Friday, April 20, 2007

I must’ve looked at over 50 different apartments during my recent search. So I met a lot of building managers and landlords. Many were courteous and helpful, but here are three that made me long for The Ropers or Mr. Hurley:

1. Mo. He returned my call with broken English. “Hoollo. I… am… Mo. I… heff… aportamint.” When I went to see it, Mo took me to a building in back, shouted something indistinguishable up the stairs and told me to go on in alone.

I entered tentatively, creaking up the wooden steps, fearing the place might be haunted. But there was no poltergeist, just the last tenant, still living in the joint. It was cluttered with his stuff -- the apartment might have had square footage up the wazoo, but who could tell? Maybe the second bedroom would be a good office -- the recent resident was holed away in there, fuming in the corner.

I asked him, was there just one bathroom? “Yeah,” he said, barely looking up from his desk. “And it’s pretty fuckin’ shitty. Check out the kitchen sink, too.”

Man, was he pissed off. Maybe Mo did a number on him. Mo certainly didn’t do squat to renovate the place. The sink needed grouting. And Mo needed to get disgruntled denizens departed from the dwelling before displaying it.

Mo blathered some Borat-like babble to me, so I asked where he was from. He smiled and said, “You sign aportamint liss, I telling you where from me.”

Sorry, no deal. Your secret identity’s safe, Mysterious Mo.

2. Henry the Navigator. Another charming fellow. He sighed, annoyed, when I called to ask about the apartment he posted on Craigslist, but reluctantly agreed to let me see it… later. Gotta love those less-than-motivated lessers.

When I asked for the address, he said me he already gave it to me. I knew for a fact he hadn’t told me it over the phone, but maybe it was posted online and I didn’t read it carefully (I later looked, and it definitely wasn’t in the ad). In any case, I simply asked if wouldn’t mind giving it to me again.

He said, “Where are you coming from?” Huh? Uh, nearby, I said, but I wasn’t sure where I’d be at that time. “You gonna be east or west of the 405 Freeway?” West, but-- “Okay, you gonna take Wilshire or Santa Monica Boulevard?”

What the fuck?! Every now and then I meet someone who insists on giving directions rather than just the address. And in LA, unless they live in the winding twisty streets of the Hollywood Hills, it’s completely not necessary. In fact, in this age of Thomas Bros. Guides, Mapquest, Googling and GPS systems, it’s downright insulting.

But I bit my tongue and asked him again, if he wouldn’t mind, please… just gimme the address. And when he finally told me, I said, oh that’s between Washington and California Boulevards, on the left side heading north, right? I don't need your stinkin' directions.

Henry was some old fat guy who sighed again when I showed up. I realized why -- he had to waddle up a flight of stairs to get into the apartment. Once he wheezed his way inside, he collapsed into a chair in the kitchen to catch his breath while I looked around.

The place actually wasn’t bad, but there was no way I was gonna rent from Captain Crabby Corpulent Compass.

3. Avi. That’s my present landlord. I’ve written about him before, but one final update is in order.

My last fiasco with him, in which I had to go ballistic on him, seemed to have scared him into civility. He came by to do minor repairs and acted professionally and without any aggravation. Wow.

That’s when I told him that I was thinking of moving out, but it was so expensive out there. He shrugged in agreement and I reminded him about how he once offered me money to move out.

“Yeah, but I don’t do that anymore,” he said, explaining that people tended to move out on their own without his monetary incentive.

Not those few of us in the building who locked into the cheap rent control -- we’ve been staying there forever. This was Avi’s chance to get me out and bring in someone at twice the rent.

He thought for a moment and then said, “Okay, how much do you need?”

Double wow. I started to run figures through my head. How much could I milk Avi for? What number would he be willing to pay? I began to calculate the rent increase for a one-year lease minus renovations, still leaving him a profit… Dollar signs were flashing before my eyes…

But then I decided not to be greedy. The new apartment wasn’t gonna be that much more expensive. I just needed enough for the first month and security deposit. I rounded up the figure, quoted it to Avi and he agreed.

Damn, maybe I shoulda asked for more.

Nah, I can’t complain. In fact, as my cartoon earlier demonstrated, last month was lucrative even though I was out of work -- between unemployment, Avi’s money, my tax refund and poker winnings, I made more than I would have at the TV gig. Man, day jobs are for suckers.

Avi even agreed to give me some of the money ahead of time; normally he’d pay once I moved out. As he wrote the check, I told him how incredibly cool he was being.

“Well, you’re a good tenant. And a good guy,” he said. “Of course, you did bitch at me that one time.”

I glared at him. “Because of your bullshit violation notice.”

“Well, y’know, that’s how I do things.”

“Right, and you’re calling me the bitch.”

“Okay, okay, let’s not talk about it.”

“You brought it up, Avi.”

Ahh, there’s the Avi I knew. For the past few weeks, he’s been doing the same thing about repairs to the apartment -- starting to bicker with me and then accusing me of causing the drama.

I’m glad I’ll be away from Avi soon, and not renting from landlords like Mo or Henry, who would probably be as manipulative as him.

As Avi gave me the “Moving Costs” check, he asked me about my new landlady, if I had signed a lease with her yet.

I said, “No, we’re doing that in a couple of days. That’s why I need the money now for the security deposit.”

“But what if she’s already rented the place?”

“Why would she? Our credit checked out. She said we can rent it, and we said we’d take it. Basically we have a verbal agreement.”

“Yeah, but how do you know in the next two days she won’t find someone else, maybe for more rent, or to move in sooner?”

“How do I know?” I looked Avi in the eye and said: “Because she’s not you.”


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