Roommate Wanted

Tomorrow morning I head out to Greene, New York for six weeks.  It doesn't feel like long at all, but when I realize that I've only been in New York for a month... It's been an exciting time to say the least.  Things come up, surprises arise, and as a person on the journey I'm learning to go along with the flow.  I mean, for the most part these circumstances have little to do with me, and so I do what I can when I can.

It is a strange feeling to be without a permanent home, and once I've resolved that situation I imagine it will go a long way to making me feel more secure, and less like a visitor here.

I have been checking out the various member sites, Facebook groups and Craigslistings to seek a solution to it, and a little while ago I had my first visitation for a possible place to live.  It was sited as...

  1. Short term or long term
  2. One Bedroom
  3. $850
  4. Pre-War building
Sign me up!!!

I would be sharing with a retired ballerina who is currently working in the wellness industry. I put aside my stereotypical and completely unfair preconceptions about ballerinas being high maintenance and somewhat, bat shit crazy, and called her up.  She was very kind.  Really open and forth right, with a deep voice and a strong voice to match her equally strong convictions that Brooklyn and Williamsburgh are terrible, the true working class have long since left the area and it takes hours to get anywhere from there.  She was an artist from the Warhol days, and she knew how it was.  There was something in her vocal presence and energy that sang of "Native New Yorker".  

We made an appointment for the next week to see the room, which would be all I would be renting as she was "doing the New York thing" of renting out her bedroom and using her living room as a bedroom. Hmmm.  

I got to the Bronx an hour before our appointment, and had plenty of time to look around.  It was situated right next to Yankee Stadium, which could be tricky during game time, and didn't seem as easy to get to as she had claimed.  Plus, the city was...grittier than I'd expected.  The building itself was gorgeous.  A relic of times gone by, gigantic, gated, and the lobby was cavernous and completely empty, which seemed strange to me.  

I gave the woman a call and let her know I was down stairs.  She was headed down to the basement to recycle some things, so she would see me in a bit. About five minutes later a tiny little woman in red and green square cut spectacles greeted me carrying two six foot tall empty boxes, which I immediately took from her.  She had salt and pepper hair in a pixie cut, and that's what she seemed like to me.  A no-nonsense, get 'er done, New York pixie in her early sixties.  She proceeded to lead me down to the basement and regale me with the history of the building, its amenities, and conveniences.  

She seemed to take in everything around her with a critical eye.  The garbage cans needed to be moved, etc.  "What are you doing??" she called to the guy at the end of the hall who was quite blatantly propping the door.  "Are you loading something in?  Cause I can't have that door propped.  I just had a strange person come up to my apartment door and knock saying he was with electricity!"  

Of course, like a clumsy Saint Bernard I bumped the overhead fluorescent light as I stacked the boxes in recycling.  There was a slight sizzle and a flash.  "I'm gonna have to call Phil about that.  Can you hear it??  Can you hear it sizzling?  Lemme call Phil."  

She apparently had the Superintendent on speed dial.  I was mortified, but neither did I want to burn down this stunning pre-war building on my first visit.  Phil came down and replaced the bulb, I took a quick peek at the laundry facilities, met one of the neighbors, a short squat opera singer, and we headed up to see the apartment.  I also picked up in the conversation between them that my pixie friend was the Vice Chair of the Board for the building, which is a co-op.

The apartment was sizable, the kitchen was clean, and it looked like something could be done to make it quite homey.  However, nothing had been done at the moment.  There was not a painting hung on any of the walls, no pictures, the furniture was sparse, though antique, and I was surprised to discover she had lived there more than two years.  There was a guy working construction in her apartment though, so maybe that was it?  He had assembled and installed a couple of IKEA bookshelves, and was currently working on the lighting in the kitchen.   We walked through her bedroom to the room that would be mine, and it gave me pause.  

I understand it's "the New York thing" but it seemed like it would be strange if she was asleep by ten PM and I was creeping through her bedroom late at night to get to my own, or if I had a friend over...just, very close for comfort.  The room itself was quite lovely, with a beautiful view of the park below, and lace curtains blowing in the wind.  It was a little feminine for my tastes, but could be worked with.  So possibly?  I knew I wasn't ready to make a commitment at that point, and she had to rush me out anyway, because she had a last minute Skype conference scheduled in her kitchen, so before I knew it I was out the door and shuffling into the rickety elevator back down to the ground floor.  

There were definitely possible issues.  But it was very cheap rent, and was available September 1st.  If I ended up booking the Greene gig (something that was still up in the air at that time) maybe??
But I had had some crazy roommate situations in the past in Los Angeles, and I wasn't eager to sign up for another.  As nice as this lady seemed, she was very assertive, and in everyone's business.  I couldn't imagine living a life in her apartment that would be in any way private.  

After I booked the gig in Greene (it feels so weird to say that word- "gig".  Any time I say it I feel like one of the Archies) I gave her a call.  The timing would certainly work, and it would be nice to have something secure when coming back.  I left her a message saying I was interested, would be back on the 6th of September, and was interested.  Maybe we could start it out for a couple of months, make sure it worked out.  

However, it is not to be.  She left me a message with a lot of her former friendliness drained away, saying, no, she needed the apartment rented as of the 1st.  The 6th would not work out, and she needed at least a year commitment (so much for "short term ok").  Since she was just getting a million calls on the rental, so it didn't look like it was going to work out, even though I seemed like a lovely person.  Click.  If course, as I'd mentioned in my message I was open and amenable to whatever would work for her, but apparently, she didn't want to converse about it.

Damn.  It's strange how much rejection can sting, even when it's an opportunity you aren't even sure you really want.  Maybe if I'd seemed a little more sold on it?  Maybe if I hadn't been 6 ft 3 to her 5'5 self, a seeming physical threat?  I guess we will never know.

In the meantime, I will have a [place to stay for the next six weeks and will do what I can to look for a new apartment, even if it is from three and a half hours away.
Joe Hartman