This was probably my most-visited locale (not counting my own home) during my high school years. My first boyfriend, Chris, lived with his dad at 1474 Sacramento, cross street Hyde, seen here as a freshly-painted yellow building. (It was much dingier during the years I spent visiting it.) This was about a mile walk from my house and even closer to my grandparent’s place where I also spent time.
My mom initially tried to prevent me from visiting him unsupervised but I eventually wore her down when she saw I was going to lie about it and go anyway. Plus she was quickly won over by Chris’s razor-wire wit and sense of humor. I estimate that I spent at least 3 days a week here after school there and additional time on weekends. After we stopped dating we remained good friends for many years so I would continue to hang out in Apartment #210 on a regular basis.
There used to be a corner market/liquor store across from the bus stop. This space now houses a nail salon. During high school days, this was our go-to spot for loading up on all varieties of junk food. Once Chris turned the magic age of 21, this particular corner market surely saw a boost in sales from all of the prodigious boozing activities occurring across the street.
I recently got to revist the old apartment one last time. Chris’s dad, Allen, had married and stayed on living in the apartment. But this year he and his wife, Mercy, were moving to the Philippines where they’d be near her family and retirement dollars would go much further. I was looking to get myself a ukulele and I recalled that Allen had always collected musical instruments. Allen’s nightly practice of singing while playing the banjo was a reliable soundtrack navigating from Chris’s room down the dark hallway to use the bathroom. I knew he was trying to lighten the load for their big move so I asked if he might have a ukulele he’d be willing to sell me. The timing was perfect. He was preparing to donate many of his stringed instruments to Goodwill and I was welcome to any or all of them.
It had been many years since I’d been in the apartment and even in its chaotic, mid-packing state, it didn’t seem that much different. It was always jam-packed with books, CDs and cassettes, video tapes, and musical instruments. It still had the distinct musty smell that came from it being in the back of the building and never getting any sunlight. A well-read, musically-inclined vampire would have been right at home here. Chris’s room back in the day could have probably been red-tagged as a disaster area but that was part of its appeal. It was obviously territory free from adult intrusion. Graffiti was scrawled on every surface not already covered with flyers from metal shows and horror movie posters. An archeologist would have been able to identify the favored snacks of the era from the layers of litter on the floor. But the chaos was easy to ignore when you were absorbed in listening to heavy metal, watching movies, or getting caught up in the hilarious riffing on any and all subjects that happened spontaneously when you were hanging out with Chris.
These memories are tinged with some sadness as my friend decided to exit this plane of existence several years ago. I’m glad that I got to visit the apartment one more time and give some of Allen’s instruments a new home. Though Chris would probably roll his eyes at my clumsy ukulele renditions of 80s pop songs and KISS, I’m glad I have a tangible connection to a time and place that helped shape me in so many ways.