We were in denial, Dr. Handsome and I. But until we had bites and/or saw a bed bug, they didn’t exist.
When we originally moved in, Jimi got shafted, but it was his own fault. There were three bedrooms to choose from and Jimi had the one in the very front of the house. When the building was first built, you could tell the architect had no intentions for it to hold a bed. The two outside walls had windows butted up to one another about a foot off the ground. The windows wouldn’t stay open without being propped up by a board.
To Dr. Handsome’s and my amusement, we couldn’t really tell the advantage of going through the effort to prop the windows open.
Think back to middle school, when your science teacher was trying to teach you about permeability. There were three or four tubes. One probably had sand, another small pebbles, maybe one with a mixture of different size rocks, and then one full of big rocks. Jimi’s windows were like the tube full of the big rocks.
His outdated windows seemed more like a screen. They let a draft in during the winter, and let all the heat in during the summer. (This would later prove to be his great disadvantage in the war against bed bugs, but let us not get ahead of ourselves.) They also allowed all the noise from the street into his room to echo off his undecorated walls.
I remember one morning speaking with Jimi. “Hey did you hear that truck last night? It sounded like someone placed a subwoofer in between our building and the Planned Parenthood to just reverberate.”
“Oh, did you have trouble sleeping or something? It woke you up?” Jimi asked.
“Yeah dude. It was impossible to sleep through.”
“Yeah, and how’d you feel about that?”
“I don’t know. It really sucked… like that time the people upstairs decided to start dancing above my room at 2am.”
“Hey Zack, did you know the garbage truck comes through every Wednesday at five AM?”
“Or that the bus stops right in front of our building, every morning at about seven?”
“Oh I’m sorry man. I see what you’re saying,” I said.
When Jimi first moved in, we tried to convince him about the greatness of his room.
“You’ve definitely got the best room,” I told him. “Your room gets the most natural light from all of your windows.”
“Yeah and you’ve got the most privacy. Our rooms are right next to each other, but yours is on the opposite end of the apartment,” Dr. Handsome added.
“Why would you guys save me the best room and not take it?” Jimi asked.
Neither of us answered, just smirked.
“I’m not an idiot, guys. And you’re not going to convince me how great this room is. I know it sucks. You’re not going to change my mind.”
Adding to his unluck, Jimi wasn’t one for interior decoration. Move-in consisted of a futon mattress, some blankets, a few bins of clothes, and a Halo poster. In past apartments they had together, both Jimi and Dr.
Handsome laid futon mattresses on the floor as a bed. This way the mattress could easily be moved and they’d save money on furniture.
Dr. Handsome’s room resembled Jimi’s except he had an oversized, industrial-grade desk to support his study habits. The desk had special sentiments attached because it reminded me of one I’d seen as a kid in an old salvage yard.
It was late fall, early winter when some friends and I realized that pretty soon we wouldn’t be able to skateboard as a result of the oncoming winter. In order to fight the snow, we searched for somewhere indoors to skateboard.
My best friend, Eric, discovered the perfect spot just a block from his house. It was an old salvage yard and we spent our fair share of time exploring the various warehouses and buildings before choosing which building best suited our needs.
The largest building had a cinderblock foundation with metal walls and an aluminum roof. It was about the size of a small grocery store and the inside had an open floor plan. As if the place had suddenly shutdown without warning, the relics of past employees—work gloves, safety glasses, notebooks—rested on countertops and tables, long ago ready for the next day’s work. Engine pieces, assorted metal scraps, spark plugs, etcetera suggested the labor intensive responsibilities of tearing down engines to sort the pieces between “profitable” and “waste”.
The size of the building and its ceiling clearance would have been perfect to skateboard in, but we had to pass. First, because there were no doors to close off the building. Anyone walking through could have gone in and destroyed any work we put into building ramps. Animals could also get in there; abec 9 Swiss bearings and fecal matter get along as well as Jay-Z and Prodigy back in ’97.
Most important of all, a couple of 12-13 year olds cannot move engine blocks without the risk of a debilitating back injury. Well, unless you’re some sort of genetic freak. We weren’t.
Moving on from the large building, we checked out a couple others. One was about the same size as the first, but with a leaky ceiling. Another seemed more like an oversized shed. The shed didn’t have a door but it did butt up to another building.
The connected building seemed too small for ramps but we went in to explore anyways. The floors were coated in dust and dirt like all of the other buildings, but the ceiling was lower—eight or nine feet high. It was dark and had few windows so we opened the garage door that closed off an old loading dock. With more light illuminating the building we discovered supplies to build ramps were already scattered throughout. There were four or five desks, some sheets of plywood, and an abundance of pallets. We had entered ghetto skate-park heaven.
Aside from the supplies which beckoned our names, evidence of destruction and tampering didn’t exist.
“Dude, this is almost perfect,” I said.
“About as perfect as we can find,” Eric said.
“Awesome. Let’s start cleaning so we can build some ramps and skate.”
“Sounds good. We’ll also have to think of a name for it.”
Having decided on the right building, we spent a whole day with one other friend cleaning out metal scraps, dust and any objects that held the potential to spear or maim us. Initially, we entered through a broken window but after we’d spent so much time cleaning up, carrying supplies, and building ramps, paranoia set in and we blocked the window so it appeared the building was still closed off. For the new entrance we cut a hole in a cabinet that shared a wall with the adjacent building.
“Hey, I forgot to tell you,” Eric said. “Mark thought of the perfect name.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Purple Gorilla Nipple.”
Overall, the whole junk-yard resembled a post-apocalyptic scene from The Road but PGN was our chance happening upon an underground bomb shelter. The old office and work supplies served as our salvation from winter; they were our water and endless supply of Campbell’s soup. Thankfully we didn’t have to worry about clans of emaciated cannibals hunting us down, just a child’s modern day equivalent: overprotective adults concerned with lawsuits, vandalism, and theft.
Beneath the old window entrance we built a quarter-pipe into a desk which resembled the desk in Dr. Handsome’s bedroom.
* * *
Inarguably, I had the nicest room, but only because my mom volunteered to serve as interior decorator. The first couple weeks I received a lot of criticism for letting mommy decorate my room.
“What is this?” Dr. Handsome asked. “You have curtains? And a carpet? And a bookshelf? Your bed, it’s not even on the ground! I don’t understand.”
“Pretty nice, right?” I said.
“It’s like you’re staying at the Hilton Suites and we can only afford Miami Motel,” Jimi said.
“Well if mommy helped us with our rooms we might’ve been able to have a setup like this too, Jimi,” Dr. Handsome said.
“Who am I to say no? My mom likes doing this stuff for me.”
“Suuurre, Zack,” Jimi said.