The house, the neighborhood, the classically-styled street cars outside our window that scream “Screenplay Writer’s Dream” each time they barge down the street. It’s all a part of the new picture we’ve begun painting for ourselves. A not-so-rough portrait of life on the cheap in Northern Philadelphia.

The house is an experience to begin with. Three floors, spiral stairs, a kitchen on a downward slope with a stove top that deposits food squarely on the floor if you’re using the front burners and not paying attention (It’s true, I saw it happen to Dave today.) So we have a kitchen on a downward slope. Some call it sink-in, I call it character. Sure, it took some adjustment time. The fact that the sink wouldn’t empty out was a bit of a problem, but I took some bearing assemblies and wedged them underneath the sink to combat the sloping angle, and all seems well with what is now a past drainage problem. But then there’s the paint job throughout the house.

I’d love to say that some kinda of neo-hippies lived here before us, but I think he was a DJ that didn’t paint the walls after the neo-hippies that lived here before him moved out and he moved in. So we’re looking at two leases ago for the painters with bad taste, I’m assuming. And how did I know that the last renter before us was a DJ? Easy: sound-proofed bedroom, two turntables and a microphone (just like the Beck song) all set up when I came to look into renting the house. The DJ removed the sound proofing, but not the staples from the wall. And I’m too lazy to as well. But anyway, back to the neo-hippie-esque painting job.

To begin with, the dining room has a translucently-painted orange sun on the wall. It was previously covered up with box springs (on account of the spiral stairs, we couldn’t fit our box springs up the stairs, so they rested in the dining room for almost two months before Joe from Bethlehem tied them to his truck and said goodbye). Now though, the box springs are gone and the sun came out, in the dining room. I wanna paint something offensive over it but I’m not good when faced with permanence on the walls. I just know I’d regret whatever I painted a week after the fact.

Directly upstairs from the permanent sunrise is the bathroom door, and traced on the door are the outlines of several pot leaves. Before you say, “Bingo, hippies,” let’s remember that marijuana adulation transcends all cultural boundaries. I’m just playing devil’s advocate before you walk into Rob’s room and discover the wall dedicated to the soft conglomeration of blues, yellows and oranges. Treacherous, but livable, and not exactly reminiscent of a Grateful Dead fan’s workings. So I’ll go out on a limb now: let’s not even call them neo-hippies anymore, let’s just assume they were people that smoked pot, had time on their hands and used it to stretch their artistic wings, however much in bad taste that may have been.

It’s not all bad though. We may have a room full of stapled walls, pot leaves on the bathroom door and a an actual grade in our kitchen, but there’s character here. A character that’s adjusted to lord knows how many past inhabitants, helping to shape their lives in some small way. I like that part; there’s history here, but not in a Sci-Fi Network Ghost Hunters kinda way. It’s real, not spooky.

But oh, I forgot to mention the basement. The DJ, the one before us, had other aspirations. Namely, boxing. For the first time in my life, I am the would-be owner of a punching bag. In the hands of pacifists, it hangs dormant. But I just know we’re gonna have some drunken house guests at one point in our life of this house that need that punching bag. And for once, they’re gonna have it. Then there’s the dryer, the warmest part of our house. You see, most dryers expel their hot air outside of the house. Not us. Our dryer expels its hot air into the basement. It’s like a sauna in there, and it dries up any air-dried clothing really quick. Boxing, sauna-like conditions, our basement.

And that would be the house. The neighborhood, our block, is fairly quiet. To the left are Muslims; to the right, punks. And both are above and beyond the call of welcoming. We might have some bad paint jobs to cover up, and a sloping kitchen to contend with, but life on the border of Fishtown and Northern Liberties isn’t all that bad.

And right this very moment, our neighbors to the right (the punks) are performing at-home karaoke. They’re singing along to the Steve Miller Band, their dog is barking and the night is alive. So I think I might have a drink and laugh along to their musings…

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