Thursday, March 1, 2012

A little brick home

Just noticed
A Home the size of a a recreational vehicle
Over the couple of decades since the original owners of the house next to me moved to a Senior apartment, I have had at least half a dozen new neighbors, but now at last the latest may be permanent.
All of our houses, dating from the 1920s, had freestanding garages, and thoughtful planning gave them all access from alleys, where also our power poles were planted and our pipes for natural gas went underground, about nine or ten feet deep.  They still do.  Now add cable TV.  It makes the neighborhood much more attractive.
So long as my first neighbors were here, their brick garage matching their brick house (both very well built and the house about 1/3 larger than mine--mine one of dozens built at once of pre-cut timber when the town turned industrial) served as intended.  Each garage would house one car (even one larger than a Model A) and at the end opposite the door for the car a laundry and a place for garden tools.  I got rid of mine promptly, because it hadn't been used or maintained.  It was filthy, but also it was sheathed in corrugated metal rather than brick, and its wooden frame was termite ridden.  My first act of ownership was to hire a crew of male students to dismantle it and remove all the metal and wood; then, of course, I called a well known exterminator.
Over the years, like most of my juniors, successive purchasers of the house always parked on the street and used the garage for storage, if at all.  Some of them, however, rented it to students.  The advantages of garages incorporating laundries (need I remind you that African-American women, in the days before spinning washers and dryers, when the washing machines had wringers and every yard had clotheslines, came up the alleys and did the laundry?) is that they were wired, to code, for electricity and piped for hot and cold running water, and when, after WW II, ordinary houses were put on concrete slabs rather than raised on foundations or, more often here, on brick pillars, students looking for affordable housing didn't mind concrete floors.  Those post-war warehouse import stores, precursors of WalMart and its competitors, had cheap rugs and Japanese matting to cover it.  But I never noticed the renters using it for more than to come home and sleep.  I never heard radio or TV.  I never heard a cozy party.  Since there is a second door to the garage opposite the back door of the house, I daresay that renters shared the back yard, which by the mid-90s was high-fenced, fully enclosed.  Perhaps art students mostly wanted a studio.
Yet, in my first decade here, I did know the red-brick garage inside and out.  My dear neighbors taught me how to drain my pipes when a hard freeze was expected.  Once a neighbor's cat got in and climbing to the rafters was unable to find its way down, but only yowled, and since I was then unafraid of tall ladders I climbed up and got it down with only a couple of scratches.  And I knew that they still had a washer with a wringer and that the laundry had its own toilet and a window unit for AC, from the few times that I came in from the yard, and it was separated from the main space.  I'd have been glad to live in it in my undergraduate days when I worked for a dollar an hour.  Almost every Berkeley garage within walking distance of the campus was rented out, supposedly only for studio space (lip service to single resident dwelling).
Careful not to include the street number, I took the above snapshot two days ago.  Not only have they had the spirit to call it HOME, they have two planters (I show one with a cactus in it) flanking the door.  The original width to admit a car long since was filled and provided with a small door for human use, as you see.
DON'T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS, blaming the recession.  Maybe my neighbors are letting a young relative stay in it.  Maybe it IS a studio, just marked HOME for fun.  I thought it was delightful fun.  As for living in it, it is about the size of the recreational vehicle that my sister and brother-in-law enjoyed every winter, for so long as their health permitted, and you don't have to fasten up hoses for water, much less find a place where you can (yourself) empty all your waste.  And your monthly electric bill (even if not included in your rent) will be less than half a tankful of gasoline for an RV.  It measures about 12-14 feet wide and about 25 feet long, as my sister's RV did.