the apartment i grew up in was a prison. no one was allowed in, and the only possibility was escape. to be fair, it was a prison handcrafted with all of the strangebeauty that is the bright side of the schizophrenic's imagination. but we were all trapped inside in the dark with our secrets, just surviving. i think that lots of homes, normal homes, not particularly fraught, lock us up in pairs, ostensibly for our own good, with scheduled visitations for scripted conversation with friends who know us less and less, and then we know each other less and less, and ourselves, too. i don't think it has to be this way. i don't think it typically is in the homes i'm blessed to know now. but this better way isn't a thing i've always been sure i knew how to do. it seemed to me that a certain kind of distance was the way to save myself from people and save people from myself. it's one way to go. but there were things i didn't know. i didn't know all the things that walls could do, but i knew some bad things they could-- keeping people in, for example, and out.
but there's a trick some people know for making homes into safe warm flower pots, good for growing in. lots of things follow from this central way i'd want a home to be. it means that a home i share can't be in the country or in the suburbs, or even too far from a train station. ideally it would be in a place that the people who talk about the things i'm interested in talking about would walk past just in the course of their day. when a friend comes into town on a couple of days notice with a backpack and a duffle bag, i don't want them to have to walk too far from the train before they can put down their duffle and have some tea and tell me what brought them on such short notice. it means that they'd need to know i'd be around to be found. ideally close to the work we do.
it would be like a place we built to make ourselves and other people comfortable. you know, full of warm and cold things. blankets. beer. a guest sweater and a guest a bike. i'd have to feel comfortable in a kitchen. i'm not at all certain that i have an aptitude for cooking, but i assume that, for my purposes, being a nuanced and subtle epicure probably isn't essential. i expect it's more about reliably having these warm and cold things around that aren't just logs of high fructose corn syrup. i think that small places are particularly nice for this. small places arranged for comfort.
ideally there could be space and time in a home for projects. the ukulele began for me as a project like the kind i'm thinking of-- a morningtime bedroom hobby. i think things like the ukulele and terrariums, say, or bug collecting, are often left in childhood. but i like the space to try and then fail or forget and then try again at little projects like these. order is nice-- order is important-- but i'm just saying, if you ever wanted to turn the bathroom into a darkroom or a distillery to pursue your morningtime hobby, or the backporch into a green house, i love these kinds of things, and i'm into prioritizing them, even if they don't always work out.
there'd be a library. more than a bookshelf. that's a thing i have to offer. when we're talking, and some essay comes up that moved us so much, the book they printed it in could be there so we could look at it together. i spend an unreasonable amount of money on books that i can't even read right away, and i don't intend to stop. whatever decorative or atmospheric function a library would serve would be ancillary. these are reference materials for a life in which we're forever referencing materials. and, of course, as building blocks for the other furniture. i don't own any furniture, and while, if i had home, i'd probably want some (see: the last paragraph), i'd want to collect it slowly as opportunities came up to acquire things i like, that have meaning to me. going to ikea makes me feel upset.
then, privacy. lack of privacy is an integral part of any prison, and it was an integral part of the imprisonment i knew. work space is the best privacy, i think, and really inviting work space is probably the only possible way of avoiding work email in bed. in my experience you don't need a more expensive place or a place farther away from the train station to have this, though people are forever saying that you do. the best work spaces i've ever had have been made in tiny closets or unexpected corners. i like making these spaces. a thing i can't even take the time to address here is how much time we all need for work, and how hard that is and always will be to figure out. but privacy, relatedly, is as much about scheduling shared time as it is about arranging shared space. this is one reason that not sharing an exact work schedule with the person you share a home with can be nice. it not only makes for alone time, but the pleasure of anticipating and experiencing one another's arrival.
i don't like having a lot of shit around. i don't like decorative plants. i don't like ornate picture frames, or cheap plastic picture frames, either. i like even the hooks i use to hang things to be made out of some old office supply that's around. i don't like buying new things when i can use old things. i don't like buying new things to match the old things when the old things break. a lot of people say they don't like having a lot of shit around, but they don't care enough to actually do the extremely hard work of not acquiring a lot of shit. one of the great advantages of not having a home has been that i can ruthlessly purge without having to consult or compromise, which makes a hard thing less hard.
i do like the meaningful clutter of beloved pens and the oddly sized art my friends make, and the clutter from projects. i have drawers full of those polaroids (although i expect that someday i'll get a lot of satisfaction out of throwing most of them away). other things i do like are red and brown and blue and green and yellow. i like maps. i like map pins. i like spinach. you know what i like. i like doing laundry (bone-dry and warm-- i'll pay whatever it takes). i like rugs. i hate organizing clutter, which is just to say that i'm bad at it-- but i'm good at throwing it away. i like the radio to be on. i don't like the tv to be on, making noise or filling a void. more and more i like listening to podcasts while i clean. this has made organizing clutter, even, less terrible. i like writing early in the morning and reading and practicing the ukulele late at night.
practically speaking, a place we shared would likely be covered in newspapers and drafts of things i'm writing and loose change and half full glasses of water and cups of coffee-- bobby pins when my hair is long, running shoes when it's not winter, and bikes hanging somewhere when it is. there'd probably be lots of mail that neither of us cared to deal with. our combined subscriptions to periodicals alone would fill shelves. my clothes and shoes would look funny next to yours in the closet, and we'd probably make lots of jokes about it. you know how it is.
hannah arendt talks about the difference between loneliness and solitude-- how a certain approach to virtue is about being lonely even in a crowd, and another version emphasizes solitude-- a time alone for necessary reflection in which one isn't lonely at all. i guess the best idea of a home i know is a place that assuages loneliness and provides for solitude. the place i grew up was all loneliness, no solitude, and i escaped the lonesome crowd by having nothing like a home that could fit more than one, and keeping my family outside of it. it worked. i have been often solitary and rarely lonesome. but those ways i learned of doing things are mere means to the ends i really care about, and i can be inventive about developing new means when the old one's stop working. and i think the validity of that strategy would not be undermined if it turned out for me to be a stop on the way to something else-- it was just time spent learning to think inventively about achieving what matters-- good skills for home building, i hope. loneliness will come of course. and solitude is hard won in the crush of things. but home, a home i'd have would be a place i'd want to work at making full of the good life noise of projects and people that as much as possible relieves loneliness and as absent as possible the bad life noise that impedes solitude. there would be space for saying the things it's hard to say. there would be patience and aid.
i've always gone out for the things i needed. it's an expensive way to live. the price has always been worth it to me. i have no regrets. but i suspect that this isn't sustainable. i think it's a riskier proposition, trying to make the things i need at home with other people, but inasmuch as we achieved it, i expect that like most riskier things, the potential gratification is something awfully profound. and you know i'm so indebted to people for couches and meals and places to talk about the things that interest me. i'd like to be able to do more than just show up and accept what other people can offer me. i'd like to be able to offer it back. i like the idea of one space to bring together all of the disparate people who i go to see in disparate places, and the people you have. i think you'd like them. i think i would like them. i think they'd all like each other. the blood family i bring is small, but my friend family is wide and wonderful and rich in resources. a home could be a place from which to share these resources, not just split the bills.
i've been working on this a little everyday as a way to think about it. i expect i'll keep at it for awhile.