July 01, 2003

I moved recently--a very good thing. I liked my old apartment but I hated my landlord with the heat of a thousand suns. Plus I lived behind a garage and only had one small window. Then there was the pole in the middle of the living room. It had its disadvantages.

With rents finally coming down a bit in The City, I decided the time to act was now. Or rather then, about two months ago. So I started searching craigslist. In previous years I'd had to join agencies to find affordable apartments. As a signal of the changing times I was able to just freely surf craigslist and found many apartments in my price range.

My criteria was simple--No studios (I have too much stuff), No in-laws (I need more privacy, my own entrance, and not to live behind a garage), and Nowhere I couldn't get to work easily by public transportation. Ideally I'd stay in the Sunset, preferably in the same neighborhood near the ocean. Luckily my best chance of getting an affordable apartment that fulfilled the first two criteria was in fact in my current neighborhood.

I looked around. I found a beautiful place in Russian Hill of all places well within my price range. It was, however, a little small, had a tiny bathroom, and almost no windows. I wasn't willing to give up light for fantastic hardwoods and no parking.

I looked at a pathetically small in-law (I know, I shouldn't have bothered) just up the street from my apartment. Aside from pathetically small, it was behind a garage with almost no light. Hardly a step up.

I looked at a kind of cool place even closer to the ocean at 48th Ave but the landlord was a little weird and he wanted more deposit than I wanted to pay. Also, the apartment faced the east which felt odd to me. Maybe I have a natural feng shui sense or some such, but if I'm going to be that close, I'd like to see the ocean. Even my apartment at the time had a little view of some water.

I saw the absolutely most gorgeous apartment ever on Geary. It happened to be open as I drove past so I checked it out. I walked up 3 flights to find an empty apartment, no one around. I wandered in. The kitchen had a little banquette seating area. There was built-in storage. The bathroom had really cute black and white tile. And every room but the bathroom had full views of the coastline down to Daly City. It was fantastic. I nearly ran out crying, knowing it was out of my price range and that I was ruined for all other apartments.

Then I found my happy home. It was on craigslist and was only showing for 1/2 an hour on Sunday. It was 3 blocks from my apartment. So I hurried down on Sunday to find a little gate and walkway up to some stairs. I went up and passed some people leaving. There were several groups inside looking at it as well.

As I walked in the door, the kitchen alone made me want to apply. A normal sized kitchen, it was an extravaganza of cabinets and counter space compared to my tiny makeshift kitchen in my place which consisted of a stove, refrigerator, and sink and literally nothing else.

As I continued in, I saw bay windows. Windows! High ceilings. A normal bathroom with a tub! (You'd be surprised how even a non-bath-taker could long to get out of a stall shower after 2 years.) And a big bedroom, easily twice the size of my old one, with a false fireplace mantle with a mirror like in the cool Victorians my sister had lived in, and two big windows. Windows! And of course, one big honking closet.

Oh yeah--every window had a view of the ocean. It was a way off, over rooftops, but it was there. And I couldn't believe my luck.

I wanted it. There was no question in my mind. I had an application and credit report in hand (the previous apartment visits had taught me a thing or two) and I handed them to the landlord showing the place. I told him I could move in sooner but would prefer June. The deposit seemed a little higher than I could handle for a May move-in.

That night and the following day I obsessed. I wanted the apartment. It felt right. It should be mine. But they wanted someone to move in now. There had been lots of people looking at it. And I didn't have the money. Unless...

Monday night I went to visit the SF Tenants Union. Let me say, the SFTU is fantastic. It's all volunteers and runs on donations and membership. You drop in and ask your questions and they help you out and tell you your rights. Their website is pretty great, too--lots of info.

I asked them if I could tell my evil landlord to use my deposit as my last month's rent. They said technically no. But when I told them that there wasn't a chance in hell that he'd ever give me the money back, they said I could probably get away with it--though still not technically legal. That's all I needed. With that month's rent out of the way, I could afford my lovely dream apartment.

I called and emailed the new landlord that night, saying I would write him a check tomorrow, that I loved the place and couldn't stop thinking about it. Then I emailed my landlord from hell and told him what he could do with my security deposit.

The next day the new landlord called and offered me the place. He said he'd had a couple of other people interested but he'd have to run credit reports and since he had mine... I bounced up and down, happy for my preparedness and good luck. I wrote him a check and mailed it priority mail. I hugged my co-worker. I emailed all my friends and family. It was a happy day.

Over the next few weeks I got ready. My bad landlord emailed me and was surprisingly nice and didn't give me a fight. My good landlord met me and I signed the lease. I wandered around my empty new apartment cheerfully taking photos of everything. My whole family came over one weekend to help me pack and move some things.

Finally on Memorial Day weekend I moved. My dear dear friend Angie and her girlfriend Laurie helped me and were powerhouses. My dad even joined us on the second run. And after another week of picking up random things and doing some small cleaning, I turned in my old keys and was free. It was a wonderful feeling. You don't even realize how much something or someone is weighing on you until you remove the weight. I felt light.

I, in fact, felt renewed. Settling into the new place, I felt like I had a fresh start. I relished the view. I languished in the space. I tried and failed to fill up the kitchen cabinets. And every time I did something, I thought, "This is the first meal I've cooked in my new place." "This is my first shower in my new place." "This is my first phone call from my new place." Call me crazy, but everything was so new.

I felt like I was starting over. It's funny how making one change in your life makes you want to start changing everything else. I remembered a past dream of moving to New Orleans. I thought about what classes I might want to take to pursue a job in editing. I even, and I hesitate to mention this, I even answered a personal ad on craiglist.

Please don't think this means I had any intention of starting a relationship. But it did make me ponder the idea that I might consider possibly dating someone, you know, sometime. Suddenly the world seemed less small. The possibilities seemed more endless. And all because of my little apartment.

Lately I feel like everything is new. I had jury duty for the first time. I saw movies for the first time. I got a new computer at work. I have a new supervisor. I bought some new clothes. Everything in my home is finding a new place...

Ok, maybe everything isn't entirely new. But everything feels new, because I feel like it's new. Or maybe I want things to be new more now, as I'm getting older and everything in my life has begun to seem routine. I guess I've done enough stuff now that the new stuff is becoming rare.

Maybe the only new thing is my apartment--maybe all the first things I'm doing are only new because of location. But maybe there is a change--maybe the new thing is my opening my eyes to a bigger brighter world.

Posted by Alyssa at July 01, 2003 10:25 PM
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