Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Places Within Places

Recent mental exercise included remembering how homes I've lived in before were laid out. As far as I know, every former dwelling of mine is still around; in many cases going into a house years or decades after you lived there is, you know, frowned upon, but I've seriously wanted to do that. "Excuse me; you don't know me and have absolutely no reason TO know me, but I used to live here," I could say, and pull out a picture of me in a recognizable part of the house so I can vouch. But still, bad idea. Not fair to the current dwellers (unless they're family -- or even sometimes then), plus it's creepy. Though maybe I could get away with it if nobody lives in the house anymore. Hmm...

There was the one split-level house I've lived in, my first with stairs. The one with a larger-than-usual backyard, sharing unfenced yard space with multiple homes. The one with the first tree I climbed (which I couldn't get out of without help at first) and a slope behind it (which I climbed, no problem). My first one with three levels we could live on, with a nicely cool family room in the mostly-finished basement (and its sole, near-ceiling window), a circular path on the main floor that little kids visiting would quickly find and then run around and around in, and the top-floor rooms with access to the roof, where I'd sometimes sit and read, or sit and just enjoy the view.

I go past former homes of mine when I can. Less creepy and invasive. When I visited Southern California in July 1995, I saw the Rancho Bernardo part of San Diego and Camarillo, where I lived between 1976 and 1982. I took pictures of both houses. Both are still standing, though the Rancho Bernardo house has had at least one close call. My visits to Northern Virginia last decade, I went over to the two homes my family either rented or owned. I haven't been to Virginia Beach since 1989, but Google Maps helped me pinpoint both our 1982-1983 rental on Lord Dunmore Road (a cut-through route we had to be careful on) and our '83-'84 house on Little Lake Road. With Eugene it's easy: I always lived in dorms. Not much to forget! Or to live in. It wasn't like the dorm(s) in Back to School...

The Little Lake Road place in Virginia Beach (1983 to fall 1984) was, I thought, a particularly cool house. It's laid out as a wide, shallow, upside-down U: garage, dining room and kitchen on the east side of the U, bedrooms on the west end. Instead of a family room/living room, there was a large Great Room in the middle. A bar was to one side, though I didn't pay attention to the alcohol my folks kept there* but instead to the boxes of LPs my folks kept under the bar. The foyer was stylish: strips of mirrors on the walls, and decorative...I want to say "planters," but instead of keeping in plants the raised blocks kept in decorative rocks. The outside was brought in, sort of.

I only lived in one particular Portland house from January 2001 to August 2002, but I did explore most of it -- at most, I was never in one bedroom. I only entered other people's bedrooms with permission (a courtesy not extended to me, and once I learned that, I moved out), like to get something from another tenant or to help them move in. At one point in my time there, I realized I was getting set in my ways: just staying in the basement where my room was, when I was allowed in more of the house, so I made sure to hang out and, say, read on the main floor.

Me being me, what do I focus on more now? The rooms I don't remember well. Little Lake had a small (and darkly wood-paneled, I think) den/office for Dad near that Great Room. He put up his Navy squadron plaques in there, continuing the tradition of what we refer to as "the I-Love-Me Wall," but I wasn't in the room enough for it to make much of an impression on me. I was more likely to be in my bedroom (one of the few bedrooms in my life so far where I had larger than a twin bed) or the other little office, on the bedroom side, where our Atari and a Heath-kit computer were. Before that, the Camarillo house had a little walled asphalt patio out front; I'd always pass it, even though it was just to the left of the walk up to the main entrance. I know enough about those parts to know I missed something there. What did I miss? What did I miss? Yes, I can get dramatic about that.

I'd rather not feel that. I get to those nooks and crannies of homes and buildings now. I've sometimes almost gotten into trouble. (No arrests yet! But pro-tip: don't do this in a building where a bank has offices. Just saying.) I want to know wht's there, and what could be there. Is this a comfortable part of a place, especially of a dwelling? Could some part be my special corner?

I like the concept of special corners. May there be more. Wherever you are, I hope you're comfortable.

* I somehow grew up with no interest at all in trying alcohol. I didn't have my first drink until 1999, when I was 26.

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