All moved into the new place. We go down en masse to sign the lease formally tomorrow morning. The room is tiny and the view profoundly uninspiring, but there is much to like about the apartment as a whole. It's another one of those converted Edwardian houses I've decided I really love. Plaster walls, wood floors (planks, not laminate; they're laid in a herringbone miter pattern in the corners), strange projections and edges where former fireplace voids have been filled with modern conduits and plumbing. The floor plan is an odd shape; the kitchen has some unexpected pop-outs in the walls, one of them coming through casing on what obviously used to be a doorway, where a closet has been added ex post facto to what is now one of the bedrooms.

The interior has signs of wear, but also signs that the owner and tenants care about the place. The walls are mainly not white, and have been painted over repairs that are just visible in low-angle light. There's a linen cabinet, a half-wall, a window, and a very large framed mirror, cleverly positioned in an intimate little bathroom. No dishwasher, but the kitchen is not a galley, and has loads of cabinets and shelving. There are a few careful spackle patches in the foyer, from where people have run furniture into the walls trying to get it up the typically twisty New England stairs, but someone took the time to finish the underside with curved wallboard, and there's a cranked skylight in the interior slope of the roof.

The roommate who's been here for two years already says that there's a young family downstairs, and some random dudes upstairs. He knows them by sight, but nobody in the building is besties, which is pretty much where I want to be -- a place where you can knock on the door to ask whether they mind if you had a party this weekend, but not where people are going to want to be clattering around in your kitchen because they were home and they were bored. 

The neighborhood as a whole is one where I'd be comfortable walking home from the T late at night. It's surprisingly quiet despite being right off Broadway, which is one of the main thoroughfares in Somerville. I was out here looking at the place around dusk, and there were a lot of shops still open, and people lounging out on front stoops, and couples with small exuberant children making their way to the nearest Dunkin Donuts, which I figured was a good sign. None of the children were being screamed at, and none of them needed to be. Most of the young people I saw were carrying backpacks or messenger bags, i.e., probably students or recently graduated. I dunno if anyone really does "landscaping" out here, considering that green stuff grows randomly everywhere whether you want it there or not, but the yards look tended, and people have obviously been trimming obstructive branches away from power lines and so forth.

There's a lot of stuff in Spanish, sometimes Portuguese, in the windows of the businesses on the main drag. I don't know how the locals feel about this; I know in Arizona, which is much more blatant with its institutionalized racism, people would be telling me, the extremely WASPy suburban girl, to stay the hell out of places where the signs aren't in English. (I grew up in an area that was probably 50% Hispanic by volume, and the first time I ever encountered a bank teller named Juan -- like in dress shirt and tie and handling money and all -- was in Harvard Square.) Never having lived in a serious city before, it did take me a while to learn how to assess whether I ought to be walking around by myself in particular places, but I'm not a complete twit -- I know it's not a good idea to roam Chinatown by myself at one in the morning, thank you, I can guess where the red-light district is. I do remember taking the T somewhere not long after I moved here, and being impressed and relieved to note that the white people on the train were not all clumping together and eyeballing everyone else with poorly-concealed terror. 

(Somerville does have a wrong side of the tracks, and I was out there looking at another place. The line was alarmingly sharp. One side of Union Square, it looked like Somerville -- weathered and eclectic, but a generally well-kept old little town. Past Union Square, on the south side of Somerville Ave, it got immediately and startlingly sketchy. Nothing tendable in the yard, no one was bothering to paint the siding, nobody chilling outside the houses, no parents with strollers. All the empty, unwatched space made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Repairs to the specific house I was looking at were going very obviously undone, and the people in the building seemed to rather aggressively avoid knowing anyone else in the place. The landlord was vehemently anti-rat, but I was vehemently anti-ceiling-falling-in-on-my-head, which it looked like it might do, so I think it evened out.)

I had my choice of two bedrooms, since I got here first, and stereotypically enough, I picked the one with the bigger closet. It's got my luggage in it right now (including the rat, who's in there because he was freaking out, and that's the darkest, quietest corner of the room) but it's just about got the measurements of a full-size mattress. The floor is dropped a good eight inches. Or, to be more accurate, the floors in the rest of the apartment have been raised to install steam heat and baseboard radiators. I'm seriously considering jamming the futon down in there, and just nesting in the closet. If I drop $30-50 on some garment racks and cheap shelves, I could set the main chamber up as a little boudoir


  1. That is an extremely deep closet for such an old house -- mostly they are much shallower, sometimes too shallow for coathangers. You are lucky.

    People do landscape around here. Yes, the landscape is naturally green, but if you don't do anything, the plant selection will range from random not-particularly-pretty plants to actively obnoxious things like poison ivy and spiny pigweed. Plus, if you leave the land to its own devices, it reverts to forest. So you have to do something if you want anything gardenlike or lawn-ish.

    Camberville is particularly rich in creative and determined gardeners. Not so many four-foot-by-six-foot lawns, such as you get in other towns. Lots of flower gardens, formal gardens, the occasional patch of sunflowers or sweet-corn, four feet by six feet but six feet tall and trying hard.

    1. I expect the closet either used to be much shallower, or this was a room that had no closets at all; the interior walls at this end of the apartment have obviously been rearranged, probably when the underfloor stuff was put in. There's an odd pop-out panel on the adjoining wall that suggests there's piping or conduit behind it, and another bedroom next to mine whose closet indubitably takes up the rest of the void.

      I'm also in a wing with no street-ward facing windows. Since the street has obviously been there for a very, very long time, and having no windows on a front wall would have been rather strange for a house built in 1900, I think I'm probably in a later extension, possibly one that dates from when the electrics and telephone wires were run. As is usual with these places, they come straight into my corner of the second floor, but they don't come directly in through the wall or the window opening -- there are proper outlets.

  2. We used to live in east Somerville, just off Broadway, on a little one-block-long street that paralleled Broadway and was essentially just behind a pair of Costa Rican restaurants. It was a great neighborhood, and though it got a little sketchy briefly ca 2001-2002, I've heard it improved. The walk to Sullivan Square was very short and we could always get to the Home Despot. I kind of miss it, though there are advantages to owning a house, even in central Massachusetts.

    I'm glad you found some place and it sounds solid. (I heard about your dilemma from a friend, who'd heard from a friend.)

  3. Hope the lease signing went as planned.

    1. Fourth roommate dropped out. Almost everyone else skedaddled after we were told that no one could sign anything until after Labor Day weekend was over -- they needed to find a place to move IMMEDIATELY. As did I, I was apparently just more pathetic and willing to gamble that the landlady would not suddenly be insane and refuse to let anyone sign. There's another one coming to see the room tomorrow. Hopefully she's also not an axe murderer, and pays her bills.


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