Wednesday, December 30, 2015

From My Vicarious Life to Reality

Since the day in 1981, when I packed the last box from my dorm room into my 1975 Gremlin and drove out of Charleston, I dreamed of moving back. Since 2004, I have lived, off and on, vicariously there, on the peninsula, paying rent for charming abodes on quaint streets for our daughters as they attended the College of Charleston. Unlike my college experience, when we lived in dorms for 4 years, CofC has grown  so much that only freshman are guaranteed on-campus housing.

There was the incredible large apartment on Society street, with its 12 foot ceilings, wide wood plank floors, floor to ceiling windows, and huge back porch that overlooked the brick court yard. Then the charming carriage house behind the southern mansion on Moultrie that had recently been redone with its granite kitchen counters, hardwood floors, and paladin windows. After that there were the 19th century homes on Queen and Logan Streets. Each of these were on the carriage tour routes. (A point that reminded me- if the carriage comes by the house, it is out of my price range).

So when I learned I was finally moving to Charleston and needed housing, my thoughts went to the quaint cobblestone streets, tight one way alleys among 18th and 19th century homes, carriage houses down hidden drives, apartments in one of the old homes - to name a few possible abodes. I wanted nothing fancy. 

In Charleston one realistically expects to deal with on the street parking which is a nightmare, old plumbing, uneven floors, and odd floor plans where bathrooms have been retrofitted into closets or at the end of halls. The paint is usually scarred, kitchen outdated, and bedrooms very small. However, you are living in the Holy City and this is a small price to pay for the experience.

Now that I have survived running the gauntlet of the housing market, I think I have a place to live. Finally I can turn to packing and preparing to move. But my new address will not be a quaint carriage house, or the floor of one of the ten's of thousands of the 18th, 19th, or even early 20th century homes. No, I am moving into the corner of an old iron foundry (the Miller and Kelley Foundry and Machine Shop) that dates back to the 1880's. Instead of paladin windows, piazzas, and fountains, I have exposed brick walls, open spaces, and an industrial facade. And most of all, I am not on a carriage tour. I am not close to their tour route. Being in an area of "gentrification", this is not exactly the part of the city the Chamber of Commerce wants to showcase. 

When I was in school, this was the part of town you avoided, and God forbid you have to drive through you did so fairly quickly making sure all the doors were locked and you had an able bodied male companion or two and were in a reliable vehicle that was not likely to break down any where in that area. It was an area of falling down, albeit Charleston homes, filled with bums and prostitutes. In fact I doubt some of my college friends even went through the area, or if they did would never admit to it.

So when I give my friends my new address, they pause and ask, "Isn't that part of upper Meeting Street, the East Side, that is down and out?"

Being the eternal optimist, and seeing what they have not seen in 25 -30 years, I can easily answer, "No, it is more of the up and coming."

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