The last time I went, they tore it down so it made me wonder if it was ever even there: that brick building by the art museum where I paid my first rent, on 5th and Hamilton street, Allentown, PA.
The landlord was a frail Czech with a jewelry repair shop on the first floor and a buzzer to let you in. His wife was nervous, a lot younger, called “Mable.” Nervous, because Jules filled the recycling bin to the top with Budweiser cans by Wednesday every week, just a stick-figure of a guy with a mustache and a magnifying glass for an eye, a basket full of empties and a bad accent.
A spiral staircase to my apartment, high ceilings and streetlights, a city-feel in the middle of the night: the soft glow of pink, peach-colored light. Getting home late, sitting there: 5th street.
The sense that something greater was going on just because of the light, making it feel like theater no matter the time, the scene, the night.
The bar where I worked and the time we got the Reggae band to come back to my apartment at 2 in the morning. The same band that was so big at my college, now come to drink at my place, by the jewelers, by the art museum, well after closing time, Friday night.
I put on Bobby “Blue” Bland and the singer smiled, gave me a look to say I was okay. He said the name, Bobby Bland?…then nodded, and closed his eyes.
The afternoon I near fell asleep with a girl on the love seat listening to Brian Eno late Autumn, too young for drinks, too far from home to call or be called, in the time before cell phones, 1993.
A queer bartender friend who saw my place for the first time, said it must have been decorated by someone either gay, or Republican. I took insult to both, by the way he said it.
It’s a magic place to be when you can still act like a kid but wear the costume of adult, and pull it off. It can be a costume party as long as you want.
You don’t realize when you’re in it how good it is. Stroking a girl’s hair like candy, gifts you take for granted.
When people ask what kind of music I like, I don’t know what to say. I won’t say I like everything because that’s not true, and that’s what people always say if they want to sound like they know more than they really do.
It could also be a way to say you’re open, you just haven’t heard enough to know better than to say you like everything, because that can’t be true, can it?
Even Bob Dylan wouldn’t like himself if he was honest, if he was really being Bob Dylan about it. Bob Dylan may be good, but he’s not the kind of guy you want to sit next to on a long ride, and he’s not the kind of guy you want taking your daughter out, you’ll just get into fights.
The apartment you lived in you thought was cool probably wasn’t, unless you’re Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan may have been cool then, but he’s not as much anymore as he gets closer to dying…and will be vastly more so after he has.
And that’s perhaps the best you can hope for: your real worth will come to bear after you’re gone and people will love you more because they’ve finally realized they’ll never get the chance to again. Scarcity creates demand.
Which is why I pine for that first apartment on 5th street, because they tore it down, and it doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s why I write: left-behind apartments I want to save, pictures I didn’t take, memories I can’t stand to lose. They get better with time.