Some years ago, more than I care to count, when I was not quite thirty
years old, I got my ﬁ rst academic job, in Australia at the University of
Newcastle. As part of the laborious paperwork required to secure a resi-
dential permit to live and work in Australia, I had to obtain a document
from the sheriﬀ of Chicago stating that, to the best of his knowledge, I
was not a criminal (an ironic requirement for a nation founded as a penal
colony). In order to obtain this document, I had to provide the sher-
iﬀ with a list of my addresses from the previous ten years. A history of
my twenties, this produced, not surprisingly, a history of apartments.
Mine was a long list, but probably not an unusual one. My apartments
included a two-bedroom in Earl’s Court, London, which I shared with
four roommates during a semester’s study abroad my junior year. This
was a very bohemian apartment. Here, I kept my clothing in the kitchen
cupboard (where the mice lived), experimented with black hair dye, and
got avant-garde haircuts at the Vidal Sassoon school. From the bathroom
window, we could hear announcements from the tube station below, as
well as the shouts of rioting soccer fans returning home from a game.
After graduating Wellesley College, I moved into a single-family home
on Magazine Street in Central Square, Cambridge, owned by a friend
of my sister’s. My sister and I each rented a room, and shared space in
the kitchen and bathroom. I was a paralegal and she was in law school.
We went to aerobics class together and cooked curries. Eventually, the
owner married and had two children, while still renting out rooms, add-
ing to the boarding-house eﬀ ect. When I moved away from Cambridge
to go to graduate school at the University of Chicago, my ﬁ rst apart-
ment was a shabby one-bedroom apartment in Hyde Park assigned to me
by the university. This was like a return to dorm life, and a regression.