1006 Bridge St.
The first apartment that I had sheltered in full time within the city of Grand Rapids.
The apartment was on the second floor and it had a “porch” that you could only go out on at night in the summer as the tar got sticky in the sunlight. In the summer, the apartment was +4 hot, however hot it was outside, it was four more hot in the apartment. In the winter it was +5 cold due to the giant robot head. The Giant Robot Head was what had been installed as some form of a heater. It was in the middle of the apartment and it had a glass covered grill for a mouth and vents for eyes. In the night, you could see the evil burning within. The head radiated heat in about a three-inch area around it so you could either freeze anywhere in the apartment or you could lay on it and fry like an egg.
Downstairs, where I assume the rest of the robot stood, was home to two sets of neighbors in my time there.
Never caught the name of the first, they kept mostly to themselves, busy with screaming at one another while their children ran the equivalent of a marathon on the hardwood floors every single day. They moved out one night, in the middle of the night, and I was glad they were gone.
Derek, his baby’s momma and his baby moved in downstairs. Derek was friendly, always asking, “wanna smoke one?” every time we crossed paths on the downstairs porch. I learned that Derek had been very successful in spreading his seed across this part of the state, having a woman with babies in several locations… many within the city limits. He ended up in jail because of a dispute between himself and his baby’s momma (the one that lived here). When I asked him what happened, he said “She hit me five times, I hit her once, We BOTH goin ta jail!”
During our time on Bridge St., my roommate and I did not own a TV. We had a computer, two guitars, a stereo, a lava lamp, and the window that looked out across the street. This was more than enough entertainment.
The house that our picture window perfectly framed, was the home of Crash. Crash had apparently gotten his nickname from the appearance of his head, which looked like it had been used as a speedbag for a number of years. He had the perpetual smile of a Japanese baby, and an enormous gut, which he proudly displayed sans shirt, between suspenders as he tended to his flowerbeds and his lawn. Crash supplemented his income by swinging bags, so there was always an interesting cross section of society hanging out on his front porch with his haggard looking wife and her live in lover. Better TV had never made it to the airwaves.
Three houses down from Crash’s pad, next to The Smiling Bear Auto Repair, was the neighborhood crack house. Not quite the burned out building full of piss smelling half dead squatters type, but a run down, noisy party house that was frequented by all kinds of people, including the police (for different reasons, I’m sure).
One summer evening, I was entertaining my future wife out on our second story porch, safe from all but firearms. We were sipping wine by candle (and street) light and listening to Mazzy Star. There was also some entertaining going on at the crack house, in the form of a porch party.
We heard shouting from our side of the street, but we could not see the source. In answer, a very large woman strode forward from the shadows of the crack house porch and bellowed in an impossibly loud voice…
I turned to my date and said…
welcome to the West Side, dear.”
Fourth of July, that same year, the city launched it’s first salvo of fireworks into the air, which resulted in a thunderous report. From the porch of the crack house came the war cry…
"WEST SIDE GONNA RETALIATE!"
Once, while driving away from my apartment, I saw a man walking in an odd fashion down the sidewalk. Upon closer scrutiny, I observed that he was wearing cowboy boots, which were on completely backwards! When I looked to my future wife for verification of what I had seen, (I have been known to see stuff that isn’t even stuff) she was turning to me with a look of shock and confusion seeking the same validation. It remains a mystery to this day.
Tying the whole hood together was Sam’s corner grocery, where I bought my Drum tobacco, everyone bought booze, and the neighborhood children bought their meals of Little Debbie and quarter bags of chips.
Upon my first visit to Sam’s, I waited behind an old, shirtless man who had his arm bandaged to his chest and gauze over one eye. Sam asked the man, “Tom, what the hell happened to you?” Tom replied “Ah, some kids just decided to beat the shit out of me on my way home from work. No big deal, cracked a few ribs, broke my arm and fucked up my eye.” He paid for his fifth of Vodka and left.
I moved away from the West Side, but it didn’t change the fact that I still lived in Grand Rapids…
…Much more to come.