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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to all the towns i loved before

In all my wandering, I’ve formed very specific relationships with each of the cities I’ve explored. Because really, when you move somewhere new, it’s a lot like dating–you get to know the personality of the place, try to figure out if the two of you are meant to be together…sometimes you have to break up with a place, and sometimes you just end up with some great memories. I decided to reminisce about the cities I’ve been ‘involved’ with.

Los Angeles: Ahh, my first love. I really only started seeing you because you were my neighbor growing up. We met when I went to UCLA, and I thought you were fun. But a guy needs more than fun, and besides, you were always dealing with some sort of drama–earthquakes, fires, mudslides–I needed something more stable in a relationship. It wasn’t till after I left you that I realized how shallow and superficial you really are, but I wish you well–I’m sure you’ll find others who get lured by your easy charm.

Minneapolis (the first time):  My first grownup relationship with a city. You encouraged me with your midwestern nurturing…because of you I was able to pursue my career. You cooked me wild rice soup and were always so nice…but like a typical man, I left because you were too nice. I thought I’d outgrown you, and needed have a little more action in my life. And let’s be honest–you can be really cold.

Boston: I’ll admit it–I was a jerk when we first got together. In my late twenties, making good money as a comedian, I was cocky and full of myself…I used you and had no intention of staying with you. We weren’t right for each other, and to be honest I always resented your provincial ways.

Miami: 1987…You were hot. And you got me into a lot of trouble. I’ve got no hard feelings about the time we spent together–but this was just a fling, all sex and drugs and no romance. I actually saw you again recently, and thought you looked good.

Los Angeles (again): I had no business seeing you again, and during our brief reunion I didn’t feel like I had ever really known you. Maybe it’s my insecurities–you’re almost too pretty for me, and though I still think about you, and I still want you, I can’t see you again.

Portland: After living on the edge for so many years, I found you, and I fell in love. You were so comfortable and low-maintenance. But ultimately, we just spent too much time getting stoned, and I was worried I was becoming complacent. With you, Portland, I didn’t have the drive to accomplish much, but it was cool hanging out.

Chicago: Now you were one helluva lady. A shot and a beer kinda gal who could still dress up and dazzle–in a simpler time, you’d have been called a ‘broad’ and it would have been a compliment. We spent three years together, and I think we could have made a go of it, but then I lost my job, my health became an issue, and I became a burden. It just seemed best to move on–guess it was a mid-life thing, and I had to find myself again.

New York: You know, I had heard about you from friends. Friends who thought we’d be great together. Exciting. Open to anything. We only had two weeks, but what a whirlwind it was (you probably don’t remember, but I actually met you ten years before–at the time you didn’t even notice me, and I left without so much as a goodbye). I think we might give it another try someday. But I’m not ready to commit to you yet. You demand more than I’ve got to give, and let’s be real–you’re used to someone spending a lot of money on you. When I get my shit together, though, I will definitely look you up.

Minneapolis (again):  Why do I always come back to you when the wheels fall off? But here I am. You’re not the most glamorous city–I’ve certainly had wilder nights and more adventurous times, but at this point in life your even temper and Lutheran reserve offer the kind of peace I need. You keep taking me back, even though you know that if something beckons, I’ll might leave you again. But probably not–I’m sure in a few months I’ll be making a hot dish, and we can bundle up like mummies and walk to the Sculpture Garden.

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