When you’re in your twenties, the places you live tend to be contingent upon low cost and little else. While I could summarize the growing disparity between the wages of Millennials and the growing cost of housing to illustrate this, it’s a bit too early to be despondently drinking bourbon with my coffee.
Instead, I’ll highlight this point with anecdotal stories, which are far funnier and easier to rationalize as outliers instead of the bleak reality of Anchorage housing.
While I was happy writing tales of my environmentally hazardous and insane experiences with UAA housing, a close friend was living a far worse reality. His first stab at independent living was a shoebox apartment in Spenard, which was partly subterranean and on good days smelled of bad soup. On bad days, there were stabbings in his parking lot and a couple of meth-cooking tweakers who had barricaded themselves in an apartment above him. Realizing his future didn’t include paying post-stabbing medical bills, he has since relocated to a renovated garage in Muldoon and is much happier.
Another friend had an amazing brand new apartment that unfortunately bordered an empty lot containing a decaying boat that housed at least two meth heads at one point. I couldn’t ask for a more fitting way to underscore the idea that housing options for my peers are treacherous at best.
Which brings me to my girlfriend’s apartment. As a disclaimer, as I’m sure they’ll be none too happy about my portrayal of their home, let me assure you that they’re all professional and ambitious people. Those coexisting in that building are pursuing a myriad of professions, from environmental advocacy, filmmaking, dentistry, and real estate to an odd assortment of art and small business. A better writer might highlight these ambitions and draw far reaching conclusions about the hope inspired by my generation. However, having never once called myself a great writer this column aims for lower hanging fruit.
From the inside, the place is quite nice for my peer group — hard wood floors, working heat, curtains on the windows, there’s even a shower with reasonable heat and water pressure. However, stepping out the front door is reminiscent of the scene in Beetlejuice when the ghosts attempt to leave the house only to be confronted with an apocalyptic wasteland (though it’s notably lacking the iconic sandworms).
The other day, I went out to my car only to hear a crowd of middle school age children chanting “fight” down the street. I later found out from another resident that he saw one of them brandishing a knife when he drove by. Last week, I turned into the neighborhood to see a pile of automotive glass that could have passed for debris from the shooting of Mad Max.
That’s not to mention the frequent car break-ins, the recent tire slashings and the less than peaceful ambiance of sirens singing. It’s actually become a weekly occurrence to see four or more police cars at one of the houses in the neighborhood and I’ve contemplated starting a betting pool to see who can guess the location of the next bust.
Then you’ve got the standard cast of colorful characters. There’s the creepy woman “fondly” referred to as “bag lady” who slowly shuffles up and down the hill in front of the window always carrying at least nine bags. Next door is the enormous woman who wanders out at odd times to chain smoke and angrily watch four Pomeranians relieve themselves on the lawn. Worst of all, the ragged man who decides to have some “personal time” with himself in plain view on the front porch while smoking a cigarette and propping his phone up to presumably watch something unspeakably depraved.
Inside the building is a safer, but no less of a hilarious situation. The kitchen sink often erupts a jet of water if the dishwasher is also running and no one has performed the sacrificial rites. The toilet occasionally uses scalding hot water that actually feels nice on a cold winter morning, but uncomfortably humid any other time of the year. Sometimes, the downstairs shower backs up with sewage from the building, prompting a bi-annual rapid evacuation.
The residents, though lovable, offer comedy in their own right. All the inhabitants work at the same restaurant, which contributes to the cult-like atmosphere of the residence. All internal doors are unlocked and it’s expected to come home to find another apartment’s residents in your own. There seems to be one vacuum that lives a nomadic lifestyle between the different apartments and dishes and game consoles tend to inspire frequent scavenger hunts.
Bottom line: on a good day, the apartment resembles the cluttered chaotic cover of an early 90’s skate-punk album.
There are those that would judge me for how I live during my college years. These people clearly have substantial financial help, or live in a different city or time period. For those of us stuck in the real world, this is the hysterical reality. Forget looking back in ten years, I’m laughing about this now.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I see someone moving in under my car.