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The Endurance of Apartment Living

Updated on April 30, 2012

The Joys of Apartment Life

Staying Above the Fray
Staying Above the Fray

As a bonus for attempting to live somewhere within commuting distance of a job, a lot of us have had the "pleasure" of living in apartments within one suburban sprawl or another.

From about the age of eighteen, I have lived in one apartment or another. Some apartment units/complexes were worse than others but they have all felt like the over-crowding of rats in a nest.

I've lived most of my life in S. California, so I don't know what it's like to live in apartments in other parts of the country. Perhaps there are cities where the occupants enjoy re-enforced steel concrete walls between their neighbors.

In S. California most of the apartments are the same -- whether they were built in the thirties or eighties. The walls are generally made of gypsum (i.e., chalk or plaster board) and a bare minimum of wood. These constructions do fairly well in earthquake country (because they can sway without structural damage), but they do little to shut out the various sounds and noises that neighbors invariably make. Also, because the weather in this part of the country is mild, apartment dwellers tend to keep their windows or sliding glass doors open throughout the majority of the year, allowing you to enjoy all the carcinogens that cigarette smoke and barbecues allow. The transmission of loud music, TV sets, screaming children, irritating voices are the norm regardless if you are in a four-unit building or a multiplex, townhouse-style abode. Each structure is basically built out of the same cheap crap, destroying any actual sense of separateness.

Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window"
Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window"
Unlike Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window," where Jimmy Stewart (and his binoculars) get a day or night-time kick from the neighbors across a courtyard, in real life, the close confines are anything but entertaining.

Can of Sardines
Can of Sardines

When you return home from a hard day on the job (or worse -- if you happen to be stuck at home all day) this becomes you're environment, part of your life, and unless you are deaf or unconscious, it's enough to push one to the point of insanity.

We are living in a time of over-population, of over-crowding. We endure it because we must. Even if you choose to live hours from your place of employment, you are probably still living in a cheaply made stucco apartment with the only advantage being that the accommodations are costing a few hundred dollars less per month.

I look around me in my community and see hillside after hillside covered with private condos and townhouses built so close together that they do not offer an attractive alternative to the plight of the apartment dweller.

What good is it to have our own "home" if your windows are about six feet away from another building? In my apartment I can hear people from across the street, so the lure of "home ownership" is not that strong.

The street outside my apartment is not a major thoroughfare -- it is a simple residential two-way road, but it doesn't spare me the sound of speeding motorcycles or even big-rig trucks -- god only knows where they are headed.

Another inescapable fact is the mowers and leaf blowers -- with no sound dampeners or mufflers on their equipment. All you can do is cover your head with pillows.

And if you are a homeowner, don't presume that renters are getting a price break -- they aren't. Many people who lost their homes in the last several years are now renting -- thus rental prices are at a peak.

My wife and I pay close to $2,000 per month for a two bedroom. Yes, I know, this is more than what many homeowners are paying for a mortgage. Get out of it, you say? Not so easy. In fact without a significant down payment any alteration in life style is going to be damn difficult.

There are really four groups in our society, namely: the have nothings, the apartment dwellers, the condo/townhouse dwellers, and those with real homes. You could sub-divide these classifications into more distinct groups, but this pretty much sums it up.

Street Traffic in Moscow
Street Traffic in Moscow

In Moscow you can still see two or three generations living together in a one-bedroom apartment. Immigrants can be stacked like sardines. The property values make Manhattan island seem like some out land of Arkansas.

I went there. I saw this. I have also read how people go insane with these accommodations. Family homicides are not uncommon.

If an old lady dies (who happens to own an apartment), the carrion swoop down out of the skies to snap up the available space. Sometimes this leads to someone being murdered ... over an apartment.

Moscow is unique because there is a severe shortage of housing. Things are getting better as they discover the advantages of urban sprawl.

Unlike Los Angeles, at least Moscow has a train.

Home Ownership
Home Ownership

Folks, our numbers were never meant to reach seven billion living souls. We are eating up the earth's resources at a ravenous rate while, at the same time, polluting pristine lands and waters.

Sooner or later it will have to stop. We look toward technology for answers, but technology is a shot in the dark. It takes years if not centuries to see what impact a technological solution may have on the earth's delicate eco-system. We don't have that kind of time, and I pity the young and the unborn who will have to cope with these giant headaches.

All of us living in suburban apartments SHOULD be able to feel this creep of over-population. Look at the size of our inner-community parks -- they are pathetic. I watch children playing in the driveway of my complex, and I thank god I at least had a backyard where I could run around like Superman or Willy Mays.

Someday everyone should take a car drive from San Francisco, through L.A., down to San Diego. You won't find much of a demarcation. The suburban sprawl has become so extreme that it feels like Los Angeles extends forever into the Mohave Desert and gobbles up the coast line from the Mexican border all the way to Northern California.

My final point is that this concentration of human beings into a confined space is utterly unnatural. When we were emerging from Africa as simple primates, we had boundless land all around us. Gradually, we became territorial. One only need to look at the endless wars in Europe and beyond over land to realize that man is hooked deep into territoriality.

I often stay up through the entire night. At obscene hours, such as two or three 'oclock I'll hear a woman screaming -- not out of physical pain but out of unbridled anger. Sometimes the ruckus extends to the outside, and I can hear the profanities. The couples involved in such skirmishes are usually young. In their torrent of verbal hatred, I hear a great deal of pain.

Somewhere else a group of guys are carrying on their beer fest into the very late hours. Sometimes all I can hear is a gibbon-like "he-he-he" every few seconds. Nothing on earth is that funny. They are hammered, and the entire universe is their joke.

Most normal people are asleep (somehow) and are oblivious to these home parties, the home arguments, the 2:00 a.m. enraged cyclist.

For some of us, living in apartments takes real endurance. It takes a certain amount of self-control not to get into a fist-fight with your neighbor who thinks it's okay to carry a party (outside) after 1:00 a.m. It takes endurance, to hear your neighbors banging around at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. God, what are they doing? It takes real resilience to endure all these assaults upon your consciousness.

Unless you've lived in an apartment for a few decades, you won't get it.


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