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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Jefferson Avenue Hideaway

Even if you were looking for it, it was hard to find. A converted home that sat atop a steep hill, the four apartments had been carved from the upper floor and the narrow basement had been made into a fifth.

That was my hideaway, Jefferson Avenue #5. To get to it, you had to walk to the right of the building, get off the sidewalk onto a footpath and reach the door tucked under a small awning. To the right as you approached my door was the beginning of urban wilderness, a grassy cliff that plunged into a wooded stream where raccoons, possums, squirrels and wild cats made their presence felt regularly.

The door was in the center of the apartment, a narrow rectangle stretching some 35 feet one way, but only 10 feet from front-to-back. In front of the door was the closet and Murphy bed, usually down. To the left, the living room. Along the left-front wall was my Smith-Corona. Along the left-side wall was the TV set and to the right of the TV was a built-in set of drawers, well-made and convenient.

To the right of the door was a tiny breakfast nook (actually, a tiny table) and the kitchen, with a half-sized fridge and a full-sized range. Beyond the kitchen, in the far right corner, was the bathroom.

You could see the whole apartment in under 10 seconds and most everyone did. In the summer, the trees and concealed nature of the place kept it fairly cool. In winter, once the door was sealed properly, the space heater kept the place toasty with little effort.

The hideaway was large enough to contain my few belongings and small enough to induce intimacy. I never felt cramped there, and with only very few exceptions, it never felt empty. My friends came over enough to keep it social, but not so much that it lost a sense of my self. I wrote hundreds of pages, read thousands, listened to music, watched TV, played wargames, cooked and had a blast usually doing a few of those things at the same time. I learned to be comfortable with another person and that sharing words and silence is a glorious thing.

My late night walks launched from there and quite often ended abruptly as I was escorted back by police, to make sure I didn’t keep the lips or hips going. My daytime forays were always wrapped in the feeling of excursions, as coming back had the feeling of comfort. In solitude, day melted into night bloomed into day with a sense of exploration and discovery, leavened by humor as the world, or my world, burped an odd idea.

Up to the moment I moved in to Jefferson Avenue #5, I had lived in 14 different places, product of an Air Force master sergeant father and the vagaries of military assignments. Within a week, my Jefferson hideaway was home. My list of places where I’ve lived has more than doubled, but that narrow rectangle tucked beside a steep hill still feels like home.


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