Friday, August 24, 2007

Apartment Purgatory

As my life strays further and further from the interesting realm of travel and more into the mundane world of domesticity, it has become easier for me to not update these blogs. My explorations are no longer the intrepid maneuvers of a nomadic traveler across vast stretches of the American wilderness. I have recently been entrenched in the frustrating search for an apartment in the hostile environment of Chicago's west side. "Hostile" doesn't refer to gang-bangers or street thugs, it refers to something more insidious, the yuppie condo developers.

My old neighborhood was undergoing a lot of gentrification while we were living there, so I know I shouldn't be surprised that after almost two years of being away, the neighborhoods have changed. When we moved; PROGRESS was on its way. When we came back, we realized PROGRESS was here. Old buildings came down to make way for new poorly constructed tacky brick units complete with hard wood floors, granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. Many of the old buildings which remain are being gutted and the inside apartments are being transformed to compete with the new development. Property values go up, taxes go up, rents go up. 30% of the available apartments have been gobbled up and spit out into condoland and the remaining units are more expensive and more desirable to the general market.

I know this is going to sound stupid and obnoxiously like an urban pioneer, but...I kind of miss our corner gangbanger/drug dealers keeping the equilibrium. There was obvious I mean, sure we had to deal with a shoot out now and then, but apart from the risk of a stray bullet, I never was worried the guns would be pointed at me. Because of what the visible street violence, the rents were low because the environment wasn't acceptable to the average renter. It didn't bother us though. As long as I didn't start dealing drugs which would impede on their business, they left us alone. In fact, they were actually kind of nice to have around. Our corner gang-banger, Alex, was always very friendly to me. He always said hello to me as I went past, and would hold the door open when I came home with an armful of groceries. He was always letting me know he was keeping an eye on the building for us so we didn't have to worry about anyone breaking in, that he was "very protective of his territory". It was sort of comforting considering he was out there on the corner almost all the time. This just came with small price of him always trying to look down my shirt or up my skirt as I went upstairs, but that was OK. And of course, we all knew if we were on the street when the guns came out, to quickly run up another block or into the alley. All in all, not too much a price to pay for a cheap apartment in an OK building.

With the development, the gangbangers have been pushed west. I am not condoning gang activity, I am just saying objectively for my personal situation, it wasn't a total negative. So with the development, it looks like Ira and will also have to go west. In the past Western (2400 W) was the borderline. No one wanted to live west of Western. I keep hearing Kedzie (3200 W) is the new Western. Well five years ago, we moved to 2658 W. Cortez, but that neighborhood is not what it once was. So now, we are fleeing to 3238 W. Augusta.

Ira and I have finally signed a lease. Well, Ira is the only one who has actually signed. I was out of town that day, so I was able to get out of the signing process. Luckily for me, that means if I don't like the place I can just leave and stick Ira with it. Whuh ha ha.

I am really not that excited about it. After looking at apartment after apartment, we finally just compromised on a place which wasn't perfect. It is a small 2ND floor flat with two bedrooms and a enclosed back porch. The block is in an industrial section of Augusta and has no trees or greenery. The apartment is in slightly rough shape. The front and rear entrances of the apartment smell of Cat Urine. This is a big problem for me. So, along with the lease, we signed an agreement that the landlord with clean the entrances and use enzyme treatment to rid the urine smell as much as possible. If they do not do a satisfactory job, we can break our lease.

I keep focusing on the negatives, which is frustrating Ira to no end. There are some positives though. The building has a back yard which was very important to Ira. We were able to negotiate the price down to $675, which for a Chicago 2bdrm is a good deal. It has a nice eat in Kitchen with new appliances. We also have the freedom of being able to paint the walls however we wish. The apartment will also be conducive to our entertaining. I made sure to communicate when looking at apartments that Ira and I like to have parties and need a place where noise won't be an issue.

People keep asking me about our situation. Have you found an apartment yet? Whats going on. Have you begun looking for a job yet. AHHHH. I can't take it anymore. To answer everyone in one fell swoop; I am not sure exactly what is going on. I keep responding "We have sort of signed a lease" and am answered in return with quizzical looks. We found a place which is OK, we decided we could take it, if the landlord agreed to fix some things before we move in. If the things are not done to our liking, we can break the lease. Until we know more, we are essentially in a holding pattern. I am not going to look for a job, until we get moved and settled in our new place. Right now, I am just sitting around, which in turn is depressing me. I've been really anti-social lately because I am sick of trying to give answers which are ambiguous to even myself. How can you help? Stop asking me questions!!!

We need to get settled. Maybe we could have kept looking, but I was getting the feeling that the apartments being listed were just more of the same. We decided to just pick one that was OK and work with that. The rent is low, which will work well for the time I am unemployed. I am just sick of this purgatory of maybe having an apartment, but maybe not, just waiting around to see how things go. I've been without a home for a long time. I just want my own space. Can you tell I am feeling cranky?


Janice said...

Andrea-wait until you get that great red table and chairs and all your pots and pans and fun plates and bowls out of storage and start making pies and I'll bring you two some chicken and you can make wonderful chicken meals-you are going to feel sooo much better with a little domestic life, a little stability!
Hang in there and happy painting!

Belinda said...

Oh boy I can relate. Moving is a depressing time. All the stuff you own goes from being the details that make you feel at home to being burdens that give you that "I've got too much shit" feeling.

Nick and I have JUST settled in last week after being in boxes for 3 weeks. I was home with the 'to do' list since school doesn't start till next week. Egh. It will be way better when you can set up your stuff, like janice said.