Places I’ve Lived: A Trailer, the Wilderness and Converted Storage Space

by Eve O’Neill

Granville Ave, “Fort Granville”, Winston-Salem, N.C, $325/mo
That would be a lovely three-bedroom North Carolina house on a hill with a full wrap-around porch, porch swing included. Our landlady, Kay Everhart, lived right next door, and the two properties were connected by a walkway out back. Every month, my roommate Steve and I would argue as to whose turn it was to deliver the check, though, because that path wound through a quarter of an acre of iridescent wind chimes, glass orbs on pedestals, and pinwheel clusters. It was like an oppressive, Hallmark version of Oz. Someone always came back with PTSD.

Decrepit Trailer, Rosebud Indian Reservation, S.D. $0/mo
It belonged to the only white kid in town, who drifted in about seven years earlier and never drifted out. He had been accepted into a firefighter training program and was wrapping up his tenure as a bagger at the only grocery store in town when I met him, and he offered me a place to crash. Cats came and went as they pleased, which was hard because I’m a little allergic. I was going to clean his bathroom for him — but the tub had rotted out of the bottom of the trailer. I cooked him fried chicken every night, his favorite, and he was incredibly grateful. One day he just disappeared.

Slaughterhouse, Granite Creek, Jackson, Wyo. $0/mo
Though “slaughterhouse” might be a little off-putting initially, this is by far the most extravagant real estate in which I’ve ever lived. Remember A River Runs Through It? That movie was filmed right outside the door to my cabin! All of that unspeakably beautiful wilderness, right there. I would hike to work, at a hunting camp down the road, mostly doing dishes. Being put up in the old slaughterhouse was included in my room and board.

Mansfield Ave, Hollywood, Calif. $650/mo
Steve and I ended up finding each other again and being roommates in Los Angeles! Moving into my first apartment in a big city was a delight. I got to learn how to parallel park a moving truck, deflect the advances of hookers, and make friends with the (I’m assuming homeless) neighbors all in one day: A guy who wheeled his cart by the front of our house and stopped to contemplate our moving boxes. The tinfoil helmet he had made for himself glinted in the Southern California sun. “Welcome to the neighborhood! Just a word of advice — look out for the weird ones.” We thanked him. He turned on his boom box and wheeled into the sunset.

Laidley St., San Francisco, Calif. $800/mo
I moved into a basement in a weird part of town where no one my age lived. It was a converted storage space that you entered by going into the laundry room under the building, walking to the end of the line of washers, opening a smaller, secret door, and stepping inside. The fog slowly rolled over the hill behind me and fell in cataracts in front of my tiny window beginning at dusk every night. I would see tourists walking down the street regularly, seemingly pointing directly into my window, but really pointing up and beyond — the houses on the block I lived in were modern masterpieces, featured in the walking tours of several guidebooks. And just a quick jaunt up the fire escape on a cool crisp night, I kept a cooler of wine always stocked and a yellow lawn chair to look down on the entire blinking San Francisco skyline. Last I heard, that basement (without a kitchen) now rents for $1300.

Hillgirt Circle, Oakland, Calif. $925/mo
Two whole floors, a huge office, a cute bedroom, a giant patio, plenty of parking, all in a happenin’ part of town for a price that didn’t kill me- what could go wrong, right? First, rats got in. And raccoons began living in the walls. And our landlord upstairs gutted his living room and turned it into a massive hydroponics operation. We sought ways to legally break our lease until one day water just came pouring down through one of the light fixtures in our living room — gallons and gallons rushing through the electrical wiring — and almost soaked my entire (irreplaceable!) record collection. We were out within a week, for our safety.

Monte Vista Ave, Oakland, Calif. $1,300/mo
Present day, in the nicest apartment I’ve ever had. It’s just a tiny studio, three floors up. Two entire walls are made up of windows, and I’m surrounded by trees. I need to get screens for my windows — I used to just leave them open but I’m so close to the canopy squirrels started running in and out at will. I wake up to birds chirping. Coffee is a 3 min. walk away. I can get to my beloved San Francisco in 20 minutes. And as small spaces demand, I’ve purged every unnecessary object from my life. I have only what I need, and everything that I need, and it feels great.

Eve O’Neill is an editor at Yelp. She stares out windows.

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