Table of Contents

East Park Avenue

Palmetto bugs. In 1975 I moved into a one bedroom apartment on East Park Avenue in Tallahassee Florida. It was the first time I'd ever lived alone except for a month in an overheated trailer. It was the lower left apartment in an older fourplex. It felt old fashioned and shabby genteel in the modern 70s. The floor and woodwork were stained black coffee brown and 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. It also had 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 and they will bite you if provoked. 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. 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 $130 a month for an apartment that big, that nice, on that lovely 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 a striking odor. I brew up some tea before bedtime, and sure enough I felt this nice warm glow and had a lovely night's sleep. I'd had 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.