Thursday, January 31, 2013

This is what it means to say I'm getting by

I would like the world to know that I live in a shitty apartment. It's probably the worst apartment in this entire watery scandinavian neighborhood. The other day my roommate broke down the door to the downstairs laundry room because it had rusted shut. She's got a good strong arm.

My cousin told me that some people pretend to live above their means and that it was very good that I live squarely within mine, even if there is no bath tub. Even if the place should actually be condemned. We wonder sometimes if maybe the management would rather see it burn down and that's why the furnace is so over enthusiastic and rattly. I bought renter's insurance the day I moved in.

Downstairs lives a cigarette smoking, thirty-something hero from Nebraska. He was in charge of the entire democratic campaign for the state of Washington, he has gay marriage and legalized pot to his name. I think about this when he plays awful music in the morning and it reverberates into my bedroom; I remind myself about his accomplishments, and decide I don't need to complain.

I met a boy two weeks ago who plays hockey. He was funny and I asked him on a date. He said yes and then he got mono. He got mono the very next day.

The apartment has its own charm. Somewhere. I haven't found it yet, but it's there. My roommate is an artist, she's hung art all over the walls. She put two pictures of sailors, a mate and a midshipman, over the sink, that I particularly like. There is a joyous squirrel who resides in the walls and scurries around all of the time, doing his busy squirrel things. We see him outside, chewing on a nut and jumping all over the roof. He's the wildest guy. We're not hostile towards him even though the sound of his little claws scratching within the insulation can be unnerving.

Three weeks ago my banker sweet-talked me into switching checking accounts. He said it made the most sense for my needs, and then he made a big mistake and linked all the new cards to the old account. That night I went to dinner with my ex boyfriend, and I wasn't coming off as very cool or collected, and then, just to drive the point home, my card was declined. "Not enough funds perhaps?" asked my ex boyfriend while I twitched at the unfairness of it all.

The next day the banker put on his sympathetic and apologetic smile, very similar to the one worn by the waitress who took my tearful order the night before. "I hope this didn't cause you too much trouble!" said the banker, voice booming. He was cheerful, a real guy's guy with a thick wedding band and a terrible watch.

"No trouble," I said, "Only deep seated humiliation." And then I made him sit through the whole story, the dinner and why we were at the dinner, and how it ended, and how I felt about it all. That was his punishment for the part he played in the bank's causing me to appear less than put together, as if drinking my dinner and hiding behind my hair like a middle schooler hadn't already given it away.

The shitty apartment has its perks. When the guy from Nebraska is out hanging with the president (literally) I can play loud 90s music with no regard for the well being of the rest of the world. 90s music, it's really speaking to me right now. Sonny's come home many times in the last month. Today's top hits are a little too spunky for me these days. Sometimes I'll fall lightly asleep in the middle of the day and hope that by the time I wake up this country's obsession with Adam Levine will be over.

The walls in the apartment are the color of a bandaid, honestly, sort of a tan fabric-y skin color. But there is a pantry- a whole room for food!- and just in general, things are looking up. I went to a party the other night and looked great, by my standards. I even pulled off the eye liner. I met a cinematographer who was slight in build but very handsome and accomplished and he took down my number. That was many days ago.

The apartment is covered in a beige carpet, everywhere except the kitchen. It looks terrible but it's quite soft under the feet. My roommate comes home from work, dressed in all black down to the underwear, and we sit on the carpet three inches from the furnace. I read an article that says that sex and alcohol make you happier than religion. "Well," I say, "there will always be alcohol." Once I army-crawled from my bedroom to the kitchen and retrieved a beer out of the fridge on my stomach because I found it really funny.

I wish that the tall man in the down jacket had been looking at me in the coffee shop, and not the girl in the crisp white blouse sitting behind me.

I've never once, not one time in my life, gotten away with wearing a crisp white anything. It's always stained before I even leave the house, and I use the passive tense because I don't cause the stain, it just happens. I went on a date the other night and I wore a long green sweater. It was great, lose, it made me appear bony, and I'm not bony. I stained the sweater and the most baffling part was, I didn't even eat anything on the date. Therefore I can't fathom the origin of the stain which looked like balsamic. The poor guy, he ordered dinner but I just drank a beer. And when he (eventually) asked me a question about myself I said, "Oh me? I think I'm depressed."

I'm not depressed at all. But I was a little depressed at the time because I didn't want to be on the date. Unfortunately I think he found my forthrightness (or maybe my boniness) intriguing and after he finished his dinner he ordered another drink.

We only signed a six month lease on the apartment because it's going to be destroyed after we leave, and a condo built in its place. That really made me question the pet deposit. I will miss the kitchen though. The kitchen is tiled and spacious, a real selling point. It's a good place to cook soup and to make breakfast at six in the morning before dashing off to the ski hill. In the evenings I like to fix a drink, open Facebook and spend an hour or so comparing what people have accomplished in their entire lives to what I've accomplished in the last 24 hours. I never measure up well. So many people and their fiances and back country ski trips that are way better than mine. And the houses! Was I supposed to be saving money this whole time so I too could be captioning my photos with things like 'it's a fixer upper for sure but we loooove the wood floors!" I just charged my coffee to a credit card; somebody please explain this gap.

The location of our apartment just can't be beat. There is a fruit stand a few blocks away called Top Banana. We always have bowls and bowls of fruit that we liquify and drink with gusto. We are bizarrely healthy. I can walk everywhere, to the dark cafe where all the writers go and talk loudly about our unreasonably demanding agents (we don't really have agents). I walk to the funky gym inside the old hotel, the nice grocery store, the bar with pin ball machines, the pizza place and the pet store that's managed by a semi-famous poet. I love our neighborhood. I never drive anywhere.

I finally got my bicycle back from my ex boyfriend, after the dinner where the card was declined. We bolted the bicycle to the back porch but if anyone wanted the bicycle they could take down the back porch with a nail file. We don't hang out on the porch, it wobbles. My first night in the place I opened three windows, and all the locks peeled off in my hands. Just like that.

I want the world to know that even though the apartment is shitty, it doesn't mean we're unhappy living here. In fact I'd like to be the spokesperson for those of us nearing 30 and still living in bland places with tacky carpeting. I'd make a good candidate for this job because my life is lucky and wonderful, just not from an observer on the street. We're pretty broke but we're getting by, and we have a lot of good friends and a few side projects which might turn us into big stars one day. We might be kind of quiet about where we live, or other certain parts of our lives, but it's not because we're ashamed. It's because we're probably focused on other things right now.

The walls in my apartment are dreadfully textured and half the outlets don't work, but if I could change anything about my life, it would have nothing to do with where I lived. I might change the minds of the editors at the big magazines, or at least speed up their response times. I'd change the numbers in my bank account so that I could afford a new camera before I die. While I'm at it, I'd shorten the recovery time for mono by five months and make my hair behave at all times, especially at night, especially when I bump into the cinematographer at the grocery store wearing that stupid sweatshirt which hides my nicely sculpted shoulders.

And I'd like the cinematographer to call me, although something tells me he never will.  I can't understand that for one second, because honestly if I met myself at a party, I'd call. I'd call right away, I wouldn't even play the game.


Anonymous said...

If I were a young single guy, I'd call you too. Love your writing, especially the part about the banker with the thick gold ring and the terrible watch. I can just see him! And the part about the pet deposit in an apartment that comes with a squirrel in the wall.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading you for a while (I think I even back-read to the beginning at one point last year), and this, of all of your honest, expressive, evocative posts, is the best yet.

Anonymous said...

It's funny you mention 90's music. For some reason when I read your blog it makes me think of the Belly album "Star."

Maggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie said...

This is my favorite. I love Ballard.

And I would totally question the pet deposit, too.

lecinda @ bohemian beautiful said...

i love this! what a crappy banker btw!!

Rachel said...

My goodness. There is something terribly unfair about the inverse relationship between having a good time and doing good writing. You write very, very well about having a crap time. Thankyou for sharing your amazing talent so generously.

Rachel said...

My goodness. There's something terribly unfair about the inverse relationship between having a good time and good writing. You write really, really well about having a crap time. Thankyou for your generosity in sharing your writing talents, which are clearly sometimes painful to possess, but awesome nonetheless.

SmithShack71 said...

"The shitty apartment has perks"... I had a major dejavu on that whole paragraph. That was weird.
I'm 41 and broke as hell. I just wrote a check, to keep the electricity, out of a bank account that is already over $200 in the red.
I don't even know.


Kelsie said...

These experiences that you write about make you as rich as gold.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog recently through Dig and I've slowly been picking away through old posts. This is one of the best. Fantastic writing.

Troglodyteking said...

Nothing particularly useful to say, but am pleased by your post.

I don't even have very much alcohol in my life! Drat my too-sober friends. I should definitely resurrect the cocktail night.

Britta said...

I don't know if I've ever commented before but I loved this post and your writing style in it. My favorite so far.

The pet deposit is totally unfair in your case. Totally.

Tonya said...

I recently found you through Dig This Chick. Just wanted to say I love your writing. My life is so different from yours, I'm 41 and a stay at home mom, but somehow I really relate to you!

Michelle said...

Love this post. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Nothing better than direct and honest. Well done! BTW, guys are mostly stupid and that's why they don't are probably too real for them and they'd rather have someone blowing smoke up their asses. Just saying.

Melina said...


this is my favorite kind of comment, thank you for sharing.

more alike than different, it's true so much of the time...

Melina said...

@rachel. you must be a writer. you seem to 'get it'.

Melina said...

@maggie, are you local???

Melina said...

@britta. thank you for reading, and for introducing yourself finally on this one ;) I'm glad you loved this post, I really liked how it turned out, even if living some of it was less than ideal.

much love!


Melina said...


You are welcome. I'm so glad you're reading.


Melina said...

lecinda, yes. I'd agree. very friendly though. sigh.

Melina said...

Angie, you got this. I got this. We all got this, even when it's hard. You can do it.

so can i.

Melina said...


you're right, i didn't even think about the hypocrisy of the rodent infested pet deposit!


Melina said...

@trog. yes. more fancy drinks the better!

dig this chick said...


I am so thankful I clicked into your blog just before bed. This dry, sassy post was just what I needed after trying on 76 items in a poorly lit department store on a day I feel all mushy and tired.

I love your descriptions of people. Very thoughtful and vivid. I laughed at your mention of comparing someone's entire life to your last 24 hours via facebook and, especially your asking someone to explain the gap. Funny stuff.

Sweet dreams, friend. I think I'll army crawl to bed now. :)

Melina said...

@dig. oh hi! 76 items? really? you're a hero. or a model? a model hero. and you can write. oooh.


Brandi Shope said...

Oh 90's music!!! You need to make sure you have some Alanis Morissette in your play list.
Loved this post, though that feels almost wrong with some of the content. ;)
I love the blogger world. Getting a glimpse at someone's life, through their words and pictures, can invoke all sorts of thoughts and can inspire on so many levels!

Melina said...


the blog world is kinda cool, right? it's strange for sure, but it's a new phenomenon and I don't think it's going anywhere....we're here to stay!

90's awesomely produced and dramatic, gotta love it.


Lisa McP said...

You are a talented writer! How do you stop yourself from posting it before it is edited perfectly? I moved away from home and so I write a blog to keep in touch with my American friends/family- and I find I'm always so eager to hit publish when I have a good story/adventure to tell!!

I've sent this particular post on to one of my girlfriends who is going through some things similar to your life lately. I think your writing would be healing to her, via the power of simply relating to you. I relate to you in so many ways too- we all must, us readers, I suppose that's one reason we keep coming back.


Melina said...


and that, right there is what it's all about. that's why I write this thing in the first place. so we can share it and relate and maybe feel a little better....or share it and relate and feel even better cause we're already doing so well. Thank you. Thank you! and i'd love to hear from your sweet friend.


Daniegirl said...

As a 35 year old living in a shitty apt with my three kids and husband so he can go to school to become a teacher I have to say, thanks for writing this.

I have been making myself cross living here but the truth is, we are focused on other things.

Like spending time with our kids, making sure they are in a good school, and making the world a better place.

I sort of love you after this post. :)

Daniegirl said...

As a 35 year old living in a shitty apt with my three kids and husband so he can go to school to become a teacher I have to say, thanks for writing this.

I have been making myself cross living here but the truth is, we are focused on other things.

Like spending time with our kids, making sure they are in a good school, and making the world a better place.

I sort of love you after this post. :)

Melina said...




The world Is a better place because of you.

Your comment makes me love YOU a little. I hope you come back and read more!!


Karen said...

All of our individual lives are just that so I am not comparing specifically- I haven't even been out of the USA yet- but your descriptions make me nostalgic for my late twenties and earliest thirties before I did 'settle down'. From 24 to 32 I lived in a falling down house near the beach and then moved to a place totally differently from where and how I grew up, just little idiosyncratic apartments. Eventually I wanted a house in a permanent place, but man those were wonderful years.

Melina said...


That's the thing....they are wonderful years. they are funny and quirky and light hearted in a lot of ways. my roommate and i spend half our lives these days laughing on the living room floor about how ridiculous it can all be. we aren't bored. we're trying really hard. it's kind of awesome.

thank you for the reminder.


Sarah said...

I loved this one Lina....loved that I felt like I was sitting on the floor next to you, and we were having one of those random conversations that are so unimportant, but at the same time still mean SO much! My best friend and I have had those exact conversations before, and they're the ones we remember! xoxo!

Elissa said...

I love that you punished the banker by making him sit through your long woeful story. And I love that he had no option but to sit there politely and listen

The Macons said...

I like this post a lot.

dogmother said...

Lina...been awhile since I've checked in!
Now, I shouldn't that I'd have to say it, but you both know I have reasonably clean bathtub (maybe not by Colleen's standards) that you are welcome to soak in anytime (the bath salts are in the white cabinet next to the tub).
What's the good in being an aunt if I can't spoil my girls now and then???

Melina said...


that's perfect, because that's how i want this blog to feel- not below, not above, not reallly far sideways, but right next to you on the kitchen floor, maybe with a mason jar of cheap red wine....maybe way too late at night.


Melina said...


thank you. it means a lot to hear that, because directly after i posted it i went crazy for about 15 minutes or so. i'm not kidding. it was exhausting.


Melina said...


Colleen and I talked tonight while i schooled her at skeet ball at our local bar. we're coming over to soak in your tub. it's spa night at AD's house!

da niece

Melina said...


is that you?????

shari said...

so genuine... so very funny!
you're a delight!

Anonymous said...

I just found this post, and I love it!

COUNT ME IN to that club - I'm 26, live in a really shitty one room apartment & have no idea when I'll see a 'real' paycheck. I live in a foreign country where I know maybe 5 people.

.. I guess it's all in the name of life experience? It'll make us older & wiser?

- Kay

Julia said...

Hey Lina, it's Julia. This makes me want to be your roommate (again)! Thanks for the lunch time pick-me-up.