also connected two uneven tables and arranged variety of unmatched chairs around it. My wife and I instantly recalled images of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”, and rushed to take a picture.
We were later asked if we would like to join the festivities. We had a wonderful time talking with the group whose common bond was a lack of family connections in the area. One person who had been through a lot in the past two years exclaimed that this was the best Thanksgiving she had experienced in a long time. I had to agree. That year we truly were immersed in the classic holiday tale of The Peanuts, joining with Charlie Brown and his friends for a wonderful meal and warm, friendly company. Another highlight happened while we prepared breakfast one morning and noticed a PVC pipe, wood plank contraption with old tennis shoes attached to it. I called my wife over, and we were both in awe. What marvelous invention was that, we wondered, and what possible use could it have?
My wife, unable to contain her curiosity, questioned the neighbor in the kitty corner downstairs apartment when he appeared to claim ownership of this mysterious toy. I heard muffled conversation, and waited for the report. She trounced up the stairs with child-like glee and explained that they were “walk on water shoes”. She had asked if they worked, and he told her they did. We both laughed, realizing how bizarre and dorky it was, but also secretly wanted to see it in action. We never did get the chance, but our imagination made up for the lack of actual observation.
While we now live in Santee, having sacrificed funkiness and impulsive random experiences with the relative consistency of a typical suburban existence, we will never forget our time in the amazing one bedroom apartment we called home.