Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Between my first and second years in law school (my 1L summer), with the help of some friends I was able to land a paying clerk gig at a law firm in Portland, Oregon. I'd previously only been to Portland once on a whirlwind 36 hour run with Jem. Surprisingly enough, that short trip wasn't enough for me to get to know the town very well and not the apartments at all. Cindy had recently been promoted at work and didn't want to leave her job. She stayed back in Provo. That left me to find a place on my own. Fortunately, another one of the clerks wanted to split an apartment. Cindy found a place for us that seemed (on paper) to be the right combination of price, size, and proximity to the office. We only had one car, so I built up a commuter bike, threw it in Jem's truck, and headed north. I had been living in student apartments for several years. And not the nice ones by Condo Row either. I lived in Miller for two years before I was married. There was a reason that Miller was the cheapest place on the approved list. After I was married, I lived in toaster oven of an attic apartment. My point is, I had very low expectations for the apartment. Even with these low expectations, to say I was disappointed with the apartment I ended up with would be an understatement. While the wet carpet in the place when I arrived pointed to management having recently cleaned the carpet, I remain convinced that nothing short of completely gutting the apartment could remove the smell of dog shit and stale smoke that permeated the place. Maybe not even that. And it was mine to stew in, with no car to get away from the place. My roommate had brought his girlfriend out and there was no way they were going to wallow in that mire any more than they had to. After a while I thought the smell had dissipated. Not so much. I'd just become accustomed to the smell. After a month of the smell B stopped by on his way to a family vacation. He informed me that the place reeked and it was then that I realized the smell must still be permeating everything in the apartment, clothes included. In all likelihood, I had been walking around the office smelling like a dog with a fecal fetish, an aversion to bathing, and a nicotine addiction. Not surprisingly, our co-tenants had some issues as well. As we learned through several police raids in the middle of the night, complete with battering rams and foot chases, for many Cornell Courtyard Apartments was subsidized housing. One afternoon as my roommate and I were getting home, we were followed in by a middle-aged women dressed in a smart suit. "Good to see someone in here getting out and trying to get a decent job," my roommate commented. A few minutes later, she emerged in her regular clothes to soak her feet in what a sign described as a pool, but what in reality was an infrequently cleaned duck pond. As she sat down, she made clear, "That judge was a total bitch!" Of course. She then recounted how the judge had made clear she needed to be doing more of what she agreed to do if she was going to retain custody of her six-year old girl and her infant/toddler, who appeared to be about a year old. Maddy, an ostensibly single mother, didn't seem to agree. All of this is background for what has to be one of my favorite overheard conversations. Toward the middle of the summer, Cindy and our ultimate travelling/dining companions Lani and Patrick came up to visit. After an epic day at the coast, the four of headed down town for some seafood at one of the restaurants on the Willamette. When we finally arrived back to the apartments, it was well after one in the morning. Maddy and another snaggle-tooth were out front smoking cigarettes and talking. As we passed, Maddy excused herself, "Well, I'd best get going - I've got a man in my bed." "Then you'd better go, you don't want to keep a man waiting," her companion concurred. "Nope, don't want keep him waiting." I never did actually see this man as he was gone the next day to never return, but I imagine he was a keeper.