After a break-up involving my girlfriend's ex-husband being released from the Rolla, Missouri maximum security penitentiary, and a couple of extremely ugly roommate situations, I was moving into an apartment that was mine, all mine! I never thought much about it before that, but at thirty years of age, I had never, ever, lived alone.
There was an old lady I'd been told about in Midtown, who along with her son, owned and managed several properties. Mrs. Popeye. Ok that wasn't her name, but she looked like Popeye; the forearm anchor tattoo, the strong chin.
I nearly fell backwards when she answered her door. This was a woman who shaved, but obviously hadn't in at least three days, possibly a week.
Don't sweat the small shit, you need a place to live. Smile and be cordial. Straighten your spine, hands folded in back...
Mrs. P. managed property the old-fashioned way. She accepted cash only, and made decisions on who she would rent to based on the feeling she got by looking into the eyes of prospective renters. She was well seasoned in sniffing out hustlers of all kinds, and reportedly kept her square block area free of crackheads single-handedly.
Mrs. P listened to my story closely, looked me up and down several times, rubbed her chin and said "well, hmm, my son has a place open on the third story up at 3755, but it's not quite ready at the moment. I'll give you a look though. If you like it we could probably have it livable in a month."
Without further discussion she started walking, wearing what I assumed mistakenly was garb that she never left the house in, white whiskers on her pale face highlighted by the bright summer sun.
So, I followed. Mrs. P. was old but walked faster than I. Excited about the prospect of living sans-asshole roommate, I caught up. A pair like us walking in Midtown was not something that would draw attention. It is an area flush with character(s).
The house was a three story with five apartments, two each on the first and second, the third story apartment being the whole top floor. The walls were partially slanted to follow the roof line, a room in front and one in back (living room and bedroom) sandwiched a small kitchen and a bathroom with a two hundred gallon clawfoot tub, a true antique. Heat was by steam radiator, no air conditioning.
It wasn't nearly as bad as Mrs. P made it out to be. Just needed a little paint and a broom. Wanting desperately to escape my current awkward arrangements, I told her it was fine just how it was and that I was carrying cash.
We made the deal; no written lease or other formalities.
The next night I slept there, on the floor. No furniture, no utilities except for water which was included.
There was a bank just outside the window, the clock visible from my east room. I woke up every half hour or so from my bed of well-aged shag carpet to check the clock to see if it was time to go to work, thrilled to have my own spot. Turned out to be the first morning of four years of bliss in my little third story paradise.
Randy and Moonbeam
The next day as I was moving in items small enough to carry alone, I met my downstairs neighbor. Randy, happened to be just moving in himself. We became fast friends over tropical cocktails and strong marijuana that evening, beginning a relationship that lasted 'til his untimely death a few years later.
Randy hailed from Checwago... that's how he said Chicago. To say that he had personality to spare would be the understatement of a lifetime.
Soon after, my younger brother Jeff returned from Florida. I invited him to stay with me to share bills and the unique Midtown culture. The days of living alone had only lasted a month, but I was glad for the company.
One subsequent evening Randy, Jeff, and myself were sitting out on the front steps under the full moon, discussing the meaning of life and getting nowhere, when a girl from the brownstone next door approached.
"Are you the idiots upstairs?" She appeared to have been drinking, but hey, so were we.
Randy replied, "I live on the second floor and these guys on the third, but I wouldn't necessarily classify us collectively, as idiots."
Pam, her name as we would soon learn, weaved a bit and squinted towards us. "Which one of you are George?"
Turns out George was the guy in the top floor of her building. He dealt drugs of some kind but didn't have a phone. His clientele invariably got his attention by standing in front of the brownstone and screaming GEORGE, GEORGE, until he let them in.
This settled, Pam backed out of her neighborhood policing stance and changed the subject.
Towards no one in particular she asked "Can you feel them?"
I chimed in "huh... feel... them?"
"The moonbeams! Can you feel them?"
The moon was directly above. We all looked at each other smiling a bit. Randy answered..."ah, the moonbeams. Well, yeah, of course."
Me to Jeff, " I feel them, do you?"
Jeff... "I hadn't thought about it much but now that you mention it, yes, I feel them."
The name Pam was rarely used after that evening. She became Moonbeam pretty much exclusively.
Her and Randy coupled, and became a couple that night...