Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Memorial for 3383 Parkview.

The act of writing my post yesterday brought back a wave of memories from over a decade ago. After graduating with a B.S. in the early 90's, I had decided that staying in school for a master's degree made more sense than trying to enter the world of work. I had recently met a new group of people with whom I felt particularly simpatico, and we all decided to rent a house on the periphery of the university district. It was on a residential street bordering a large city park, and on the edge of the 'hood. On the day we moved our stuff into the place several of the neighbors came up to introduce themselves. They seemed happy to welcome us to a neighborhood that had been deteriorating for over a decade. If they had known us better, it's a safe bet that they would not have been so warm and inviting.

There were six of us moving into what was essentially a three-bedroom row-house. Five of my roommates were in the philosophy department, and the last was an anthropology major. I was the only one who had completed an undergraduate degree on schedule. Our common thread was S., a petite dark-haired girl with a raspy voice who seemed to choose only men for friends. She had her own room until she hooked up with one, and then another of my housemates. T. lived in the basement. He was a diminutive guy with his own drum kit. T. would eventually share a bed with S. On the ground floor, where the living room should have been, slept P. He was a scabrously funny critic of everything and everyone. P. would only remain for a couple of months, due to the love triangle he was embroiled in with S. and T. Finally, C. and M. shared a room next to my single. Theirs was a natural pairing, as they were the closest of friends until they managed to wind up as two sides of a second love triangle involving the house.

Just like everyone else, it was through S. that I found myself cohabitating with this odd bunch. We all met the summer before moving into 3383, and found common interests in music and aesthetics. It was quickly decided that we were individual pieces constituting a complete puzzle. We were basically inseparable for several months. We saw Pavement, Jesus Lizard, Helmet and other indie and post-punk bands together. We stopped in to see each other at work. We ate meals at home, lounging around the mismatched furniture of the increasingly grubby living room. Our entertainment was a revolving playlist of Saturday Night Fever, Joy Division, the Velvet Underground, Goodfellas and Iggy Pop. More than anything else we drank and laughed a lot. Whenever we went out to a bar or party, we did so in unison. It was always as if we owned the place, mere minutes after entering. There was a ring of hanger-ons, constantly trying to get in on our action. But those people remained more like allies than friends... sort of like an extended family.

Because we were so open and honest with each other, and due to the intense intimacy that close quarters fostered- conflict was inevitable. It was as if the ordinary borders between people had been breached, and we melded into one another. Someone made the effort to brand us, and we referred to ourselves as "the scumbags". That had everything to do with the contempt we displayed for anyone we didn't perceive as part of our circle. More than from any real set of shared values, we bonded by defining ourselves as apart from (and often beyond) the external world. The presence of an outsider was only really accepted through consensus, and several of us were excessively protective of our collective. There were many occasions where we found ourselves sticking up for one or another "scumbag" who had provoked a fistfight or outright brawl. We always came out on top.

Our lifestyle at 3383 was so intensely vibrant that it was a wonder that we kept it going as long as we did. After a time the fissures between us began to widen. The messy and interweaving sexual interactions that everyone (but me) engaged in took their toll. It wasn't long before accusations of betrayal were being bandied about. I started spending more and more time away from the house with my girlfriend, who lived on campus. I'd come home to complete mayhem, or its aftermath. One day I returned to find my housemates pushing a player piano down a steep wooded hill. Another time I was greeted by an acid-addled P. carrying my cat to the nearby bridge, ready to toss her off because no one other than he loved her. It was increasingly maddening trying to complete my first year of post-grad studies with that level of noise. I would role play "the scumbags" in my group counseling class. Ultimately I joined the exodus out of 3383, leaving only S. and M. to deal with a storm that caved in the roof.

Despite the drama that concluded our experiences at 3383, and ended many of the friendships between the housemates, I maintained close relations with several of "the scumbags" over time. Years after the fact a few of us would get together and talk about a grand reunion, but we were never able to make that happen. Still for a brief time we had lived among a family of our own making, and I would take the lessons I had learned from that time and apply them to future households. Meanwhile, for the people who were involved, the numbers "3383" serve as a portal to an unforgettable period of our lives.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would be a great vehicle for a book. Your parents generation really is curious about what you are doing with what you got.

2:43 AM  

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