Places I’ve Lived: Chicago! And Also L.A.

We’ve all lived in some places. Where have you lived, Adam Simon?

Corcoran Hall – DePaul University, Chicago, Ill. (September 1999-June 2000),
This place spawned my oft-repeated Unified Theory of College Dorms: The better a dorm looks, the less friendly its residents will be. Corcoran Hall was the friendliest dorm on campus. My floor featured such classic college archetypes—the flamboyant actor, the bio major with a penchant for hallucinogens, and the preppie finance major with a Napoleon complex—it could have been an unproduced Y2K-era John Hughes film. I shared a room with a frat-tastic jock whose computer screensaver featured pornographic pictures of unattractive women and their unimaginable activities with fruit.

Shortly after moving in, the Chicago Transit Authority mechanized the station announcements and turned the volume up to 11. My window was 20 feet from the Fullerton El Station, so I eventually incorporated the announcements into my dreams. Over the course of the year, a talking beaver, my dead grandfather, and Pat Sajak took turns interrupting themselves to announce that the doors were closing.


North Seminary, Chicago, Ill. (September 2000-September 2001), $850 (split two ways)
In this dreadful Lakeview dump, my roommate Alex and I lived above a Chicago cop. He was so obsessed with the noises that we made that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was obsessively mapping them on a cork board like a premium cable CIA agent. One time when I sneezed, he trudged up the stairs to complain, in a Chicago accent so thick his saliva could be used as a hot dog topping, about “how loud everyting iz up derr.”

The upshot of living here was getting off the train some days to find a sad parade of ticket scalpers who were desperate to unload their wares after the first few innings of an equally sad Cubs game. I attended a lot of Wrigley Field defeats that year because I have a medical condition that prevents me from turning down a ticket to a Cubs game that’s marked down 90%. My condition is, as yet, incurable. 


North Seeley, Chicago, Ill. (September 2001-June 2003), $1,105 (split three ways)
My slow march north and west away from DePaul’s campus continued as I moved into a two-bedroom that we treated as a three-bedroom. I chose the largest bedroom, which incidentally was a living room. I was young and naïve enough to think that having a huge room was more important than stupid stuff like a closet or door.

Weeks after I moved in, the apartment hosted a rowdy margarita party where the tequila to mix ratio became increasingly dangerous as the night wore on. Eventually the blender became a machine far too complex for operation. That night, the old pre-war stove, which needed to be lit each time it was used, also proved challenging. A fireball singed my eyebrows when I lit it without knowing my friend Stephanie had turned it on a while ago.

Years later, I heard a fire ravaged the place. Late one night I sat on a curb across the street, stared at the boarded up windows of my former bedroom, turned my headphones up very loudly to the songs I loved during that time, and mentally poured one out for the old place on Seeley. I don’t know exactly how it went down, but I blame the stove.


North Hermitage, Chicago, Ill. (September 2003-September 2004), $850 (split two ways)
While moving out of this apartment, I found out my roommate hadn’t paid rent in months. (We’d always sent in separate checks.) My tank-sized Serbian landlord didn’t believe my honest shock. He blocked my path, lifted me off the ground, and violently shook me, demanding that I pay my roommates’ share of the rent. Luckily, after a call to the cops followed by a brief conversation with his harried and clueless law-school daughter, it was all resolved.


West Montrose #1, Chicago, Ill. (September 2004-September 2005)
There comes a point in each of our lives when, due to a combination of growing up and terrible roommate experiences (see previous entry), we realize that it’s time to live alone. This apartment directly above a coffee shop was all mine. I stole their wireless signal; they stole my sleep by blaring terrible jam band music every morning.

A week before I planned to move out, a key turned in the door and a woman entered. She was carrying boxes and seemed confused. Apparently, she was supposed to move in that night, which would’ve been fine, except that I hadn’t really begun packing … because my lease didn’t expire for another week. We ended up helping each other move after some angry phone calls with the landlord. If life were a romantic comedy, she and I would’ve fallen in love during the misunderstanding. But because life is life, we mostly carried heavy boxes up and down stairs and wished the night was over.


West Montrose #2, Chicago, Ill. (September 2005-September 2007), $950 (split two ways)
If you’re going to finally move in with your girlfriend after a few years, you could do a lot worse than living above a pizza place that’s open until 4 a.m. We slept in the smaller bedroom, because the other one was directly above the exhaust pipe from the pizza oven and the smell that came with it.

The living room window looked out on the massive sign for the pizza place with the phone number in oversized neon. Most people found my “stand in front of the sign with my phone and ask if anybody knew the number of a good pizza place” joke funny… at least for the first few months.


Weyburn Terrace, Los Angeles, Calif. (September 2007 – June 2009), $1,018
After moving to L.A. for grad school, I lived with two Koreans over the course of these years and it lead me to a staunch dislike of the omnipresent smell of kimchi. At one point it got so bad that the water in my Brita filter tasted like pickled cabbage. When I complained about it to a Korean friend of mine he was puzzled, explaining that you normally keep the kimchi in a separate fridge, which made a lot of sense. Over the course of both years it became hard to discern whether the awkwardness was due to a language barrier or just living with a roommate again.


South Sepulveda, Los Angeles, Calif. (June 2009 – April 2010), $1,300
Living in this building felt like the absolute peak of luxury. An elevator? To my apartment? And don’t even get me started on the roof deck, hot tub, and dry sauna. About halfway through my time there, I found out that the sauna was not cleaned and it reminded me to get my yearly physical. Most would call the apartment a studio. The building called it an “executive studio” which was ironic (the sad kind) because I was working as an Executive Assistant while living there.


Clarington Avenue, Los Angeles, Calif. (April 2010 – Present), $1,375
The plan was for my then fiancée to move across the country and we would finally live together again after three years of long distance. Following a disastrous road trip and an even worse month together, she mercifully became my ex-fiancée. Paul, my kindly older landlord asked, “Do you want to talk about it?” when I told him that she was no longer living there. He also re-did the name on the mailbox, which was a real boon when I started dating again. When Paul recently passed away, I thought of his kindness during that time and how he agreed to lower the rent after I told him there would be only one tenant. We didn’t really know each other beyond meeting a couple of times and monthly rent checks, but I feel confident that if I had wanted to “talk about it,” he would’ve listened.

I’ve been here almost two years and I can’t imagine moving out anytime soon. I now live with an excellent roommate—my dog Gilda, a seemingly impossible mix of pit bull and corgi. She doesn’t help with the rent, and she’s peed indoors a few times, but she’s worth it.

I’d like to say each of my apartments has been progressively nicer, better decorated, more adult. But I’m not sure that’s true. Instead, I hope I’ve just gotten better at living in them.


Adam Simon is a TV writer based in Los Angeles. He tweets at @AdamSimonSays.


31 Comments / Post A Comment

Morbo (#1,236)

Ha, as a DePaul grad, I enjoyed this immensely, especially considering I ordered a pizza from that store last night.

I will say that Sanctuary Hall may prove you Unified Theory of Dorms correct.

ohwerd (#3,074)

maybe check your racism?

Jay Green (#2,099)

@ohwerd seconded

oiseau (#1,830)

@ohwerd …Honestly wondering where the racism is?

@oiseau I think they’re talking about the Korean thing? Which means they should check their definition of racism. He lived with two Korean roommates who ate a lot of kimchi, and it smelled bad. If I lived with a Polish woman who ate a lot of cabbage, and I complained, am I being racist? No; Polish people cook with a lot of cabbage, that’s not racism, it’s Polish cooking y’all.

@Jake Reinhardt Also, this is making me go get kimchi for lunch.

oiseau (#1,830)

@Jake Reinhardt For real. Kimchi is yummy AND legitimately stinky. Sheesh, ya’ll.

laluchita (#2,195)

@ohwerd Look, my usual answer to “yo is this racist” is yes, but have you kept kimchi in your fridge for long periods of time? because seriously, it makes EVERYTHING taste like kimchi. and I like the taste of kimchi.

chevyvan (#2,956)

@oiseau Agreed. I fail to see how the description of awkward cultural differences, language barriers, and food smells that result when people from different parts of the world end up living together is equal to stating that one race is superior to another.

selenana (#673)

@ohwerd It weirded me out too, but I’m sensitive.

HappyRabbit (#3,099)


I lived with two Californians over the course of these years and it lead me to a staunch dislike of the omnipresent smell of patchouli.

I lived with two Southerners over the course of these years and it lead me to a staunch dislike of the omnipresent smell of okra.

I lived with two Californians over the course of these years and it lead me to a staunch dislike of the omnipresent smell of patchouli.

I lived with two Humbolt country natives over the course of these years and it lead me to a staunch dislike of the omnipresent smell of pot.

Checked it for you… looks okay to me?

RacismRedux (#3,100)


Were these North Koreans or South?

Because if they were South Koreans, fine, but North Koreans…? (side eye).

Sorry, I don’t mean to make light of a serious concern, but like this lady says about being disabled, sometimes people’s oversensitivity and efforts to be “respectful” can make us more uncomfortable about a subject rather than make us more respectful.

Like, one way of reading this is: the author is stating that the roommates were Korean, and they weren’t close possibly because of the language barrier, or because of the fact that the author was used to living alone, or a combination of the two factors. There’s no inherent judgement there. Not speaking the same language as someone does present some obstacles to getting to know a person.

If you never had a context of xenophobia, then you wouldn’t presume any racism. Since we hella do, you perceive that it might have that tinge. But if your assumption is that the author is not bringing that to the table, and that only racists would bring that to the table, then highlighting it creates the presumption of racism, rather than just, y’know, calling out anyone who actually is racist. I’m not wording it very clearly, but just there’s a tipping point where “sensitivity” tips over into an overmuch sense of delicacy. Not saying that’s what’s happening here, tho. Any Koreans care to weigh in on how that paragraph hit them? Did you find it alienating?

selenana (#673)

@RacismRedux I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this but since everyone is piling on @ohwerd I thought I would chime in to say why I noticed and it bothered me.

First, I don’t think the author is a big racist. Lots of people do this… But honestly I noticed the Serbian thing too. Angry Serbian landlord. And stinky Korean roommates. But nice landlord gets to be Paul, not Caucasian Paul. Not Caucasian Alex or White Stephanie.

And yeah, I am sensitive. Because I hear it all the time and it gets in my way. I admire people who have learned not to let it bother them. But it gets tiring to be defined by race/ethnicity and when origin questions come before asking my name.

longdays (#3,103)


Wow, I really hear you! There’s so much bs around race. Truly sucks majorly.

That said, I am not sure in this instance that we can assume what Paul’s race is, or Stephanies race.

Sure they might be white, but they just as easily could be black, spanish, latin, chinese, arabic, indian or some mixture/combination. I don’t just assume that they are white.

I didn’t really make any assumptions about it reading it, I more had a generic “feel” for these people: they seemed like nice people, because the author seemed like a friendly, likable guy. But I didn’t picture blond hair, or brown hair or anything that distinct. I sort of pictured a generic group of hipster friends which (in nyc) includes many races.

Chicago cop is “chicago cop”, because his region is relevant to the story and provides some color/context. Like tough-guy serbian landlord. If descriptors add to the story, they’re included. If they don’t, they aren’t. Girl might be “french girl” unless that’s not really a very significant factor to the story/her identity-role in the story (like, maybe she is french, but that part is left out because it doesn’t add to the story and it’s a distraction).

I can imagine “white girl” being used in the story if it were relevant info, but mostly not, really. White remains “default”/generic.

But Friend Alex is not “black friend alex” or “white friend alex” and I wouldn’t assume that he’s white off the bat.

We definitely don’t live in a post-racial society (as you are very first-hand aware), but maybe we get there by realizing that we are getting somewhat there?

Racism: lame as fuck.

longdays (#3,103)

@longdays But as to being sensitive… It’s a huge tidal wave of historical weirdness, so… totally justified. I get that there’s some insensitivity in the author.

When I first came to NY from very multi-cultural aware SF, on the east coast everyone was all “this ethnicity this” and “that ethnicity that” and not in the proud, identifying way, more just categorizing and defining people, and it really threw me. Why do I need to know the race of the taxi driver? I think actually that every place else but San Francisco does that. (And it’s not like it’s so rare in San Francisco, it’s just socially frowned upon).

I’m quite appalled (and embarrassed on behalf of white girls) that Girls on HBO was written whitewashing nyc. And then, it’s remedied with a black republican……. wtf?

So: black people & non-white people totally rare in hipsterdom NY, but oh: black republicans not so much? Like, totally absent and then, bam, this super rare bird shows up to represent? Idk….

Have I ever met a black hipster republican young dude? I don’t get out that much but…. I can’t think of a one. Fuck me but that really is a rare sight.

So, if you left them out, I wouldn’t be like… this isn’t a true picture of NY, where are all the black hipster republicans!?! In L. Dunham’s fantasy world, I suppose. No offense to any actual black hipster nyers out there. No, that’s not contrived at all. (sheesh!)

ImASadGiraffe (#982)

“This is Fullerton. Transfer to Brown and Purple Line Trains at Fullerton. This is a Red Line train to Howard.”

<3 Chicago

nonvolleyball (#305)


faustbanana (#2,376)

@nonvolleyball aaaahhhhh stop it 2 real y’all

Weird question: Is it normal for roommates to each send in separate checks? I’ve never heard of that, but I’ve mostly lived alone.

Theda Baranowski (#2,989)

@Amanda Green@twitter I did that in my grad school apartment in Madison. I just paid all of it and got my roommate to give me her part (not half, because I was subsidizing her) the last time I lived with someone, in New York.

kellyography (#250)

@Amanda Green@twitter We did this for the first few years I lived in my current apartment. Then when the shittiest girl took over the lease, she had us all write checks to her and she would write the landlord one big check. I later found out she did it this way because she was fleecing the shit out of us. Now that I’m the leaseholder, my roommates all write checks to me and I write one check to the landlord but I do not gouge my roommates, because I am not a terrible person (at least not in that way).

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@Amanda Green@twitter I lived one place where the landlord required that we only send one check, so we all wrote checks to one of our roommates and that worked because she wasn’t a terrible person who wanted to steal our money. Besides that one place, I’ve never had a landlord tell us we weren’t allowed to submit multiple checks. My current roommate and I write two checks and mail them in the same envelope.

MissMushkila (#1,044)

@Amanda Green@twitter We wrote separate checks everywhere that I lived in college. I had good roommates, so it never resulted in any real problems. A couple of times (over the course of 4 years) someone would be late on their part of rent (usually by accident). The landlord always sent the late fee letter just to that one person. It seemed pretty standard, especially to landlords and buildings that usually rent to students.

sparrow303 (#1,641)

Yay! Apartments in my own ‘hood. Three cheers for that pizza joint :D

Cup of T (#2,533)

Man that ‘we did long-distance for 3 years and then broke up the first month we got to live together again’ thing is TERRIFYING.

yrouttasight (#2,967)

@Cup of T Also, I hate to say it, entirely understandable. Three years? Yeesh.

yrouttasight (#2,967)

“…my dog Gilda, a seemingly impossible mix of pit bull and corgi.”

It does seem impossible, and I will need to see a picture of this dog for proof.

@yrouttasight Usually I share pictures of her without people asking, so if you’re actually going to request them…

aetataureate (#1,310)

HAHAHAHA I was just at that Chicago’s today. YES.

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