Thursday, July 14, 2011

*Free Rent

My friend Carolyn and I are signing a lease tomorrow to move at the end of the month, so it seems appropriate that I blog about finding an apartment in New York City, the difficulty/stress level of which lies somewhere between passing a kidney stone enveloped by porcupine and destroying a horcrux (happy Harry Potter 7 premiere, ya'll!).

Let’s begin with my search for a temporary sublet this past spring.  The only other places I’ve lived are Iowa City, Iowa and South Bend, Indiana so I was a little too optimistic in budgeting rent.  Trying to rent a bedroom in Manhattan for $900/month or less is like trying to buy organic avocadoes at Whole Foods with food stamps.   But I learned this the hard way.  With my Craigslist search parameters set to a $950/month max, I sent out a flurry of e-mails and set up my first sublet viewing.  How exciting!  The hellhole I entered became my Rosetta Stone for translating Craigslist real estate advertisements:

“Ideal location on the Lower East Side.” 
If this is advertised as $850/month, it isn't a real apartment.
Unless rent includes giving mandatory lap dances.
Translation: Welcome to scenic Chinatown.  I got off the subway and within a couple of blocks was surrounded by the stench of dirty refrigerator and feral cats. 

“Safe neighborhood”
Translation: Don’t mind that the building has no locks.  That’s right, these folks are so confident in the security of their home in Far East Pleasantville, that when I was outside the building and reluctantly called the Swedish exchange student from Craigslist so he could buzz me in, he said “Oh you can just walk in and come upstairs.” (unspoken understanding: don’t touch the banisters or breathe through your nose on your way up.)

“Perfect for students!”
Translation: You’re poor so you don’t mind sharing a room and living in what was or will be a crime scene, right?  I walked into the apartment and the “tour” consisted of the kitchen/living room/orgy pit, and three bedrooms.  I was then informed that I would have “at least” six roommates and was asked if I like to “drink lots of beers” on the weekend.   I said I preferred hard drugs but would be in touch, walked out the door, and called FEMA on my way to the subway.

Discouraged, I texted my mom that the first apartment was a disaster but that I was considering starting a blog because I was sure I’d collect lots of good material in my search.  She responded: “Do it!  Dad and I have some great stories from househunting in Westchester when I was pregnant with you including ducks in an attic.  Alive!”  I think those ducks migrated to Chinatown and died under the floorboards of that shitpit. 

Some Craigslist advertisements need no translation.  One guy advertised a sublet for “free rent.”  He was looking for a female roommate who would live there for free in exchange for getting naked any time he wanted.  Sex was optional but not required.  Just nakedness on demand.  Free rent in Manhattan?  It probably would’ve been worth taking to the negotiation table.  What about toplessness and homemade mac-n-cheese on demand?  Or bra-and-panties and pumicing your feet on demand? 

Anyway, I ended up moving out of my bachelorette pad at Grandma Rita’s into a fantastic 3-bedroom in the East Village with two awesome gay roommates who don’t really care to see me naked so the search paid off.  But alas, the sublet was temporary and it was time to hit the pavement once again.  This time, though, there were new players added to the mix.  First of all, I was moving with Carolyn so I had someone else to appreciate these amazing stories with.  And second of all, there were brokers.  

What do you mean, south of 68th Street?
So you live in... Brooklyn?
The broker we were going to use was a friend of my cousin.  I met him at a bar, and when I explained I was looking for apartments with my friend, he gave me his card and said he’d help us out and give us a discount on the broker’s fee.  Done.  He was very nice, but reminded us every 10 minutes that he was a male model and name-dropped like a beeyotch.  Congrats, you’ve met Blake Lively on two separate occasions.  And you ran into Janeane Garofalo in Union Square which is so weird because you did a movie together.  A)  Janeane Garofalo?  Was that worth mentioning?  B) Just because you were Asian Guy #4 doesn’t mean you two “did a movie together.”

Again, though, he was nice and told us he was going to give us the discount he gives family and ex-lovers.  Carolyn then asked me to hook up with him so we could get the discount he gives current lovers.  Speaking of which, his greatest contribution to our real estate tour of New York was the bedroom on Rivington and some street I’d never heard of which had one wall covered in 10”x10” mirrors.  This might have been the moment where totally tacky meets totally awesome – like a denim thong or Branson, Missouri.

The mirror sex room that could have been
Ultimately we went through our lovely broker Phil who asked us what a facial was because his girlfriend was getting one while we were seeing apartments with him.  Umm… yeah…  Anyway, when he took us to our lovely future home just a few blocks from where I live now, we felt that sense of “gestalt” (which 3 celebratory sangrias later, became the word of the day) and pounced on it as these two other turds with braces who were viewing it left to call their parents to ask if they could sign a lease.  Suck it.  You're the Chesapeake Indians and we're John Smith.  We claim this apartment in the name of America!  And powerhours!  Don't forget your smallpox-infested blanket on your way out the door. 

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