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2008-07-20 - 1:14p.m.

...24 roommates, 8 nationalities, 5 countries, 22 years...

The Cold-n-Gray-inspired Roommate Count:

1986-87, RHODE ISLAND, STACY FROM IOWA – We showed up at college with anxious anticipation – she from Iowa, I from Missouri. She was afraid that I was a rich cheerleader (this is back in the day when people wrote letters to communicate, and I think I was in a disgusting dot-the-i-with-a-cute-circle phase). We knew we’d be okay when she put a poster of the Muppets, and I put up a poster of Mondale and Ferraro.

1987, RHODE ISLAND, MANDY FROM MAINE – I decided join a fraternity and wound up sharing with Mandy, the vegan, PETA-organizing, Amnesty-International, suicidal bisexual. I tolerate and even support all of those things individually, but all wrapped together in Mandy, they were pretty drastic. I remember rotting broccoli on the window sill, a closet of dirty laundry piled as high as I am tall, my things disappearing, and her smelly running bra left on my bed. And then everything hit the fan when she pulled out the two bottles of sleeping pills and slashed up the tops of her arms with a razor blade.

1988 RHODE ISLAND, KATHERINE FROM MAINE – After calling health services on Mandy, I moved rooms to share with Katherine. We did aerobics together, we studied geology together, we talked about music, and she even stood in line for a really long time and got me tickets to see Graham Chapman. It was way way cool. I don’t think she ever knew (or would believe) that I wanted to look like her. She was also bulimic, moody, and suffering from a bipolar disorder. It was a topsy turvy semester, but fun. We had a pet mouse named Milo. Unless you asked Katherine, in which case his name was Ingmar. But Katherine had, and still has a heart of gold. She’s a fighter, a beauty, a talent, and a dear friend. (and she’s releasing her first CD this year!).

1988-89, RHODE ISLAND, STACEY – After a year in close fraternal quarters, Katherine went to Sweden, and I also needed to get out. So the mouse and I moved back to the comfort of Stacey in German Haus. We didn’t speak a word of German, but we helped prepare the Kafeestunde and we bonded over geology, music, and insane dancing. It was a great year, except for the part where Ingmar Milo died…

1989: RHODE ISLAND, KATHERINE, EMILY FROM NORTH CAROLINA, ANN FROM MICHIGAN – After field camp, I spent the summer working in the Geology department, and I shared a room with Katherine again, in a house that had once belonged to H.P. Lovecraft (And rightly so, because the box of my clothing in the basement turned pink and green with mold). My rent was $80/month! Katherine did everything to make me feel at home, and helped me to have a great 21st birthday. I had some beau troubles that summer…and Emily, Ann, and Katherine all remember me my coming home with a tub of frozen yogurt, where I would bury my face for 10 minutes uttering the word “MEN” between bites.

1989-90: RI, STACEY AGAIN– Stacey and I were back in German House in the Fall, sharing the triple, which was mighty convenient when her fiancé came to visit. My German phrases increased to “Guten Tag,” “Froehliche Geburtstag,” and “Ich bin ein Bratkartoffel” (all of which would surely have indicated to a native speaker that I didn’t know JACK about the language). We had a fabulous, fabulous senior year together. When we graduated, she was my closest friend, and I thought she always would be.

1990: RI, ANN, LEIGH, JORDAN THE EURO SNOB, and LAUREN FROM MASSACHUSETTS – In the summer before grad school, Ann asked me if I would live with her again. I was thrilled. Ann was quiet, insightful, and fun. The rest of the house was a bit strange. My favorite memories of that summer were of Ann making pizza dough and storing it in a little dorm fridge…which didn’t cool enough to stop the dough from bursting the door of the little fridge open in a famous, eery, blob-like performance that had me rolling on the kitchen floor in laughter. Ann also burnt chocolate chip cookies, setting off the fire alarm right outside my bedroom door. I remember slamming my hand on my alarm clock incoherently until I realized what was happening, and saw Ann standing on a chair waving a broomstick at the ceiling. She and I also took walks in the evening, and she listened to my latest set of beau troubles, the troubles that made the phrase, “BUT I’M NOT BITTER” very popular between us for years to come. She and I stayed in contact for years and years after that summer, and she would send me whacky postcards full of her brilliant prose. Ann was a writer, a friend, who died way too young from a brain tumor at the age of 35. I still think of her, want to tell her something, and then have to remind myself that she’s not out there anymore.

1990: NY, DICK FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE – Katherine helped me move all of my shit down the coast from Rhode Island to a small river town along the Hudson in New York, where I moved in with the guy she dubbed “No-Ass Dick.” It’s true. He had no ass. I unfortunately had a romantic relationship with this sociopathic roommate, and then shared a house with him for two long years. I’ve never known anyone else who cleaned as much as he did. He went through a lot of bleach. I learned the true meaning of passive-aggression in those unhappy years. And I swore off men for a while after that.

1992: BARBADOS, SELINE FROM TEXAS – In the summer, I did field research at a Canadian research station in Barbados, and for the first month I shared a room with this lady. She was very quiet, very determined, and independent, and we had lots of fun exploring the very small island together.

1992-1994: NY, DEE FROM MAINE – When I came back to the States I moved in with Dee, who had become my closest friend in grad school. It’s funny to see that we only shared a house together for two years, because I felt like we were together much longer than that. I suppose in part this is because I used to escape from Dick at her place. This is also in part because her friendship shaped quite a bit of my thinking in my early 20s. I was always liberal, but her influence made me more experimental. She was my closest friend for a while, and according to my parents, she manipulated me like crazy. In the late 90’s, when she started dating my ex two months after our breakup (a fact she announced on my birthday), I started to see that perhaps my parents were right. Memories of her coming to my house and taking the toilet brush and the broom (without telling me) because “they were hers” flooded into my head. Paying to ship her shit to California on multiple occasions also comes to mind. Watching her cat for three months, without her even telling me when she was coming back from vacation is another one. I decided that I didn’t really want to be her friend anymore.

1993: NY, RITA FROM ITALY – Rita was the first of a host of roommates that Dee put in her room with me (without asking me if I cared..). Rita was a hippy from Italy who got her masters in marine geology and loved Jimmy Buffet so much that I gave her my CD when she left.

1994: NY, MIMI – Mimi was another replacement roommate through the darkest time in my grad school career – my oral certifying exams. My Ph.D. supervisor had flat-out told me I was going to fail. Mimi came home and found me bawling in the kitchen. She took me out for sushi. I kind of wish that Mimi had known me at another time in my life, because she was way cool at a time when I was NOT.

1994: NY, NATALIE FROM NORWAY (and occasionally Todd) – Dee’s next replacement roommate was from Norway. She stayed for a summer and hooked up with a guy from down the street. The ongoing joke is that he used to use my toothpaste – which wasn’t a problem. Except that he’d leave the tube in odd places around the house and I’d have to go find it. She and I have also lost touch, although I think of her quite fondly, and I’m pleased that she’s a powerhouse in European science now.

1994-1997: NY, ROBERT FROM MAINE – Rob was the first guy who ever really proposed to me – over a game of Boggle. At the time, I said “80% yes” and then suggested that we live together first. In retrospect I know that if someone asks you to marry him and you want to give him a statistical response, you might as well just come out and say “no.” We had a rather rough-and-tumble time. In retrospect, I think I was unhappy from the moment he moved in, partially because of my horrible grad school experience, and partly because Rob always seemed angry at something. He eventually married Dee, and then divorced Dee, and we didn’t speak for about eight years. We just reconnected in the past couple of years, and I had the chance to tell him that I still have a high regard for him, and I see now some things that I would have done differently to treat him more fairly. It was good to have that chance.

1996-1997: NY, JOSE FROM PORTUGAL – My last few months in America were spent rooming with Jose. He shared the flat so that Rob and I could save money. Rob was exceedingly jealous of him, and although I did develop a tiny little crush on Jose, it went away pretty quickly when I realized that he had a whole barrage of women who were crazy for him and I was part of a harem cliche. He was a crazy romantic modern-day hippy who needed to save the world. So he quit grad school and went off to help the Zapatistas until he was kicked out of the Mexico, and then to the Ivory Coast. Last I heard, he worked in a Refugee Camp in Afghanistan. He’s my modern-day Thoreau – an example of someone with passionate thoughts and equally passionate deeds.

1997-1998: SWEDEN, ULRIKE FROM STOCKHOLM – Ulrike was my crazy Swedish roommate. Time has allowed me to see how generous she really was to me. Closeness to her allowed me to see that she was in a bad, bad, emotional place with her life – but then, every Economics grad student I know seems to be in that same bad place…

1998: GERMANY, ISABEL FROM AUSTRALIA, LINA FROM BELGIUM – I met Iz on my first day in Germany, and we became bestest of buds. She’s back in Australia. Lina was a different story – a Belgian woman who hated Germany but nevertheless worked there. We were oil and water.

1999: GERMANY, LINA and ENDORA FROM BERLIN – This roommate combination convinced me that I’d had enough of roommates and it was time to live alone. I spent as much time as I could OUT of the flat, and so by the end of my year with them, I knew the insides of every pub and dance club in J*na.

1999-2003; BLISSFUL, SOLO LIVING IN THE BEETHOVENSTRASSE –When I need a mental image to relax, I go back to Beethovenstrasse. I frequently place myself at my piano next to the candelabra, looking out the balcony into the green of the chestnut tree, or I am in the huge green garden, resting on the bench on my terrace, with a glass of Spanish red wine, watching Mizzy and Lyra chase bugs as Ignatious Igel (the neighborhood hedgehog) wanders through to eat their dry food.

2001: BEETHOVENSTRASSE, LEANNE FROM THE HARZ MOUNTAINS – Leanne broke up with her beau, and she needed a place to go. I think she always viewed this as a big favor to her. I always viewed it as a wonderful, welcomed interruption to solo living, for despite her anxiety and woes, there is a ray of sunshine in Leanne that makes her a pleasure to be around.

2003: DORNBURGERSTRASSE, K FROM KOELN – Stressed, anxious, and discombobulated, I lived for over a month with K before moving back to the USA. That first night, I found everything wrong with the place. Until I took a second look at the little bouquet of flowers that he had bought to welcome me and the cats to his home.

2004: QUEENS: PETER FROM INDIANA (PRINCETON) – Peter was a young Princeton student. A 20-yr-old kid with fuzz on his chin, who needed me to buy him beer, who played the best damn jazz piano I ever heard, and who knew almost as much American politics and economic policy as my stepfather does. We shared my flat for a month, during which time I taught him to cook and how to make gin-n-tonics. My parents called me Mrs. Robinson, although our lessons stopped with the gin.

2004: DORNBURGERSTRASSE, K – This summer was a piece of heaven following three months in Queens. K and I had a wonderful time and were so busy it’s hard to remember all of the friends and places we visited. This is the summer when we were officially engaged, I think, although it’s hard to tell with us because it just sort of happened. If I’d have to pick a place, I’d say it was at the café in Neuhavn in Copenhagen.

2004-2006: QUEENS, FRUSTRATED, SOLO LIVING – Single living loses all its allure when you are in a holding pattern, waiting for someone to enter your lap. See blog for excruciating detail.

2006-present: QUEENS, FUNCOUVER, K – The whirlwind of life picked up when K moved to Queens. We bickered for about 4-5 months straight, as we arranged a marriage and two horrific international moves, and as I settled into a new job in another new country. And then life began.

2008-present: FUNCOUVER, K AND SUSI FROM FUNCOUVER, And speaking of life beginning. Susi is our newest roommate. She doesn’t smoke or play loud music. She likes oatmeal and rice cereal, lying in bed between Mama and Papa, and when Mama sings goofy songs.

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