My first car was a Mercury Cougar. Not one of the cool late-90s Cougars, either. One of those Gulf War models with crushed velvet seats and emblems that looked like the Thundercats logo. It was a great piece of crap. My first laptop was a 20 pound clunker with only a floppy drive. My first bike was a one-speed Batman Huffy that I covered in duct tape. My first beer was a Keystone.
It’s a tried and true practice: learn with the worst, the broken, and the old. It’s the antiques and junkers that really teach you about what can go wrong, whether it’s on the road or in the kitchen. That way, when you move on to a nicer, newer model you’re desensitized enough not to freak out the moment everything breaks. I’ve just signed the lease for my next apartment, and I know plenty about stuff breaking.
It’s been well over a year since I moved to Pittsburgh, got my first place, and started this occasionally-updated blog. I was in love with my quirky, new, basement apartment. Over the course of the next few months, I would fill it with a hodgepodge of cool furniture and obtuse hand-me-downs. I’d make countless trips to Ikea with Abby. I’d build a book shelf out of some cinder blocks. I’d add more antique cameras to the shelf above my living-room-stove. My apartment may have had similarities to Saddam Hussein’s subterranean fox hole when I first moved in, but now it resembled a home.
The couch is the ballast of any good apartment. It’s the command center, the centerpiece. It’s where relationships blossom and fall apart, where trivia is exchanged, and where brains shut off. They are blissful compromises between chairs and beds, never forcing me to commit to an upright or horizontal position. Sofas are cool with either. They are big sandwich pieces of furniture that factor in to the comfort and happiness of your living space. So, stupidly, it was one of the last things I bought for my apartment.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to find the perfect couch. Why? Because sofas carry a lot of weight. I’m not just talking literally (although, Lord, they are heavy), but emotionally. Metaphorically. Strong, bold, big memories happen on or around couches. The first time I had a real conversation with the incredible girl that would become my incredible girlfriend, we were sitting on separate ends of her massive sectional. Our first kiss was on that sofa a few months later. When I had my tonsils out, I spent weeks on my parents’ three-cushion couch, eating popsicles and eggs (again with Abby, my incredible girlfriend). In college, my roommates and I squeezed onto our small, uncomfortable, Student Life-provided sofa and watched every season of MacGyver. One of my best friends from high school had a phone inside one of the armrests in his couch, but he never hooked it up. To this day, I wonder what it would be like to have a phone inside of an armrest…
With all of these (and more) great memories attached to this largely impractical, unwieldy piece of furniture, I would need to make a wise decision in purchasing my own. This is a place where new memories would be made. Guests would sit on it, maybe even sleep there. My girlfriend and I would watch movies and TV on it. I would read on it, write on it, and listen to records on it. The decision wasn’t easy, and, as is my nature, I’m going to write about this mundane task in excessively epic detail. Continue reading
I ran my thumb across the key’s jagged teeth. This was it. This little guy would open the wiggly locks and charmingly off-kilter doors to my first apartment. It was about time.
Last summer it became apparent to me that it was time to move out. I had done the sensible thing most (modern) college graduates did and lived with my parents. I fell into an easy routine commuting to the City of Pittsburgh, working hard, commuting home, doing stuff, etc. It was a lifestyle enjoyed by plenty of folks in the county–each morning flocks of Beaver County workers migrate to the big city, a routine so common that specific cars become familiar traveling partners. But there was something about that summer that snapped me out of it. Maybe it was the size of my parents’ den, where I did most of my after-hours writing and graphic design. The room was too small. My desk was too small. Maybe my responsibilities were too small. Maybe it was the apartment in Shadyside that my (then) friend allowed me to use for a month while she was away, giving me a taste of how great a short commute could be. Maybe it was something my uncle said to me about living in the city now, when I was young, rather than staying in the settled-down suburbs forever. Maybe it was all of that. Continue reading