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February 3, 2018

When I first moved to Seattle from Manhattan's upper east side in 1998, I was dismayed to see there were still unpaved alleys--i.e., dirt roads--just blocks from our apartment. What had I gotten myself into? And here I am 20 years later, still living in the city, tasked with cleaning out our basement storage space in preparation for pouring of new concrete floor. It's a daylit 8'x10' basement room complete with ceiling-mounted steam radiator, drawstring lightbulb, and ancient operable window (screened by dense shrubbery), but the exposed dirt, weird wall stains, and inexplicable pile of stone and straw reminded me of nothing so much as the literal pigsty behind the Czech farm village house where we briefly lived.

Our building was started in 1909, and whether the builders didn't know better or just didn't expect it to last this long (grander structures had been demolished sooner), they did a piss poor job with the cellar floors, which disintegrated completely over the decades due to the 2x4 sleepers being in contact with the soil. Prior tenants covered the rotted floor boards with lumpy layers of plywood scraps; when I removed them today the liberated mold was so overpowering I puked.

Some say our place is haunted. I tried to tune in to the room's former inhabitants but they remained aloof. This used to be a residential hotel and these were maids quarters. Maybe tidying up the place will make it more inviting to them.