Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good fences make...

Saturday a to-do day. Fruit flies keep crossing my field of vision. The tub of yogurt finished earlier this week and left on the living room/dining room table attracted a colony, so when I rinsed and cleaned the tub I drowned about half, and the other half escaped. They’ll find in their freedom scant offerings from a cleaner kitchen.

Over the course of the week, or two weeks, or three, stuff accumulates on the table. It’s the catch-all locale. A lidded tub full of my newspaper clippings is underneath the table. On top of that is the toaster. Also underneath is a basket of Jonny’s toys and his little Fisher-Price scooter car. The basket’s got things that move and talk. Kick it and it giggles or makes tractor combustion noises. There’s also two duffel bags, one full of baggies of screws and various ropes for tying the canoe. Another duffel bag is full of cords and microphones for my laptop home studio, which I have not delved into because the free mixing software that came with my audio interface is crap and I don’t feel like shelling out the $200 or so for the right software and taking the time right now to learn it. I am relegating that expense and time, possibly, to winter break.

The top of the table accumulates dishes, books, and papers, mostly. I’m pretty good now about putting the keys on the dresser. I realize how small my apartment really is as more and more schtuff fills it. I don’t want to be a pack rat, but neither can I deny my fate. I’m kind of pack ratty. But I’m also good about regular cleaning. My small cave, hermitage, sanctum sanctorum (thanks, Dr. Strange) doesn’t take long to clean. I pick up weekly, vacuum and dust every other week, and clean the bathroom once a month. And yes, I still relish the novelty of leaving the toilet seat up. I can tolerate dust, dirt, and the occasional creepy crawly, but clutter starts to confuse and depress me after a time.

I am here at least until the middle of August next year. My tentative plan is to do what I can to maintain my residence. I like it here. This is the quietest apartment I’ve ever lived in. The heat and a/c work great, unlimited hot water, a clean laundry room down the hall that is almost always available. The lawn area out my east window includes a garage that has flowers and shrubbery growing in a raised, 3-foot wide bed. There’s also two round concrete planters with flowers growing out of it throughout the season.

A quiet fellow who wears tinted bifocal glasses, has long, greasy, gray hair, and leaves two empty 30-packs of Busch a week in the dumpster, maintains the plants. He also keeps a bird feeder stand and an array of potted plants on his south-facing porch. Nice guy. Peaceful spirit. Drives a rusted Honda. Lives down the hall. I don’t know his name.

I don’t have too much contact with my neighbors. One of the office secretaries at Huntley lives in a house next door. I had conversations with this old man who was my next door neighbor, and another old man (both in their 80s) who lived on the second floor. Neither died here, at least, but both moved away over the summer. The one who lived next door smoked enough that an areola of tar radiated an inch around his mouth. He would also sit in his truck in the parking lot and read the Chicago Tribune. I never asked him to give me the copy when he was done because I knew he put it in the dumpster.

See, there I go again with the dumpster. I know more about my neighbors from their garbage than I do from ever talking to them. That’s sad. But I live in a 15-plex apartment building in a college town. It’s not all chum chum. I’d have to go slumming for that. I don’t miss the rooming house, but I do miss its congeniality. I always had someone to talk to at Country Acres.

The other old man, on the second floor, was one of the only people to use the gas grill. He was regular about it every Friday night. I saw him more. I think he told me he was some appliance salesman in Decatur or some place in central Illinois. The guy talked my ear off and I was always the one to cut him short, which I resented having to always do because I’d feel remorseful that I didn’t give a lonely old man the company he so desperately craved. I gave him some, a token gesture, but never became chummy. IWe didn’t have a lot in common. He was caught up in his own narrative. Dialogue was impossible. His response to anything I said was a continuation of whatever he was saying.

A blind Asian woman lives across the hall. She washes dishes, I think, at University Plaza, a private residence hall. She often gets boxes of what looks like movie film canisters, strapped cases, a clear plastic sleeve with addresses on a card. I think they’re books on tape. I’ve only said hi and bye, have a nice day passing pleasantries.

I know very intimate, rhythmic details about the woman who lives in the apartment above me. I know what’s in store when I see a white Subaru in the lot. She’s snooty and covered with tattoos. Sometimes, when I’m outside with Jonny, her elementary school age son will come out and play with Jonny. I’ve never seen her outside with her boy. She just yells at him out of the window. And she doesn’t acknowledge my presence. My passing hello has never been returned. Typical of a beautiful woman. She thinks every swinging dick is aimed at her. To acknowledge me, I believe she thinks, would be a tacit come on. I don’t see it that way. I just see a lack of common courtesy. But other than sometimes overhearing the frantic ministrations of her tatted-out bald goateed boyfriend and the running patter of her son, she is quiet. Despite her snubbing, she’s a good neighbor.

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I’m glad I committed to a thousand words a day by changing the name of this blog. This inaugural week it was hard on Tuesday and last night, nights I saw Jonny, to set aside an hour to write. But I must keep true to the name of the blog and maintain the streak of days. Even if all I can think to write about is the clutter underneath the table and food inventories.

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Speaking of food… On this gray day… potato soup.

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