Our new apartment building has a courtyard that does nothing to convince any of us that the cheap rent we pay is less than fair. Not that I have anything against the building we live in now. I love it. Really, I do. In fact, even though I might say some less than complimentary things about the courtyard, I love it, too. It's the tenement aesthetic that I have drooled over in photographs since I was a child.

tenement1800s tenement yard in New York City

I also had a love for motels as a child, especially if they had a second story with a metal railing. When I was eight, we stayed at the Flamingo Motel in Anaheim, California, and I ate up every second of motel living. We parked our massive Buick Estate Wagon right outside the door to our room. At night, we would wait for the fireworks at Disneyland from the small pool out by the road and watch the traffic speeding by on the other side of the chain link fence. If I could get away unnoticed, I would sneak up to the second story walkway, sit on the rough cement floor, and dangle my feet through the railing. There was a small thrill that lifted my stomach when I hung my rubber thongs from my toes so precariously over that great height and they did not drop. Gravity had nothing on me.

motel postcard

Because I did not see this place before we moved in, I did not know about its fabulous infrastructure until after we had pulled up with the moving truck and brought our first load upstairs. It was like I had stepped right into my childhood imagination. I never thought that I would inhabit a place like this.

the courtyard

I grew up in a flat stretch of suburbia at the edge of a prairie city. Thankfully, it didn't have the deadened, sociopathic look of those architecturally controlled neighbourhoods awash in the salmon palette, but it was damn close. I felt claustrophobic. I felt as though I were being squeezed into a shape that would one day fit properly into those houses and cars whose variations only seemed to highlight their similarities.

the courtyard 2

I was keenly aware that I should not be there, but there I was, surrounded by exactly what I was expected to aspire to. I didn't, though, and so I loved looking at books and magazines in the library that had photographs of different people in different places. I imagined myself, my difference, being in a place that was also different. Those pictures assured me that something else was possible. Looking at this courtyard through our back windows reminds me of some of what were my favourite kinds of images to pour over: older apartment buildings and tacky motels. I dreamt large.

the courtyard 3

I imagined cats on the stairs and stringing up my laundry and these painted metal railings. I always thought that the painted metal railings were a great touch. The paint was always so much brighter than anything else, which I am sure stems from a building manager's eye to economy. House brand rust paint in larger tins on the discount shelf usually run in the bright crayon hues of schoolbus yellow, flamingo pink, and tahitian blue.

the courtyard 4

Our railings, as you can see, are a bit tropical-looking for a prairie city that prefers to stay within the autumn shades, so when I look out the back windows, I feel like I did when I was eight dreaming over pictures, except that I'm here, and that courtyard is right there.

I went out back yesterday to take these photographs, and I had to touch the clothesline pulleys and pick at some of the rust bubbling through the turquoise paint to know it was real. I get to live in a place with the style of my childhood daydreams, a place that means I'm somewhere different according to the loose symbology that floats through my neural pathways.

Cheap rent and a geriatric courtyard. Now all I need is for someone to put their little kid outside with an ice cream cone and a sticky shirt to complete the picture.

All hail cheap and easily achievable dreams!

I am so blessed.

Places I've read recently: comoox.com, Kenspeckle Letterpress, and Working From Home Today.