This morning, while reading this article about tiny living quarters in Paris, I was reminded of my favorite place I ever lived. It was a studio apartment on East Gorham Street in downtown Madison, right across from Lake Mendota. It was in a rather grand, pinky brick Colonial home from the 1920’s. At the time I lived there, the building was beautifully maintained, inside and out, and I was very proud to live there. Most of my neighbors were cool and accomplished, and just a little bit older than me.
When I walked in the front door, I was greeted by a wide hallway and an elegant staircase, which took me up to my tiny apartment. It had just a living room that doubled as a bedroom, a teensy kitchen, and a small bathroom with a shower instead of a bath. There was a fire escape I decorated with potted plants and convinced myself was sort of a balcony. And there were tons of windows. I think my entire apartment was at one time actually a porch.
Despite its size, this apartment had everything! Sunshine and light, the feeling of safety and privacy that comes from being up a level, and the mix of grandeur that the exterior and entrance provided, but with the coziness and affordability I needed. This was the last time in my life I went without both a computer and television at the same time. I turned twenty five the year I lived there, which now I see is about the perfect age, but it seemed SO old at that time.
I wrote my first book there, on yellow legal tablets that I later typed out. I just stumbled upon that book while we were moving last month. I never did anything with it, and except for one typed manuscript, it’s all saved on disks that are now obsolete. The book doesn’t even have a title. Maybe I will take a look at it this winter, though it might be too nostalgic a task for me to bother with.
Back then I read a lot and went out with friends a lot, and was single most of the time I lived there, which a part of me has always seen as a person’s truest state, since they can be themselves without compromising.
Quirky, funny things happened all the time while I lived there. One snowy morning, very early, I was walking Bagelkins near the lake when I saw a group of unusually adorable people tossing a football back and forth. I have never been sporty, but I was so impressed by them that I decided when I was done with the walk I would drop off Bagelkins and go join them. There was just something so amazing about them all! By the time we got back, a camera crew had set up and was taking pictures of them as they gleefully tossed the football and playfully tackled each other. They were all part of some kind of catalog spread for something like Abercrombie and Fitch. Boy was I glad I hadn’t tried to crash that party! It was the type of thing that always happened when I lived there.
This apartment, besides its great location and pretty exterior, came with its own parking space, which is golden in downtown Madison. Its own parking space! Did I mention there was a laundry room as well?
When I think back to that place, I remember being perfectly busy between classes and work and friends, but with plenty of time for myself. I associate that time with writing and smoking, mourning a break up, drinking coffee and eating soup. There were definitely sad times there, but I such a feeling of peace and potential there that even the sadness seemed healing and purposeful.
Certain songs define it, like Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ Bittersweet, Highwayman, and anything by Aimee Mann. I remember walking Bagelkins everywhere and feeling like she and I had a psychic bond from all the time we spent together in such close quarters. Riding my bike, running (I kid you not), and feeling like exactly who I wanted to be.
Do you have a place that made you feel like this? Tell me about it!