Tuesday, November 2, 2010

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 10

I've made it to the end of my look back at all the places I've lived. I left a couple out, from when I was a baby and really don't remember them aside from seeing photos. But as you can see, I have called a lot of places home. Some have been great, some not so much, but all remind me of a very specific time in my life.
The last apartment is no exception. And sadly, most of the memories I have of this apartment are bad ones. This was not a good place to live, and looking back, I don't know why we stayed here two years. I think part of it was because we were sick of moving and didn't want to move again until we were ready to buy. And partially because we were stubborn and didn't want to give up on the place we'd made so comfortable and very much ours. As you can see above, we finally had a digital camera and took photos of the apartment. It's fun to look back and see how our style has evolved, and what things we still have in place in our current home. But I look at these photos and feel kind of bittersweet. It looks like such a nice, tidy, happy home for a couple in their mid-twenties. And everything good that happened here seems tainted by how poorly it ended.
Here is the long, sordid story. Which begins happily enough.
We found this little apartment in St. Paul that was as big as our suburban place, but $150 cheaper. There wasn't an in suite laundry, and there was one less bathroom, but otherwise it was comparable. It was a little more dated, but at the time we found that charming. There were nice, mature trees on the lot, which was also appealing to us, since we'd spent two years in the tiny-treed, brand new suburbs. We imagined a leafy, city life up on the third floor. Soon after we moved in, two of our best friends signed a lease for an apartment downstairs. We got a second cat, a spunky orange kitten named Taco. We got married and had a beautiful wedding and honeymoon. Things were going well.
We had two neighbors, a single mom and her 10-year-old daughter. They were okay at first, albeit a tad intrusive. On the day we moved in the girl darted into our living room and started aggressively hugging Nutmeg. At first, things were pretty good. Every once in awhile we'd hear the little girl tantruming, and sometimes they would knock on our shared living room wall if we played music in the apartment... even if it wasn't very loud. We heard them fighting in the hallways, the mom suggesting the girl do something, her whining, "Nooo, I'm not gooiingg tooooo," followed by a shriek. But whatever. We loved having our friends in the same apartment building; we'd pad down there in our slippers to watch 24 and Lost and make dinner together. If we had a party, or they did, we wouldn't have to worry about driving. It was wonderful. I'd never lived in a dorm before and it made me think this is what it might kind of be like. So, we signed the next year's lease. And then about two weeks later, things started to get worse.
The noise had usually been during the day and early evening, but it started to get later and later, like 11 pm to 1 or 2 in the morning. The kid would shriek, howl, and there was always pounding on the walls, sometimes so hard it would shake our walls. We got fed up and called the landlords. The mother denied things were as bad as we described, saying that she had never had a problem in the eight years she'd lived in that apartment. She also would say things like, "I'm not the one making the noise, it's her!" about the kid. It kept getting worse and worse. So we kept calling. The landlords kept bringing the problem to the neighbors, and nothing happened. One day, Matt lost his job. I was home by myself, totally stressed out, and listening to some music. It was around 7 at night. They started pounding on our wall because of the music, and then the mom came to our door. I threw it open and yelled at her to stop pounding on my wall, and slammed the door in her face. Then called the landlord. At this point, they decided to have a neighbor "mediation" session, held in the teeny fitness room. It was super awkward. Basically, we told them that we would try and be understanding that children have tantrums, but that if there was pounding on the walls after 10 pm, we'd call the landlords. We had two quiet days before they started again.
It's a little fuzzy now, but I'm pretty sure the first time I called the landlords after the mediation session was like declaring neighbor war. Now everytime we made a peep in our apartment, such as watching a movie or playing music, they'd call to complain about us. Once two of our friends left our apartment at about 10 pm after a night of playing SCRABBLE and the little girl was outside waiting, and said, "you're not supposed to have parties. We're telling." OMG, it was so, so awful. It got to the point where I'd look out my peep hole before leaving, just to make sure they were there. Once I sat in the parking lot and pretended to have a conversation on my cell so I could avoid them as they came outside. The little girl would call me a bitch and ugly as I tried to enter the building, while the mother sat by doing absolutely nothing. They started harrassing our friends who lived in the building too. I felt like a prisoner in my own home.
While all this was going on, we were busy paying down debt, saving money and working toward buying a place. We had the set back of Matt losing his job, but he thankfully found one soon after, and the plan was back on. It couldn't come fast enough, because things started to get even worse.
One night, the noise was going on full force, lounder than it had ever been, and the child was yelling "help me!" which was startling. Before we had the chance to decide "landlords or cops?" the decision was made for us. The new people who had moved in right below our neighbors called the police. There were several more incidents after this, which we began tape recording and showing to the landlords. The people downstairs started calling the cops continually. It finally worked, and the neighbors were handed their eviction notice. As they moved out, we were barely even there, because we'd already closed on our condo and were over at the new place, painting.  
We were only ever able to enjoy two or three weeks Chris and Julia free. Once we moved our stuff over to the condo, painted in its rainbow of colors, light fixtures chosen by us, everything in place just as we wanted it, we let out a sigh of relief. It was blissfully quiet.

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