#57 The Unseen Apartment

It was the summer of 1967. A high school friend and I were both switching from Washington State University, way out east, to the University of Washington in Seattle. She had nabbed an apartment in the U district and I was registering for summer at the last minute. There was no time to see the apartment. It was cheap. How bad could it be?

It was nearly dark when I arrived for my first look. There were two basement apartments and above them was the Hasty Tasty Donut Shop. I think the owner lived upstairs somewhere. I never knew. I’ve not described rooms or colors in any of these essays because I don’t care about the style of a chair unless someone’s breaking it over my head. But here, some particulars matter, like the institutionalesque painted cinderblock walls.

It was a long narrow apartment. At the back was a bedroom with two mushy single beds. And in the front there was a long kitchen with a Formica table. If any studying was done, it was at that table. But I was gone most weekends and I barely remember classes.

My roommate went out while I was getting settled. Okay, here we go again. We had just buried my father the day before so I didn’t feel like strolling the U district that first night.

There was a knock on the door: my roommate’s brother checking on me. I desperately needed to be alone which was especially unfortunate since I had a crush on him. And to get to the apartment door he had braved a very wet hallway. But I was too dull to allow or even recognize his kindness wishing to console me.

The water apparently came from the shower in the hall. In fact it was so wet, boards or planks had been put down like some old oil well movie where people struck it rich in newly created frontier towns, and they put planks over the mud in the streets.

It only took that first spin in the shower to learn to wash while barely moving. The shower stall was in no way attached to the walls or floor. It just stood there over a drain in the concrete. Leaning in any direction caused it to keel over taking you with it. I wore sneakers in the shower and on the planks in the hall. Boots would have been better.

The rest of the bathroom was a toilet and a sink. We probably brushed our teeth in the kitchen since we shared the makeshift bathroom with the guy down the hall.

Our neighbor seemed perfectly nice. I don’t think he was a student. His residency was cut short however when a car sped down the angled parking lot crashing through his brick wall. Fortunately he wasn’t there at the time. We had the luxurious shower to ourselves.

I complained of something invisible itching and crawling over me at night in the bed. My roommate thought I imagined it. When summer session was over, her boyfriend moved in and I was vindicated when he had the same experience. The place was fumigated.

But the true significance of that first apartment experience is that the upstairs Hasty Tasty Donut shop was THE prestigious infamous hangout for University avant-garde, free thinkers, future playwrights, the Seattle youth literate. I had no clue until I read Ken Kesey’s reference in Sometimes A Great Notion.

I was so sick of the smell of donuts I never once stepped inside that shop.




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