Picture This

You're in a city, a big, confusing city, but it's an exciting place to be. You're down at the coffeeshop, cruisin' the paper looking for a place to live. Upscale, too expensive, downtown, convenient but damn look at those prices, hey, here's a place...

So, you're walking down this street, it's just off the main drag, close to downtown, but not too close, close to the lake, and there's a great park, shopping is not terribly convenient, but not inconvenient.

You get to the address, it's rather nondescript, and if pushed you might say it looked a bit run down. Before you can go up the broad front steps to knock, someone pops out of the front door with keys in hand.


A bit startled, you look around.

Uh, heya back. Uh, I was looking for a place.

Well, we're holding interviews tomorrow. Wanna sign up? Just put your monikor on the blackboard there, and pick a time.

Uh, okay.

So, you sign your name and feeling a bit confused, you wander away.

The next day at the appointed hour, you arrive. Still somewhat uncertain, but you've been thinking about the place all night. Heck, you don't even know that you WANT the apartment.

Up the steps, the front door is open, in you go. The hall is, well, a hall. Nothing to make it smell like home, but, no garbage and no stink. Down the hall to an open door, there is the person from yesterday.

Heya! You're... they look down their list and say your name

You nod, uncertain. Together you walk into a meeting that changes your life. You've never INTERVIEWED for an apartment before, but this apartment is different:

Just so you know, this apartment is owned by the people renting. The people renting take care of everything. The monetary rent is low, we make no profit. But, part of your rent is your non-monetary contribution to the community. It's not just painting and fence building, but policing the neighbourhood, watching out for each other, it's being there when something goes wrong, even if it's the middle of the night. Inside your apartment is your business, but the shell, the halls, the buildings, the roofs, the yards, the walkways, the neighbourhood is everyone's business.

And you interview, you find out more about what they want from you. They're waiting to see how you react but you aren't pressed to make any promises.

They do have some questions, like what kind of skills can you bring to the group. There are rules, if you have a dog, you participate in poop patrol and you do it frequently and without complaining or bravado.

You tour the buildings, sometimes with a guide, sometimes on your own. In the laundry room, you find some paintings by a former community member, nobody tells you why they're there or where that person went. Someone takes you up on a roof and explains about having to redo the back roof a couple of years ago and points to the sharp, peaked roof of the front building and calmly tells you that the money for that job is almost collected and its scheduled for next month's work party.

You look over into the park, there are some bums watching kids play on a swing set and a couple of guys playing one-on-one at the basketball hoop.

You look into the eyes of the people who live in this building and you want to be there.

After a couple of years, a few big work parties, several arguments, reconciliations, newcomers, departures, and more, you're standing at a barbeque with some of your friends and neighbours. You own this dream, this apartment that is more than four walls and a place to live. You've worked for it.

A couple of years later, and you're one of the old-timers. The history is fading.

just 2 pence

© copyright, 1999, Wanda Jane Phillips
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