Last month’s issue about the best places to live got me thinking about houses big and small, and I’ve decided I have no desire to have 10 bedrooms, six bathrooms and a butler.
That’s because my dream house was a creaky, old, three-bedroom, one-bath sheathed in asbestos shingles in a flood plain in Plymouth, Indiana.
The house had a certain charm … especially when the Yellow River flooded and filled our basement with muddy water up to the top step.
Today, there’s an empty lot at 412 South Plum Street. The city leveled our $17,500 home and paid us to relocate.
You know what they say about location, location, location? That house had it.
It was close to transportation — trains rumbled through our backyard four times a day. It was waterfront property — a clogged stream trickled alongside the tracks. It was close to public utilities — transmission towers and humming lines carrying electricity filled the horizon in the woods 200 yards from our lot.
That wooded area was a real tourist attraction too. It drew carloads of kids with six-packs, drug dealers and users, and at least one murderer (someone dumped a body there one spring).
And you couldn’t ask for more entertaining neighbors.
Mr. Keller gutted a deer in his yard. The guy across the street burned his house down when he forgot french fries on the stove because he was so engrossed in spray painting a bust of Elvis on his front porch.
No doubt about it, 412 South Plum Street was the best place I ever lived.
That house was like a magnet. The Houston girls would come by. Bob and Lolly would take the kids to the park and McDonald’s. The May boys used to spend the night. We had marathon Nerts parties. Potluck dinners with Juan and Jane.
Gwen’s nephew, Donovan, joined our family when his marriage ended. Our friend, David, moved in when he was trying to get his life together. Speedy Thurman stayed long enough to prove he could catch a squirrel with his bare hands.
Thank goodness they didn’t move into our halfway house at the same time.
And Grandma Rita lived with us for a year. My three brothers can’t say that.
My little brother Steve drained beer cans and slept in the garage — the very building where I videotaped the “All Dressed Up and Nothing To Say” music video when I fancied myself as a band manager for The Balance.
So many memories.
I read stories to Cassie in the bedroom with the slanted ceiling. Caleb and I traded basketball cards on the living room floor. Garrett banged on my drum set in the living room where my band The Amateurs practiced.
Walks to the library and bike rides to the park. Leisurely strolls to Penguin Point for tenderloins and fries.
I pitched baseballs to Stuart in the backyard. One day, a man walked up to us and asked if I’d let my son play on his Little League team. “But he’s only 7,” I replied. “That’s okay, I’ll get the league to make an exception.”
Homemade pizza night. Kids parties in the backyard. Finger paints and coloring books.
I’ll never have a home as wonderful as 412 South Plum.
That’s where I learned the best place to live has nothing to do with square footage or amenities. Anyplace can be the best place to live … if you want it to be.