I lived on 24th Street for eight years and I lived there alone. A couple months ago I moved into my girlfriend’s house in Beverly. It’s a whole different world here.
I’ve lived in apartments all my life. In Moscow, USSR and Brookline, Massachusetts with my parents, and in New York, Boston, and Chicago on my own, there’s always been the sound of strangers’ feet either overhead or below. That sense that there are others living a wall away has always been a given. In my new home this isn’t so.
I briefly took care of a stray rottweiler for a few months some fifteen years back but other than that there’ve rarely been animals in the places I’ve lived. Here there’s a dog and a cat. So, although there are no immediate neighbors, I never feel alone in this house. The sense that there are eyes on me takes some getting used to. For eight years when I came home—usually early in the morning after driving a cab all night—I’d shut the door and be by myself until it was time to leave for work the following afternoon. Now there’s someone waiting for me in bed and even a welcoming committee in the form of Porkchop, who starts barking as I approach the front steps and doesn’t stop until after I’ve locked up and had a good talk with him.
The place on 24th Street was pretty much a studio with a bed. My housekeeping skills left a lot to be desired and I can count the people that came to visit in those eight years on both hands. I painted, wrote, and slept there. There wasn’t much more to it. It was a refuge from others but never much of a home. This place in Beverly is most definitely a home.
I’ve set up a studio in a spare bedroom here and, slowly, a bit of new work has begun. If you’re a painter who’s primarily inspired by your physical surroundings, it takes some time for a new place to soak into your consciousness in that way that’s required to make pictures. Meanwhile, everywhere I turn here, there’s a new thing to look at and tuck away for use later. Shay has lived here for some three years and there are interesting objects to occupy me in every corner. My presence is starting to creep in as well: the back room has my bookshelf and flatfile and a bunch of old paintings on the walls. My scanner’s set up next to her desk in the living room. My shirts hang in the closet and in one of the dresser drawers. I’m beginning to belong.
I never expected to live with anyone again so this has all come as an unexpected and welcome surprise. Few people I’ve met are more resistant to change than me but sometimes there’s no way around it if one is to grow. What I do here will be different than what I did on 24th Street. I’m anxious to see what it’ll be like.