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The private lives of no one.   —   Personal

I was raised in a house on a hill. Our house was nestled deep within the woods surrounded by our 28 acres of land, water and cornfield. There were no neighbors in sight, no traffic to speak of, no sound or light other than those of our making. It was secluded, serene, my own private wonderland of imagination and adventure.

When I was 18 years old my parents parted ways and the house and all of our land was sold. That was the last time I ever lived in the country, the last time I ever lived in a place that wasn't rented, and the last time I ever truly experienced privacy.

Apartment living in NYC broke me of any bashfulness I may have had. In the "privacy" of your own apartment you can look out the window and see fifty other windows staring back at you.

I'm slightly claustrophobic and spending an extended amount of time in any room that does not have an unobstructed window makes me slightly crazy. I feel like a caged animal, agitated and depressed. And so pulling the blinds or closing the curtains to shield my indoor life from the world outside does not make my list of options. Instead I began to live a life of exposure. I know it sounds naughty, and maybe it is. I'm under no illusion that no one is watching me from some distant window or street corner. I apparently just don't care. I'm doing nothing that needs to be hidden, nothing I wouldn't own up to, nothing that a million other people don't do or haven't done before. And yes, that includes changing my clothes. Sure, if I see someone outside and I know that they could see me if they looked I duck behind a door or a wall to change. But if someone is watching and I can't see them, well, lucky them then.

Upon moving to Portland I thought perhaps there would be a little more privacy in our apartment compared to NYC. Little did I realize that we were actually going to have less privacy in Portland.

Living in NYC we always lived at least a few floors up from the street level. Sure we were surrounded by other buildings with windows and tenants but if you see someone in their apartment, and they see you in your apartment, there's a level of understanding that you're both somewhat intruding and you respect that fact. Mostly. Here in Portland we live on the ground floor in a triplex house with neighbors in spitting distance. Every day I see the other tenants walk past our kitchen and living room windows. Most of the time they don't look in but sometimes they do, and we exchange a brief smile of acknowledgment. There seems to be something more invasive about someone out in public seeing you inside the privacy of your home rather than two apartment dwellers spotting each other from across the ally. The house on our left is actually a house converted into a business. The front is a kid's hair cutting place, the back is a massage clinic. So every day there's a dozen or more people using the walkway on the side of their house to the rear clinic entrance, and on top of that the owners there garden constantly. They're always outside our windows digging in the dirt with their ancient dog lazily laying in the sun. And then there's the small restaurant attached to our front porch. They have a rear entrance that is right in front of one of our living room windows. The neighbor to our right is a crazy lady shut-in with sheets over her windows. Suspiciously though each sheet-covered window has a little peekhole fashioned in the middle or to the side, and while I've never seen her peering out I know she's probably seen me naked 1,000 times.

And then there's Interwest. Interwest is the property management company that the old dude who owns our building hired, to manage the property and its tenants. Unlike a landlord who just stays out of your hair unless you need something fixed, Interwest is very much, um, all up in our business. The first indication that Interwest would be a pain in our asses was actually within the first week or so of moving in. They scheduled a visit with us to have someone check all the smoke alarms and replace their batteries and such. They gave us the vague time of someone coming by between the hours of like, 8AM to 5PM or some such nonsense. Adam and I figured if they came in the morning that we'd just hear them knocking and get out of bed, no need to set an alarm. But we were unaccustomed to the distant sound of someone knocking in our big-ass apartment. We didn't hear them. So, the guy uses his key and just lets himself right in. He goes to the smoke alarm in the hallway, the one on the ceiling right in front of our bedroom, and upon seeing us sleeping in bed decides not to leave or to make any effort in rousing us. No. Instead he goes right on ahead and starts testing the smoke alarm. I wake up to him wrestling with the alarm casing and its like someone yelled, "I'M HERE TO KILL YOU!" I saw this stranger in my hallway, sat straight up in bed, and screamed. He starts defending himself saying things like, "I'm from Interwest!" and "I knocked but no one answered!" and other such nonsense but all I heard was, "I'm a creep and I deserve to be beaten with dead puppies!" And so I started to yell at him. Things like, "Are you a fucking idiot?" And, "Get the fuck out of my apartment!" And, "You fucking asshole!" And other such aggressive statements using the word fuck. Adam, being all Mr. Calm, gets out of bed, goes out into the hallway and closes the bedroom door to his ranting wife. Later that morning we went out and bought chain locks for both doors.

And that's just where it started. We've lived there for a little over three years now so we've grown accustomed to Interwest's regularly scheduled apartment inspections that happen whether we're home or not, Interwest's home improvement projects like painting the house, installing a bike rack in the yard, painting parking lines, putting in a rock garden patio type thing that is actually really ridiculous, planting trees, pulling weeds, mowing. This all sounds fine and good but with each one of these things I essentially wake up (or step out of the shower) to some strange man outside my windows.

Just last week we received a letter in the mail from Interwest saying that they were going to come by on Wednesday at 10:30AM with an appraiser. I guess the old dude who owns the building is tired of dealing with it or maybe he died and his daughters are tired of dealing with it, who knows. But the gist of it is, they're preparing to sell the place. After Adam left for work I chained both of the doors with the suspicion that if for some reason they arrived and I was still home, they would totally just let themselves in with no warning. So I treadmilled, I showered, I dressed, I prepared my lunch for work and at 10:25AM I unchained the front door. Just as I was in the kitchen giving Tsunami a proper squeeze goodbye I hear from the front living room, "Hello?" Sure enough, without a courteous knock to see if anyone was home, they just let themselves right in.

I keep my apartment pretty tidy, disorder and grime make me a little crazy (hell, what doesn't make me crazy, right? Am I right? Yeah, I'm totally right.) so apart from the occasional days wherein my jewelry is on every flat surface of the apartment or there are cat toys everywhere, I'm pretty much ready for guests at any moment (given that I'm dressed - and hey sometimes even when I'm not, am I right? Am I right? Yeah, I'm totally right.) So these intrusive visits don't bother me as much as they could if I lived a life where my dirty laundry was strewn about or I had midgets tied up in the linen closet or something. But as the Interwest lady let herself into my home the other day, and I was in the kitchen squeezing my cat and despite all the open windows having a "private" moment, I thought to myself, wow, I'm totally not phased by any of this bullshit. And this coming from the girl who, as a teenager alone in the house of her childhood home one night, answered the door to a stranger, with a pistol tucked in the back of her blue jeans, you know, just in case.

Posted 7.8.2010 2:56:49 PM

N@ wrote:
It STILL creeps me out that one of your crazy shut-in neighbor's "peep-holes" looks right into your bathroom window, which is usually open a little. Given that it hits perfectly at the "I'm pulling up my pants now, feel free to see my crotch" area, I get a little icky feeling every time I use your bathroom. That and I know you cultivate "friendly, I'm-not-bothering-you-don't-bother-me" spider populations (which is ridiculous and doesn't exist, by the way. I mean, you know that right? It's like thinking that "the Others" aren't lying to you. They're ALWAYS lying to you! And spiders are ALWAYS evil, I'm-bothering-you-you-just-can't-prove-it!!!). All-in-all, I think your bathroom is creepy. Luckily I am usually quite drunk by the time I use it, so I don't care as much.
Posted 7/9/2010 1:11:36 AM
Rose wrote:
Ugh ugh ugh! While I tend to be free and careless in my own space as well, I cannot handle the level of invasion of privacy that I feel when someone crosses the threshold uninvited into my sanctuary. Plus, the midgets tied up in our closet always cry a little louder when we have guests. One of our neighbors tends to come over, peering in the windows to find us as he traverses the house looking for us. He's harmless (mostly) but that's as invasive as it gets most of the time. I can't imagine living in New York - too many people, too many buildings, too much noise. I think I would freak out a bit.
Posted 7/9/2010 8:21:32 AM - Rose's website
Doll wrote:
N@ - You can always shut the window while you use the bathroom, silly girl. And don't worry about the spiders, I've been relocating them outside whenever I see one and also, I always give a speech to all of the hidden apartment critters before you come over. I say, "Hidden apartment critters take heed! I am not thrilled that you live among us. But my bf is afraid of you all so please be good and stay in your hidey-holes until she leaves." That usually works, right? Until one of them goes rogue and ventures out and I have to sweep in like a spider-relocating ninja. And to cure you of your "Heather's bathroom is creepy" phobia, we will have a tea party in there. Then we can use the ouija board to summon the dark lord to reign over all the spiders and keep them in their place. That'll work right? My bathroom won't be forever haunted after that, right? Then you'll have to dodge spiders, an old lady spy, AND demonic activity. FUN! Okay, maybe we'll just stick to the tea party.
Posted 7/9/2010 8:52:51 AM
N@ wrote:
I feel like I ALMOST got you to use the Ouija board. So close!
That would've been a win. But tea's good, too.
Posted 7/9/2010 10:49:33 AM
Dad wrote:
My darling, you are a country girl at heart in spite of all your urban digs in the last ten years or so. I did love our country hide-a-way back in the day, but alas nothing last forever. I would suggest to you that you tell the landlord you have a concealed weapon in the house and any unwanted intrusion might be ill fated for them...I have a number of them around here as you well know, that's the way you were reared, "traspassers will be shot and survivors will be shot again." No unwanted intruders period! Maybe you should exchange the knife under your pillow for a six shooter, remember, God created man, but Col. Colt made them equal. You need to come back here to Mich. for a little "tacticle training" LOL. I am sure that one day soon you will have the house of your dreams, just make sure you have a little breathing room and a yard that you can shoot in. You are in my thoughts always.
Posted 7/10/2010 5:28:28 AM
Doll wrote:
Dad - as much as I have always appreciated and applied your wisdoms, I don't think threatening my landlord with firearms is a suggestion I will be acting on - LOL. Unfortunately it is perfectly legal and we are contractually obliged to allow property management into our apartment as long as they give us 24 hours notice, which they always do. And as a renter I honestly don't mind the people who own this property to make inspections and do whatever they have to do for whatever their reasons. I just don't like the fact that they can use a key to let themselves in if they think no one is home. But that's what our chain locks are for. :) And I don't have to tell you how many times keeping a handgun at the ready in our house together has almost gotten you and I into some lethal troubles. good times ... lol
Posted 7/12/2010 2:58:29 AM
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