I need to find a new apartment by September 1. This is a challenging and stressful event in any geographical region, but five thousand times more challenging in the New York City area. It is ridiculous. The rents are FRIGHTENING. The city seems to be an organism created to deny you entry. Or at least to make entry a very very very very very daunting prospect. Man, you have got to WANT to live here. And I, obviously, am not a rich woman. I have been to the apartments of the rich in Manhattan, and life is a whole different ballgame if you’ve got a couple more zeroes in your salary. Freedom! You don’t have to live in a closet! Or crammed into a “two-bedroom” (yeah, right – two bedroom – in WHAT UNIVERSE is this teeny space a two bedroom??) where your bedroom has a curtain for a door, and you have to build your own closet in order to hang up your damn clothes. Where your roommate, whom you have never met before, (you are only living with this person because you are DESPERATE), is a 20 year old gay ballet dancer, who brings all of his shrieking ballet dancer friends home at 2 in the morning, while you are sleeping the sleep of the virtuous.
So I am too old to go backwards. I am too old to suddenly be living with immature gay ballet dancers who I don’t know and love. I am too old to think that a curtain is a fine stand-in for a door.
So here is who I am right now: I want to live by myself. I am not rich. I am not willing to sell all of my books, and downgrade to a single bed in order to save space. So this makes my needs extremely specific. It is stupid to be picky, and stupid to try to have any standards whatsoever, when you are apt. hunting in New York. You have a vague sense of principles, of what you will and will not put up with, but once you actually begin the search, and once you actually see what is out there, your principles dissolve in an alarmingly short amount of time.
“There’s no stove? Bah, who cares. Cooking’s over-rated anyway!”
“I have to share my room with an elderly couple from Peru? No biggie. It’ll be nice to have some company.”
It’s incredibly disheartening. You have existential moments of dread. Like: What the hell am I doing with my life? Why am I trying to live in this city? What is my purpose again, exactly? Waves of despair wash over the landscape. I will never have a home I love. I will never make enough money to live the way I want to live. I am a complete and utter loser.
The city is designed to keep the dilettantes OUT. You must hard-core want to live here (or near here) … It is not kind. It is not open to your problems. It does not give a crap about your space and storage issues.
Obviously I’m a little bit obsessed. It is hard not to be. Apartment hunting in Manhattan (or anywhere in a 50 mile radius) is no joke. It is a full-time gig. You must be ruthless. You must call people 10 times. You must not miss a moment. The search takes over your WHOLE LIFE.
I saw an apartment last night which … is too good to be true. It is, as we New Yorkers call such gems, “one of THOSE apartments”. You hear about them, some of your friends may even live in “one of THOSE apartments”, but … finding such a gem is so far out of reach that you cannot even bear to hold out hope. Usually “THOSE apartments” are rent-control. Of course. And you would be the 20th subletter of the original lease, which was originally drawn up in 1943. You pay $175 in rent, and you have a massive windy apartment on the Upper West Side, with a cool eat-in kitchen, and neat old ceilings, and 3 bedrooms, and blah blah blah. Those apartments DO EXIST and the fact that they DO exist make normally mild-mannered people want to murder their fellow citizens who have better fortune than they do. You must inherit such apartments. You must agree to not put your name on the mailbox, and get a PO box. But the rent is unbelievably low, and there you have it.
Everybody dreams of finding “one of THOSE apartments” … and it is a hopeless dream. No sense in planning for it. “THOSE apartments” only come along by total fluke. And you must immediately say YES to such an opportunity, should it knock on your door. If you wait for, literally, more than 30 seconds, 150 people will be in front of you in line.
So RANDOMLY, on my first apartment-open-house, I came across an apartment which is “one of THOSE”. I want it so bad that it’s made me in a bad mood. I feel nervous. I am literally praying. Like God would ever bother with this level of micro-management. I will do anything to get that apartment. I don’t even want to describe it, because if, for whatever reason, I don’t get it, I will have to let my dreams go. I will have to watch them float away into the mist, and force myself not to live in a dream-world, a dream made of castles in the past.
This is what happens when a not-rich person tries to find a satisfying space in the environs of New York. You lose all grip on reality.
You also lose any sense of shame. So I ask my readers:
PRAY FOR ME. KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED. Send me all the good energy you can muster!!!