Shortly after the, um, “flood,”  we decided it was time to move on to greener pastures.  Actually, we liked our little place in Lake Oswego, and if you’ve ever visited its downtown where we lived, you know that Mr. Rogers neighborhood is alive and well.  It is that clean, charming, friendly and serene.  I used to put Rachael in her stroller and set out for the bank, the cleaners, the grocery store, and the Tillamook Ice Cream Shoppe–all within a city block of each other.  I rarely had to use my car, and the frequent northwest rain only added to the coziness of our little nest.  We were really happy there.

But then money happened.  We were doing all right in Lake Oswego–getting by on one income and trying to save up for a home in the expensive Portland market.  We would probably have stayed for a while if another apartment manager hadn’t called and informed us of a different job–across the river, on the East Side–that would double our paycheck, and thus our savings.  Double our savings.  That was all we needed to hear.  We barely even went and looked at the place before we said yes.  We were so excited about our fattened wallet that we even splurged on a used Accord, giving us two cars in which to zip around town since Derrick would be driving across the river to work and I’d no longer be able to walk around the Land of Make Believe for all of my errands.  We knew it was a less cushy neighborhood than what we’d been in, but what neighborhood isn’t compared to Lake Oswego?  We would be fine, just fine.

Needless to say, my parents were none too thrilled when they learned we were relocating their beloved granddaughter from planet posh to the ‘hood.  We told them, in the nicest way possible, “too bad–it’s our life” and then asked them to come help us move.  We also ribbed them about being overprotective worrywarts.  I mean, it was just another apartment in another part of town.  And the owner’s office was just a few feet away from our front door.  What could happen?  Besides, everyone knows that young parents in their twenties are invincible.  We would be fine.  The baby would be fine.  Our parents would get over it and they’d be fine, too.

We settled into our new digs and the next day I headed for the nearest US bank, which was part of my duties as official laundry-coin collector.  (That was a great part of the  job, really.  Loved handling all that cash.  Fulfilled some nameless childhood dream I can’t quite describe.)  But I digress.

So I walked into the bank, which was just down the busy street from our apartment.  Upon walking through the front door I noticed how everything looked so much sleeker, brighter, and more metallic than the bank in my old neighborhood.  The front door itself was extremely heavy and took some effort to open.  It was covered with long steel beams, the likes of which were stretched across various sections of the lobby inside.  The teller windows were covered with a thick, clear glass that I found retro and chic.  I liked it.  Over dinner that night I described to Derrick the modern look of the bank and how cool it was.  He listened patiently as I described the decorative steel beams in detail.

“Jen, those are bars.”

“Yeah, I know, and they look really cool.  Kind of minimalist and…”

“No.  I mean they’re bars, as in bars to discourage bank robbers.  That’s why the doors are so heavy, so that it’s harder to get away.  The glass on the teller windows is to protect them from guns.”


I omitted this tidbit when my mom called me that night.  Instead, I told her that we were doing great and enjoying living “in the city,” instead of a boring suburb.  I could almost hear her roll her eyes over the phone.

The next morning, Derrick got up before I did to get to work early.  He walked out the door and walked right back in.  I sat up in bed, wondering why he was back.

“What’s up, hon?

“The Accord was stolen last night.”


“Someone stole our car last night.”

“What do you mean, someone stole it?  Did you park it somewhere else?  Are you sure it’s not there?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Of course I’m sure.  It’s gone.  Someone stole it last night.”

Who steals a car? I thought.  Tell me:  who?  Nobody steals cars.  Nobody I knew stole cars.  Nobody who knew anyone I knew stole cars.  Why would they steal our car?  Didn’t they know that it we had paid for it, that it wasn’t theirs to take?  Who steals a car??

I could not keep this news from my family, try as I might.  Certain things just come out as soon as you open your mouth, and getting your car stolen is one of them.  To their credit, my parents were outwardly sympathetic, but I can only imagine the angst in their minds.  After all, the car had been stolen right beneath the window to the baby’s room–literally.*  Maybe three feet separated the criminals from our eighteen-month-old daughter.  (Oh, Mom–I really was sorry about this one.)

We were so taken aback by this unexpected violation, you can imagine my delight when a Clackamas County Police Officer called just a few days later and, with a heavy accent I couldn’t quite identify, informed me that he’d located my car and would be returning it to me shortly.  I was delighted.  I was surprised they had found it so fast.  I was surprised the officer knew my first name so readily.

I was surprised to learn that the friendly officer was, in fact, my brother.  He’d punk’d me.**


My family was laughing at me behind my back, wondering how I could be so naive.  My friends from Lake Oswego were wondering what in the name of Mr. McFeely we were doing, leaving paradise for purgatory.  My new boss was wondering why a relatively normal couple like us couldn’t stay on top of the trash (and crime) situation.

All I was wondering was:  dude, where’s my car?

*Does anyone else think using the word “literally” to expound one’s meaning has become a really annoying crutch in our collective vocabularies?  I’m guilty of it, too.

** You know Tom Hanks’ character in “You’ve Got Mail?” That is so my brother’s personality, it’s not even funny.  Doug has the same dry wit, bemused but cheerful demeanor, and wavy hairline.  He is also a clever conversationalist and a big teddy bear underneath all of the wisecracks.  And he’s married to a beautiful blond.  It’s uncanny.  Literally.

5 thoughts on “SLUM LORD: Day Five

  1. these posts are making me want to know your whole life story. like, how long did you last in those apartments? how long did you live in portland? what brought you to the tri-cities? were your babies all born in portland?

  2. Jen, don’t forget the positives.  At least there was a Wal-Mart within 3 miles of your new “home”.  What self-respecting apartment manager would ever be caught dead in a Target or Fred Meyer??!!

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