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23 Sep 2017

The fall place – It has been just over three weeks now since we arrived in Cambridge for the fall semester, but I’m just now getting around to writing about our new place. It’s not a bad place, but there are a lot of weird little things that have taken some getting used to. I think we got lucky with our spring-semester apartment, which we rented sight unseen and which ended up being a very pleasant surprise. Once we arrived in Cambridge, though, we were able to visit various prospective apartments for the fall semester, which means we did check this place out before we signed the lease. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best by far of the apartments we saw. We had a list of things we wanted—namely: within walking distance of the school and everything, of a decent size, and not insanely expensive—and it was hard to check off everything on that list. Our current place was the only place we saw that checked off everything, even if it wasn’t our dream apartment.

“It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best by far of the apartments we saw.”

We do like the neighborhood, although it has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s not quite as close to school (or at least where I need to go) as our spring place, but it’s not that much farther, either. It’s also closer to grocery stores than our spring place, and there are a number of good bars and restaurants very close by (although not too close by, fortunately). On the downside, it’s not as quiet as our spring place. It’s not noisy, per se, but it is right down the street from the Radcliffe Quad—more specifically, it is between Mass Ave and the Radcliffe Quad, which means that on Friday nights we get groups of students walking down the street late at night and talking loudly. Oh, and the windows in this place are roughly as effective at keeping out sound as tissue paper—I’m not sure there is really a difference between having the windows open and having the windows closed (although I suspect the storm windows might make a slight difference when the weather starts getting cooler).

Anyway, I want to start our photographic tour with something I took a picture of the day after we moved in. I woke up relatively late, feeling like absolute crap (I had a really bad cold), and I walked out into the living room. There was a strange scratching sound coming from outside, so I drew the blinds and looked down from our third-story window. This is what I saw:

In case it’s not clear, those are turkeys. I stared at them for a moment, wondering if the cold medicine I was taking was making me hallucinate. Then a vague memory burbled up from the dark recesses of my mind: our landlord from the spring semester mentioning wild turkeys wandering around Cambridge. Huh. Ah, so he wasn’t just pulling our leg on that. I’ve only seen them once more since that first day, but I’ve seen the dirt that they leave on the sidewalk a number of times.

OK, enough turkey talk. I would show you a photograph of the front of the building, but I don’t really have any good ones; there are a lot of trees in front, and it is hard to get a shot from street level that actually shows the building. I guess that’s not a bad thing. I do have a photograph of the front door, though, which I am including here for a particular reason.

You may have noticed something unusual about the door, namely that it is at a forty-five-degree angle. This is important, because the first half of the apartment, including the bedroom and the kitchen, have to work around this angle. The hallway runs straight in from the door, meaning that it is also at an angle. The first room you come to, at a forty-five-degree angle to the right, is the kitchen.

This is probably my least favorite room of the house. Compared to our monster kitchen last semester, this kitchen is tiny. It has, more or less, everything we need, in addition to some things that we don’t need, like the dishwasher at the lower left (which we are using to store pots and pans). The narrow storm door leads out onto a tiny balcony with two chairs. This would be a nice place to sit if 1) we had better scenery and 2) the balcony was not also where the garbage can sits. As it is, though, we have only ever ventured out onto the balcony to throw out the trash or grab the stepladder that sits out there as well.

More or less opposite the kitchen is the bedroom, at a 135-degree-angle to the hallway. There’s not much to say about this room, except that it functions as a bedroom should: There is room for a bed, and that is where we sleep. What you can’t see here is that there is no closet in the bedroom. Well, there is, but it is a corner closet (more angles!) that can’t really hold anything but towels and sheets. Our clothing is scattered around the apartment in three different places: jeans folded on the lower levels of our night tables, stuff that needs to be hung in the main closet in the hallways, and other stuff that can be folded (socks, underwear, t-shirts, etc.) in drawers in the dining room. On the positive side, the ceiling is level and high, meaning that HJ does not smash her head into the ceiling once a day, as was the case in our spring place.

Past the kitchen and bedroom, we leave the weirdly angled portion of the apartment into a much wider space. Directly to the left of where I took this photo is the hallway closet (where our hanging clothes are). What you can actually see in the photo, from left to right, are the living room, the dining room, and our tiny bathroom. I have mixed feelings about the wall between the living room and the dining room. On the positive side, it does provide a place for that glass-fronted bookcase, but on the negative side it breaks up the flow of the house and makes it harder than it should be to get into the dining room. This is important, because that table you can see in the dining room is actually as far as you can possibly get away from the kitchen. Having to trundle food out of the kitchen and into the dining room (and then of course trundle dishes back into the kitchen for washing) is annoying.

I might as well discuss the bathroom now, too, as I didn’t take a separate photo of it—it’s really too tiny to get a good picture. I don’t really have a problem with the size of the bathroom, though. The bathroom in our spring place was large enough to hold cocktail parties in, but we don’t need that much space. And, even though we had a bathtub in the spring place, we never did use it. So I don’t mind just having a shower here. I do wish we had a vanity, though. There is only a sink and no surfaces to put stuff (like my razor, or shaving cream, or whatever) on, which is very inconvenient. Thankfully, the medicine cabinet has a mirror on the inside as well, in addition to shelves, so I just open up the medicine cabinet when I want to shave.

This is the living room, and it’s probably the nicest space in the apartment. We have the sofa to the right and two rocking chairs, which means you could comfortably fit five people in here without even dragging chairs in from the dining room. There is a fireplace, but we’ve not discussed its use with the landlady yet, and it hasn’t been cold enough to think about a fire. I’m not sure I’d want to have to deal with an open fireplace anyway, though.

There’s that bookcase again—which, incidentally, was already filled with books when we got here, so we’re really only using it as a surface on which to put fruit, alcohol, and other necessities. Fortunately, there is a long chest of drawers in the dining room (it’s a bit dark, but you can see it on the right), and I was able to line up all my books on that.

One thing the living room does not have is a television, which is fine with us. If I feel like vegging at home there is always YouTube, and not having a TV means I get more reading done than usual (yes, that means the monthly reading report will be returning). All in all, I like sitting in this room with a book and just chilling.

Last but not least, we have the dining room, the largest room in the house (I measured it, and even though the living room looks bigger, the dining room is actually larger). I don’t really like this room, both because of where it is placed and how big it is. I suppose it makes more sense for a dining room to be big enough for cocktail parties than a bathroom, but it annoys me every time I see how much empty space there is here. I would have much rather had a larger kitchen and a smaller dining room, although I’m not sure how that would have been accomplished given the weird shape of the apartment. Even better would be a combination kitchen/dining room, preferably not with a bathroom stuck in the middle. Oh, yeah, it would also be nice not to be right next to another apartment building, as you can see through the windows, but I guess there’s not much that can be done about that.

This room also functions as my home office. To the left, you can see the austere table/desk with my computer on top of it; this is where I am sitting right now (although obviously not when this picture was taken). There’s not really much to be said about this space. It functions, and I suppose that’s good enough.

So, that’s our place. Now that I’ve gotten this all written, I feel like I might have been a little more harsh in my descriptions than I should have. I guess just seeing the photos and having to actually describe the place brought out all of the little annoying things that I had made my peace with. But it’s not really that bad of a place. It’s weird, for sure, and I would never choose to live in a place like this for the long term. But it does have its good points, and it’ll be fine for the rest of our time here. So, to end on a pleasant note, here’s a photo of the Persian silk tree in front of our building.

That’s all for now!

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