Come and Listen to a Story ’bout a Man Named Jed

We got a case of basement envy not long after arriving in Atlanta. Ours had great potential, but was unfinished. All it took was a party at one of our neighbors with a finished basement and we were there.

Basements in Atlanta are not really what you think of when you hear the word basement. They usually have two to three sides of daylight, due to the hilly terrain, and the newer construction comes with high ceilings, a wet bar, a full bath, media room, and recreation area for pool tables and such.

Ours had the high ceilings and three sides light, but that was about it. When we bought the place we imagined a wine bar, recreation area and maybe a media room. There was even a long hallway under the front porch that was probably built to be a safe room during storms with thick cement walls. I thought it would be a great place for a wine cellar, or maybe a bowling alley: Alex called it Alcatraz.

Well, we couldn’t afford to deck out Alcatraz or any of the other areas of our promising basement, so we decided to ghettofy it. Another friend in our neighborhood had an unfinished basement too, but that didn’t stop them from hanging out down there—they had a putt-putt area, an old TV, a bunch of old couches from Goodwill, and a graffiti-wall where their nieces could paint whatever they wanted. Alex was inspired.

The next day she had reams of white cloth that she’d never used for whatever project she was into at the time, and she was staple-gunning this stuff to the framing studs in the basement. She was creating rooms down there. Who needs drywall anyway?

A few days later, she came into my home office and asked, “where’s Emory University from here?” “About 30 minutes south,” I said. “Okay, well we need to get down there soon. Some college kids are giving away a pool table—first come, first serve,” she said matter-of-factly.

We hopped into our SUV, not even sure it could haul a pool table, and made the drive. We passed the beautiful old Emory neighborhoods from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These were grand old homes at one time, and still show well today. We new we were closer to our free pool table when the homes got more 70’s ranch-style. This was where the off-campus students lived.

We were greeted at the door by a young guy who led us past a trashed living room that smelled of stale beer. The moving-out party was apparently the night before. We made our way to the finished basement—yes I said finished—and found a smallish table with a greenish felt that had more than a few beer bottle rings in it. “It’s yours if you can haul it,” the guy said nonchalantly, “we’ve got to have this place cleared out by tomorrow.” “Perfect!” Alex said, more confident than I was at the moment.

Pool tables can be heavy. I tried to lift a corner, and surprisingly it moved. This one was obviously not made of slate or whatever tops they normally use, more like ply-board. And it came off the legs pretty easily. The kid was nice enough to lend me a hand, and we carried the top to our SUV. The Land Rover Discovery doesn’t have a window that rolls down in the back, among other quirks, so unless we wanted to leave the back door fully swung open while driving across town, we had to resort to the roof.

We laughed as we entered our upscale neighborhood with a free, beer-stained pool table barely attached to the roof of our Rover. “So they loaded up the truck and they moved to Beverly,” I sang. “Hills that is,” Alex continued. “Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.”

Before you knew it we found a cheap ping pong table, a dart board on sale, and some putt-putt grass. It was kind of Beverly Hillbilly-ish, but at least it wasn’t just a storage depot down there anymore. And who knew, maybe one day we’d build ourselves a cement pond.

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