My Next New Home: An Essay by cam
I'll find my next new home tomorrow in a new city, a new state. My practice is to rent a bedroom with kitchen and bathroom privileges. Fancy homes are likely on the agenda along with dumps I wouldn't send a dog into. I won't kid you; It's the ritzy places where I'm the most uncomfortable. Polished floors where a child's toys are not welcome, over-groomed dogs as neurotic as their over groomed owners and lawns that betray a mind obsessed with control are warning signs to me.
On the other end of the spectrum are places I've seen that were still standing, although I was left wondering how that could be. I pulled into the driveway of one such house and before I even got out of my car, I knew wouldn't be moving my possessions inside. Crumbling foundations and rotten siding were easy to spot. Spongy steps led up to a porch that made no promise to support my weight. But I was curious. The photos in the ad were an outright lie.
An old man met me in the driveway. Somehow the slumlord felt good about marketing to a fellow human being this abused structure that he and previous owners had milked dry of every ounce of usefulness and beauty.
The toilet and tub lay uninstalled beside gaping drains. The walls of the entire inside of the house were bare, not just of adornments, but of drywall. The man went to the door of a room which he referred to as mine. A wealthy man might turn me away because he doesn't want my sixteen-year-old Jeep to be seen in his driveway. But it is a whole new level of insult when a man assumes another will agree to live in such squalor.
But these are two extremes where I would be equally afraid to live. Average, normal, sane people like you and me occupy the middle ground. Our homes show wear in all the right places. Someone drew lines on the kitchen door frame which charted the growth of a son or daughter. The wood floors are scratched from the toenails of a dog who has been accepted as a member of the family.
It's a new city, a new home, a new job, for just a few months. Then I'll do it all again. Friendships begin and end with an abruptness that is slightly jarring. I don't consider relationships to be disposable, but I know when I leave, the co workers and landlords will elbow their way into the shadows of crowded memories.
Wherever I go, I find ways to spend my spare time. Usually, that involves equipment such as fishing poles, a kayak or canoe, and backpacking gear. Rivers, lakes, canyons, and hiking trails are where you'd have to go to find me.
I have to admit that I've ignored some of the finest museums and famous sites in the land. The St. Louis arch took a back seat to a float down an obscure creek in my canoe. Deer watched from the dense undergrowth of the forest. A beaver slapped her tail on the water to warn me against venturing too near her lodge. Tangled leafy vines grew up the sides of trees, out onto the limbs, and hung down from fifty feet in columns two feet in diameter until they touched the water. Could the art museums match what I had found?
Hanging Vines on Creve Coeur Creek, Near St. Louis, MO
I sit here in a hotel room, fighting off the urge to sleep, anticipating tomorrow when I will begin all of this again. New friends, a new home, a new job. Will I like it? I know I'll like the spare time activities. The home is at least partly up to me. The job is out of my control. It will be what it will be.
I've forgotten what it's like to live in one place, to go to the same job for months and years. What is it like to see the same friends day in and day out, to see family, to fish the same lakes, to hike familiar trails to shop in the same market? It seems the only constant in my existence is me––and you, my literary friends.