Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Being a renter in Tempe, Arizona in the 1980s

I've owned the house I'm in, in suburban Phoenix, for over twenty years now. And when I talk to my neighbors there's always a concern about "renters". People point at houses on the street where renters are. Of course, the implication is that renters are bad, whereas owners are good. And it's made me think about our attitude towards the places we live.

I rented a place in Tempe in the 1980s while I was going to ASU. It was a little converted garage with a tiny kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, and a bedroom. I lived there for a little under two years.

While I was there, I wanted it to be a nice place to live. I tried to keep it clean. I also arranged for the irrigation to be turned on after many years, I bought a lawnmower at a garage sale, I planted some shrubs and trees. I even painted the place, inside and out. I even remember painting color-coordinating trim on the hot water heater (which you can see behind me, matching the trim of the "house".

Of course my neighbors thought I was crazy. We were renters, so we were supposed to live with ugliness, and just make it worse. That's how it's supposed to work. Then one of my neighbors saw what I was doing, and joined in. He helped mow the grass. When I left there to move to Los Angeles, the property looked pretty darned amazing. My friend and I had converted the place from a dump to looking more like a resort.

When I wrote to my landlord from California to see if I could get my deposit back, he refused, claiming that I had left the place in "poor condition". I remember telling my friend that with a laugh, and he didn't think that it was very funny.

In my experience people will care for things as they see fit. Some people will drive around in cars that are so dirty they can hardly see out of the windows. Some people will live with weeds and dog poop everywhere. I wish I could understand why people would want to live that way, because I don't. I'm on this planet temporarily (although hopefully for a long time to come!) and I will care for my little part of Arizona, and the world. I can't imagine not doing that.

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