Monday, April 7, 2008

The Great Apartment Hunt Pt. 5: Tuxedo Towers, Slight Return!

Following this debacle we decided to redouble our efforts to find a place, with or without a broker. But my wife was starting to get frustrated.

“The thing is I don’t want to have to look for a place when I’m nine months pregnant, I just want to have a place set up, and ready for the baby,” she said.

I tried to put on the face of an eternal optimist, parroting the upbeat Norman Vincent Peale-speak you might find in a Guideposts magazine.

“Just remember, babe, every single place we see but don’t take just means we’re one step closer to finding the place we do want!”

Of course this logic didn’t necessarily hold up when examined closely, but it was my mantra, and, unlike Jeff Goldblum in Annie Hall, I hadn’t lost mine yet.

Randi started to burrow in the classifieds like a mole, looking at them early and late to see what was available. Every other day or so she’d have a fresh stack of listings, some of which she’d hand to me, and some of which she’d take herself. She’s a bit more organized than me, which is good, because in her day job she has to attend to a room of screaming fourth graders, and I, as an editor, merely have to oversee a smaller room of disgruntled journalists. One good thing about the journalists: I never had to deal with their parents.

She found one listing that seemed to have promise. Sure, it was a one bedroom, but at $1150 a month we’d be making a substantial savings on our current place. I’d done some math and realized that after the cost of moving, paying for electricity (which we don’t have to pay for in our current place) and a broker’s fee we’d have to find a place that was at least $1350 a month, or less, to make it worthwhile. This only raised another question in my mind: why hadn’t I done this math before?

We got back in the subway in early March for what felt like our 80th trip to Bay Ridge. We liked the neighborhood, it’s true, but not enough to spend every spare day of our lives there, and it was already getting tedious. The subway took us far into the neighborhood, all the way to 94th Street. When we got out I looked at the area. It seemed familiar. We were very close to the bridge, there was a Key Foods I’d seen before, and there was a little diner/newsstand. And, as if guided by memory, I made a left turn onto a road I’d certainly been down before.

Of course: Tuxedo Towers.

It wasn’t so much that the ‘Towers were more rundown than many other apartments that we saw. It was that, at least to us, they seemed to have a slight air of danger about them, and not the good danger—spies, microfilm—but rather the garden variety, drug-related kind.
Perhaps we had no proof to back up this feeling, but the ‘Towers themselves kind of encouraged this view. In fact the tone was set by the messily hand-written sign taped to the window of the front door: “Do NOT leave the front door open when you leave! And if you see strange activity in the lobby call the police.”

Also Randi raised a good point as we entered the lobby, for the third time. “Why are so many people always leaving this place?”

Of course I had no answer. The good news upon re-entering the building was that in our absence someone had repainted the Day-Glo lobby white. Usually I mourn the loss of something eccentric and pointless, but in one, unique case, I thought it was worthy of applause.

Still, the white paint did little to relieve the penitentiary-esque feel of the building, but at least someone, somewhere was getting hip. It was either that, or they got laughed out of the local Home Depot when they requested thirty gallons of aqua-marine paint.

We took the creaky, undersized elevator up to the tenth floor, and got out. The door to the apartment was closed—often they’re open when an apartment is being shown—and knocked.
“Hello, hello,” said the youngish man who answered, also named David. And so it began again, the oddly intimate, and awkward, practice of trying to evaluate an apartment, and not the person whose life has taken place in the apartment. It’s like trying to look at someone to see their bones through their skin.

But I couldn’t help it. The apartment was a small one bedroom, and not that interesting. More interesting was David’s decorations. A Jew, he had mezuzahs in every door frame. Would these come with the apartment? And there were various pictures of his wedding day to a young woman, several of them. Way more of them, in fact, than we have of our wedding day in our apartment. But I saw no sign of her.

“So, tired of Brooklyn?” I asked.

“Yeah, going to move into Manhattan,” he said. “It’ll make it easier for me to go out, and meet up with my friends.”

“Moving into a bigger place in the city?”

“Nah, about the same size, but it’s more conveniently located, for when I go out.”

Okay, weird. I already knew this place was too small for us, but why would a married man, and a seemingly religious one at that, move not to a bigger place, but one the same size, just so he could hang out with his buds? And after getting married don’t most people move away from Manhattan to places like Bay Ridge? Most do.

I interrupted my prying to continue the empty exercise of looking through his closets and walking through his kitchen, strolling it like the runway at an awards ceremony, to “get the feeling” of the place. And the feeling was: I don’t think so. It wasn’t such a bad place, but it was much less spacious than even the one bedroom we already had. I had to face facts: we wanted to save money, but neither of us wanted to move down in lifestyle. We were willing to move further away from our social circle, our jobs, and our families, but we weren’t willing to move into a place that would be even more cramped in order to do it.

In what had become an unconscious ritual I made a point of taking a lead in David’s sports memorabilia clogged bathroom, where the door barely shut, because it came so close to the edge of the toilet. Yeah, this place had bachelor pad written all over it. But what happened to his wife? I didn’t ask.

We thanked him and left, as another youngish couple, kind of like us, took our place in his life, at least for the next 10-to-15 minutes.

Next stop: more brokers!

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