Apartment Hunting In Brooklyn: A Diary

11:00 a.m. – Arrive at first apartment to meet with Potential Roommate #1 (twenty-something male): on-time, feeling slightly nervous, hoping to make a good impression. Find correct apartment. Become slightly disconcerted over sound of a crying baby coming from behind apartment door. Knock. Woman opens, holding crying baby. I blurt something about having wrong apartment. She says I have correct apartment, but asks me to “hold on a minute.” Returns, asks if I can “come back later.” Explain that I have a pretty busy day and drove all the way out from Long Island. Prospective Roommate #1 now saunters out, sans shirt, looking worse for wear, and mumbles something about “just give me an hour.”

11:03 a.m. – Cross off Potential Roommate #1 from my Potential Roommates list.

11:15 a.m. – Return to car, where mom awaits. Mom is present because: 1.) Unlike me, she is a Brooklyn native. 2.) She is also a landlord. 3.) I’m kind of pathetic.

12:00 p.m. – Meet with Real Estate Agent #1. Coincidentally, has same name as close personal friend. REA #1 is very friendly and affable, but with incredibly loud, grating speaking voice. Leads us to nice, but over-priced studio, and then gets lost taking us to a 1-bedroom apartment. Once we find 1-BR apt., we discover that it is: A.) Either not located in its supposed neighborhood, or on such an extreme outlying area of said neighborhood as to provoke a sense of disingenuousness, B.) Is right underneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (aka the BQE aka Hell on Earth), C.) Is on the same block as an industrial scrap heap that looks and smells like a Transformer took a huge dump, and D.) Is only separated from said Transformer dump by the McDonald’s with which it shares close quarters, prompting a seemingly embarrassed REA #1 to quip, “Well, uh… I hope you like McDonalds.”

I do like McDonald’s, which is actually the problem. Living right next to a McDonald’s would begin a slow decline that would eventually lead to living inside a McDonald’s.

1:00 p.m. – Drive somewhat recklessly and agitatedly, likely because of fellow drivers who treat Brooklyn like a Grand Theft Auto level. Remark angrily that they should put up some goddamn signs to tell when you’ve entered or exited a neighborhood.

But seriously, wtf. Let’s make this official and put up signs, like a real town.

1:02 p.m. – Have been in Brooklyn for approximately three hours and already have sweeping, naïve ideas for improving it drastically.

1:15 p.m. – Feel amazed at how swiftly neighborhoods in Brooklyn change from upscale and cozy to stark and rough-looking. Notice how wildly unsubtle these changes are, as if they are demarcated by boundary lines that are visible to all but me. Watch as children play in the street through the high-powered blasts of fire hydrants. Picture my mom engaged in the same activity in the mid-1950s, as was apparently the case.

1:45 p.m. – Find self talking more easily and amiably with mom than usual. Ask her thought-provoking and revealing questions about her past, and listen with rapt curiosity. Feel erasure of whatever it is that often keeps us from being fully communicative/honest/genuine. Realize it merely takes a little effort on my part, a little warmth.

Why is that sometimes so difficult for me?

Here, in Brooklyn, her hometown, her old stomping grounds, it comes naturally. Feel a desire to take her past — the Brooklyn of 1955 — and lay it over the present. It’s time like this when I can appreciate how much I love her.

2:00 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. – Visit various other apartments that I found on craigslist and meet Potential Roommates #2 through #6. Find that everything is either too expensive, or in a not-so-great location. Hope against hope that an upcoming meeting with Real Estate Agent #2, who represents a ubiquitous real estate agency, will prove fruitful.

6:00 p.m. – Meet with REA #2. First place he brings us to (a spacious 1-BR) is surprisingly okay, despite clearly not being located in the neighborhood he claims (an assertion that makes him defensive and dismissive). Can halfway see myself living there — it almost seems real.

6:30 p.m. – Head to a second place, a studio in a nicer area. While waiting for the tenant to get home and let us in, stop at a deli. My mom and I get coffee, he gets a sandwich (apparently, the first thing he’s had to eat all day). We talk: he lives in Bed-Stuy, works a second job as a security guard. He seems like a good guy.

6:45 p.m. – Tenant gets home and lets us into the second place. Much nicer (albeit smaller), it’s more than what I originally wanted to pay, but not outrageously so. Once again, can actually envision myself waking up here in the morning and falling asleep here at night.

6:55 p.m. – Think about father, also from Brooklyn. Born here long enough ago to have been a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, to have attended games at Ebbets Field. Wonder what advice he would have had for me. Realize that tomorrow is his birthday. Feel accompanying emotions.

7:15 p.m. – Become engaged in increasingly complex relationship with REA #2. When I explain that I am at least interested in both apartments, he implores me to make a rather large down payment to take them off the market. He claims that the down payment can be transferred from one to the other (in case I change my mind), and that it is also refundable up to a point, although he becomes extremely cryptic and elusive when I try and determine at exactly what point that is (I’m starting to think it ceases to be refundable when the check passes from my hand to his).

He pushes, I recede: asks me to fill out application that is merely “for their records,” but which requires my SSN # and other troubling items. REA #2 becomes perturbed when I try and ascertain basic information, like wtf it is that I’m filling out. Growing frustrated, I say I need more time, prompting him and his colleagues to make a detailed pitch about how I’ll never find something this nice again for this price; how I should not be concerned about the fact that this is only the first day I’ve really been out looking for apartments; how they only have a “skeleton crew working tomorrow,” so I probably couldn’t get in touch with anyone to make a payment until Monday, when the apartment will almost certainly be gone; and basically, how I would have to be a complete cretin, a hard-headed, know-nothing simp, to let this offer pass me by.  In short, REA #2 is acting like a car salesman on steroids. His desperation is so transparent that I halfway expect him to threaten to hold his breath until I give him money.

7:45 p.m. – We speak entirely in code, nothing meaning what it appears to mean on the surface; our terse, brusque comments reveal hostility and a potential budding rivalry. REA #2’s penchant for speaking bluntly, while oddly endearing at first, has grown tiresome.

My desire to find decent shelter at a price that won’t negatively affect my quality-of-life has come in direct conflict with his ability to sell an apartment and make a worthwhile broker’s fee that will provide him with necessary shelter, food, etc. For all intents and purposes, it has become a pissing contest. Or, to mix penis metaphors, you could say that our dicks have become locked in a capitalistic Chinese finger trap, and as we both squirm, we become further enmeshed. I kind of hate him, but I can’t imagine the all-consuming loathing he probably feels toward me.

Walk out of the real estate office having not filled anything out and with no money having exchanged hands. Awkwardly agree to speak on the following morning, but secretly consider just living in car or a dumpster or something.

8:00 p.m. – Realize that I stepped in dog sh-t at some point, and search for a place to wash it off. Find a McDonald’s. Realize it is same McDonald’s from earlier in the day. Note that this is a fitting end to the day’s journey. Walk inside to wash fecal matter from shoe and discover that said bathroom requires you to deposit quarters before use. Pause introspectively at the thought of having to pay to clean an animal’s fecal matter from your shoe. Note that, okay, now this is really a fitting end for today’s journey. TC Mark

image – Esther Lee

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