Tales from the Northside

Tales from the Northside

I am feeling a little sentimental – which is rare. We’re moving our office soon. We’ve been at 804 N Limestone since sometime in early 2009. When we first saw the building, things were a little different. Upstairs, there was a shared bathroom you could enter from an exterior staircase. There was a shared kitchen and four weekly rental bedrooms.

Our neighbor, Denver, has been with us from the beginning. He’s the one who drives the cars without hoods. Cars without windows, doors, windshields. He owned the pontoon boat that hosted an impromptu meeting. He can drink great quantities of beer. Beatboxes of beer. Suitcases of beer. He inspired our nickname for the 30-pack: the NoLi briefcase.

Tales from the Northside

When we moved in, he had a sign on his door that read: “Knock or I’ll shoot.” Which is confusing. He had a girlfriend who may or may not hold the record for the longest consecutive wearing of a walking cast. It was several years. We think she sold pills out of it like Phil Knight selling shoes out of the trunk of his car.

Now, Denver has a flag that says “Kill ’em and let God sort ’em out.”

When Griffin and I moved into the office, it consisted of a big empty room – formerly the bedrooms – and a smaller room – formerly the kitchen. We moved into the smaller room. We bought desks from UK salvage. Big freighters. Steelcase desks that made the wood floors flex. We sat there looking at each other wondering. What now.

Tales from the NorthsideTales from the Northside

Slowly, we got clients. Which had its complications. The exterior stairs were really treacherous. Broken treads, loose handrail. I am pretty loose with safety, in general. But, this was dangerous. And, once clients got upstairs (assuming they could find it) there was the smell.

Downstairs was a diner called Linda’s. You walked in, and there was a row of counter seating. Behind that was a griddle with a hood that hadn’t vented anything in years. At some point, they knocked out some bricks for an opening, and caulked the trailer to the building so there was extra seating inside. It also let in the smell of sausage and frying potatoes and fat frying fat with fat. It sounds delicious, but it smelled pretty strong to someone coming up the first time.

The other sticking point was the window. The client could never face the window. The building across the lot was a church on the first floor, apartment on the second. Their bathroom faced our office. Actually, it was the shower. And while the window was supposed to be opaque, it wasn’t nearly opaque enough. Inevitably, the light would turn on, the water. And, if we weren’t careful, the client got an eyeful of unappetizing nudity.

Tales from the NorthsideTales from the Northside

We thought through ways to use the larger room. And we rented the space to a senior student graduating from Transy. She wanted a unique setting for her senior show. Her art was delicate. Cut paper and fine cloth. Unfortunately, between the time she set up for the show and actually had the show we had a terrible storm. The winds blew the roof off. The art didn’t stand a chance against nature. She wept. We had to refund her money, which was tough because there wasn’t really any money. But we got a new roof out of the deal.

By the winter, Linda’s closed. This meant that instead of grease, there was 30-degree air coming through the floor. So, we bought a used wood stove from Jeter’s up the street. At some point, it had been painted or coated in something. We fired it up excitedly. It smoked kind of a lot. And, smelled pretty toxic. We thought it was normal, so we struggled through and put our feet to the warmth. That is why Griffin and I are so dumb. We killed a full brain worth of brain cells that winter. But we stayed warm.

We are taking some things with us. Mel Gibson, for one. When we got our first check ($1000), we were drunk with success. We went to an art show at the Miller House. After wading through three floors of garbage we saw him. All 8 feet of him. As God intended. The artist insisted that it was her boyfriend, but we knew better. We paid the $400 and carried him out then and there. We tied him to the top of Griffin’s station wagon and never looked back. He has moved around the office. We once got a call from our city council representative asking us to remove him from the window. Fair enough.

This series is our attempt to share with you some of the other treasures we intend to take with us. We have been shaped by this corner in profound ways. And, in some really funny, weird ways. This is how we remember and look forward to more memories. Enjoy.