Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No. 743 – Empty Spaces / Young Lust

Performer: Pink Floyd
Songwriters: Roger Waters, David Gilmour
Original Release: The Wall
Year: 1979
Definitive Version: None

I had left the interview with a good feeling, but because the folks at the News-Dispatch hadn’t offered me the job right away, I moved home with a certain amount of uncertainty about my future. Plan A was I would start my new career as associate editor of Harbor Country News. There was no Plan B.

Fortunately, I had a load of Christmas activities to take my mind off my job predicament for a while. It would be the first Christmas since 1981 where I wouldn’t be with Beth, but I had already moved on through Jessica, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And just when it was time to start thinking about my future, I got the call: The job was mine if I wanted it. Umm, yeah, OK, I guess.

My first order of business after doing a silent yes-yes dance while on the phone of course was finding a place to live. Although the News-Dispatch was in Michigan City, they wanted me to live in Harbor Country, which is the southwest corner of Berrien County. They wanted the person who was more or running the newspaper to live in the area. Why not? I’m 23; it’s not as though I have a lot of choice anyway.

They had a lead on an apartment for me in New Buffalo, which was both right on the Indiana border and on Lake Michigan. As soon as I got off the phone with them, I called to make an appointment to see it. The next day I was driving to New Buffalo, a town I’d never been in before.

The sky was purple blue black from the setting sun by the time I made it to New Buffalo, and my first impression of the town as I drove in from the south was that it looked like a Michigan lake town with about 3 feet of snow on the ground.

I’m sure I had seen that much snow at Torch Lake before, but it wasn’t like anything I’d seen in a long time. The plow piles were almost to the rooftops of one-story buildings. But then when you can see Lake Michigan yawning wide and frozen less than a quarter-mile from the main intersection in town, what would you expect in January? They call it lake-effect snow for a reason.

The air was as cold as a bee sting when I pulled up in front of a large two-story red-brick building smack in the middle of the Whittaker Street “downtown” area. My contact was a woman who was the namesake of the jewelry and gifts store on the first floor of that building, Lyssa.

The apartment for rent was in fact upstairs, and I liked the location right away. I had heard that the Harbor Country office of my weekly would move to a downstairs office in the back of the building, so in addition to being in the middle of town, it would be right above where I’d be working.

The apartment had a separate entrance next to the front of the store and there were actually two apartments on the second floor. The one in the back was spoken for; the open one was in the front. It was a refinished one-bedroom apartment with a great room that had a living area and a massive kitchen, into which the door at the top of the stairs led. It had a pantry, a coat closet and a bathroom.

The bedroom was large enough to fit a single bed and that’s about it, and the bathroom didn’t have a shower, just a bathtub. But the rent was $300 per month and all utilities were paid. And it was warm. I was driving home that night, so I didn’t have a lot of time to waste. Besides, where else was I going to find an apartment in the dead of winter in this town? I took it.

I had to drive to her home to sign a lease, and the two things I remember about that was that it was pitch black by the time I reached it, and the house—a huge house—seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere. I signed the lease and turned over a security deposit and was soon on my way to complete my windsprint round trip.

At the time I was so excited by the sudden turn of events that I didn’t even contemplate an important logistical issue—how the heck I was going to move my furniture and get my car up there? And the whole time this was going on, I had this song running through my head in an endless loop. The move? I’ll figure that out. But will I find a dirty woman to show this stranger around? That was the real question.

(To be continued)

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