My first apartment after college was in the Brighton section of Boston. It was a two-bedroom apartment on Commonwealth Avenue. The building was a five-story tenement with dark hallways, radiator heat and an elevator that worked sometimes but was more often than not known to deliver you to in-between floors rather than exact floors.
I moved to Boston in the winter and was glad to find a warm place with steam heat. When I moved, all I had was a couple of suitcases, an old bicycle and an alarm clock. No bed and no furniture.
The first thing Curt and I did (Curt moved up from my home town to take the second bedroom) was to go out late at night and drive to the back of the local convenience stores. There we found our furniture - plastic milk crates. This was well before IKEA opened up around the country and made the need for such staples obsolete. The CD also put the final nail in the coffin on those plastic cages that were perfectly sized for holding and lugging LPs.
Later, we would buy plywood and cut pieces for shelving that could be placed over the crates. This was also well before Home Depot, so we would have to beg the local lumber place to cut our wood to specific sizes.
My last piece of furniture was a bed. Until I had a bed, I was sleeping on the floor with a blanket and pillow. Did I mention that I was dirt poor. My goal was to have 5 bucks at the end of each week after all the expenses ate into my meager paycheck. It didn't always work.
But I still needed to move up in the world so I bought cinder blocks, a full piece of plywood and a 6 inch piece of foam rubber. A local place in Boston advertised the foam and would cut it to any size. That's all I needed to know for the sale. The whole investment was under $50 and much cheaper than the luxurious futons which were becoming quite popular. I think Curt had a futon.
I stretched my flannel sheets over the foam which sat on top of my rock-hard plywood, which rested on top of my four 20-pound cinder blocks. I remember feeling so proud that first night when I pulled those covers over me and rested my head on the pillow.
Then June arrived. The temperature in the tenement soared. We didn't open our big wood framed windows because there we no screens, the noise outside was not conducive for sleeping and we were always afraid of some seagull flying into the room.
We did go out and buy hi-speed fans which helped stir the thick hot air in our apartment but there was not much relief until the sun went down. And even then there wasn't much respite, because I, in all my wisdom, was sleeping on a frickin' foam mattress with flannel sheets.
When I would arise from my bed, the bed curled up along my back because the sweat from my body and the chemical reaction of the foam formed a glue-like bond to my body.
One time I was able to stand on my feet with my bed affixed perfectly to me from head to toe. If the doors to the rooms were a bit bigger I may have been able to make it out of the apartment and onto the street in this pose.
I'll remember those days of hell fondly. I must've lost 20-30 pounds back then.
Best of 2016
2 months ago