Tag Archives: apartment hunting

Young Man Went East #5: Glorified Status Update

My first few months in New York were filled with long nights on friends’ couches, anxious phone calls to shady realty agents, and an uncertainty about the viability of finding a place to live. It was also filled with a handful of blog posts.

Five months have passed between this post and the last. I can imagine readers of this blog could have only come to one conclusion: my apartment-hunting venture was a failure, my friends kicked me out, and I’ve wound up sleeping in subway stations using a powerless laptop as a pillow. Despite how many interesting stories that turn of events would have produced, I can assure you that that is not the case. Jenn and I are living comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, just south of Prospect Park. That fact alone is somewhat of an anecdote.

For some time, Jenn and I were subleasing a bedroom in an apartment in Queens while trading progressively less-courteous e-mails with a realty agent about a certain place that was possibly definitely ours. Then, out of the blue, Jenn received a message from a college friend of hers. That friend had been living in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, but they were moving to Rwanda and–familiar with our situation–offered that we take over her lease. The unusual fact that they were gallivanting off to Africa was overshadowed by the surprising fact that they were offering a better place than we were hoping for, at the exact time we needed it, for less than we thought we had to pay. With much gratitude, we had arranged to move in the day before Halloween. Hurricane Sandy pushed that back another day, interrupting our holiday plans, though a costume cruise didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.

A miraculous offer. An end to a search. A historic hurricane. How could I not motivate myself to write for five months?

Simply, I thought I had peaked. My last post–a psuedo-sociological observation inspired by my girlfriend in style and subject matter–was a home run. It was deeply personal and broadly relevant. It also made everything came before it look like trash. Any time I had a slight inclination to write a follow-up post, I quickly dismissed it on the idea that it would be nothing more than a glorified status update. As I settled into my new abode, I grew comfortable not writing.

Eventually I admitted to myself that I can’t just sit around and wait for another awe-inspiring idea. They don’t just appear. I have to throw a few mediocre posts out, I have to just keep working it, until, one day I’ll find myself writing another home run. That’s why they call it creativity, because you actually have to work at creating something.

I could probably expand this idea of working hard and whatnot into a broadly-relevant life lesson, but I’m still easing my way out of my lazy phase and this looks long enough already.

More than that, I’ve already decided that this will be one of those mediocre posts I need to just throw out.

This is what else I "create" when I'm not busy writing.

This is what else I “create” when I’m not busy writing.

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Young Man Went East #3: It’s Hunting Season in Queens. Apartment-Hunting, That Is.

The cost of living is too high, they said. It’ll be hard to find a place, they said.

Well, they were wrong. But it has been six weeks since my girlfriend and I flew one-way to JFK, our lives stuffed in luggage, and we’re only now resting comfortably in a place of our own. At least, for this month. We were able to find plenty of studios within our price range; that wasn’t the problem. Our unexpected hurdle was paperwork. Obtaining the necessary documents was almost as excruciating as waiting for them to process it all.

Had I known I would need my last half-dozen paycheck stubs, I would have filed them in my cashbox instead of piling them with old mail. Had I known I would need a credit score, I would have spent money I didn’t have instead of saving up for things I wanted. Had I known I would need two months’ worth of physical bank statements, I would have ignored the online updates instead of throwing the unopened statements in with my paycheck stub pile.

But I didn’t know, and for that, I had to call old banks and old bosses for documents proving that I could afford the place, even though they wouldn’t let me have it without a guarantor anyways. What happened to the good ol’ days when a handful of cash would get you anything you could afford?

I went through that process for two different places. The first time was for the very first studio we checked out in Brooklyn. We were so eager to get into a place that we overlooked the small size, sketchy neighborhood, and inconvenient commute. Communication with the agent was suspect at best, so we used her unprofessionally long response times to check out other places.

The next place we found was cheaper, bigger, cleaner, and in a nicer neighborhood in Forest Hills, Queens. It was in a co-op building, explaining how it could be all of those things at once. We dropped communication with the Brooklyn place and started applying for this one. Pretty soon we had an interview with the landlord in his Midtown West office in Manhattan. The landlord, Armand, owned two units in this co-op building, so we’d have to impress him and then impress the co-op. Armand was a nice man who seemed interested in our education and backstory, as well as our opinions about a moist toilet paper dispenser he was inventing. Everyone had smiles on their faces as we left the office.

The interview seemed to go well, but took more than a few days for us to get a response. To be safe, we looked at — and fell in love with — another place in Forest Hills. However, shortly after we filled out the application for yet a third potential home, we got an e-mail from Iris, Armand’s associate, saying that we got the apartment in the co-op building!

You got it!, she said. It’s yours!, she said. All we need is approval from the co-op board. . .

Confusion kept us from getting too excited. How was the place ours if we still needed to be approved? Hesitantly, I walked into the office the following Monday to clear up some of the confusion and, apparently, sign the lease (Jenn couldn’t be there as she was starting her first —  and last — day at her new job. You can read about THAT adventure on jenNYdreams.com). Iris reassured me that because Armand approved of us, we didn’t have anything to worry about with the co-op board interview. We just had to gather more information and fill out yet another application, this time for the co-op’s management company. So I signed the lease and then filled out an application for the same place. Having the latter act follow the former kind of dampens the excitement usually associated with the former.

The days of July crawled by as we restrained ourselves from calling Iris every hour. By mid-July, she responded. . . with news that our guarantor, my dad, needed to fill out an application, too. More paperwork, more waiting. Towards the third week of July, we were getting anxious. Were we dealing with a shady landlord again? Did I just offer up sensitive information and a deposit check to a crook with a nice office? We called and e-mailed Iris half as often as we wished, but that was seemingly too often for her. Her responses began to lack length and pleasantries.

We did some research and found out that Armand wasn’t a crook, but rather the management company is notoriously unresponsive. It’s odd that I was relieved we were dealing with a bad business, but that’s better than dealing with a fake business. Yet, the end of the month was approaching and the co-op board interview was still unscheduled.

Instead of pulling out of the deal and starting the process all over again, we found a sublease in Sunnyside, Queens, for the month of August. This would give the co-op board yet another month to hem and haw over our application while we could finally feel settled, if only for a month.

You’re just now getting settled? you ask. Where were you this whole time? you ask.

The six weeks of anxious e-mails, worried calls, and wringing hands were contradicted by — nay, overshadowed by the generosity of my New York friends. Rigo and Sarah welcomed us into their cool, clean, carpeted Forest Hills apartment the day we landed, and housed us for a week. So as not to become a burden (though they never gave us reason to believe we were ever becoming one), we migrated to Astoria, Queens, where my childhood friend Mary-Grace and her boyfriend Rob offered us a pull-out couch and an unlimited stay. We shifted to Astoria around the time Iris said the place was ours, so we didn’t think we’d be crashing in there for more than a week. That week turned into a month at the behest of Mary-Grace and Rob, who insisted we stay until we secured our own place. I doubt that either couple would have ever kicked us out, but I never wanted to get comfortable enough to test that.

It has been said many times, but never better than by James Stewart’s guardian angel, Clarence, in It’s a Wonderful Life: “No man is a failure who has friends.” This tired phrase may be oft-repeated, but only because it is often true. The hospitality of my New York friends humbled me, overwhelmed me, and — most importantly — kept me and Jenn off the streets. The weight of the apartment-hunting process would have dragged even an optimist like me into despair, but the selflessness of those who housed us lifted us out from that end.

So to Rigo, Sarah, Mary-Grace, and Rob, thanks for the wings.

With my Bunny by my side, I’m feeling set in Sunnyside

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Young Man Went East #2: Settling In, Or Trying To

Jenn and I made the big move to the big city about three weeks ago and I have yet to write about a single day (luckily for you, Jenn is up to her eighth post about New York in her blog jenNYdreams). It’s not for lack of experiences to relate, but rather because I feel stuck in a period of waiting. Until now, I’ve felt uninspired to write a story when I have yet to live out the ending. It’s been three weeks and we’re still living out of suitcases and sleeping in living rooms. Not that I’m not grateful for those living rooms nor the hospitality of those who own them, but I’d rather ride a train back and open a door with a key that I’m not borrowing. When I can finally unlock the door to a place of my own, I’ll dazzle you with a detailed story of bumming and begging, worrying and waiting, complete with a happy ending.

Apartment-hunting might be the most pressing (and depressing) aspect of my New York experience so far, but it’s not the only one, and the others are much better.

Work has finally become enjoyable, as well as profitable. It was hard at first transferring from the Bubba Gump in Honolulu to the one in New York, but only because it was a strangely retroactive sensation to go from a seasoned, server-training old-timer to the new guy who needs to ask where we store to-go boxes. However, the menu is mostly the same, the layout of the restaurant was easy to learn, and being a transfer from the far away Hawaiian islands makes for an easy conversation starter. I’m adjusting quickly. Now that I’ve been working pretty consistently for a couple weeks, I’m known by most of the other servers and have a good report with a handful of them. These new coworkers, by the way, are for the most part actors aspiring to make it big on Broadway. They can sing, they can dance, and they all ask me what my “thing” is. It’s quite an entertaining group of peers. They can in no way replace the friends I’ve made at the Honolulu Bubba Gump, but it’s nice to run into a familiar face on the subway.

Jenn came in during one of my first shifts at the Bubba Gump in Times Square. Weird thing is, this is the first photo I’ve seen of me in my work uniform, and I’ve been a server for over two years.

Exploring the city’s wide range of food options has been another great aspect of my experience, especially because I do it with my girlfriend. After I get out of work, I meet up with Jenn — usually at a nice coffee shop in an upscale Manhattan neighborhood — and we venture out in search of a good, affordable meal. We almost always find an interesting restaurant that settles our cravings for that day (whether it be pizza, a burger, Chinese, etc.) and are rarely disappointed. During the first week or two, we made sure to save half our dinner to be our breakfast the following day in an effort to cut down costs. However, dining out takes its toll, even on my restaurant-blogging girlfriend. We’ve since opted to cook breakfast and dinner, eating out for only one meal. This not only saves money (breakfast is consisted of eggs, bacon, and fried toast while dinner is fancy Top Ramen), but also occupies our time with one of our favorite activities: cooking. Even though it’s not our kitchen nor our cooking ware, the meals we make together are completely ours, and that makes them special.

Not having a place of our own yet has been fine since all we do at our friends’ place is cook, eat, and sleep. For the most part, Jenn and I are busy roaming the greatest city in the world. We’ve watched fireworks over the Hudson River and a sunset from a park in Chelsea; we’ve eaten raw beef at a Korean restaurant and pot stickers from a food cart; we’ve stumbled upon swing dance festivals at the Lincoln Center and a massive yoga class in Times Square. We’re living it up. Now it’s just time to settle in.

The signature ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar just might be better than any I’ve had in Hawaii.

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YMWW #3: Adventures with Avery

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

First and foremost, I want to apologize to all of the readers who desperately refreshed their browsers all night long last night, awaiting the publication of the entry that should have been up then. Should you exist, I implore you to find something better to read. I hear books are fun.

Secondly, I want to apologize to my (first) cousin (once removed) Avery, who knew that she’d be the focal point of this entry and has been waiting to read about herself.

THURSDAY

On Thursday, Ave and I spent all day on foot, which is a wonderful way to learn street names and their locations. We walked through Chinatown to Downtown. She was looking for Ward Center (shops, restaurants, and a pseudo-mall), but we never quite hit it. We found out later we were nearly there, but neither of us knew that. . . though she should have. Avery is, what we shall call, “directionally challenged.” I warned her that if she got us lost, her punishment would be walking around with my Frommer’s Guidebook of O’ahu in her outstretched arms (I, of course, would keep at least five steps away from her). Luckily for her, we were never completely lost. Even better, we wound up eating chicken katsu curry at Aloha Tower. Chicken katsu curry makes everything alright!

CHICKEN KATSU CURRY out of its element, i.e. a Styrofoam to-go box.

We eventually ventured out again and found Ward Center. It’s a nice area. Apparently, the self-serve frozen yogurt trend is not confined to California, much to my pleasure.

FRIDAY

Friday was even more productive, as Avery and I had full use of a car. My impeccable sense of direction was countered by my misguided trust in her as a knowledgeable local. Example dialogue:

  • Me: Do I turn here? Isn’t this Kapahulu?
  • Avery: No, keep going.
  • We keep going.

  • Avery: Oh, we’re on Harding now.
  • Me: So I should have turned there?
  • Avery: Yeah.

Good thing we had an O’ahu street map book on hand. Though she is still adamant about not picking up the Frommer’s, Avery will gladly use the street map book, and I’m glad that she’ll gladly use it.

Our goal for that day was to visit the two places I found on Craigslist that were hiring. We found Gulick’s Deli (offers full and part time, plus medical benefits) but they were out of applications so I’ll have to return. Our next stop was Karaoke Hut (part time only, but pay includes tips. . . and it’s karaoke!), but they had just hired three people. We had to drop something off at a hotel in Waikiki, so I decided to continue my search there. . .

But not before some shave ice, of course! Frommer’s describes shave ice as the Hawai’ian version of a snow cone, but it ain’t the same thing! It ain’t even the same ball park! I guess you could make that argument if you believed fish sticks and fillet mignon were in the same ball park. For shame, Frommer’s. For shame!

SHAVE ICE does not equal a crunchy ice ball that holds flavored syrup like a fork.

We ditched the main road and hotels of Waikiki and found the janky backroads. I was in my element. There, behind the washed windows and even pavement of the beachfront buildings were the small, overlooked hotels and hostels I loved. I filled out an application for one place and was told to return to two others. The future looks bright. . . at least figuratively. Those streets are constantly cloaked in shadows.

Our final goal was to meet up with a guy who advertised needing a roommate to share his one-bedroom apartment. While the place was definitely small, the guy, Ka’imi, was really awesome and friendly. He said no one else called him back, so the place is mine if I want it. I have until around the first week of October to decide if I want it. Though it would be a tight squeeze, it is definitely not a bad last resort.

My cousin Norlynn’s idea of what my last housing resort might be.

SATURDAY

Just like every good Saturday in the Fall, this one started off (early) with college football. I woke up around 6 AM to watch my No. 8 Golden Bears claim a road victory over Minnesota! They are now sitting pretty at No. 6. I then flipped back and forth between Oregon’s mediocre upset over No. 18 Utah and Washington’s historical upset over No. 3 U$C! I was so torn between the joy of watching U$C lose and the disappointment in the fact it wasn’t us who beat them. Oh well, beating U$C in any capacity will be a great thing to see (knock on wood).

After college football, it was time for more exploring. I had the car once again on Saturday, but I was without Avery. Despite her endangering lack of a sense of direction, she is a bright and funny person. And she buys me frozen treats. With no refreshing snack to cool my body, I ventured forth a Dynamic Uno.

My first stop was the Pearlridge Shopping Center just down the street from my Auntie and Uncle’s place (where I’ve been living since I got here). It is a small mall, but they do have a Suncoast and a great bookstore with cheap, used books and DVDs. I foresee it becoming a black hole for my money. Surprisingly, though, the only thing I bought was a black UH hat from Champs Sports.

After Pearlridge, I just drove up and down and on and off of H1 (the main freeway), getting lost half-intentionally. My goal was not a location, but a lesson. I am quite familiar with all the exits now and can drive on my own to all of my family’s houses.

Saturday night ended with front row seats to the UH Rainbow Wahine Women’s Volleyball match versus the Pepperdine Waves. Clean sweep, 3-0. Go Bows! I’ve compared my fan-dom of Cal and UH to relationships: Cal is my true love, my soul mate for all eternity. UH, on the other hand, is my mistress. We have a fun time together, but it’s nothing serious. Don’t worry though, Cal and I have an understanding, open relationship.

So, as Saturday night ended with long legs and spandex shorts, so will this note. Cheers!

Ben, I’d apologize for substituting the Roxy model for these volleyball players, but I didn’t think you’d mind.

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