This fall our college senior decided it was time to move off campus. As decidedly older parents, we knew this drill well. Robert’s brothers had rental options subjected to a billion questions/inquiries/inspections from their CSO — chief safety officer — Lori.
Is it safe? How many bedrooms are there? Will you be in the basement? Is there a fire exit? How many fire alarms? Are the batteries charged? How many CO2 alerts? Is there adequate parking with good lighting? How far is campus — remember — classes?
But son No. 3 didn’t get the same vetting. Our response was something like, “What? You’re in college?”
And so I saw the new “home” for the first time Labor Day weekend.
If the Bates Motel could have a younger brother, then you get a sense for where our son is living this year. An imposing, farmhouse-style home on the west side of Tennessee Avenue, perched up from the street, with an inviting sense to it — if your name is Anthony Perkins.
I thought Robert left a fraternity. He didn’t. He created a new one. Nine roommates, untold number of weekend “guests” plus Roy — a Lab mix who serves to pick up what’s left behind. The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’s home had fewer occupants. And bugs.
The Orkin man does not know this address. Unless he likes beer pong and Natty Light.
Lori joined me for the “tour.” It included frequent head shaking, covering the mouth and nose, with commentary including “what’s that?” “Gross!” “OMG. No!” The hardwood floors, for instance, had a biofilm that would destroy a Swiffer in seconds. The blinds were bent and in a state of disarray, as if installed by Edward Scissorhands. The place had more loudspeakers than you’d see at a Bose trade show.
The kitchen had something resembling a pantry, identifiable only because it included a box of Lucky Charms with an expiration date when Nixon was president. It included some hot gloves carefully selected by a well-intentioned mother only to be tossed to serve as bedding for insect proliferation. The refrigerator had a carton of milk, a tub of butter and some really cold things not readily identifiable. There was an industrial grade microwave capable of heating a frozen-solid burrito in seconds.
There was a large covered porch with a dog bone resting on the floor. Or we assumed. The yard had a ladder dropped as if there had been a sudden robbery, lying amid a few blades of fescue suffocating in a sea of crabgrass.
The tour had some upsides. No one darted out from any doors half clothed. No ambulances, police officers or representatives from the EPA dropped by.
Juxtaposed against his mother’s aghast was Robert’s joy, correction, glee, in his own place. Admittedly, it had a feel that a party was just moments away. #BatesMotelKegger! Like a door will swing open and in would walk Bluto accompanied by Mandy Pepperidge.
But it was the fire escape that caught the parental glare. It apparently had its own fire — looking very aged and dark, as if leaping flames had added to its structural integrity. Observing it from the sidewalk, I noticed it winding around with sharp 90-degree angles. Several thoughts came to mind, and not one included the word “safe.”
But serving cold beer on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night? By that standard, this place was a Ritz Carlton. And if you have a son or daughter enrolled at KU, or even simply passing through town, there is a high probability they’ve found a place on the couch.
I hope they were wearing shoes.
Freelancer Matt Keenan writes alternate weeks.