apartment roulette

After living in Chicago for three years, and in Minneapolis for eight years before that, when I came back to Minneapolis I was kinda freaked to realize that I had turned into—a midwestern guy. Sweet Jesus at the State Fair! Grew up in SoCal, always loved New York, and apparently finding my true home simply required splitting the difference, geographically.

By the way, I loved Chicago. It had everything I liked about New York, but was cheaper and had nicer people. Granted, I could never find a decent deli that knew how to make egg salad like Murray’s, but Chicago has a heart and a soul that feels just about right. Besides, my two favorite spectator sports are baseball and politics, and there ain’t nothin’ like Chicago for sheer surrealism in both. Following the Cubs AND livin’ in the land of Daley—now that’s a veritable carnival of weird, and as a writer, it was like gold.

I was a bit put off by the notion of settling, once and for all, in Minneapolis. I don’t mind Minneapolis, in the way one doesn’t mind eating a casserole (sorry–‘hot dish’), or a comfortable pair of Dockers—they serve a purpose, they won’t annoy anybody, but they won’t ever thrill you, like lobster bisque would, or…whatever the thrilling analogy to Dockers would be.

And yet, I’ve decided I’m good with ‘comfortable.’ Sure, as a writer, I wanted the diversity of New York, and in Minneapolis, a diverse neighborhood means a mix of Norwegians AND Swedes, (it’s not so much a melting pot as it is a nice layer cake). But trying to find a place to live in New York was like trying to find Middle Earth on a map.

The Girlfriend and I might be looking for another place here soon, and I am so glad I don’t have to look alone, because that process can kick your ass. When I last tried to move to New York, I realized I probably wasn’t gonna find a place I could afford in Manhattan, so I started looking at Craigslist for roommate listings near New York that might be affordable.  Now I hadn’tt spent much time in the Outer Boroughs (which always sounds like where you’d get exiled to in Soviet-era Russia), but I had seen a couple of Spike Lee films, so I figured I’ve got a handle on the area, and as far as knowing my way around Jersey, I have “Clerks” on DVD.

There are some phrases you see in more than a few roommate ads, and I guess it’s been a while since I’ve looked into shared housing, but some of them seem a little strange. I think my favorite is when the person posting asks for “no drama,” which puts me in a bit of a quandary as an actor. Does that mean I can’t rehearse at home, or just that I can’t actually mount a full production of “Death Of A Salesman” in the common area? And I’m a little put off if all the roommates in the place are described as mellow, or as the kids say, ‘chill’–I’d be worried I’d be walking onto the set of a Judd Apatow movie. Do I watch too many movies? Anyway, if a couple of the guys living there were a little less ‘chill,’ they probably wouldn’t have to look for a roommate. I also saw a variation of this (which I hope was a typo) that described two ‘chilled’ girls…

I was actually offended by one ad. Guy in his twenties, great place, great location, and right as a I was visualizing moving my suitcases in and learning the schedule of the J train, he writes “please be around my age, older people tend to be set in their ways, and that’s a drag to live around”…I was actually gonna send him a nasty email, but I remembered my tv shows were on, and I never miss my “CSI.”

There was also a listing which might be the best example of ‘TMI’ I’ve ever read. Spent a little time looking at the Philadelphia listings (hey, it’s only an hour and a half by train), and was really tempted by an apartment that was listed right in the heart of the city. Free internet. free laundry, five minute walk to the commuter train, and this:

A cat lives there already that will fight other cats. A former roommate once took heroin and passed out in the middle of the night with the oven on. For obvious reasons, she’s been replaced.

First, note that the cat WILL fight other cats. Not ‘might.’ It will–as if, that’s what they have it for. Secondly…the roommate. Couldn’t just say she’s moved out, no, we needed the pulp novel, Billie Holliday visual. Yeah, she was replaced, but it doesn’t say whether they replaced her with another junkie who just doesn’t attempt any baking. While you’re at it, you might want to replace the cat. Oddly enough, this ad didn’t say ‘no drama.’

On a lighter note, I’ll share my favorite typos. One place seemed charming, and I think they meant ‘large’ furnished apartment, but the headline clearly said the apartment was ‘MARGE FURNISHED.” I imagine moving in, and there’s Marge–because, well, nobody had the heart to ask her to leave.

And my favorite–an apartment that conveniently has a ‘laundrymoat.” I’m thinking this may not even be a typo, but some medieval-inspired building feature, designed to prevent tenants from other building from taking your stuff out of the dryer. And that really couldn’t be a typo–I mean the ‘o’ isn’t near the ‘m’ or the ‘a’ on the keyboard!  They must actually have a ‘laundrymoat‘! I never pursued it, though–they might have a laundrymoat, but unless they have a security drawbridge, I wouldn’t have felt safe. It was New York after all.

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psycho roommate quiz

I love living with the girlfriend, but there are moments when I fondly remember living alone. And that it kinda rocked. Drinkng milk from the carton, deciding to listen to all my Carpenters cds on shuffle and repeat, or just have one of those days when I don’t see any reason to get dressed (I know– I led a rich, full life)And I was lucky, because I only had one psycho roommate.

Now in my experience, psycho roommates don’t usually seem psycho when you first meet them, but then you see that one quirky behavior that used to be just goofy but now seems to be proof of profound mental illness. I’m gonna tell you about two roommates, but (here it comes..wait for it…wait for it…) there’s a catch! Only one of them was really a roommate of mine and you have to guess which one!

Greg smoked a lot of weed, which was one of the reasons I thought he’d be a cool roommate. I figured there would always be pot in the house, and we’d laugh a lot. What I didn’t realize is that if you’re not stoned, stoned people aren’t nearly as interesting. Now if Greg were a typical pothead, he would eventually get really quiet, nodding off while watching a ‘Becker’ marathon . But Greg liked to talk when he got stoned. Constantly. About nothing.

“Dude…I made up a new word! This doctor was talking about the knee reflex, and I was thinking you should call that a kneeflex!” “Dude–they should make a cologne that smells like a new car so that women think you’re rich!” Then I got to witness that perfect storm where stupidity, laziness and THC meet. I come home one day, he’s got a bag of pretzels on his right, a bag of mini-chocolate on his left, and he’s nodding. Then he takes a handful of pretzels and a few of the candy bars and shoves them all into his mouth at the same time.

He chews and nods, all the while gesturing to me in that way that says “No–hang on–I got somethin’ here”. Finally he announces that what he’s got is the “greatest snack food idea ever”. Chocolate-covered pretzels. After I explained to him that they…had already been invented, he called me an asshole, went into his room and slammed the door. I had never seen a stoner get that upset about anything, and from then on things between us were always a little tense.

Jim was my roommate during freshman year at UCLA. He was a computer genius who had designed some important software when he was 17. What he hadn’t done is learn how to interact with other humans. He didn’t speak for the first three weeks we lived together, and while quiet can be good when you’re studying, this was creepy-brooding-antisocial-No Country For Old Men quiet. He spent his time hacking into the university mainframe to play this early role-playing game. This guy was such a freak that he gets access to every student’s personal file AND DOES NOTHING WITH IT!

He was also such an oblivious slob that when I had company, I threw a large blanket over his half of the room, forming a hideous blob-like sculpture, which even at that was less likely to scare a date than the piles of fast-food wrappers, beer bottles and underwear beneath the blanket. I didn’t have to kick Jim out, though. Fortunately, the university did that, and when they did, he put on mountain-climbing gear and proceeded to rapel down the side of our eight story dorm building.

So, who did I really live with? Who’s fictional? Why am I asking  rhetorical questions? Just knowing that there are Gregs or Jims out there who are just a Craigslist ad away from masturbating in the room next to me makes me appreciate my drafty overpriced studio I had in Chicago.

It was a marginal neighborhood (apparently the real estate term is ‘partially gentrified,’ which means you can still buy crack on the corner but you can also get a vanilla latte with it), but despite the occasional mouse and the one cockroach I spotted in my kitchen (who I’m convinced was some sort of scout), there were things I really enjoyed. Like being able to cook naked.

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