Tuesday, March 25, 2008


New York, NY--East Village/Alphabet City neighborhood
October-November 2005
Studio apt, occupied by my then-boyfriend and I

October 10, 2005
We officially moved to the East Village today. Three months this round.

I love it. Hell if our apartment is very small w/ bugs, the walls streaked w/ who knows what, sentences like "revolutionary things aren't realized until after you're dead" scrawled end to end, a lone dried rose dangling upside-down from a thumbtack... A simple paint job should do wonders. (Yeah, we got permission. Not that anyone'd care.)

Excited! Once those puppies are covered in robin's egg blue, I fear I'll never leave. Size be damned, the space'll be adorable. Anyway, we have the perfect amount of stuff to fill it with.

October 29, 2005
We're staring a pretty dire sublet situation in the face. In sum, in the last couple of weeks, we've learned that a) we walked into a sublet once or twice removed (dude who's subletting to us is subletting from another who's subletting from... his mommy?); b) not a cent of our prepaid rent has yet to make it into landlord-hands; c) our neighbor, guy who's handling the sublet logistics for his friend (leaseholder who's really not) is, along w/ said leaseholder, making a good deal of $ off us (the apartment, clearly in a rent-stabilized complex, is valued at a mere $850/month); d) by default, we *owe* over $900 in back bills to Con Ed, and if the bill isn't taken care of yesterday, off goes the power; and e) if we don't get out soon, we may find ourselves enmeshed in some pretty icky legal proceedings (no, we didn't open his mail, just held it up to the window). That's the gist of it.

Anyhow, a dear and resourceful friend will be consulted in depth later tonight. By tomorrow our game plan should be clear.

November 29, 2005
Tomorrow evening we say goodbye to this luckless apartment forever.

To its credit, I suppose there were a few bright spots. A rundown:

+ Pretty blue walls, self-painted
+ TV, microwave
+ Hardwoods w/ minimal buckling
+ Shower in the bathroom (vs. in the kitchen)
+ Proximity to bus line

And now, the flip:

- Damp walls = peeling paint (not so pretty)
- Fuses blown daily
- Bathroom suited for a 1/2 person
- Living in fear of canceled electricity
- Living in fear of returning home to changed locks
- Living in fear that growling-man (outside window most mornings) would find a way in
- Doll (twin) bed
- Hearing our cross-hall neighbor (and sublet administrator), Rich, smooth-talk the ladies at 3 a.m.
- Hearing said neighbor talk
- Seeing said neighbor
- Long-ass trek to the train
- Long hairy bugs as yet unclassified by entomologists

Let's hear it for the cons.

Good riddance, 1A.

March 25, 2008
W/ this one, the saga didn't end on move-out day, which came a month early at our insistence. Maybe it would have ended then, had our 23-year-old rent-hoarding sublet administrator returned the money we were owed (we'd paid him three months' rent upfront), but alas, he withheld. And so, in the wake of several thwarted promises--"dude I swear, I'll PayPal you the money tonight"--we hauled him to small claims court, we did, only he failed to show up. Of course, judgment was issued against him, a decision we smugly received amidst the cries--"but that asshole ruined my best suit!"--of disgruntled dry cleaner patrons. If memory serves, we treated ourselves to sushi right after.

In retrospect, we'd been pretty dumb to hand over all that money w/ (very) minimal documentation, but w/ two days left at our current location, we'd been desperate. And besides, this was the East Village, neighborhood we'd lusted after since the get-go. At any rate, all's well that ends well, and we at least walked w/ our money and a few good stories, one of my favorites being when D had knocked on Rich's door to inquire about a) a (way) past-due notice that'd just come from the landlord, and b) a final-and-we-really-mean-it-this-time notice from Con Ed. Rich, chin raised, dick/ego hummin' following a spin home from school (a finance major, of course) on his trusty motorcycle, could tell something was up. But he invited D in, and as he made his way to his sleazy vinyl sofa, he pulled a dollar-store switchblade out of his pocket, which he attempted to casually fling open. After a few solid efforts, he was ultimately unsuccessful, and, dejected, reduced, he dropped the thing on his desk. (Oh Rich--pathetic you are, scary you'll never be.) Anyhow, panicked and eager to gain some ground, he fell back on plan b, segueing into an account of recent sexual prosperity, including: "Yeah, the other night I nailed that chick in 2C--you know the one?" Yeah Rich. We love you! Good luck man.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Brooklyn, NY--Williamsburg neighborhood
August-September 2005
Studio (loft) apt, occupied by my then-boyfriend and I

August 1, 2005
I have a new address--for another two months. Honestly, that'll just barely be worth it, considering what a production this move ended up being. You'd think that living in this city all of four months--that living in 100 percent furnished quarters--I'd hardly have had time/need to accumulate much of anything. Ah, you'd think.

I bitch/moan, when really I'm just excited. The space has already endeared itself to me (the tenant's book and music collections--amazing!), and had we gotten here earlier this evening than we did, the rooftop would've won me over just the same. Tomorrow. Come 7:00 p.m., armed with portabellos, zucchini, red onions, orange peppers, and fresh peaches for dessert, I'll capitalize. One of those Webers has my name spelled out in charcoal.

And you know, as I sit here looking at the saucepan that'll cook my eggs, the forks that'll spear my takeout, and the striped bowls that'll hold my Cheerios, I'm surprised at how normal it all seems. A credit to our last (and first) sublet, I think I've started getting used to the idea of a home not my own.

August 8, 2005
I love this half-finished studio. I love its exposed pipes and mottled cement ceiling and cheap latex-painted floor. I love this building, w/ its creaky elevator, its layers of weird tagging, its busted-out windows and floor-to-ceiling ivy, its varied cast of people, from the off-kilter ‘resident IT guy’ who hooked us up w/ wireless Internet to the woman I just met in the elevator who, on seeing my seahorse necklace, recommended an exhibit at the Coney Island Aquarium. I love this neighborhood. I love its heaps of decaying garbage, tossed car parts, bike wheels, old batteries, 151 bottles, beat-to-hell couches, shredded lawn chairs, surprise coffee shops, creperies, and bodegas that pop up every few blocks amidst deserted storefronts w/ 60s-era signage. I love imagining how Sorley's Family Thrift did back in the day, what kind of business Frank's Corner Auto pulled in, the stories told w/in any one of the long-gone drinking holes around here. On a good day, that is. On a less-than-good day, the whole scene disgusts me, or makes me blue. Yep, that's my early analysis of my new neighborhood, insofar as how it impacts me personally. Mood depending, I either love it or, well, hate's too strong a word, so I either love it or I love it a lot less. More often, though, I love.

Running around here has been really engaging; I've definitely run down Kent Avenue more than I've crossed the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, and w/ good reason. It's eye candy aplenty. The other day I found myself in the heart of Greenpoint, which is a predominantly Polish neighborhood. Two blocks later, a mini Japantown. Ten more minutes and I was thick into brownstones and heavy tree canopies. Neat. I've also gotten a lot of pleasure in walking home around dusk, along either Kent or Wythe. Kent, closest street to the water's edge, runs for blocks w/ nothing but quiet loft spaces--large windows open, leafy palms moving in the breeze. The occasional gallery pops up, lit softly from w/in, the back of a person visible, brush in hand (really). The blare of the city is hardly audible, making these walks some of my most peaceful since moving here. People stroll past every so often, sometimes alone, sometimes w/ a companion or w/ little dogs in tow. They almost always smile and say hi. I have yet to feel threatened, as--thank you, Hasids--security cars flank the sidewalk at regular intervals.

Again, it's early, but so far so good.


March 24, 2008
It’s been almost three years since the Williamsburg sublet, the final day of which resonates with particular acuity.

The then-boyfriend (D) and I, making a series of trips down to the car of a friend who'd agreed to drop us at our next stop (two Brooklyn neighborhoods over, two weeks' duration--absolute last resort), were picking up on a heady smell that bloomed more offensive by the minute. Thick, oppressive, sulfuric... It seemed to hit strongest on our own floor.

Neighbors were clearly privy to it as well: doors cracked, heads poked out, "what the fuck?"s were muttered. At some point, word started circulating that plumbing work was being done in the basement, that perhaps this explained a stench now rivaling a steaming cauldron of shit. In the end we didn’t care all that much; we were out of there in a matter of minutes, anyway.

A week later, we got an email from our freshly returned tenant, who thought to inform us of the recent death of C--the IT guy, our slightly 'off' yet kind neighbor. Immediate neighbor, as in, we'd shared a wall.

In the coming weeks, I played back through my (limited) interaction w/ C. The longest stretch of time I'd spent in his presence was one Saturday afternoon, when D and I had gone over to thank him for our newly minted Internet connection. (He’d come by our place once about a week earlier, D inviting him in, not realizing I was in the process of changing and thus half naked. But, courtesy of a nearby blanket and some clever draping maneuvers, I managed to conceal my shirtlessness, chatting amiably all the while.) He'd invited us into his apartment, dressed in the only thing I ever saw him in, which was sweats and flip-flops, his longish silver hair slicked straight back with some serious pomade, or maybe just grease, and a few features stood out immediately: a decadent leather couch, a large oil portrait above it, and computers and switchboards and network cabling crowding a console-type unit at the beginning of a hallway lined on one side with industrial cooking equipment (think: restaurant supply store). I remember crumpled fast food wrappers and a stuffed ashtray. The place reeked of both.

We didn't stay long, maybe twenty minutes, but it was long enough to learn that his father (or maybe his mother--damn hazy memory) had painted the portrait above the couch. He didn't go into detail, but it was clear that their relationship had been a complicated one.

And then he wasn't around. But neither were we--no longer at that address--and, combined w/ the fleetingness of our acquaintance, this made it hard to feel and say anything more than "god, how sad." And it certainly was that--sad and strange, not to mention the first of two such experiences in two years' time. (Detecting the expiration of neighbors is now a lamentable part of my skillset.) And that Williamsburg place? Woefully ill-fated.


[This is the format I have in mind for posts: open w/ sublet specs (and picture if included), followed by text. In the case of this particular post (and a couple to come), I was able to pull from previous writings/notes taken on my experiences...]

New York, NY--Gramercy neighborhood
March-July 2005
1-bdrm apt, occupied by my then-boyfriend and I

March 23, 2005
I'M HERE. Here: sitting w/ laptop in the plushest chair my ass has ever, ever known, feet resting on an equally plush ottoman, a one Empire State Building at my back, glowing orange-red against a black NY sky...

So my plane touched down at approx 6:20 p.m. I fetched my gargantuan luggage and joined a forty person-long taxi line. I called the boyfriend (not here for another week), gushed appropriately, then jumped into my designated cab, which dropped me, twenty minutes later, in front of 324, where I arranged my bags in a heap and plopped down to wait for Jim, brother of the woman subletting us the place.

I ended up waiting about twenty minutes, during which time I met next-door neighbor Sharon, who was taking her collie on an evening stroll. I'd put S at around 55, maybe 60. As it was obvious I was moving in, she asked where I was from, why I had chosen New York, etc. I told her about my publishing aims, to which she replied, "Oh really? I was an editor at one point--for Better Homes and Gardens." She was perfectly nice, although right away I knew I wasn't in Seattle anymore. She had a way about her, just real unhesitating in her delivery. Like, at one point I sort of half-mumbled something, and I got a pointed "what?" in return. It was the tone more than the word, of course. Not rude, just like, "come on, let's have a conversation." It forced me to speak louder and to look right at her while speaking--a great practice for me to get into. What else... I also met Ada, met her before I met Sharon, actually. She stands not an inch taller than 4'10, sounds German. Very warm, I can tell already, and to hear Sharon speak of her, she's the resident cat lady/bird feeder. Fantastic.

So Rosalynn, film director and official #5C tenant, has good taste. Lots of deep browns and dark wood, Asian art prints and photography, overall calming aesthetic... Plus, not only do we have our very own bedroom, but a Futon as well, just waiting for you to take advantage of. (Visit us!)

Oh, so as nice as the digs are, I have one complaint: she's got too much. I mean, the place is by no means cluttered--on the contrary, her closets shelve the nicest, neatest sweater stacks. Cut from the same cloth, that Rosalynn and I. BUT, I have my own clothing--and like her, too much of it. It looks as if the boyfriend and I have one closet to share, and well, that ain't gonna cut it. Hmm. I am here first...

Same holds true for bathroom misc. While I'm all for Q-tips and shower poofs, I'd rather supply my own, you know? But as it stands now, hers run rampant. As I don't imagine she intended a 'what's mine is yours' type of arrangement, thus far I've taken the liberty of stowing some select items of hers beneath the sink...

April 3, 2005
Seven o'clock this morning. Doorbell chimes repeatedly. I bolt out of bed. Doorbell chimes repeatedly. I yell "hold on a sec!" Doorbell chimes repeatedly. I scramble to dress. Doorbell chimes repeatedly. I shriek something.

It's 90-year-old Ada who lives directly below us in 4C, and she’s in full-fledged morning garb: silk housecoat, pin curlers (she's this close to losing one), puffy eyes. She's just 'stopping by' to find out whether we've contacted the super in regard to the heavy stream of water--courtesy of the boyfriend's shower--that had doused her yesterday afternoon. I had, and the response: "Tell her to call me in the morning. She needs to call me." The whole exchange had hinted at prior history, that perhaps the super considers our downstairs neighbor one of those complainer types. But as the boyfriend and I will attest, leaky ceilings = no picnic.

So I relay his request, writing down his number for her, and off she shuffles, trailing thank you's and a loose curler.

More about Ada: She's kindof amazing. Ninety years old, still living in the apartment of her childhood, and climbs five flights of stairs at least once a day, insisting on doing this w/o an assisting arm. ("That's okay honey girl, I use this railing here.") It's a sight to behold. This is because Ada moves so slowly that it's almost stressful. You just never quite buy into the idea that she'll take that next step, even though she's proven you wrong a...g...a...i...n and a......g......a......i......n and a......... And even though she would've surely turned down an offer of assistance, you can't help but feel guilty, bounding up the stairs two at a time, throwing glances back, reaching your floor as you imagine Ada's right foot hovering--contemplating, considering, stopping for lunch--on the brink of that third step...

Anyhow, there's no ceiling to Ada's kindness. She brings us strange Italian pastries from her favorite neighborhood bakery, always stops for conversation, and most recently, gave the umbrella-less boyfriend an ancient, bamboo-handled number. ("Oh honey boy, you can't go out like that!") The top/cap part is completely mangled, w/ clumps of animal hair splaying in all directions, but gosh, nice! Of course, there's always a complaint, right? Ours: It's the cat-lady designation. Presumably she mothers several, or maybe one really dirty one, given the pissawful stench that greets the nostrils once the fourth floor comes into view. It really is bad, especially at the end of an endlessly hot day, and I can't imagine how her neighbors cope. I don't know, maybe they've resolved to consider the bags of pastries she twirls around their doorknobs consolation. So sweet. (The gesture, not the pastries, which, if they're the same ones we collect, are mysteriously lacking in sugar.)

Here's to hoping we're able to wash ourselves today.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Turn

Since moving from to NYC three years ago, I've lived at ten different addresses. Of these, two have been lease secured. The remaining eight? Sublets--some involving full landlord disclosure (my current abode), others involving a thin handshake, "I promise to's" handwritten on a steno pad, and sheerblindtrust.

Early on, these dealings were about getting to know my surroundings, about not wanting to commit to a lease before I'd made the rounds through a few appealing neighborhoods. And yet after committing that first time (to a luxurious expanse of East Village real estate--ha), and then again, the urge to fool around is still there. It just seems to work for me, because since leaving my birthplace behind and several lives' worth of knickknacks to Goodwill, my sense of security isn't as tied to my immediate physical surroundings as it once was. So rather than wed myself to a single location, I choose to invest in successive short-term housing relationships, getting to know new blocks, new neighborhoods, new ways of living in the city.

Another thing, and I promise I’m not a creep, is that I like the experience of other people's stuff. (All my sublets have come fully furnished.) Dumping fusilli into someone else's pink plastic colander, flipping through the channels of someone else's TV using someone else's remote, rolling my eyes at someone else's dorm room-befitting Monet print: same effect. Sliding into a relative stranger's day-to-day external reality for a fleeting period of time can be, for me anyway, pretty invigorating. There’s something poignant and humane about it, about being made an object of some arbitrary person’s trust. They could be ripping you off in the meanwhile, but you’re generally (hopefully?) none the wiser.

Then there are the more tangible perks. For instance, I capitalized on the DVD collection of a polished movie producer and gawked nightly at her unimpeded view of the Empire State Building. I helped myself to the staggering personal library of a well-known Brooklyn novelist and danced the night away on her rooftop (above photo shows the view I had) several times over. And I sipped chardonnay on my private-access patio-for-a-month, which tilted over a backyard choked with giant ferns and passion fruit. (Yup, like the Amazon.) I had two sweet roomies that time, and I've kept in touch with both.

Of course, subletting hasn't been a nonstop garden party, as subsequent posts will illustrate...

Anyhow, following countless conversations with friends and acquaintances who have also subleased, or known people who have, I thought it would be neat to collect relevant accounts in a public forum such as this here blog. We’ll laugh, cry, gang up on repeat offenders...

Please, send your adventures along.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008