Leela Rice has lived in some places.
Walnut Street, Georgetown, Texas, $400ish
This was the first place I lived that was not my parents’ house or college dorms. It was a nice old house with big windows and was close to campus, although you had to walk through a weird field with a sheep and no streetlights to get there. The summer we were to move in, the house wasn’t ready in time, so we lived in the landlord’s summer cabin thing out in the country for a few weeks. There was a horse in the field surrounding the house that we rode during a party because someone randomly had a bridle in her trunk–Texas!
The Walnut Street house had a very fancy bathroom with a skylight and a nice backyard with lots of honeysuckle. There was a big front porch with a creaky porch swing. We had a Libra birthday party in October, and I got my first tattoo. Sometimes I would come home from class and find my housemate singing along with the theme song to the soap opera Passions.
College Street, Georgetown, Texas, $100
I lived here for a couple of months the summer before I went abroad. It was sort of a last minute thing because I had planned to move home but instead got a job doing psychological research on fish. I slept on the floor and shared a bathroom with at least four people, one of whom had a room filled with glowing aquariums and glass cases of lizards. There were something like ten people actively living there, with another five or six around at any given time. We spent hours sitting on the front porch. We made beignets for the start of The Real World: New Orleans. I adopted a turtle from the research lab and named him Guillermo, but he ran away almost immediately. The kitchen was always disgusting and one of the housemates called me “LeeLee” and another still owes me for bills (though obviously I gave up on that long ago).
Gloucester Road, London, England, Don’t know rent, but do know it was the same for room and board for tuition (so, too much)
The program I was on was set up so that a bunch of people from my college went over to England together and they made us do lots of group outings. I shared a room with three other girls and we had bunk beds and a teensy kitchenette. Everyone was a little too excited about the drinking age being 18. We saved money for booze by eating icky dinners of mashed potatoes and textured vegetable protein which we rehydrated with boiling water. I discovered Lush and Paperchase in Covent Garden. We went to Edinburgh and the Brontes’ house and to castles and Greenwich and Amsterdam and lots of plays. We walked everywhere and ogled the teddy bears and bouquets left at Princess Diana’s ersatz memorial at Kensington Palace on the anniversary of her death.
Campus apartments, Georgetown, Texas, Also don’t know (also too much)
I spent the semester between London and graduation living in an on-campus apartment. It was the first time I’d ever had my own bathroom. My roommate and I made chapatis in our kitsch-en, which we plastered with our friends’ renderings of the Virgen de Guadalupe. We stayed up all night playing cards at the student coffeehouse. We got in trouble for Too Much Music and for drinking outside. It was the last time that so many of my friends lived within walking distance and we had virtually no real responsibilities.
Riverside Drive, Austin, Texas $400
Several college friends and I moved here after we graduated. We were all jobless, which made it seem like a good idea to eschew air conditioning until we realized we were spending more money going to matinee movies to escape the cloying Austin heat (and the terrible white leather sectional) than we would if we just turned the air on. The house belonged to a roommate’s cousin and came with an aquarium full of fish which soon dwindled to one evil sucker-type fish that ate all of its compatriots. We had a lot of great parties and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly until I woke up one September morning and watched with my roommate as the towers fell. A couple of months after that I moved back to London on a scarily rickety plane where the luggage thing above me was held closed with duct tape and all of the in-flight movies were Indian game shows.
Earl’s Court Road, London, England, 400 pounds
My friend from college and I wanted to go back to England, so we did a program where you get a six month work visa and “help finding a job” in exchange for quite a bit of money. We found four flatmates in the hostel we lived in for a week and I got a job at a fancy coffeeshop where we got a week’s training on how to properly make a latte. The pay was abysmal but I enjoyed getting free coffee (I enjoyed the constant repetition of that Dido album slightly less). Eventually I happened into a job as a medical secretary in an oncology hospital. It paid about three times more than the coffee place and had a lot less Dido, though it was hard to decipher medical terminology from the doctors from Wales and Scotland. I bought a sandwich from Pret a Manger almost every day and read Vanity Fair in a park by my work on my lunch breaks. I was devastated at having to leave once my work visa ran out.
Galway, Ireland, 30 euros a week
I only lived here for about a month, but the main things I remember are lots of mold and having to buy fake logs to heat the house because, although it was July, it was cold and damp all the time. We went to a Canada Day party at a pub and tried to convince people we were Canadian. It didn’t really work (note: don’t fake being from Vancouver when talking to someone from Vancouver!), but we did get maple leaves painted on our eyelids. I never found a job so I went back to Texas.
Riverside Drive, Austin, Texas, $400
I moved back into the house on Riverside that I’d been living in before moving to London. It was great except that I bought a friend’s car and it immediately died forever and then we got kicked out of the house because my housemate apparently neglected to pay some bills while I was gone.
Milton Street, Austin, Texas, $300
I lived here for a month. I was happy to get a place right off South Congress Avenue, in the midst of lots of things, but my room/studio was small and weird and I had to cross the porch and shower in the main house, which was occupied by several nice but fratty guys. Their bathroom did have fancy metallic butterfly wallpaper, but it wasn’t enough to offset the crushing loneliness and ennui. My grandmother died and every day I wished I was back in London.
Whitis Avenue, Austin, Texas, $400
This was a great apartment! It was the top floor of a big house, and we went out on the roof all the time. My housemate built a big deck and we’d have potluck cookouts every Friday. We were buddies with the downstairs neighbor boys and once had a dual Halloween party where our apartment was heaven and theirs was hell. Everyone dressed as someone dead (I was Joan Crawford). I got a job at a vet clinic and could walk to work and to the grocery store and my favorite coffee house. My room was gigantic and had huge windows and two closets. It was pretty much the best.
Avenue G, Austin, Texas, $410
All good things must come to an end and after living in the Big Red House on Whitis for a few years, it was time to live on my own. This was a precious tiny studio in the heart of lovely Hyde Park. It had tons of character and apparently used to be an army barracks. It was owned by the sweetest little old lady and was across the alley from a daycare full of little hipster kids. Once I drove up on my scooter and they were all clamoring about the “motorcycle” before one said (with extreme disdain), “It’s a scooter.” He was about 4.
North Loop Blvd, Austin, Texas $1050 (total)
By 2005 I was ready to move in with my boyfriend of a year or so. I told my mom over the phone during a break from painting our new living room. We had wood floors, a little phone nook, a big backyard, our own washer and dryer and a dishwasher–it was basically heaven. We adopted a kitten to keep my cat company, then a dog, another dog, and eventually a pug puppy. Luckily I was still working at the vet clinic and the dogs came to work with me every day and slept on the office futon. We had dinner parties, watched cable TV, and ran joyfully hollering into the street when Obama won the presidency.
54th Street, Portland, Oregon $675 (total)
Because I wasn’t interested in vet school, being a vet technician didn’t seem like it was going anywhere—and I was getting burned out on the sad parts. I applied to law schools in places we thought we could happily live and was excited to end up in Portland, Oregon. We of course brought the menagerie with us, flying the cats up via plane and driving with the dogs sprawled in the backseat. We moved into this apartment without having seen it first, but luckily it wasn’t too bad. It was across the street from a Vietnamese bakery with excellent coffee and banh mi and was a block away from a great bar with pool tables, a photo booth, and giant pictures of tattooed Yakuza guys on the walls. We walked the dogs through various levels of rain and missed having a backyard. I biked around the block with our four-year-old neighbor on her Big Wheel and we stopped every couple of feet so she could pick wildflowers to put in my bike basket. Eventually we got tired of the constant dog walking and started looking for a house to rent.
Carlton Street, Portland, Oregon $950 (total)
This house was darling, though not without its drawbacks. For one thing, it was only 700 square feet. It was also 100 years old, which made for charming details but also some mold issues. An ancient gas furnace took up half of the living room. We finally had a backyard again, with mint, sage, a little plum tree and a back fence covered with blackberries in the summer. I got a free grill off Craigslist and we had cookouts in the long light of summer evenings. I spent most of the summer reading in the backyard, listening to the neighbor kids playing Marco Polo and the ice cream trucks’ tinnily bleating strains of “The Entertainer.” We lived here two years, until I graduated from law school and we decided to move back to Texas, since Portland wasn’t exactly throwing jobs at me. Once again we loaded up our lives and the animals (this time taking the two cats in the car as well as the three dogs, since we’re apparently masochists) and drove back across the country.
North Loop Blvd., Austin, Texas, $1,350 (total)
After a long and frustrating long-distance search for a rental house, we ended up renting the place directly next door to the one we lived in before moving to Portland. Three years, two places in between, and four thousand miles driven and we ended up thirty feet from where we were. This house was built at the same time as the other (early 50s) and has an almost identical layout. We’ve been here for about a month and I still sometimes get a tiny bit confused about where (and when) I am. It’s almost like a weird time warp in which school and Portland never happened. North Loop and Austin itself have changed since we were here before, though – there are new bars and restaurants to try and lots of new buildings downtown. Mainly I’m excited to hang out with old friends and eat migas every weekend again.
Although there’s no shortage of lawyers, Leela Rice is trying to be one of the good ones. She believes in universal access to health care, cocktail hour, and dogs.