Thursday, August 4, 2011

Home (Expletive) Home

Please pardon me while I bang my head against a wall.

It's less painful and more productive than apartment hunting in New York City.

After 15 years and 7 apartments you'd think I'd have a grip on this whole thing but I don't. It never gets easier, never. I think in some episode of "Sex and the City" (tagline: "No, Really - This is Totally What Living In New York is Exactly Like!") Carrie Bradshaw says that New Yorkers are always looking for either a romantic partner, a job, or an apartment. I'm happily married and happily a stay-at-home-mom.

But I do feel like I am perpetually looking for an apartment.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. That explains why New Yorkers are so crazy! We all have to live here, and in order to live here we all have to throw ourselves into the sarlacc pit of New York City real estate, hoping to come out of it alive! What is wrong with all of us?

Some try to beat the system by stubbornly staying in the same place for years and years even in the face of changing family circumstances. I knew someone who got married and had three kids, all while living in the same studio apartment. And no, "studio apartment" in New York doesn't mean a 5-bedroom luxury condo: it means a 1-room apartment. Not one bedroom: ONE. ROOM. How do you even make more babies when you're sharing ONE ROOM with your other kid(s)?

Others, especially in our neighborhood, cram enormous families into tiny apartments. It goes something like this: four or five kids share one bedroom, five or six other kids share the second bedroom, the parents sleep in the bathtub, and the grandparents sleep in the refrigerator. Why? The school districts. And rent. Park Slope has become like the Lower East Side tenements of the early 1900s, all in the name of getting kids into P.S. 321 without paying more than $50 a month for rent because you moved into this apartment back in 1997. Or something.

And yes, rents in New York, even out here in Brooklyn - especially here in Park Slope, where a friend once emailed me, "So which school did the Princeling get into, Beansprouts or Yale?" - are really as high as you've heard about. I'm not going to say how high, because I'm embarrassed. Our yearly rent is about what some people make at part-time jobs. But we pay it, because we love living in New York City, we don't have car payments or gas prices to worry about, and because we have that advanced brain damage specific to New Yorkers who think that paying a kajillion dollars a month for a dishwasher-less rat-infested hellhole is justified by saying we get to live in New York City and we don't have to have a car.

We currently live in a nice 2-bedroom apartment with a balcony and views of the Statue of Liberty, and we love our apartment. But we're having another baby because we are idiots and masochists, and we need another bedroom. The bathtub just isn't big enough for both me and my husband. So we're stuck in the ninth circle of Hell known as apartment hunting, and so far I've only threatened suicide maybe three times. I've also decided that we are going to move to Montauk and become seafaring people; that we're going to move to London and become those funny Americans everyone teases; and that we're going to move back to South Florida to be closer to our parents. (Husband: "Every time you get a little depressed you threaten to move back to Miami.")

I've seen an apartment in a fourth-floor walkup in a building that had fist-sized holes in the hall floorboards and a cinder block holding the front door on its hinges (Me, to broker: "We have a preschooler and we're having another baby. What makes you think we want to live in a fourth-floor walkup in a condemned building?"); we've seen a very nice 3-bedroom in a very nice elevator building that happens to be located half a block from the new Atlantic Yards project and shares a street with a sports bar; and a few owner-owned very nice condos where they either wanted to charge us half our internal organs plus one of our children for rent, or they wouldn't commit to a longer lease so that we'd have to go through this all over again in a year. And then there was the duplex that looked promising, but the owner was sure she could get even more rent than she originally asked for. Last I heard it was still on the market and the landlady wouldn't come down on price.

That's what we're dealing with here, people.

Maybe we should just stay put. I'll take the bathtub and the Husband can sleep out on the balcony. He always says he wants to go camping.


Lena said...

I feel your pain, Mer Bear. I am trying to find a reasonably priced 1-bedroom in the Bronx that isn't a total shithole in the ghetto and it's the most painful process ever. I hope the Gods of real estate bless us both very soon.


Meredith L. said...

While I'm glad you'll be back in Da Five Boros, I have to ask: why the Bronx???

Dianna Morris said...

I live in Miami. I even moved back to live in Miami.
Right now I am waiting for a tropical storm that has dumped 20 inches of rain on Haiti to decide if it wants to roar over the top of me.
I've held doors shut against 60 MPH winds with my own body, lived without electricity for a month, sat for hours in half mile lines in steaming heat to get gas, ice, water, practically given away my womanly virtue for a generator. I've joined neighborhood chainsaw gangs to gain access to the outside world while fending off snakes, alligators and Salt Marsh Mosquitoes the size of Mini-coopers.
I live in Miami. Wouldn't live anywhere else.

Meredith L. said...

Ah, Dianna, I remember all that fun stuff from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. You gotta live where you love it!

Rebecca Burgener said...


Your comment is so poetic!


I think some amount of frustration for apartment hunting is universal, but your post had me giggling. (Sorry.)

Could you start going apartment looking armed with a camera? I would so try to turn this experience into a cheesy little book that would sell at tourist traps or souvenir shops if I were in your shoes.

Then again, some people may not like you taking pictures of their available apartments, but others might think of it as free advertising. :-D

Best of luck in finding the right place for your growing family! And congrats on the newest little one!

Enjoying my Tennessee home,