Monday, November 24, 2003

Take That, Big Apple III

So this past weekend was the start of my big hunt for housing in New York City. I flew down Friday morning to work out of the New York office of Fast Company. That morning I was concerned about weather because it was cold and raining in Boston. Once we hit 10,000 feet, the plane broke through the clouds and into sharp sun, and the front that was moving over Boston fizzled to clear and clean on our way south to New York.

I went down Friday instead of Saturday, as per my original plan, to participate in Friday Fun, an afternoon team screening of Shattered Glass. After the movie, we repaired to a nearby bar south of Houston, the very bar in which Jeff Smith, the creator of Bone, bought me a beer early this summer.

As the night progressed and people began to head home, Jenn and I headed to the subway to go back uptown toward the office. She was to meet up with her boyo and some friends, and I had to get back inside the building to snag my suitcase and laptop before heading to Ryan's sublet on the upper west side to crash for the night. Even though I'd gotten a magnetic key card to the floor we're on, I was a little nervous that I'd get hassled by security. But because I was still on the guest list for the day, I got in no worries. And that meant that I got to Ryan's place, ate, and hit the hay in good season. Phew! I'd pictured myself wandering the streets without a change of clothes -- and my laptop out of reach. Yikes.

Saturday morning, I got up and surfed the subway by 9:15 in order to find my way to Brooklyn in time for my first appointment. Despite one misstep once I was across the river -- I got confused once I got off the 7 and onto the G -- I made it to Greenpoint in good time. A quick walk down Manhattan to Nassau -- call that misstep No. 2, as I could have stayed on the G one more stop to Nassau -- and I was at the realtor's office, just as she was arriving to open up. I did some initial paperwork, we discussed what I was looking for again, and off we went in her car, her smoking a cigarette and me clutching my bag to my chest. (She wasn't the most attentive of drivers.)

Most of the apartments she showed me, while in my price range, weren't even close to what I was looking for location wise or quality of living wise -- one place even included a refrigerator stocked with a stick of butter, mold spots, and a sickening stench -- but I did like one place not far from the Cooper Projects (one of hip hop's earliest wellsprings), so near the end of our time together, I asked her to take me back so I could keep it firmly in mind during my later appointments. Then she remembered another spot -- did I want to see it? Of course. So off we went.

Now, I don't know why she didn't think of it sooner, and I'm amused that I almost didn't even know it existed, but the place is amazing. Five blocks from the G train. Nice building. On the edge of a park. Has a view of the Manhattan skyline from the kitchen. Sports a sunny yellow kitchen. The bathroom is bright blue. There's a neat glass dividing wall between the kitchen and living room that looks like an ice cube staircase (Pengo, anyone?). Reasonable rent. And it includes ample space for books. Wow. Perfect. But do I decide now or keep looking at other places with other people?

I chose the latter because my next appointment was all of two blocks away. The third floor of a house owned and lived in by the landlord and his family. He's super cool. Manages the grocery store around the corner. Ample space. New kitchen and bath. An office off the bathroom. And a totally flexible living situation: no fee, no security deposit, no lease. Month to month; he just wants a long-term tenant he likes and trusts. Double wow. What to choose? I knew that I didn't want to keep looking at places lest one of these go away. I also knew that I needed to get some finances sorted before I could actually seal either deal. So I went back to stand on a street corner near the realtor's to think.

It was there that she, the realtor, saw me. "What are you doing?" she said. "I'm thinking," I replied. "And I think I'd like to look at that last place again. Can I see it?" She couldn't show me because she was off in her car to another appointment, but she took me back to the office so someone else could show me. I still liked it, I wanted it, and I still needed to get my money house in order. We went back to the realtor, I chatted with the owner, and he agreed to let me go to a bank to get settled and return to get things sorted. (He also agreed to let me pay by personal check instead of cashier's check or money order, which was awesome.)

Off to the bank I went. The first realtor I met had said there was a Fleet near the Graham stop on the L line. Not only was the L line not running -- I already knew that because another realtor had called earlier in the day to warn me -- but there wasn't a Fleet in sight once I got to Graham. So I walked and walked and finally found a bank ATM I could use to make the transfer. That done, I called my later afternoon appointment to cancel, headed back to the train -- and Greenpoint. (At this point, I was in Williamsburg.) Still thinking, tormented, I called the home owner and the realtor to ask how big the apartments were square foot-wise. Turned out the place with the view of the skyline wasn't smaller (one of my concerns), so I headed to the park to sit and make my usual pro-con lists.

Ben Franklin made pro-con lists. And so do I. I sat in the park, considered the floorplans I'd drawn of the two apartments, made my pro-con lists and mulled. Mull, mull, mull. Like cider. Then it was decided. View of the skyline and ice cube kitchen it was. Back to the realtor, paperwork filled out, checks written, receipts gotten, lease and rider read and signed. Done. Just now, I called the realtor to see how my credit check turned out -- good, good -- and I can expect the lease to be finalized by the end of the week.

Looks like I have a new place to hang my hat -- in Brooklyn, not Brookline. Not that I live in Brookline now, mind you, but, you know. As Strecker says, "Words, words, words." Now that I've got a foot in both cities, my stride stretches more than 200 miles. Harf!

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