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Homeward Bound…and Gagged

January 24, 2012

Hunting down a new place to live has become an experience in itself. So far, getting there is none of the fun. Has finding an apartment in this town ever been so hard? Even my tried and true strategy of walking and talking my way through a neighborhood to ask about vacancies hasn’t worked…yet.

On one level, we’re dealing with the nuts and bolts of scouring the town (and the web) for a good rental, with all our criteria in tow: This place you can’t control the heat; that place is too dark; this place was recently listed in The Bedbug Registry.  (Bedbugs, a/k/a Mattress Rats, make some people downright nostalgic for a good old fashioned cockroach infestation). And in that other place you can hear the neighbors sigh through the wall, which means when we make love…

Plus we need a place along the F line here in Brooklyn so Charley can easily get to both his offices. Plus shopping needs to be nearby. Some places now make you pay for the heat. Others don’t take cats. On top of this, we currently live in 1,000 sq. ft. and we’re spoiled. And of course, it’s got to be on a ground floor or in an elevator building because stairs are the reason we’re moving in the first place.

Exhausted yet?

And then there’s the rent. And the fact Shelley wants a better fridge, and Charley wants a view onto something living — pigeons, weeds, anything.

So after 122 years of accumulated experience, the two of us have become a bit particular. At this rate we’ll be lucky to find a place by Election Day…2016.

Actually to be fair, Shelley’s been happy enough with about three apartments to have taken them already, but I’ve been more particular. One of them left me uninspired. One depressed me. The other one really depressed me, it was so dark. And when my body says NO! these days, I listen.  We’re not deciding on a car or computer here. This is to be our next home, damn it, and where we will be spending more time than anywhere else. So I don’t want us to settle, or feel like we’re taking a step down.

Meanwhile, the New York rental market has become notoriously tight the past few years, so, the common wisdom goes, when you see something you think you like, you better grab it before somebody else does. At least that’s what the real estate agents tell us. Real estate agent being a respectable title for that stratum of human weighing in at just above the above-mentioned mattress rat, though less loveable.  The only real estate person I know who seems decent and honest is my brother’s girlfriend, but she’s upstate where life is different. Down here they act like it’s Lie or Die.

Did I mention I don’t like them?

And then there is the closet issue. I made the mistake of inviting Shelley to see an apartment I didn’t much care for, just for her to get a feel for what’s available there in Kensington, our target neighborhood.

I should have known better. The place has leaks; the heat is stifling; tenants say the elevator breaks down.

“But the closets! I love it! Charley, you’re killing me!”

What is it about women and closets? If she found a place that was 400 sq. ft. but 300 of that was closet space, she’d be signing the lease before I could see it. 

But all this is only the top level of our mishygos. Beneath flow emotional  tides and undertow.

This means we have to contend with Charley’s ego. Mainly because he was born with terminal maleness, and so feels compelled to be the one who kills the bear and brings home the bacon. (Wait! That’s impossible! No wonder he’s having trouble!)

This means that if Shelley finds a place on her own, and looks at it before he does, he’s pre-disposed to not like it, because he didn’t track it down and kill it himself.

This can be problematic as you can imagine. It’s a job in itself just for me to keep an open mind about a place she finds, and to also not put an extra glow in my eyes for a place just because I found it.

On top of this, I’m far too swayed by what she likes or dislikes. 

So now when we see a place together, I just ask her to please keep quiet (no “Oh I love it!” or “Nah…”) for the first 5 minutes we’re there, so I can first ascertain my own reactions.

Am I nuts? Am I the only man who’s like this?

But even though the market is tight, I have a deeply felt sense we can find a place we both will be happy in. Part of this is simple faith, part is that I smell some weakness in the market. Yesterday we saw a gorgeous four bedroom duplex in Kensington that was just $100 over our limit (and too many stairs for Shelley). Four bedrooms! And one of the places she thought was a steal, well, a month later, it’s still on the market. So it’s not such a strong rental market after all, at least not here in the dead of winter.

It sometimes feels to me like we’re at sea, splashing around, and tempted to grab the first half-seaworthy vessel we find so we can stop swimming already. But I don’t want to settle out of desperation, or exhaustion, or to please Shelley. That would be letting the both of us down in the long run; a kind of surrender, and not the spiritually healthy kind, either. Yes I get all frustrated and disappointed at times. But I bet we can find what we want.

And that will be our prize, a new place to call our own that will represent the best in both of us.

Meantime we’re riding the waves and the search goes on. 


11 Comments leave one →
  1. dave abramowitz permalink
    January 24, 2012 2:21 pm

    If you’re really stuck, I could convert my garage for you. One little thing, though, my garage is just the other side of the living room, and I like to practice the drums two or three hours a day. I’ll install a flush toilet. We’ll work it out . . .

  2. January 24, 2012 3:05 pm

    Buy something.

  3. Laurie Yankowitz permalink
    January 24, 2012 5:11 pm

    Shelley is a saint. I give you points for identifying your cave man mentality, however. And there’s a real estate agent in Cobble Hill who seems like a very decent guy – let me know if you want more info.

  4. Laurie Yankowitz permalink
    January 24, 2012 5:13 pm

    Also – don’t let an inferior fridge be a deal breaker, Shelley – buy a better one, ask the landlord to store the old one or negotiate reimbursement, even if it’s partial, for the one you get. EBA on Nostrand Avenue has an excellent selection, good delivery service, and the best prices anywhere.

  5. John G permalink
    January 24, 2012 10:51 pm

    I’m with Rizzo –if you can buy something, buy it, now is the best time since the last time everything was this bad (1990).


  6. John G permalink
    January 25, 2012 12:08 am

    Lastly (whew, I’m talking a lot here) house-hunting is all about the wife. I’m surprised no one here told you that. How many lady-birds wait around for the male to find just the right spot and build their nest for them? In Mother Nature, that’s a non-starter.

    The one who lays the eggs gets to decorate the pad too – pick the twigs, choose the tree, chirp over the view, etc. The guy’s place is to show up; take care of business; and mostly, to say, ‘Nice choice, dear’. A Smart bird – even a free-soul from the 60s – knows that keeping his woman happy is the best place to be in. Especially if she’s going to share her new nest with you (that she mostly picked out).

    BTW…on the subject of closets. If the new place didn’t have plenty of closet space, wouldn’t you be in a tough spot? Either that, or there’s going to be a very large going-away party for a voluminous lifetime collection of stuff at the Salvation Army.

    My rule of thumb – if it lies untouched for 10 years (relationships, of course, excluded from this maxim) then it’s time to say good-bye.

    Besides, isn’t a new place all about beginning anew?

    Best wishes,


  7. January 25, 2012 1:05 am

    Hi Charley – if you’re at all open to astoria…I have a lead for you. I also have a great real estate agent…you can e-mail me if you need. Good luck I know it’s hellish out there.

  8. murray permalink
    January 25, 2012 1:25 pm

    Hi Charley- the real estate broker I just used was honest. HONEST. I can give you her name, unless you can only deal with a man!!!! I also hope you are looking into coops in Kensington. we can talk later.

  9. January 26, 2012 4:28 am

    I assume you have good reasons for renting rather than buying, but I agree with a couple of other posts that if you haven’t considered buying, you should. It will open up many more options. Mortgage rates are at record low levels, if you can qualify for one. And prices haven’t recovered from their lows yet, either. There’s lots of new construction as well as brownstone renovations in the South Slope along the F line. (You’d probably prefer a renovated building to new construction because you would get more space per dollar in an older building.)

  10. January 26, 2012 4:30 am

    A good source of information about the real estate market is this website:

  11. January 26, 2012 5:02 pm

    Women are hunters and gatherers. Trust each other’s instincts- and your own. Most women are very skilled at finding hidden treasures… and I know Shelley is!

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