Slacker’s first apartment


My kid: “Gosh your former slacker life sounds amazing! Where the heck does a slacker hang his hat anyway? What was your first place like?”

Me: “I’m not sure I like your cheeky tone young lady! However with the hope that you don’t someday live as I once did I’ll fill you in.”

A basic slacker rule is to mooch whenever possible even when stumbling through life oblivious to imposing in any way. When I arrived in Minneapolis in the summer of 1980 my older sibling generously moved out of her place, turned it over to me and moved in with her boyfriend.

It was a two-room efficiency on the corner of 25th and Pillsbury South in an old mansion converted into rooms to let. Tiny gas stove, mini fridge, shared bathroom in the hall, bathtub no shower, mattress on the floor, you get the picture. I shared the upstairs with my neighbor, a college girl who ignored me and whose boyfriend picked her up in an orange Pontiac convertible.  I think the rent was like 150 bucks a month. Today it would be fixed up, called a studio and go for $900.

My landlords were Bernie and Harriet, an elderly couple who, if the conversation went on too long, tended to proselytize. They often hosted foreign students with connections to some international church organization. I remember the pleasant surprise of a cute Nigerian girl, trapped in the stuffy company of Bernie and Harriet whispering in my ear in a British accent, “Get me out of here love!”  

We went on a brief date, a drive around the lakes, I think.

I chauffeured my landlords, too, because they couldn’t drive but needed to go to the grocery store and doctor appointments. They had an Opel station wagon and I’d drive them carefully because Harriet was an annoying backseat driver.

Slow down! Watch it!” she’d shriek at me as I did 20 mph up Lasalle Avenue. Bernie was hard of hearing and didn’t say much. He did catch me drinking beer on the front steps once. I did a lot of hanging out and watching the world in those days. That’s what slackers do.

That beer is crap!” he scolded me.

Still, they thought I might be a nice boy that could be trusted. That impression faded as I started making friends and inviting them over. One night I was playing Quadrophenia (classic slacker rock) too loud on the stereo and Harriet struggled upstairs pounded on my door with her cane and with indignantly asked me to turn down my “machine”. I still love rediscovering that album every couple of years.

For a young dude in limbo it was an appropriate pad.  I was two blocks from a bus ride downtown to work. I got to know the city and I really liked eating in this Middle Eastern cafe that used to be on 5th and Hennepin. Schwarma plates, hummus and pita bread, spicy lentil soup, it was all-good. Although i was living just off Nicollet Avenue, Eat Street as we know it today didn’t really exist 30 years ago.  

Meanwhile my sibling figured out that this was not a temporary thing, I was too lazy to find my own place and she was stuck with her boyfriend, an Italian guy from Kansas City who did voiceovers, hosted a radio show and did radio commercials. He took me for a voice audition in a sound studio on the top floor of the Ivy building, a funny old tower of a skinny office building. It has since been converted to a hotel, I believe.

So she was stuck, which I think was ok. I don’t know, perhaps not because she later dumped the guy and maybe resented not having her place available. If that was the case I was, as slackers often are, somewhat clueless. 

Anyway after a few months, changing jobs a couple of times and making new friends I got a line on a nicer place in a building where a coworker lived.  I borrowed a truck, a pickup that I later purchased, loaded up my meager possessions and split. I probably didn’t give proper notice and Harriet accused me of stealing stuff from the basement. This wasn’t true because I’d cased the basement and there was nothing worth stealing. Just kidding. Stealing is not ok.

25th and Pillsbury was in hindsight kind of a dump. But it provided me with some independence and gave me a start in Minneapolis. I like to drive by the place every now and again reflecting on my carefree days as a slacker. Days that went on for a decade living in apartments all around South Minneapolis, my old stomping grounds.