This is the first place I
remember living: the little gold(?) house in the picture. It's on 21st
Street in Dunbar. We lived there until I was in fifth grade, and I have
nothing but fond memories of it.
Behind us, across the alley, lived a kid named Doug, and the two of us
got into all sorts of excellent trouble together. Bill from WV lived halfway down
the block. I've known him since before kindergarten, literally, and
we've been friends for decades.
The house has fallen into disrepair, which bothers my Dad a great deal.
Even though we moved from there when Nixon was president, he gets
agitated every time he drives past. "There's a gutter hanging
off one side of that dump!" he's informed me, on more than one
Needless to say, it was neat and
well-maintained when he was in charge. I mean, seriously.
Halfway through fifth
grade we moved to a bigger house, on 17th Street, located
(coincidentally?) straight across
the street from my grandparents: my mother's folks.
Since it was in a different school district, I was afraid I'd have to
switch from Dunbar Elementary to Mound School. And the thought of that
made my sphincter wink.... I didn't know any of those kids; it was like
a foreign country over there. But my mother took care of the problem,
and I was allowed to finish out my grade school career where I'd started
The house wasn't very nice when we moved in. The former owners kept a
passel of ludicrous high-stepping pipe-cleaner dogs (afghan
hounds?), and the place smelled like the inside of a bladder. Both bathrooms were also straight-up nasty, and the hot
water tank was in the kitchen, beside the fridge. TF?
But it had good bones, and my parents whipped it into shape. They even
built a garage out back, and I mean built it. With their hands.
Steve lived across the railroad tracks, just a few yards away. We became
good friends, and remain so. And now we live near each other in
Pennsylvania. What are the odds?
And speaking of the railroad tracks... Can you see how close they are to
the house? Man, those coal trains would come blasting through at
all hours, and flat-out rock your world. But after a month, or so, we
got used to it and didn't really notice them anymore. It's possible to
adjust to almost anything, I think.
I love that house. I had a happy childhood, and it's where a lot of it
When I was 23, or thereabouts, I threw in the towel on my half-assed
attempts at college and stoopid jobs, and moved to Greensboro, NC. I was
hired to work at a grocery store there, making almost twice the
minimum wage: I'd hit the freakin' lottery!
A West Virginia co-worker and I moved into an apartment at the address
shown, inside a complex called Sedgefield Gardens. It's your standard
'70s ('60s?) apartment complex, but located in a nice residential area.
Peaches Records was nearby, and I eventually got a job there and weaned
myself off the big Food Lion money. At Peaches I met both Brad and
Eugene, who are semi-frequent commenters at TheWVSR. Brad and I have
kept an almost constant email conversation going, for many years. He's a good friend.
I lived at Sedgefield Gardens the whole time I was in North Carolina, in
three different apartments. My roommate and I rented a
two-bedroom until he got homesick, suddenly married his girlfriend, and
moved her to Greensboro. I transferred my meager belongings to a
one-bedroom and lived alone, until my brother joined me a year or so
later. Then it was back to a two-bedroom, but not the original one. Got
that? Yeah, it doesn't really matter if you didn't.
I think the rent was somewhere in the neighborhood of $335, so it wasn't
exactly posh. But it wasn't bad, and wasn't loaded with derelicts, either. It
suited me just fine.
By the fourth year at Peaches things weren't quite the same. Brad was
already gone, and our group of work-friends was starting to splinter. It
just wasn't as much fun as it had once been.
I was dating a woman who was about to graduate from college, after
dropping out for a few years, and half-assing it like I did. We were both about 27, and
she wanted to live in a big city. And since I had no real ties to
Greensboro, and wasn't loving my job anymore, we decided to roll the
dice and move to Atlanta.
We rented an apartment in this house, sight-unseen. Somehow we found it
through word-of-mouth, and told the landlord we'd take it, over the
The house is busted-up into three apartments. The bottom floor is one
unit, and upstairs is two. We had the smallest one, upstairs on the
Yeah, and the neighborhood was (and probably is) fairly rough. The
Clermont Hotel is a few yards away, and is basically a home for bums.
Drunks and drug addicts prowled the streets at night, and there was a
continuous threat of mayhem in the air. My car was broken-into twice
while I lived there, and one time some son of a bitch took a basket of
my clean laundry. Laundry!
However, we were within walking distance of Tortillas, the
(where I saw dozens of shows, including Iggy Pop, the Buzzcocks, Porno for Pyros,
Mudhoney, Primus, etc. etc.), and Manuel's Tavern -- one of the best
bars in America.
In the apartment on the rear of the house lived several members of
Arrested Development, including Dionne
Farris. All were nice and
friendly, and we got along well. They told me they were musicians, and I
thought, "Yeah, you and everyone else in this town..."
Then I saw them accepting their Grammy Awards on TV a couple years
later, and the floor of my ass nearly fell out.
Toney and started seeing
each other, after the Greensboro romance went swirling down the ol'
poop-catcher, and eventually had the conversation that begins, "You
know, we're spending all our time together anyway…
It seems a shame to pay rent
So we shacked-up in the heart of Little Five Points. L5P is Atlanta's
bohemian neighborhood, full of funky shops, filthy rock clubs, tattoo
parlors, and a biker bar called the Yacht Club. You can see our building
in the background. It's
fairly gothic and Addams Family-like.
The apartment itself was incredible. It
was HUGE, with hardwood floors throughout. The
master bedroom had French doors that opened onto the living room, and
there was a great sun room off the front of the place, which we filled
with plants and comfy chairs. And
since the building dated to the 1920s, it was loaded with charm.
And the location! Within
yards of our front door was a kick-ass Cuban restaurant, a Jamaican
place, Fellini's Pizza (iconic), Wax 'n' Facts (one of the best and
snobbiest indie record stores in America), the Star Bar (located in an
old bank, with a vault full of Elvis memorabilia), The Variety Playhouse
(where I saw many, many shows, including a Television reunion), and The
Point (my favorite place to see bands in Atlanta).
noise level in that neighborhood was like nothing I've ever experienced
before or since. I
got used to those trains in Dunbar, but never The Point closing at 2 am.
People hollering, fist fights,
scream-puking, exploding glass, car alarms, scalpings...
It was amazingly loud, and I had bags
under my eyes the whole time we lived there.
Also, we had a hobo problem. They'd
often lie with their backs against our front door to stay warm, and piss
themselves to sleep.
One morning Toney was going to take a
bag of trash to the dumpster, and some guy was sleeping on our back
porch in nothing but tighty-whities. I
went out there with a baseball bat, and told him to move along.
He got up, looking confused, and
started down the steps. He
found a pair of pants, put them on, kept walking and found a shirt, etc.
By the time he reached the parking
lot he was fully dressed. Including,
I think, cuff links.
Another morning I went outside and noticed a set of legs sticking out
from under our steps. Upon
further review, I saw that the legs were attached to a
Rastafarian gentleman, enjoying a "nap."
It never stopped. The
insanity was continuous. Every
apartment in that building was burglarized while we were there, three or
four times in some cases, except ours.
Common sense told us it was only a matter of
time. When I got home from work every evening, I just knew the
place would be ransacked. It never happened, but it's the sort of thing
that can detract from a person's quality of life. Ya know?
We made it two years and had a reasonably good time, I guess.
Now? I'd have a full nervous breakdown by the end of Day Two.
If not sooner.
Toney and I were married
in late 1993, and bought this house in the 'burbs, near Stone Mountain.
The one on the right. You can't really tell in the photograph, but it's
painted the color of Pepto-Bismol. Yeah, and we bought it anyway.
It was our first house, and the process of obtaining the mortgage was
excruciating and stressful. We weren't making much money, and there was
a real chance (probably in our heads only) that the loan would be
denied. It seemed to take forever, and required about one thousand
Finally, of course, we were approved, and moved-in after returning from
a honeymoon trip to San Francisco.
It was a really nice place. The previous owners had it built to their
specifications, and were promptly divorced (the
new house curse?!). So we benefitted greatly from their heartache.
They did all the heavy lifting, and it was, as realtors like to say,
"better than new."
It was far from our jobs though, and we both drove at least an
hour each way. And we ended up spending a lot of our free time in-town,
just like we always had. So, the location wasn't exactly logical.
Sometimes it just felt like a fancy place to sleep.
But Toney loved it, and still does. She says it's the best place we've
ever lived, and I can't really argue. It would've been better if it had
been inside I-285. We couldn't have afforded it, of course, but you know
what I mean...
Almost exactly three
years after we became Atlanta homeowners, I was offered a promotion at
my job, and a chance to work at the home office in Burbank, CA. I'd
barely been west of Tennessee at that point, and it all seemed
exceedingly glamorous and exciting.
Plus, I'd be well-positioned to become a director, and later a VP. It
was an easy decision, really, and with some sadness we put our dream
home on the market.
We rented an apartment in Santa Clarita for six months, and looked at
roughly a million houses for sale. The prices were crazy, and I started
to worry we wouldn't be able to find something decent and affordable.
We looked at this place, and instantly wrote it off. There were big
bushes around the perimeter of the property, and the owner was some kind
of creepy hermit. The interior was like passing through a portal to
1969, and we just rolled our eyes with exasperation.
But as we continued to strike out in our hunt for a home, the hermit
house became intriguing to me. We could rip out those bushes, take down
the London blitz blackout curtains, and the terrible furniture would be
long-gone... Maybe it had good bones, like the second Dunbar house?
And I was right on the money, for once. We did a lot of work to that
place, and it ended up being very nice indeed. It was located on a
cul-de-sac, in a neighborhood just lousy with kids. So that part was
And the neighbors were great, as well. We had block parties a few times
every year, and it was a lot of fun. We had our own little
self-contained community out there, and everyone seemed semi-normal and
However... It's in the desert, and breathtakingly hot in the summer.
Some days it would reach 110 degrees, and I thought we must surely be in
And everybody's garage was filled, filled!, with black widow
spiders. There was nothing that could be done (not really), and everyone
just seemed to accept it. Needless to say, I never reached that level of
comfort. Call me neurotic, but I don't much enjoy living amongst
thousands of creeping agents of instant-death.
After a couple of years I realized I hated living in California. The job
was very corporate, and involved lots of meetings and conference calls.
Money was always an issue, despite the fact I was making more than ever.
And the constant hot weather got old, very quickly.
Toney was running a daycare business out of our home, and that sucked so
bad it almost seems impossible. Our house was covered in boogers and
snot, manufactured by non-family members.
So when we were offered a chance to move back to the east coast, we
jumped at it. People laughed at me for willingly going from southern
California to Scranton, but I couldn't wait to get out of that place.
I'm sure it's great if you're a millionaire, but for the average
person... not so much.
We bought that house for $150K, sold it for $190K, and here's
roughly what the new owners sold it for, a couple years later. Sweet
Maria! If we'd only hung on for three more years...
Google hasn't visited our Pennsylvania neighborhood yet, and I wouldn't
be foolish enough to post a picture of our current home anyway. Oh, I've
seen Nightline... So, you're sorta up to date. Those
are the places I've lived, so far. For what it's worth... Pass the beer