Table of Contents

East Park Avenue

Palmetto bugs. From 1975 to 1979 I lived alone in a one bedroom apartment on East Park Avenue in Tallahassee. I wouldn't live alone again until 2021. It was the lower left apartment in an older fourplex. It felt old fashioned and shabby genteel in the modern 1970s. The floor and woodwork were stained black coffee brown. It had great built-ins, shelves in the living room and bedroom and a glassed breakfront in the dining room, which gave onto the roomy kitchen. Unlike the tiny duplex I moved out of, it had room for me to entertain, and so I did. I hosted potlucks for my fellow new age ministers, a guest seminar or two when I was keen on isa, and a couple of planning meetings when I was, briefly, a member of SDS. I even entertained in the street. I met a few neighbors and was feeling chummy with the world so I created The East Park Avenue Citizens Association, made flyers and put on a block party. It was OK as block parties go, but I didn't pursue that. That apartment was also home to an indeterminate but large number of palmetto bugs. Floridians and their geographic kin are well aware of these giant roaches, but for the rest of you, not only are they huge and nasty but they can fly. Plus they will bite you if provoked or cornered, a painful if insignificant pinch. I made a game of it: walk quietly into my darkened kitchen and suddenly turn on the light. Somewhere between one and three dozen of them would be scurrying furiously for cover across my counters, table and floor. They lived and bred in the basement and walls that were hollow, predictably free of insulation in Florida. As far as I knew none of the tenants complained. Exterminators could come spray of course, but then you'd be living with 1970s pesticides wafting through your home. Palmetto bugs were preferable. Plus you couldn't beat the rent: $130 for a spacious, well appointed one bedroom on that lovely forgotten parkway, now long gone.

Radiant. My apartment had radiant heat. I had old fashioned radiators in my living room and bedroom. There was a boiler in the basement that the landlord fiddled with constantly during the chilly season. Radiant heat is glorious. It's the only kind to have. In Florida I only needed heat for three or four months. That was plenty of time to get to love it. I have radiant heat in my Capitol Hill apartment. Bigger radiators topped with marble slabs to hold and help radiate heat. Radiant heat dries the air out, as welcome in Seattle as it was in Tallahassee. In this building you don't regulate heat using the radiator valve, the resident manager explained. The valves wear out, with nasty consequences. Instead you crack a window. That's perfect for me. I can't sleep without a window open for a trickle of fresh air no matter how cold it gets.

Valerian. I was still very much interested in herbal medicine. I'd read about the relaxing effects of valerian root tea, so I got some. It has quite the striking odor. I brewed up some valerian root tea before bedtime, and sure enough I felt a nice warm glow and had a lovely night's sleep. I'd been having just a touch of insomnia, and this seemed like just the ticket. I drank valerian root tea the next several nights, then figured I probably shouldn't drink it every night, like I drank booze later on, so I took a night off. I had a terrible night and a great lesson in habituation.


The fascination for dubious luxury foods I developed in Nairobi resurfaced on East Park Avenue. I developed a taste for chocolate mousse. I discovered a place that sold it by mail. Shelf-stable mousse? You'd think I'd know better but no. I also ordered the same thing in strawberry, shudder. That was a callback to the strawberry creme Easter eggs I used to find in my basket, my earliest exposure to Cadbury.