Tuesday, August 07, 2007


The conclusion of the story of my time at the Jensonia in Seattle. (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3)

I got back to my apartment with my beer and I was wired up to no end. I cracked open a Henry's and picked up the phone. I called my buddy Joe and after he answered I think I said something along the line of "Dude, somebody got fucking killed in my building!"

I was telling him the story and there was a knock on the door. It was a cop. (Hey look, I'm finally getting to the impetus for this 4-part story I started three weeks ago!)

"I gotta go, there's a cop at the door."

The cop, just like they always tell those young uniform guys on Law & Order, which this one looked like, was canvassing. He was asking me if I saw anything, where I was and what I was doing at such and such a time. I told him had been home watching a baseball game by myself and a part of me wondered if I suddenly became a suspect with that likely story.

During this time my cat was trying to get out of the open door, and I kept having to shove him back. I asked the cop if he wanted to come in, after apologizing for having to keep dealing with the cat. Right after I said that I realized that my apartment had some, shall we say, herbal aroma wafting through it and a couple of "pipes to be used with tobacco products only" sitting out in the open. But he said no thank you.

As he was finishing up questioning me, my usual neighbor posse walked by on their way back to the ex-handy man apartment at the end of the hall. He told me to come back to his place when I was done, while making a joint smoking gesture with his fingers behind the cop's back. The cop left and I think I called Joe back and a couple of more people, but I'm not really sure.

I grabbed my half rack of Henry's and went down the hall. There was a gathering that seemed to be a make-shift wake for Bob. There was the butch lesbian couple, the big former Marine, the ex-frat boy sports lover, a girl I didn't know and of course our host, who was taking a big hit off a bong when I walked in. Just about everybody had beer, though I had the best stuff there that night so mine went quickest. It tells you something about just how cheap the other beer was when Henry's is the finest quality beer in the room.

It was a really nice bonding with the neighbors kind of evening. Topics of conversation ranged widely, the baseball playoffs, the college football season, favorite restaurants, where to get cheap stuff, weird jobs we've all had, weirder people that lived in the building, just about anything. Of course there was talk about poor Bob. What the hell happened? The people who knew him the best figured that he finally mouthed off to the wrong person. He was what you'd call an ornery cuss.

We all also wondered what would be happening at the building. Nobody figured to be there much longer, either because it was getting too creepy or that the new owners would force us out eventually. It seemed to already be happening to one person. The young girl there that I didn't know had come home that night to not just a murder in the building but also an eviction notice on her door. She said she had been late with her rent, but we told her that the eviction notice was legally questionable at that point. She was fairly upset and was the first crier of the night.

There was also music. Our host pulled out his guitar and played a few things. One was this really great song he wrote that made me think of the old Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie songs about the plight of the working class. I remember there being a great line about "working in a factory like a trained chimp."

I was really impressed by the depth of his songwriting. A truly beautiful song by working class guy with a guitar.

He then followed that up with a rendition of the Gilligan's Island theme sung to the tune of Stairway To Heaven.

We laughed, we cried, we got fucked up.

I didn't really know Bob, or even really like him all that much. Some of the people there knew him better, others not at all. But someone getting killed in the very place you live is a little unnerving and everyone needed somebody that night. And we were the somebody to each other.

The following months at the Jensonia continued the downward spiral. On one occasion some drug cops came and raided someone's apartment, which was rumored to be because of heroin dealing. Another time a guy on my floor, about my age, was found dead in his apartment from an apparent overdose.

I finally got my notice of a rent increase, about double, at the end of the year. I had already been invited to move into a house with some friends who were losing a roommate so I was leaving anyway.

I moved out of the Jensonia in the middle of February 1999.

Bob's murder was eventually solved. It was as people suspected, he was drunk and ornery and started a fight with someone. The guy happened to land a perfect punch to his nose and ended up killing him. He was charged with manslaughter. I never found out if he went to jail or not.

In later years there were several fires at the building at it was finally condemned. I've read that there are plans to tear it down but as of right now I believe it is still standing, though empty.

I've lived lots of places since then. The rest of my time in Seattle was living with friends in a house at 5th Ave NE and NE 52nd St, which was both cheap and a fabulous place to live. I then moved back to Chicago, then to Boston and New York.

I've been living in more middle class places since the Jensonia. On one hand that's nice because that usually means less skeezy people hanging out in your building and less chance for a murder or an OD down the hall. But on the other hand these kind of places seem to be less likely to have people hanging out with, or even really knowing, the neighbors. I'm not saying it has never happened since I left the Jensonia. But it has never happened on the same level. I'm lucky if a resident where I live now even gives me the head nod hello in the hall.

Poverty is bad for lots of things. But it is good for bonding with your neighbors.

R.I.P. Jensonia


Joe said...

Nice posts, Deni.

I don't know, man. With the amount of fun you always had at the house by I-5, I'd think there'd be no room for sentiment about the Jensonia.

Deni said...

Oh for sure, the house up in Wallingford was the probably the best living arrangement I had during my 20s.

But that was basically an extension of college-like living. The Jensonia, if nothing else, was a unique experience.

the beige one said...

The Jensonia is still standing, and still empty.