In 2004, after a couple of particularly painful years away from my beloved, lakeside hometown of Duluth, I accepted a position at an ad agency as a copywriter. It was, sorry for the cliche, a dream come true. I was so happy to be home, and close to friends, family, and the familiarity of that rocky shoreline.
For my first six months, I lived alone in an efficiency apartment on the major eastside thoroughfare of London Road, very close to the historical mansion that housed my office, and mere steps from Duluth’s famed Lakewalk.
Dubbed “The Shoebox,” it was about 300 square feet, and I had every inch of storage stuffed full of body lotions and cheap hot pink bar tops. Still, despite its confines, I remember feeling very independent and, an emotion so notable due to its rarity for long stretches in my life, I remember feeling blissfully happy.
The Shoebox, and all the adventures tied to that six month stretch in my young twenties, is worthy of 10-12 separate posts. Today, though, I’d like to focus on the time period just after that, when I lived on the top floor of a creaky old – but Lake Superior view! – duplex with Erin.
I knew Erin peripherally as I had been good friends with her older brother, Eric, for years. (He was actually the best friend of an ex-boyfriend, but our friendship outlasted the romantic relationship.) On occasion, we had gone out to the bars on the Iron Range in a group together, and we always had a good time. She was fun and had a lovely spirit. Though I can’t remember exactly how it unfolded, I’m sure Eric must have alerted me Erin wanted to move to Duluth to attend a vocational program. I vaguely remember laying on the daybed in my teeny little Shoebox, chatting to her on the phone (there were no texts; how quaint!) about neighborhoods she should consider living in, when it struck me.
“Hey, would you like to share a place?” I asked. I was eager for an upgrade to my space, and I felt we’d work just fine as roommates … though I, a dog person, wasn’t all that crazy about her rather moody orange tabby, Buster.
She did. We fell quickly in love with the first place we visited, situated high on Observation Hill. Fifth Street.
The view from the front bedroom was glorious. We had a similar view from our front deck, and the location provided easy commutes (not that they’re ever that tough in Duluth) to work and school for both of us.
I offered to pay about 2/3 of the rent so I could take the fantastic front room with the walk-in closet. I arranged all of my bootcut Lucky brand jeans’ colored labels in rainbow order on the longest shelf.
We had a narrow galley kitchen, which Erin’s sister-in-law painted a cheery apple green to complement all my lipstick red kitchenware. It sounds kind of loud, but it was so cute.
Damn. We loved this place.
Erin and I quickly became very close. We spent a lot of nights up late on the couch, just talking about love, life, and whatever. If we had too many drinks, which happened frequently, we would turn on the stereo – probably too loud for the downstairs neighbor – and dance in the living room to CDs I’d burned at work from playlists I created on the new-to-the-world Apple iTunes.
Shake Ya Tailfeather, by a Nelly-led trio, was a favorite, and it was track one on the Sharpie-labeled “Shakin’ My Tailfeather” compilation.
During our time in the duplex, Erin would meet the guy she would happily spend the next 15 plus years with, and they are still together. I would meet what would turn in to another romantic disaster. Erin and I fell out of touch after we stopped living together, not because of anything terrible, but just because that’s what often happens with friendships in one’s early 20s. People come in for a season, and play an important role, and – poof! – just like that, they’re gone.
In Erin’s case, we did what twentysomething girls did in the late 90s and early 2000s. We had a good time, and we moved on with our lives, taking with us some of my most treasured, fun, even just plain silly, memories.
“I can’t explain it, but damn sure glad you came here …”