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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writing Prompt 4/21/10: Home Sweet Home

By Marilyn Friedman

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Writing Prompt: Make a list of 5 places that you have lived. Pick one and add at least one sensory detail to it (smell, taste, sound, touch, sight). Then write about it for ten minutes and post the results in the comments of this blog.

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13 comments:

Writing Pad said...

When I was 21, I moved to the dirty spot between the thumb and the forefinger on the state that looks like a mitten: Lansing, Michigan. In my first apartment, just about everything I owned was a hand me down from my parent’s house: the ugly teardrop porcelain lamps that had sandpapery flowers on them, the corduroy brown sofabed from our rec room, the brown patchwork faux formica kitchen table. I even slept in my twin bed from childhood.

I was a resident of the neighborhood called limbo where only confuddled 20 year olds live. You could hear the highway whooshing past my bedroom and living room windows.

I was an arrogant, idealistic, small breasted, big butted, bubbly, giant eyed Jewish girl. I was determined to make it out there in that big world--do something meaningful AND make money. Fuck my parents! Fuck my teachers and the naysayers and the playah haters! I was going to prove them all wrong.

laurenne said...

Hi Marilyn! This is totally cheating, but I just wrote about my favorite place to live, Venice: http://bit.ly/bu1BA3

laurenne said...

PS Ain't nothin' wrong with small breasts and big butts.
Oh wait... can I use 'ain't' on this very well-educated writing blog?

Writing Pad said...

Hi Laurenne,

I love the scene that you paint. I love the comparison to "Rishikesh, India" and the pairing of the $5000 strollers with the eyeless homeless people. I also love that the narrator will spend her day meditating in a drum circle and then washing it all down with Fois Gras!

Marilyn

Stinky Junior said...

How about some cheese? I always think of lyrics to a Billy Joel song when I think about a Home. "You're my castle, you're my cabin, you're my instant pleasure dome. I need you in my house, cause you're my home"

Setting aside the Billy Joel issues with women and the fact that he sang 'instant pleasure dome' I think of that song whenever I'm traveling with Seen. Because we've lived in about 2 dozen different places, but each of them has been 'Home' because Seen is the man who makes my house, or pleasure dome, a home.

Julie said...

In the middle of my mostly neat and tidy life, I arrived at the house on Wapello Street. I was just out of college, scraping out a living as a receptionist, when I answered the ad in the Pennysaver. It was a boxy, low-slung suburban mutt of a place, set on a hill of shaggy crabgrass and shaded by a giant old Elm. The back yard had a track of asphalt circling a scruffy lawn, with a lush screen of bamboo alongside the garage and it’s tiny guest house. It was charming in a run down sort of way and the rent was cheap. Living there was a chaotic, colorful, memorable mess.

My second-floor room was like a treehouse, surrounded by mature elm and oak trees that muffled the neighborhood sounds. In the summer, I kept my windows open all night and listened to the hoot-hoot of the resident owl. My landlord lived downstairs and was just a couple of years older than me. We drank beer on the back porch in the shadow of the mountains and a string of mostly broken twinkly lights, and talked about everything. She came home one day with giant brindle pit bull named Bogie who howled “woo woo woo” when he wanted to be scratched on his massive head. Roomates came and went like water on the sand.

There was the wacky singer who came in as my friend and left in a huff. The sweet school teacher with an enabling problem who let his speed-addled buddy bunk with him when he was crashing from a binge. I once found his friend in the back yard, naked from the waist down, scrubbing his car mats with a toothbrush. They moved into a tent in the woods, and a lonely party girl who lived for nights at the Elephant Bar took their place. When her boyfriend of exactly one month broke up with her, she slit her wrists with a dull knife. I was awakened in the dead of night by the sound of a police radio and 6 burly deputies in my hallway. She lived, moved, and was replaced by a girl from Poland who slept with her black, muscular and to my surprise in aisle 4 at Alpha Beta, married-with-children gym instructor boyfriend in the guest house regularly. With the windows open. Her mother came to visit and spent a month cooking sour cabbage and scowling. The biggest earthquake to hit LA rocked me out of bed one night and a wildfire came so close that I woke up the next morning at my boyfriend’s house, turned on the TV and saw Matt Lauer broadcasting from the end of our street. When we were finally let back in, ash covered the house like snow.

Writing Pad said...

Amy--great write! I love the "instant pleasure dome", I love the statement that the narrator's husband is what makes a home and that they've lived in 2 dozen places!

Marilyn

Writing Pad said...

Julie--I love your piece! I love the progression of roommates that "came and went like water on the sand." I especially love the description of the scene where the guy was washing his car mats
naked from the waist down, and I love the sounds of the house--the owl hooting.

Marilyn

Erin said...

I think one of my favorite places I've ever lived was my apt. in the Ukranian Village in Chicago (was it on the west side or east? I've been in L.A. too long). I think west. East is towards the lake in Chicago, west towards the ocean in L.A. Best way to remember.

Anyway, I digress. It was a huge apt built in the 1920s' and expensive to heat during the winter (which in Chicago is most of the year). Yet, I had a romantic soft spot for it while living in the dirty, gritty, urban city. The building had three units and all of the tenants were girls, six total including me and my roommate, Jennie. I moved in after Jennie and my friend Ali had a fight and realized they weren't compatible roommates. They were ecstatic after I moved in, but yet again, I digress.

The apartment was in a quiet neighborhood of families, mostly of Eastern European descent. There was an old man with tortoiseshell glasses that would sit on his porch next-door. Sometimes he was sleeping, newspaper in lap and head tilted back while snoring, or smoking. Often before I left, or when I returned that night, he was always there sitting on his porch. I would smile and say hello sometimes, and he would stare at me for a moment and then say something unintelligible, maybe in Yugoslavian.

One time, I came home and there was a firetruck out front. I was alarmed, thinking that the wiring in the building had set fire. But it turned out that neighborhood kids had thrown a smokebomb in through our front door when someone wasn't looking.

There were giant stolid gold Russian Orthodox churches on the corner, and a flower shop near the bus stop where I would wait to go downtown. The teenagers that worked there would always blast techno (in a flower shop?). When I went inside a couple of times out of curiosity, they would stand at the front counter painting their nails, chattering in Russian maybe, the music from a boombox.

There was also the Eastern European grocery, with its questionable vat in the back, the size of a barrel of pickled I-don't-know-what. Cookies and crackers with funny names in bright packaging. I picked up a bottle of Georgian wine in a medieval stone bottle once. I also took a liking to challah bread and was embarrassed to find out later that it's meant for Jewish religious holiday.

I liked walking around on the street in that area, noticing the older couples walking hand in hand on a stroll. Although they must have lived there for so long, I probably would not.

And then there was that bar on the corner, Stella's. The owner, a stocky women with a '90s-style hairsprayed bouffant, Stella herself, bartended most nights. I ended up having my going-away party at that bar before I moved to L.A. I still remember the posters of Eastern European chicks in bikinis plastered all over the walls, with jaunty polka music in the background on the jukebox. Those were strange days.

H.M.R. said...

Orin’s place is in Silverlake. I have never spent very much time in this part of town before but I like it a lot. It’s the opposite of Brentwood. It’s filled with hipsters who don’t shower, old Mercedes that run on vegetable oil and boutiques and restaurants that are independently owned. Everyone here seems to have a day job and the some other passion like poetry writing or being in a rock band that they do at night. No one can believe I just work at a restaurant. They ask me, but what are you really trying to do? I wish I knew.

The apartment is right by the reservoir. There are dark hardwood floors which are gorgeous until I realize that the neighbors upstairs have them too. They also have a toddler who seems to be training for a marathon at five a.m. every morning. But waking up that early gives me a chance to gaze daily at the beautiful but cracked crown molding that the landlord swears is from the 1920’s.

The apartment has great views and my favorite thing in the morning is to sit on the balcony with my coffee and cigarette and watch all the poor people agonizing as they try to run around the perimeter of the lake. There is one older guy who I start seeing every morning… and afternoon…and evening. He’s always shirtless, frenetically speed walking and reading multiple papers. When I mention it to Orin, he laughs and tells me that it’s the Walking Man. Everyone in Silverlake knows about him. There have been countless articles about him in the Weekly and he’s been painted on murals on Sunset Boulevard. Apparently he’s a doctor who is obsessed with the idea that he might one day become fat and thus walks over fifteen miles a day while still finding time to practice medicine. The idea that this neighborhood has a resident crazy person that it embraces makes me think I will like living here.

Writing Pad said...

Hi Erin--Great piece! I love the smokebomb incident, the description of the food in the Russian market, the narrator's love of Challah, and the posters of Eastern European chicks in bikinis plastered all over the walls! Thanks for posting!

Marilyn

Writing Pad said...

Hi Halie--Loved your piece! I love the description of the "hipsters who don’t shower, old Mercedes that run on vegetable oil." I love that everyone has a passion like poetry or being in a rock band. I love the description of the Walking Man--shirtless, frenetically speed walking and reading multiple papers!

Marilyn

Mary Lorraine said...

I have lived in many places and each of them have distinct glorious sights, sounds, smells. The smell of fall air, with crisp leaves in vibrant colors and the faint sound of marching band practice, that is Charlottesville and my college home. Cigarette smoke and Aqua di Gio radiating from my ex, paired with the view of West 6th street from a bar rooftop and always the sound of live music, this paints my Austin picture. Los Angeles brings to mind the sight of bumper to bumper traffic, although there is so much more to LA than that. Spending two hours in my car everyday commuting to work unfortunately makes this my immediate LA vision. The sound that comes to mind is the drone of the tape adapter that everyone asks about (no theres no way to fix it, no it doesnt really bother me) And the smell is of the wonderful aromas seeping out from the restaurant next door to my office, which makes the walk to my car brutal as I have a whole hour to wait before I can heat up my boring cheap Lean Cuisine meal at home. All of these sensory moments take me right back to those times in my life, and make me smile, grateful that I have gotten to live and breathe them in all these years.