Between two dumpsters

I lived like this before, but it was in China.

There, too, the noise was necessary, local industry going about its business for a worthy cause.

Here, owners are gutting the empty Roux restaurant, apparently for the next big thing. The restaurant, a wonderful and now sorely missed addition to downtown, borders the studio apartment where Karen and I live.

On the other side is the alley. A dumpster sits outside the west window, and a larger one, used by the Roux folks as they dismantle the restaurant, consumes a couple parking spots outside the south window—our picture window.

It’s all good. The noise is only for a short while. When we taught in rural Hunan Province in China a few years ago, there was a cement factory outside the classroom. That might sound ordinary enough, but there were no windows in our school building. We could see our breath when we talked and six layers of clothes didn’t keep us warm.

The noisy wall fixture providing heat conjures up our mountainside apartment in south central China’s Jishou. There, a water heater hung in the bathroom above standing water in the shower, but at least the water was hot, for ten minutes or so.

I’m not intending to diminish where we now live. When Karen and I accepted the Twiner-Herald jobs, we knew we wanted to live downtown. The gentrified Walker Street area sets Woodbine apart from so many other towns that don’t have the will or resources to make their downtowns livable like ours.

The really great news—in fact, stunning fact when we first learned it—is that there are 33 apartments in the two-block district, and every one of them is filled. That’s extraordinary.

We’re just not one of them. So we’re waiting our turn when one opens up.

It takes some imagination to live happily in the 275-square-foot studio. It’s not that big of a stretch to imagine we’re in an Old Market loft or even one in New York City. A juicy rationalization: a niece lives in a 300-square-foot loft in Manhattan she pays seven times as much as we do for our similarly-sized apartment.

To get in the mood, we hung a poster in the kitchen of a Bob Dylan performance in a Greenwich Village (New York) bar that adds some ambience.

The convenience of living around the corner from work is obvious. I can forget the phone and go home and get it in a New York minute. But we can also spend our days and nights in the office, which has been necessary so far.

“Journalism is a way of life, not a career,” a former publisher once said.

Karen and I were planning to downsize well before our return to Woodbine. So we’re traveling light, not wishing to rent or buy a house.

We like living downtown, the center of action for newspaper people. I walk to Foodland in my slippers. She drew the line at my wearing a bath robe to pick up the morning newspapers left on the steps down the block.

We’ve made one inquiry into an apartment elsewhere in town. The tenant of a lovely apartment is boxed up and ready to move when she gets a sign from above.

Karen and I joked that maybe we’re the sign she’s waiting for. And that might not have been a joke.