One of the first houses I ever moved into was also the first house I gotten evicted from. But instead of some grandiose disaster – like the time we accidentally flooded the downstairs bathroom or the time we purposely set fire to the blender – our getting the boot was the result of a benign landlord unsympathetic to the renter’s market.
“You guys want to stay?” he cackled. “Got $200,000?”
It was a dumb question, but the answer amused him greatly. We were university students, starving and jobless. The landlord, whom we had nicknamed “Rat Ass”, gave us a month to find somewhere else to destroy. Indignant that our presence wasn’t wanted, much less celebrated, we punched holes in the walls and held a dance party on the roof.
In hindsight, we were lucky that anyone was willing to rent to a band of teenage punks who fancied themselves to be musicians. The best part about playing in an unlistenable band was the house shows, those ragers that somehow always ended with too much laughter and traces of tears. I always wondered when the party would stop – and why should it? Ours was a collective dream to own a dump of our own, a house where we could stage non-stop gigs while enduring the revolving delirium of an endless summer.
But as we all got older and buying house became less a dream and more of an expensive reality, the idea of leading a collective life with my deadbeat friends only got more ridiculous. By day we tolerated each other just so long as everyone slept in until noon. But by night we just got drunk and hollered.
Incidentally, the band wasn’t doing so hot either.
Kara and I walked on the side of the river where real estate prices had skyrocketed in the past five years, the same path we had tread over and over until we wore grooves into the ground. But nowadays we started noticing a different kind of scenery. In celebration of holding down a job for a year, or a partner for almost five, Kara now claimed interest in becoming a homeowner.
“Paying rent is such a waste of money,” grumbled Kara.
I agreed in theory. I didn’t like paying rent either. But I could safely assume that I probably wouldn’t like paying for things such as a new furnace – just like the one in the basement that suddenly took a shit and died mid-winter. I had just moved halfway across the city – the houses in my old neighbourhood had tripled in rent. In my new hood they had only doubled. It could be worse: The average price for a house in Toronto was now a million dollars.
So which was worse: Paying off someone else’s mortgage or dishing out too much for an overpriced shanty?
Kara didn’t have an answer. Neither did I. Nor did I have a reason to stay in my house, or anyone’s house, for the next 30 years.
But who was I to fault anyone for wanting to dig in and plant roots? Maybe it would be nice change to renovate a basement rather than destroy it completely. The problem nowadays was now that any of us could actually afford to buy a house, no one wanted to host a punk band, much less a party, anymore.
Besides why pony up the dough to pay for something that would only end up getting puked on anyway?
Meanwhile, I led Kara on a walk that went by my old house, that first house that endured so much. Nowadays it was selling for nearly half a million dollars.
“I wish I had kept that party going,” I mumbled under my breath.