November 10, 2002

A Place to Call Home,

A Place to Call Home, Sort Of

Since I began college in 1993, and in the years following, I've called a total of six different places "home."

Although I'm not a huge fan of uprooting myself and moving to a new apartment or house every year or so, I have resigned myself to the fact that, as a young man trying to
find his niche, I'm destined to shuffle around nomadically for an indefinite stretch of time.

I've learned some very enduring lessons as a result of living in six different places with ten different roommates over a span of only about nine years. The biggest
lesson, I've leaned again and again, is that no place is perfect.

My first year of college at Winona State University saw me living in a former nun's quarters (and, no, I'm not kidding). Lourdes Hall, a recent WSU acquisition, was a
sprawling expanse about a mile or so off campus that was the site of the former College of St. Theresa. Anyway, the building I was assigned to (or imprisoned in) was, according to campus legend, a former nun's quarters. It wasn't hard to believe either. In addition to a concrete floor, concrete walls, a fifteen foot-high concrete ceiling and a steel door that went "clang" when it closed, the room also had an old-fashioned steam grate heater that got so hot that, come winter, it melted my shoes from two feet away.

I did what I could to make my first college room seem non-nunnish, but I just couldn't mask the room's convent appeal. No matter how many Budweiser and "girlie"
posters I put up, I still felt as if I had to kneel and ask forgiveness after every exam that I cheated on or woman I messed around with.

The only entertaining aspect of the room was that I had access to the hot and cold water shut off valves to my wing's bathroom facility. Whenever my neighbors, with
whom I carried on an escalating year-long war, used the shower, I would delight in denying them access to either cold or hot water, depending on my mood. You could hear them screaming practically all the way down the hall when their once-relaxing shower became an inferno, or a cryogenic chamber, all according to my whim.

In the two years following my stint as a male nun, I settled in a fairly nice house, which I shared with a former high school classmate, Troy, and a devil-may-care comedian, Luke. The building's owner, Kevin, also lived in the house and, for the most part, except for the fact there was only one bathroom, it was a pretty pleasant stay.

Eventually, Luke moved out and, after about one week of cleaning up used condoms, and an additional week of airing it out, I moved into his room. It was an ideal situation for two full years, until Kevin decided to get married and we had to leave. Troy and I understood. If there's one thing about married life I've noticed, it's that people don't want two strangers living in the same house.

Troy and I set out on the difficult task of finding a new apartment, and we quickly hooked up with three other acquaintances who were doing the same. When we heard
there was a house for rent for five people, we jumped at the opportunity. After all, it was an entire house with five bedrooms; it had to be simply glorious. As it turned out, that house was, quite possibly, the biggest dump in the entire city of Winona that had not quite yet reached "condemned" status.

When I pulled up to that house for the first time, I was struck by its unique porch. Literally, a small board fell from the roof and struck me in the forehead. In addition to
the rotted middle porch support which rested on rotted porch boards, there was a pair of rotted couches sitting outside, for no particular reason except that they smelled really, really bad.

The inside of the house was, thankfully, much better than the porch indicated. For one thing, the five couches that sat in the huge living room didn't smell nearly as bad as the two on the porch.

Why so many couches? One thing about having five roommates is that everyone has a couch or two they can't bear to part with. If there was one good thing about that dilapidated monstrosity called a house, it was that I was never hurting for somewhere to sit.

Of course, I ended up in the smallest room in the house. My room was so small, it didn't even have it's own closet. Rather, my closet was out in the hall, an unfortunate placement because, since our house was a well-known party shack, my clothes were regularly barfed on by party-goers who couldn't find the bathroom.

Our house was eventually dubbed the "Shark Shack," so named for the plastic life-sized hammer-head shark we mounted on the wall. Despite, the grungy carpet, dirt-streaked walls, filthy ceiling and overall mangled structure, the "Shark Shack" was, without a doubt, the most care-free and fun place I lived throughout my college days. It was amazing how much fun I had living in a house that could only be described as "disgusting."

I've lived in three other places since leaving the "Shark Shack," and I'm sure I'll have just as many, if not more, places I'll call home in the future. But, I've learned a lot from the places I've lived and from the people I've lived with.

I know, for example, that I never want to be a nun, and I'm no longer afraid of sharks. I've also learned that you can never have too many couches.

Posted by Ryan at November 10, 2002 06:31 PM
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