Thursday, September 4, 2008

Apartment searching.

San Francisco residents, is there anything worse than finding an apartment? Seriously?

Step one, let's introduce a new character. We'll refer to him as The Roommate. The Roommate is a very good friend who went to college with me. He did San Francisco the smart way: found a job, then found an apartment, THEN moved here. The Roommate is brilliant to a really ridiculous degree, and not just because he figured out how normal people relocate. I'm sure we'll speak more of him later. (Note: he may or may not actually be a roommate, considering all the things I will talk about shortly, but there's a very strong chance he will be, and he might as well be considering he is my solitary connection to the city at this point.

I needed something else to stress me out, so less than 48 hours before I was moving to the city, The Roommate called and said that his landlord had kicked him out. We're not sure why. Landlord has recently been acting a little weird - doesn't want his bike in his room, freaks out when he accidentally clogs the sink, etc. Today, the other shoe drops, and he has to move out. 

Well, this is tricky. See, I was staying in The Roommate's... well... room. For a couple of days. Until I find that magical apartment/sublet/who the hell knows where people stay in San Francisco. And I guess that's still okay? Maybe? Why don't we just spent 48 hours flipping our shit about it instead of thinking logically about the solution?

The apartment search also involves The Monkey. The Monkey likes to climb on things. (So does The Roommate, for the record.) The Monkey has also decided it's time for a change, so we made the decision to move to San Francisco together. Sort of. I'm coming out first to secure an apartment and then we'll live together and it'll be great. And we'll pass that rental application with no jobs and no bank statements that reflect any money.

Oh, have I mentioned that I'm financing this entire journey via credit? Before anyone starts in on how bad of an idea that is: I worked in pre-foreclosure for a year. I spent ten hours a day listening to people tell me they could feed their kids or make their three-months-past-due mortgage payment, so why don't I choose for them? It made me more money than I had ever seen at the time, so I suffered through it and just came home and cried for a year. Got me through a year of college. So I know the dangers of racking up credit. I'm just going to ignore them for a month or two.

So, we start searching for apartments. Me, The Roommate, and The Monkey. The Roommate has a job that doesn't pay enough for him to secure a two bedroom apartment in the city by himself. The Monkey has no job and next to no credit history. Me? I've got fabulous credit but a really ridiculous amount of debt. And no job. Hmm.

I arrive in the city and stay with The Roommate, and life seems to be okay for day one. Day two, Roommate's landlord corners me on the stairs and we introduce ourselves to one another. She has a friend who has an apartment that I can sublet for September. I start to launch into a conversation about how that's not really ideal for me, and then it occurs to me that I'm probably a step or two away from getting myself kicked out of this apartment. Turns out I'm the reason The Roommate is getting kicked out - it wasn't quite effectively communicated that I wasn't moving in permanently. Oops. 

This begins the two day apartment search from hell. I've been off the plane for two hours and we're seeing the most beautiful studio apartment ever. $1575 in the mission. Beautiful rooftop access. Enough space for me and The Roommate, who also moved with what he could fit in two suitcases. A little pricey, though. We decide to think about it and see what else we can find. Roommate goes to see apartment way out in Inner Sunset, ends up being way too small. 

The next day, I introduce myself to the Tenderloin. This is an area of town that I will only discuss objectively, as I have absolutely no biases about neighborhoods. This is also an area of town that everyone told me to avoid at all costs.

Look, people, honestly? I don't get afraid of neighborhoods. I've lived in bad neighborhoods. I'm more scared of bad neighborhoods in the midwest than I am on either of the coasts. I lived in Spanish Harlem for a year. (One of my former roommates has a story about his grandparents getting off the train at our stop and seeing two kids exchanging a gun. I have no such personal stories.) I'm not afraid of sketchy neighborhoods.

So, I go. I see a beautiful $1200 studio that I love. I call The Roommate and tell him to get to this open house right now because we're taking the apartment. He's still at work. Tells me to walk the neighborhood and look for our new bar. (We're pool sharks and dart players. And drinkers, if the amount of time we spent in pool/dart establishments is any indication of our character.) I leave the building, and in the span of 3 minutes, I have watched a man take a shit in the street, watched another man punch a man in a wheelchair in the leg, encouraging all his friends to step up and start a fight, and I am referred to twice as "Big Tits", just in case it wasn't clear what my new moniker was the first time.

This breaks my spirit, not because I have the capacity to fear neighborhoods, but because there are certain things I know about myself. I know I can't live here. In theory, I'm going to end up with a design job that pays me more than people my age should probably make. I'm in it for the cheap rent in the as-yet-ungentrified neighborhood. I will walk by people every day that literally have no other options in their lives but being crazy and fatigued and hungry, and I will go to my yuppie job, and that will make me an asshole.

No Tenderloin.

So then I go see the apartment recommended to me by The Roommate's landlord. Spirit is broken and I really hate my life. I have $500 in my pocket that the US Bank I managed to locate on Van Ness was kind enough to dispense to me. (Credit!) The apartment is on the third floor of a building around 18th & Valencia, right in the neighborhood I want to live in. The current tenant is not allowed to sublet. I can sublet it for $600 for the month of September. It does not have a stove. 

I do not care.

We try to rent $1575 studio. Voicemail says it's been rented. I borrow $100 from The Roommate until I can get to an ATM again, combine it with all the cash currently in my pocket, and I am immediately handed the keys. 

So now I've got 26 days to find a real apartment, or we're all going to be homeless. The Monkey arrives around the 15th. As of today, we may have a fourth roommate. (I don't have a name for her yet. We might call her The Cutie, because she rides a bicycle and has fantastic hair, and her facebook photos confirm that she looks good in a pencil skirt.) 

Dear San Francisco,

If you have an apartment that's three bedrooms and under $3000, preferably in the mission, with bike storage, that you'd like to rent to four recent college graduates with no money and a current combined income of under $50K/year, based solely on the fact that we're trying really really really hard to get jobs, I would appreciate you giving me a call.

New Bay Resident

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