Places I’ve Lived: Gangrene, Electroshock Victims and My Mother-In-Law’s
by Sean Maloney
Tyler Street, Boston, Mass. $450
This place always smelled like chicken fingers, and we had an ex-con with gangrene in his ankle who slept on our couch. My entire stay — from the day my terrified mom dropped off my record collection to the unceremonious and not-entirely-explained eviction notice — was a depraved vacation between novelty shop jobs during that whole post-9/11-malaise phase we all went through. There were lots of Wild Irish Rose, Twin Peaks on VHS and a roommate who saved the ass-end of all his King Cobra forties in the fridge for days when he was broke. Even though it was a particularly cold winter, the hookers would be out most nights walking the icy sidewalks in the last chunk of Chinatown still known as the Combat Zone. Let’s just say it was a perfectly romantic and destitute stopover, but not exactly a place you wanted to live for very long no matter how big your Bukowski-Burroughs-Bangs boner is. Mine was huge.
Ellingwood Street, Boston, Mass. $400
The turnover rate at this swanky hillside art school flophouse was pretty steep: eight roommates in my 10 months there, plus all of the hook-ups, friends, friends of friends and bands sleeping on the floor who were friends of the friends’ friends. I was managing a shop at a tourist mall named Wacky Planet/Lefty World. The money was sort of okay, and I was living pretty large for a rudderless college dropout — lots of mid-priced booze, first pressing Cramps records and expensive tofu. It was pretty ideal until a subletter — who was planning to “sneak into Cuba on a freight train”, mind you — stole all my stuff. Things got weird after that. Then the Leftorium closed (just like in “When Flanders Failed”), and it was time for me to skip town. How I chose to move from the bustling metropolis of Boston to the creepy, sleepy college town of Murfreesboro, Tenn. is a convoluted story (there’s moonshine, cat poop and a Magnetic Fields show all in there, somewhere), but it came highly recommended by an anarcho-punk bass player who slept on our floor once.
Chamberlain Avenue, Murfreesboro, Tenn. $325
I am a master of foresight and good planning, and I’ve based major life changes on worse things than the opinion of anarcho-carnies. In 2003, I decided to go back to school to study music business and journalism. Because if you’re going to pick one dying industry to major in, you might as well back it up with an industry that’s in even worse shape and move halfway across the continent to do it. The apartment, a janky screened porch/attic combo that probably shouldn’t have been an apartment, was spartan and serviceable but, most importantly, my own. I’d had enough of communal living for a while. I couldn’t find work, my savings dried up and I was living on white rice and black coffee. On one of my last nights there, I watched a tornado rip the roof off a gas station from my bedroom — ill-advised for sure, but definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. And, yes, I know how dangerous that was, I swear, but it’s not like the rest of the apartment was safer in the storm.
Fairview Avenue, Murfreesboro, Tenn. $250
“Those harlots, those trollops, those sluts in their pants!” This was how my neighbor, Euda Ann, greeted Mandi, my wife, the first time she ever came over for dinner. Eventually we’d realize that sitting in the dark, rocking back and forth on her porch swing screaming about sinners was Euda Ann’s thing, but it was freaky at first. Local legend said she had killed an abusive husband in the late ’60s and spent a few years in an asylum getting electroshock therapy. It was difficult not to believe — toothless, wild-eyed with an deep country accent, Euda Ann was like the serial-killer matriarch from Central Casting. In reality, she was a nice lady with a lot of problems — her son confirmed the electroshock, I didn’t ask if she stabbed the shit out of his dad — but I’m still shocked that Mandi ever agreed to a second date.
Fairview Avenue (Part II), Murfreesboro, Tenn. $250
Eventually Mandi, who didn’t “live” with me, technically, and didn’t play music, and Linwood, my roommate/bandmate, and I got sick of living next to Deliverance and decided to upgrade our crazy neighbors. So we added a roommate, another bandmate, Rick, and moved a block over to where all the tenants were musicians, and where band practices, house shows and general debauchery could rage until the wee hours. It was essentially the Greek Row of art-rocker anti-frats, and we lived in an almost-squalid pile of equipment, records and empty beer cans against a back drop of Z-grade movies and free jazz. Again, I’m not entirely sure why Mandi stuck around.
N. Spring Street, Murfreesboro, Tenn. $225
The first apartment Mandi and I shared together sans Linwood was a total shit-show. Our neighbor Sandy, another toothless old townie with supertanker sized issues, would shit in her pants and sit on the porch of our triplex, just drinking Coke and eating ice cream while waiting for someone to tell her that she shit her pants. And she wore the same sweatpants every day, which, eww. The apartment itself was a poorly-split house with disintegrating drop-ceiling (a stack of Hustlers from ’84 fell through once), a salmon-colored living room with evergreen carpeting, and this mysterious black ooze that dripped out of the breaker box. Right after graduation, Mandi got a job in the city, and I followed suit. We bounced with a quickness…
Norway Terrace, Nashville, Tenn. (Free? A little bit of my soul?)
…and we moved in with her mother, who bought a brand new Doberman-Rottweiler puppy the day we moved in. New roommates and new puppies are a great combination. That puppy loved me and would show it’s love by urinating on me at every opportunity. Oh, hi puppy, nice to see y…eww. Good morning, puppy! Yes I’ll snuggle, you make the bed so…ick, warm. Fuck it, I needed to change my shoes anyway. The dog was a spazz of epic proportions. I did a lot of laundry, and used a lot of paper towels. Mandi and I found our own place in record time. I’m not what sure happened to the dog, but I’m pretty sure she’s pissing on another family now. Or she might have been put down — nobody really liked that dog except for me.
Blair Blvd, Nashville, Tenn. $800 split down the middle
This was 500 square feet of mid-century modern love! In the previous two moves, Mandi and I had managed to jettison most of our possessions. Do you really need much more than a bed, a TV and record collection? This place seemed huge and empty for a long time, even though it was, for all intents and purposes, pretty tiny. Mandi and I tied the knot that fall. It was a low-key Frankenstein-themed event. We eventually acquired a few things: a dining room table! A desk! A cat! But I also lost my cushy corporate music gig, and started freelance music writing full-time, so that ground to a halt real fucking fast. Our neighbors were crazy, but not too crazy (the bipolar Counting Crows fan was kind of annoying) and the neighborhood was great, but the lure of more space and less rent was too hard to pass up.
Norway Terrace, Nashville, Tenn. $760 split 50/50
So we’re back at the MIL’s crib. We really don’t need this much space, and living on a cul-de-sac is weird, but there’s no real complaints here. I find myself mumbling a Descendents “I want to be stereotyped/I want to be classified” mantra every time I pull in the driveway, because that’s what aging punk rockers who suddenly find themselves in suburbia do, I guess. The plan had always been to escape the suburbs, but I’ve also never been good at sticking to plans and it seems to have worked out for the best. It’s a working class neighborhood with a lot of immigrants and lots of good, cheap food, and an unspoken agreement that listening to your stereo really loud with your windows down is a-okay. We had square footage to fill so we, like good little suburbanites, bought Mandi a cheap drum set and started a band. We’re loud and bad, but the neighbors don’t seem to mind as long as we wrap up practice at a reasonable hour.
Sean L. Maloney doesn’t play guitar that well. But his wife can’t really play drums, so it works out alright.