Saturday, August 8, 2009

Apartment Hunting

We've set our sights on Brooklyn: yes, because we have very little money and thus have no choice, but also because we come from Santa Cruz, the land of hipsters, coffee shops, grungy neighborhood bars and bicycles... Claire B's current digs (Hoboken: land of joggers, strollers, high heels and men with briefcases chugging beer) offers very little of that.  

After a depressing Sunday stroll through Bushwick—which, despite its geography, is about the furthest thing from hip, happening Williamsburg on the planet—we discovered Ditmas Park, an affordable neighborhood off the Q train with a left-leaning coffee shop and only a mere fraction of the misery that permeates Bushwick.  So we ransacked Craigslist with as much gusto as we could muster and made appointments to view some of the apartments in the area.  

Six days, 12 apartments and one rejection later, it was Friday.  Claire B. had the day off so we decided to hit the streets.  In the day and age of websites, e-mails and text messages, we walked the concrete grid of Ditmas Park and rang doorbells to inquire about vacancies.  After four hours, several inquiries and about 40 blocks, we were apt to call it a day.  

But on our way to the subway, something caught our eyes: a large, gothic, fortress-like apartment complex with the sculpted faces of biblical figures (or pompous nobles?) nestled into the walls of the building.  We had to check it out.  As we searched for the super's call button, the front door slowly began to open.  Behind it stood a tall black man with thick-rimmed glasses, a bow-tie, a white collared tuxedo shirt beneath a patched leather vest, salmon colored pants and white oxford shoes: he was dapper in a bohemian sort of way.  Instead of a cane, he held a single crutch beneath his left arm.  If I were to give him a name it would be Chauncey or Percy, because he spoke with the most fine-tuned British accent I've ever heard outside of a Monty Python comedy routine.

"Hellooo?  May I help you sort out some matter?"

We explained that we were just in the neighborhood searching for two-bedroom apartments and wondered if there was anything in this building.  He let us in.  The lobby had a fireplace in the center and dark hardwood floors; it was very dim, which made it seem even more like we had just stepped into his fictional world of wilted British aristocracy.

"Yes, you'll want to speak with 'Mare-io' about this, he's just downstairs.  There."

Mario, apparently, was the super.  Claire B. spoke with him briefly, but was told that the building did not have vacancies.  We returned the the lobby and proceeded to tell Chauncey/Percy about our day, and the harrows finding a decent apartment for a decent penny.

"I don't know why in the name of heaven prices have gone so high," Chauncy/Percy said with a look of distain on his face.  But then he grinned, letting his front teeth rest on his bottom lip.  

"Just don't be despondent,"  he told us.  [Note: I've never ever heard someone use this word in a sentence before.]  "Yes.  You'll find something.  It's really quite simple."  He grinned.  We thanked Chauncey/Percy for his sage wisdom, then went on our way.

We left Ditmas Park without an apartment, but we also left with even more of a reason to return... we had just met a man with a bow-tie and white oxfords, who relied on a single crutch and and a fake British accent to get through his day... This is why I left that quiet mountain town in the peaks of California and came to New York, and this is why Claire B. and I are so keen to move to Brooklyn—to increase the chance that our days might be peppered with character, and our ears treated to the old fashioned sounds of words like "despondent."

(Our apartment hunt resumes on Monday.)

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