If at first you don’t succeed…
The ad on craigslist looked really good. All new floors and windows, top storey, and a location that was just good enough to be close to tasty food, but bad enough to keep the rent down. “Stop by our office to pick up keys for a self-guided tour.” I gave them a two minute buffer after opening before I called, left a message, and rode down to the office; no time to dilly-dally, I’d already seen some crappy-assed apartments get gobbled up in a day.
Upstairs from an Eritrean restaurant? I could live with that! But the smells inside the building were not cardamon and cumin, they were long-term body odor, neglect, and the smoke of various substances far more harmful than mere marijuana. Ganja would have been an air freshener in that place. Plus, the stairs and hallway leaned like a drunk passing out at a bus stop, and I’m pretty sure an earthquake of moderate magnitude would bring the place crashing down in a cloud of ash and cigarette butts.
“So, what did you think?” asked the staff when I returned the keys.
“Well…” I could live there, but I didn’t love the idea. “I have serious reservation about the structural integrity of that building.” No response on carefully blank faces. “What are the neighbors like, any problems?”
“Well…yes. There is one guy downstairs who has some…issues. He keeps strange hours…and the police have been called a number of times.”
Twenty bicycle minutes later I walked in the door of a blue building that looked a bit like a castle. Art in the hallway? Nice. A photo of all the tenants grinning outside the front door? Aw! The apartment itself was kinda funky-cool, with an unusual floorplan and those old windows with the fraying ropes to pulleys in the wall, counterweights clunking on wood when I scraped the things up. June Cleaver would have felt right at home using the oven, which was born before those new-fangled built-in ignition doohickeys for gas burners.
Some would say: those features speak of neglect. I would say: they beat the hell out of the soulless Walmart crap appliances all the flipper property owners are putting in their gentrification projects all over town. The place was two notches above what I was hoping to pay, but before I knew it, I had a mental picture of living there that appealed to me. Crap.
Also, they’d just gotten the keys and several things needed fixing, so it wasn’t on the market yet. This meant I’d have time to make my case for why I would be a suitable tenant despite my vagabond application, with all it’s blank spaces for rental references and verifiable employment.
That part took some ‘splaining.