Since my arrival in Portland, I’ve been sharing a room with my boyfriend in the basement of a single mother’s house. The rent is cheap and the mother and son are very nice, and that’s great, but a tiny little room in the dank and dark confines of a basement is less than desirable. Couple that with the resident cats, who hate Chelsea, and various other rules and requirements that rival my mother’s, and suddenly you’ve got a living situation that needs to change.
The woman from whom we are renting, who we will call Stella, actually asked us to find a new place due to the fact that her cats no longer feel welcome in their own home, because even though Chelsea is deaf and so out of it that she has hardly even noticed her little furry enemies, she’s still managed to make their feline lives a living hell. This news hardly comes as a shock to me—and I can’t exactly pretend that Chelsea has been the best roommate: she regularly helps herself to the cat food, she scratches loudly on doors that do not lead to rooms she’s allowed inside of, and just the other night she chewed up Stella’s hand-sewn Alaskan fur slipper.
So for the last few days, Asa and I have been searching craigslist and newspapers and community bulletin boards for cheap one bedroom apartments. We hadn’t been having too much luck when we found a posting that sounded too good to be true: a cheap two bedroom with hardwood floors in a really funky neighborhood and dogs are a-okay. So we drove by to check it out.
The apartment was located in a U-shaped one-story building with about eight other apartments, all of whose front doors opened out to a nice little communal grassy area. Two residents were out on the lawn playing fetch with their greyhound. They welcomed us, told us that they were happy living there and that ten dogs lived in the building.
Sense of community: check.
The door to the prospective apartment was unlocked, so we decided to let ourselves in. The floors were in the process of being redone—they were unfinished but very much made out of wood. The kitchen, painted a deep crimson, featured only a stove, but looked like it would make a small but pleasant space when finished. The main living area was painted in the same color green I’ve always wanted to paint my walls; the smaller bedroom was a happy yellow and the larger one was a purplish-grey (this will have to change—we’re thinking orange instead). The ad had boasted that not a single wall was painted white, and it was the truth.
Hardwood floors and brightly-colored walls: check.
It had to be a ruse. How the heck could this apartment be so darn cute in a such a darn cute neighborhood with one more bedroom than we need and at a price we could actually afford? There must be some downsides, we rationed, so we mulled them over: “It doesn’t have a gas stove,” said Asa. “The big bedroom is painted an ugly color,” said I. “It’s a little bit further away from the school shuttle stop,” said Asa, “and we probably will have to drive to the grocery store.” And that was best we could muck up. So we called the landlady and left a message (is ‘landlady’ an un-PC term? Shall we use something less gender-specific? How about ‘property owner’? That sounds so sterile. How about ‘landperson’? Good enough for now, I guess).
Sense of disbelief: check.
The landperson responded in less than an hour. I told her that we had looked around and were very interested. “Great!” she said. “If you’re interested, I’ll tell everyone else that it’s rented already. I’m so sick of getting all of these calls and emails about it.” We set up an appointment for the next day to look at it again with her.
The feeling that this must be too good to be true: check.
And then it got even harder to believe. We met with her yesterday—she was the nicest landperson I’ve ever met. She charges no application fee, she doesn’t do criminal records or credit checks (“I always say, you have to trust people. If you can’t trust them, then you shouldn’t be renting to them,” she explained), she didn’t mind that neither of us currently have a steady job as long as we’re looking for one, and she said we could pay month-to-month unless we would prefer to have a contract. Plus, covering the walls of the big bedroom with a healthy dose of bright orange was fine with her—just be careful with the floors, she requested.
A renter’s dream: check.
The apartments we’d seen in the last couple of days had made me start to think that you just sort of have to throw in the towel at some point and take something a little less desirable than your dreams had envisioned. You want hardwood floors; you get carpeting. You want a smoke-free building; it turns out that the last tenant was a chimney and the stench still clings to the walls like a kindergartener to his mother’s leg. A first floor apartment would be ideal; the basement is the reality. The ad says “close to the light rail system”; you have to drive to get there. The monthly payment is cheap; the move-in expenses cost as much as three months’ worth of rent. I was getting closer to the point of sacrificing—”This nasty old carpeted apartment is cute enough and it’s as good as we’re going to get,” I was starting to think—when we stumbled across this place. Asa doesn’t like to settle for anything less than exactly what he wants, and I’m glad we held out. If the biggest sacrifice is an electric stove, I think I’m willing to throw in the towel and sign the lease.
A renter’s dream come true: check.
The only perceptible catch is that we can’t move in until the apartment is done with the repairs. The landperson said she thought that would be by next weekend, and maybe I’m just a little more of a skeptic, but it seemed like a heckuva lot of work to accomplish in one week. A lot of work, but not impossible, and plus, we don’t have to move out of our basement hole until the end of the month, so we have some time to spare. Besides, it will take us some time to pick out the perfect shade of butternut squash orange to paint our walls.
Can you tell I’m excited? Check.
I’m not actually listening to the Rent soundtrack but I thought it would be an appropriate choice for today’s post. I don’t even own the Rent soundtrack, however, I would like to point out that my fabulous Uncle Joe
took me to see Rent at the Nederlander Theatre in New York City one February night back in 1996. The show was still in its preview stages with the original cast, and I don’t know how, but Uncle Joe scored some pretty darn good seats—if my memory serves, we were in the fifth row and just left of center. It was the most awe-inspiring thing my 14-year-old eyes had ever watched. And now, almost 10 years later, I’m still awed by everything Uncle Joe does—and I’m hoping he’ll come out to visit, wink wink, because I sure could use his decorating expertise for the new place.