514 8th Ave SE #1

I spent seven years and change (August 1996 - December 2003) living at 514, and it was a pretty good place as that sort of thing goes. It was never the nicest place to live, but my goal when I moved in there was to have a cheap place to live while I got my finances in order, and it served perfectly in that regard.

I had come back from Cupertino still in debt, due mostly to the high rent I was paying out there. The extra cost of rent more than offset the increase in wages I got while working at Apple, plus I had to buy a fair number of home-furnishings when I moved in. So when I got back home to Minnesota, I had a good number of credit cards that were either full-up or nearly so.

When I decided I was moving back to MN, I called my old landlord to see what he had available. He didn’t have anything, but his brother did, and that was 514. I rented the place and put down a deposit sight-unseen. I was moving back in August, and with school starting soon, I wanted to make sure I had a place to live and wasn’t trying to fight students for accomodations near the U.

The nice thing about the brothers who were my landlords was that they had a fairly simple rent policy. If you didn’t wreck the place, and stayed put, they wouldn’t raise the rent (in the ten years at 717, the rent actually went down between the time I moved in and moved out, as we’d decreased the occupancy from three guys to two – the landlord had raised the rent when one of the rooms was occupied by a couple and we had four people, so it only seemed fair to ask him to lower it when we went down to two people). So when I got in for $435 a month, I figured that might be a little high at the moment (it actually was, which was a welcome change from the $1250/month I’d been paying in CA), but since it probably wouldn’t change as long as I didn’t to move, it was acceptable.

It was an oddly-shaped one-bedroom apartment, laid out mostly in a straight line (the odd-shape came from things like one wall of the living room being a boarded-over fireplace), kitchen/dining room in front, then the living room in the middle, with the door to the apartment, and the bedroom in back, with the bathroom tucked on the side of that. The bathroom shared a wall with the neighbor’s bathroom, but that didn’t seem like it would be much of a problem, except for a warning from the couple next door that if I had loud sex, I should probably close the door between my bedroom and bathroom unless I wanted them listening in.

The upstairs neighbors apartment was laid out so that directly above my bedroom was another bedroom, so there wasn’t too much noise from that direction, either. I could hear foot-steps once in a while, and an occasional squeaking bed-spring some evenings, but most of the noise from above was in the kitchen and living-room so I didn’t worry too much about that.

After the first year, my neighbors across the hall moved out into a condo. And that’s when things began to slide. Louie moved in next door, with his pregnant girlfriend. I was hoping they’d be a quiet couple, but they fought like cats and dogs, often with the wife locking herself in the bathroom. This was a pattern that would be repeated with various of his girlfriends, and was probably my biggest single complaint about the house. Well, except for Louie’s habit of coming home drunk from the bar where he worked and cranking his stereo at 2 or 3 in the morning. And once he and his girlfriend has split, there was nothing holding him back except for me getting out of bed and going over to thump on his door and tell him to shut the fuck up. Or just call the cops.

My apartment was on the south side of the building, which I initially thought would be nice, as I’d get some sunshine to warm the place up in the winter, but I realized the flaw in that plan the first winter. There was a church next door which stood high enough that it completely blocked the sun in the winter, but let it shine right on the dark-colored shingles on the outside wall all summer long. It was the worst of both worlds for sunshine.

Between my place and the church was a driveway/alley. It was nice being able to park my car there sometimes, but it was a real hassle when I discovered that the alley was a frequent path for people walking home either from the bars or from parties in the neighborhood. The dark area behind the house was a perfect place for an impromptu urinal (right below my bathroom window, so I’d get some special aromas in the summer), and then the people would stagger down the driveway, right past the only windows in my bedroom.

Between the summer sunshine and the noise outside the window, I bought an air-conditioner as soon as I had to spend more time around the house as I started my own business. That had the effect of pretty effectively isolating me from the outside, and I didn’t open many of the windows between the time I got the A/C and when I moved out.

I mostly had a pretty good set of neighbors. There were the Babcock gals who lived upstairs that I really liked for a year, and there were Larry & Pamela and Orris across the street. I would sit on the front steps on nice evenings and chat with many of the folks from the neighborhood, and I liked that.

The location was also pretty good. It was on the side of the freeway farther from the U of MN, so the neighborhood was a little quieter than the place I’d been living at 717. And I was just about equidistant from the bars on East Hennepin and Dinkytown. I also had both Ralph & Jerry’s (RIP) and the 8th St. Market for convenience-food.

By January 1999, I’d managed to pay off all of my debts, and had just made the final payment on the last credit card with a balance. I was planning to start looking for a house to buy come spring, but WAM!NET laid off our entire group (all three of us), just days after I’d mailed that last payment. Since they gave me a pretty big severance package, and I already had DSL installed and working, plus had set up a usable home-office, I figured it was a good time to start my own business, and keeping the cheap rent gave me a lot of wiggle-room if I ran into tough times with the business. The plans to buy a house were on hold.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 13:47:51.