Monday, February 12, 2007

The other weekend my girlfriend Adelphia and I found the perfect apartment for us to move into together. A large split-level two bedroom in a good neighborhood nearby that was totally affordable. The catch: It had already been rented. Adelphia was really disappointed. I was too, but I wasn’t discouraged. ‘Cause when it comes to finding an apartment, I’ve always had incredible friggin’ luck.

That’s how I found the place I’m in now. I started looking in Santa Monica, but everything was so pricey, I had to move my search east and north, heading further inland and away from where I wanted to be. A casual acquaintance heard I was moving and when she asked where, I grumbled. “Koreatown, East LA, Bakersfield, who knows.”

“Oh,” she said, “’cause I know of a one bedroom that just opened up, but I guess you don’t wanna live in Santa Monica.” What?! Hell yeah, I do!

I rushed over and it was exactly the right size, in the right neighborhood, and with rent control, at the right price. I’m tellin’ ya, I got the right mojo.

And not just here in California. I always scored in New York, too. People complain that Manhattan is so much more expensive than LA, that you pay an arm and a leg for a place, which is good ‘cause those extra limbs would only take up space in the shoebox you wind up in. I don’t know what they’re talking about. Out here, you gotta have a decent car -- between payments, insurance and gas, I’m dropping $500 a month. In New York, I’ve had great apartments and never paid more than $350 a month on rent.

When I graduated college, my friend and I looked to rent a place in the city together. He went through some realtor but it was a waste of time. I remember being shown some apartment in Chelsea -- wrong area and out of our price range -- and the realtor was pushing the hard sell, saying the current tenant was Al Pacino. I noticed all the clothes still in Al’s closet looked like they'd fit someone over six feet tall. So either the realtor was desperate enough to try to bullshit and star-fuck us into the lease, or Serpico really shrunk on the silver screen.

We were getting desperate ourselves, but then I heard my uncle knew someone who had a place on the Upper East Side. It was a whole floor of a brownstone he’d been renting forever for only $1000 a month. My college friend didn’t wanna do it. He was nuts -- worrying that it was an illegal sublet and there were rumors that the hospital that owned it might tear it down… someday. (I went back years later and the building’s still there.) It was a railroad flat with several bedrooms, a huge living room, and even came furnished, albeit with old, unstylish furniture. The place was a total bachelor pad, but what the hell were we, after all? Rich yuppie scum?

Maybe my friend was. He took some dinky studio for a grand a month. Sucka.

I had the brownstone for the same amount. If I got some roommates for that huge place I’d cut my rent down to practically nothing. And finding people to live with can be done in a New York minute. Normal people -- that's another story.

My uncle's friend knew another couple of recent grads looking for a place, so he hooked us all up at the brownstone. When I first met these guys, they seemed okay. I thought I might be friends with my new flatmates but I was flat out wrong. Two obnoxious inconsiderate loudmouth morons. I didn't even mind the slovenliness and stupidity (our electricity was shut off every other month). Those schmucks were mensches compared to their loser friends always hanging around -- a circus of jerkus.

Most of it's a blur to me now, but I recall one of them blowing up the mailbox with illegal explosives, and another getting smashed and smashing our apartment windows. Then he hit the street, kicking in store windows with his steel tip boots. The cops caught him when he cut his Achilles tendon on the broken glass. Never saw that asshole again. But his burn-out brother was still crashing on our couch. I'd ask the guys what that he did besides sit there all day and stink up the joint, smoking joints. One of them shrugged and said, "Sometimes he has to go to court."

But on the other hand, it wasn't that big a deal. This was my post-college pad, nothing more. A place to sleep when I wasn't working or roaming the city. For a third of a grand, I could afford to put up with the citizens of Dumbfuckistan.

One good thing about these guys: while their degrees from Rhode Island School of Design didn't help with their careers (they worked at a paint supply store), it did stir up their artistic skills. Whenever they got wasted, these RISDies would repaint the apartment. So every day the entire place had some funky new colorful pattern.
apt1 apt5 apt3
apt2 apt4
When my sister was coming back to New York to do a summer legal clerk job, she called and asked if she could crash with me. She and I were often in flux in the city and would stay with one another. I looked at my dickhead roommates -- I could put up with them, but why should she? I said, "Yeah, but we're not staying here."

It seemed crazy to give it up -- neither my sister or I were making big bux; why forfeit paying so little for that big apartment on 76th and Lexington? 'Cause I knew I could do better. And I did. I found another longterm sublet -- huge place with three bedrooms on 82nd and Park. To move, I just wheeled my stuff, including my bed, uptown a few blocks. The new apartment rented for $650, to split with my sister. So I went from paying $333 a month down to $325.

The current tenant had held onto the unit forever, and it showed -- the apartment was still decorated in a flashy '70s style. We called the master bedroom "The David Cassidy Suite". But that joint rocked. And though my sister and I might fight when we're around each other too much, we managed to keep cool for those few summer months. We even threw an awesome party together. Hey, we had plenty of space in that cheap place. And my sister's a lot better than those lunkheads I left behind on Lexington.

It's likely my luck with leases will last. I'm not worried. Adelphia and I will find an apartment we both love. Or at least, this time, I know I'll have a roommate I love and get along with.


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