Visiting “A Very Masculine Place”

Just imagine how welcome a 59-year-old mother is in her 22-year-old son’s bachelor pad, which is shared with two other young men.  He’d already been there for six months.  My husband had seen the place a few weeks ago.

“It’s very masculine,” he’d explained.

But I didn’t manage to weasel my way in till our son got sick and begged us to bring him some pho from our usual Sunday morning Vietnamese restaurant brunch.  (Everyone at the Vietnamese restaurant was, of course, concerned.  “Where’s your son?” the restaurant owner asked.  “Just you two?” the waitress wanted to know.  “Not Nick?”  No, he was sick, we had to explain again and again.)

“Tell him we’re coming up to his apartment,” I whispered to my husband, who was engaged in tense pho-delivery negotiations with our son.  “I haven’t seen it yet, remember?”

However, I had seen the hovel he shared with a friend when they were both matriculating in Australia in 2007, a semester abroad I usually described as an effort to enhance their English-speaking abilities.  The place had been such a dump, I’d been reluctant to sit down anywhere (like I could have found a couple of feet of clear space, anyway).  I’d just stood up, arms crossed over my chest, reminding myself to buy hand-disinfectants at the earliest possible opportunity but, in the meantime, not to touch a thing.

“We’ll bring the pho up to your apartment,” my husband said.

We arrive.  Our son meets us at the door, pale and sneezing and drippy, then herds us upstairs.  We meet two of his roommates.  They have a TV twice the size of ours in their living room.

“Is this where you get together to watch PBS?” I ask.

We stroll down the hall, past a few photos of naked women.  My husband’s right.  There’s definitely a masculine vibe in this place.  Here and there, you can see glimpses of the formerly beige carpet underfoot.  “We’ve been cleaning up since we heard you were coming,” our son explains between sneezes.

Faster than you can say thank-you-for-the-pho, we are escorted outside and head to our car.  I breathe in some fresh air, grateful for all kinds of things: 1) We didn’t have to stay long; 2) I’m a mother with very low standards; and 3) They’ve only got six more months on their lease, assuming they don’t get evicted.  If I play my cards right, I’ll probably never have to see the place again.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

6 comments… add one
  • brannon

    I’m a big fan of your blog, and a big fan of pho!  I’ve been looking for a good bowl since I moved to Austin from Houston, with mixed results.  Would you mind sharing the name of your pho place?  I want to make sure I have a good place lined up for the next time I get a nasty cold.  Thanks!

  • ruthpennebaker

    I’m happy to recommend it: Tan My.  Hard to get to, but worth it.
    http://www.tripadvisor.in/Restaurant_Review-g30196-d470898-Reviews-Tan_My_Restaurant-Austin_Texas.html

  • And I don’t know what pho is!  When I started reading your post I thought maybe it was a “cute” abbreviation for food (okay, it seemed unlikely,  and I was, at least a little, enlightened in the next sentence).  I left the US in 1979 — before there were that many Vietnamese restaurants, I guess.  And I have been only a visitor since… never a visitor to a restaurant with pho…

  • ruthpennebaker

    It’s Vietnamese noodle soup.  Pronounced like “feu,” the French word for fire.  It’s great stuff; can’t believe you don’t have it in the UK.

  • “Is this where you get together to watch PBS?” I ask.

    hahahaha.  in your dreams.  yes, that’s where they watch C-Span, too, grins 😉   (They huddle together there eating unhealthy foods you don’t want to know about – frozen pizza, chili dogs, chips, etc. – watching football and Spike TV.)

    This post reminded me of a place I lived in college.  It _was_ actually named “The Hovel.”  My parents thought I was living in Donovan Hall, an all-girls’ dorm.  In reality, I had moved into “The Hovel” and only returned to the dorm to use my meal ticket to eat in the cafeteria.  “The Hovel” was a tiny Victorian house chopped up into three apartments.  I shared the attic with two seniors.  Being a freshman, I was awestruck that two seniors would deign to let me live with them. 

    Access to our portion of “The Hovel” was via the usual substandard types of tiny steps that one often finds leading to attics.  The floors were a brilliant work of art.  (Translate:  Every square foot of carpet was a different color, bought for next to nothing from a carpet store or, more likely, retrieved from their dumpster.  It was gharish beyond belief.  I don’t recall anyone ever vacuuming it.  I certainly didn’t.) 

    We hung stereo speakers out the windows, and lounged precipitously on the roof.  We were so cool.  We partied our brains out.  Well, the two seniors did.  It turns out that I was allergic to pot, alcohol made me ill, etc.  It was great fun.  Now, it would drive me crazy.  Silence is golden.

  • “Is this where you get together to watch PBS?” I ask.
    ROFL!!!!  So funny

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