I just moved into a new apartment in Portland, my 7th home in 3 years. But, this place is different than the others; an old brick apartment building from the 1920’s above a row of boutique businesses. The coffee shop downstairs is patronized by a mix of yupi business types and junkies left over from the night before. Across the street is one of the top rated and equally expensive French restaurants in the city while a block away is a long established strip club. There is also a drug treatment center around the corner that keeps the flow of interesting people coming and going. The neighborhood is clearly in transition as am I, so I think we are getting along. While I have no garden, no neighborhood park, and no front porch in which to drink wine and watch the world pass by, I like it here. I like it despite the hallway carpets that smell of cat piss and 90 year old poorly aged musk. I like it despite the rowdy bars across the street that serve stiff drinks ’til late and seem to leave people in a state where smashing bottles and getting rowdy is the only option once they leave.
In truth, it is nothing like where I dream about living, although when I was young I had always romanticized this kind of existence. But, up until now I have been living a very different life. A life of lush trees, communal dinners and backyard fires. I have been seeking community and fresh, locally grown produce. The idea of living in an apartment never appealed to me because it felt lonely and isolating. I felt like living in a building of people that were not intentionally choosing to live together and shared no communal space would somehow be buying into the myth of societal separation. But, despite all this I am trilled to be living here. I have always had a tenuous relationship with this bubble of a city and I am now thinking that maybe I have been living a life that I thought I wanted, but never quite fulfilled me. Here in this apartment I have no exceptions of what my living situation “should” be. It’s just a place to live, sleep, cook, and relax. It’s a dive, so everything that is nice is just a pleasant bonus.
But, really the best part about my new home is the world map shower curtain that surounds the claw foot bathtub. Because while I am living in one place at the moment, I am always dreaming of my next adventure and this shower curtain serves as the perfect aid to my morning daydreams. I picture crossing the Atlantic by sea, the waves rocking our boat to sleep as the vast space of the ocean is lowly passed over. I imagine journeying the trans-mongolian railway as we enter the Gobi Desert, watching the early morning sunbeams illuminate the desolate landscape stretching out as far as can been seen. I picture cycling through Europe and walking an ancient pilgrimage trail, following in the footsteps of thousands of people crossing the planet slowly and intentionally. And I can smell and taste the unknown and I find comfort in getting lost along the way. I can feel the vastness of the world and also understand it’s ultimate interconnectedness that makes it that much more appealing to explore.
I think that maybe in living here I am learning that comfort in my home is not what I am looking for. I may love living in community and having a park to explore and having a garden in the backyard but ultimately I’d rather live in a place that gets me excited to keep moving, to keep exploring and that keeps me dreaming about the next adventure.