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zingmagazine10 autumn 1999

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6799
reviews

HOUSEGUESTS: MY HOUSE, 1995-1999
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA/BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

I never seem to remember those houseguests that cooked me food, did their dishes, didn’t stay forever, and didn’t wear all my clothes. The weird ones, the nightmare ones, the really funny ones, the ones I didn’t even know who just sort of showed up, those are the ones who always come to mind. The following is a review of five people who have stayed with me for anywhere from one night to six months in the last five years.
1. I got home at five am to a skinny old rocker with a beer gut cuddled up with a blonde woman on a single mattress on the floor of my bedroom. I’d never seen the man, the woman or the mattress in my life but I was a little drunk and I figured that they must be someone’s friends or how could they have gotten into my room and found my old sleeping bag. It turned out that beer gut man’s whole band was staying at my house and he and his wife just wanted some privacy so they ducked into the only empty room, mine. I found all this out after they woke me up at 9 am while they argued over where to go to breakfast. At this point I kind of gave up on sleeping and followed them into my living room. The rest of the band had gotten a 12-pack of Budweiser cans and were sitting on my couch in the morning sun.
A creepy shirtless gut man I didn’t even know waking me up in the morning after a night of heavy drinking wasn’t working for me at all. Like most things in my life, the band from Portland’s visit started out weird and uncomfortable and confusing and ended up to be a really good story. If I could sum up their two day stay in one image it would be this: me, gut man, his wife and band all in our tight black stretch rocker jeans spread across two couches, drinking beers for breakfast in the sun talking about gas stations and sound guys and snack food.
2. Wendy was the kind of person that before you lived with her, you thought she was one of the most amazing people you’d ever met. She’s the kind of person who is your roommate and then decides that she needs to move out right away so she packs up her stuff, stops paying rent, moves out of her room and stays in the living room for four months as a “guest” while she “looks for a place.” She’s a tornado. She changes her clothes ten times a day, leaving the discarded outfits all over the entire apartment. She borrows everyone’s stuff, especially expensive clothing or favorite magazines, without asking and then ruins them and throws them back on your floor when she’s done. She’s creative. She decorates the house for you. But in doing so, she gets glue on the carpet, terrorizes the cat, and dirties every dish in the kitchen.
I am in awe of her abilities. I’ve never met anyone like her in my life. When she’s staying with you, she takes over every inch of space. When she stayed with me, I was completely caught up in her spell but at the same time I found myself trying to figure out ways to get her deported.
3. The Sleepy House on Market Street was huge and we had people staying over all the time. In the middle of one of our big parties, a girl passed out in the middle of the main hallway. We asked around and found out that she was a friend of our friend Sascha. At the end of the night we couldn’t seem to move her so we left her there and went to our rooms to sleep. At some point in the middle of the night, she got up and wandered into Erik’s room. As he told it, she woke him up by walking in circles around his room clapping her hands. Sascha told us later that she has The Clapper at her house and she was just trying to turn the lights on. When Erik asked her what she was doing, she growled at him and wandered out of the room, still clapping. Then she went into Corrina’s room, where Corrina and her boyfriend were sleeping, naked. She proceeded to lie down on the floor next to them, grab the blanket off of them and fall back into a deep sleep clutching the blanket so tight that neither Corrina nor her boyfriend could get it back the rest of the night.
After all this, Sascha and The Clapper didn’t slink off quietly and never show their red faces again, oh no! They stayed for hours and chatted with us and ate our waffles like nothing had happened.
4. The most beautiful apartment I ever lived in was on Treat Street in San Francisco. It had wood floors, high ceilings, sun, those windows with the little square panes, a backyard full of flowers, a garage full of car parts. Unfortunately, my roommate was a disaster. Everything was very tense between us because once and a while I’d start dating someone and he’d realize I wasn’t going to sleep with him and stop talking to me. One afternoon my friend Ray Wray sat down at my table at New Dawn and insisted that I had to let him stay with me for a while because he and his boyfriend were breaking up (again) and he had nowhere else to go. At first Ray was the perfect guest. He sold drugs to buy us a video game system and a CD player and hair clippers so we could give each other bad haircuts. He cooked mashed potatoes and grits with vegan gravy. He even got us a kitchen table.
Ray was a mess. He had run away from home and grew up on the street. That’s where I met him, actually. We were both kids and I would go hang around the street where he worked. He was the sweetest, most sensitive person alive but he could punch out anyone in the world if he had to. As a friend, he was amazing; as a houseguest, he was a nightmare. He ruined my house, crashed my car and didn’t tell me because he was too drunk to remember it happening, left cigarette butts all over everything, and invited the girl who broke my heart over to play Yahtzee every night after I told him I never wanted to see her again. Oh, and he stayed for six months.
Everything that happened with Ray was a huge dramatic production. Probably the worst period of his stay was when we both got Mono. We were confined to the house for a month, too sick to work or go out. My mom would come by once a week and give us weird herbs to take. When I refused to take the worst tasting ones, Ray would handcuff me to the chair until I swallowed them. We literally sat in the kitchen for a month and drove each other crazy. We paced back and forth. We wrote songs. We threw all of our blue dishes out the window. We prank called our friends. We had food fights.
During that time, a stray cat moved into the kitchen and wouldn’t leave. He became our new best friend when no one else would come visit for fear of getting sick. One night while we were on acid, Ray discovered that the cat had been using our closets as a bathroom for some time. So he’s running around the house, trying to catch the cat and threatening to put it in the oven and I’m running around trying to stop him. Finally I had to call animal control and have them come over and take the cat away.
5. I was staying in San Francisco last December, a houseguest in my old house on Market street. I came home early one night from a party and set up my usual bed on the most comfortable couch in the living room, turned off the light and fell asleep instantly. I was so exhausted. About three hours later I woke up to someone turning on the lights. I didn’t even open my eyes but I heard a few people come in, talking softly, and set up bedding on the floor. I was so tired I couldn’t even look to see who it was or get up to turn off the light after they had forgotten. I just lay awake with my head under my pillow hoping they’d go away or fall asleep. Unfortunately, they did neither of these things. They were two teenage boys and a girl. I don’t know if I ever did catch their names so for the sake of this review I shall refer to them as A, B, and C. They fought the whole night. They were from some small town south of the city and they had come up in hopes of finding a place to live and getting away from their parents. A and B were together and C was B’s best friend. They had run out of money and patience with each other. B and C argued about who was more of a wimp and C fell asleep crying. Then A and B argued about their relationship and B spent the whole time not listening to a thing A said. He just kept coming back to how she should understand how it made him feel for her to say that she loved him when he didn’t love her too. To him that was somehow way worse than how A felt for loving such an insensitive asshole who didn’t love her back. The whole night, I lay there with my eyes closed restraining myself from getting up and punching B in the face.
And that’s not even the worst of it. Eventually, someone else came in and yelled at them until they turned off the light and went to sleep. Ah, sleep. It was beautiful. Then I found out that Wendy was staying there too. At 7 am, only hours after I had fallen asleep, Wendy bounds in like a puppy and jumps on my bed, pulling the covers off of me. Hey! Hi, Sarah. What are you doing here? Hi, how are you? I couldn’t even say a word. I couldn’t even pretend to be excited to see her. I was too tired. I just glared at her until she went away.

Sarah Keough
Brooklyn, New York
1999