The Great 2009 Apartment-Hunt

Posted: September 29, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

rowhome gifApartment-hunting on a budget can be an exercise in seeing just how bad a place has to be before you decide, “Not only can’t I live here – I’m worried about what can sustain life here.”

In college, friend of TQP Matt Burns and I once gave brief consideration to the idea of living in a place that looked more like the definition of a “flophouse” than anything I’d seen in a movie or episode of “The Wire.” Rooms separated by sheets on clotheslines, a communal bathroom down the hall, the barest hint of outside light given off by smudged windows…

(All this, across the street from a Turkey Hill! Who knew part of rural-ish Kutztown could be considered “seedy”?)

Eventually, Burns and I settled on a place that was…well, it was lopsided. Everything was on a slant. And the balcony had a sign on it insisting that no more than two people stand on it at a time. Remember, it’s about asking yourself, “Can I live here?”

Since college, I’ve been lucky enough to live with friends who are actually in a position to buy houses. Thing of it is…my girlfriend just got a job in the area. And so we kinda gotta move in together, since Tad did not sign up for three roommates (neither did the dog – though he’s pretty much in it for new and interesting smells anyway – but he doesn’t get to vote, not just because he’s a dog, but because he’s not all that bright).

So armed with Craigslist, a basic idea of what my girlfriend and I can spend, and an interest in recently-revitalized Phoenixville, I did a little looking around last weekend.

The upside is, I did not see anything that really gave me a “flophouse” vibe. The downside is, I Apartmentlearned that there’s only a two-block difference between “pleasant” and “dodgy.”

And I knew I’d crossed that boundary when I went from looking at a pleasant rowhouse with a well-kept front lawn, to the windowless side door of a Laundromat, crowded by middle-aged women, taking a smoke-break from their laundry-duties.

“Don’t judge,” I told myself. Though I sudden noticed how the sky had quickly turned gray, how there was no more grass to be seen, and how a young(ish) guy in a novelty T-shirt holding a camera may stick out a little. “They’re just people in need of a place to live, same as you.”

Then I turned down an alley, looking for another apartment and learning that apparently the block simply skips digits at random. A guy was walking towards me, making no effort to move around me. Being that I don’t so much like being approached by strangers, I clenched up. Then he asked, “You got a cigarette?”

Okay, no problem! No, I didn’t. I kept on my path, then looked back and saw the guy pull a cigarette out of his coat.

And suddenly the dodgy quotient upped a bit more.

As I walked down the street to find the last place on my list, two men walked up the street towards me. “Ah, more people. Okay, not a problem. Chances are, if I move to this area, there are going to be other people – not ideal, but I should probably get used to that.”

apartment 2One of them looked past me, at someone else further up the street. And as I passed, I heard one calmly tell the other, “I’m gonna stab that motherfucker.”

“Aww, man!” it dawned on me, “I can only afford the dodgy part of Phoenixville! Son of a bitch!”

No, that’s not quite true. It’s possible if Megan’s good with her money (and she is, better than me, really – which means I could have a problem here), we could live in the nice rowhome. OR, we could live in the converted elementary school that has traffic cones warning people off the fire escape. OR, we could live at the place I drive past every day that was CLEARLY being rented out as a storefront office building up until two weeks ago, when they put shingles up over the big windows.

On the upside, it would be nice to give directions to my place that were as simple as, “Yeah, it’s the one with the twisty handicapped access ramp.” It’s easy to spot, at least.

The search continues apace.

– As an aside, my friend Pam thought it would be a good idea if Craigslist would mention if a building was haunted. They could do it like this:

CATS are OK: Purr
DOGS are OK: Wooof
GHOSTS are Likely: WoooOOOoooh!!!!

Get on it, Craigslist. For honesty’s sake!

  1. Tad says:

    Just think how many friends you could make if you just gave some cigarette’s away to your neighbors! At the least, it should minimize your chances of getting stabbed.

  2. Matt says:

    I don’t see a problem with living in a place where cigarettes were the currency of choice. It’s just like prison…

  3. K. Holland says:

    This two-block difference between “pleasant” and “dodgy” holds true in LA as well. My weekend can attest to this. Currently vacillating between an apartment that used to be a hotel room and a larger place in a dodgier part of town.

    That storefront place looks quirky and neat; actually sort of reminds me of the Ghostbusters HQ/fire station.

  4. Moff says:

    You didn’t say it, but I could tell that the stabbing guy and his friend were Jewish.

  5. V.I.P. Referee says:

    You just need a routine. Something to mumble to yourself as you’re walking into your apartment; once inside, resume being stable and rational. Suggestions, script:

    “End, end…end…END—END NOW! End. End…”


    “I don’t wanna die, take the disease, TAKE IT! It’s my offering to Hades! No! I can’t unleash the hydraaaa!!”

    I also suggest wearing a doogie-rag fashioned out of a garbage bag and for your girlfriend, a brownie sash, sewn with the lids of soda cans. You should probably also wear a train of something that makes lots of noise—forks, cans, anything clinky. Take it off at work, throw it on when heading home, problem solved. Might scare away ghosts, too.

  6. Carl says:

    I lived in Pheonixville in college. Gay Street, three blocks in from the main drag, about a block from where dodgyville starts. Every night, I parked my car in the Baptist Church parking lot that was directly adjacent to my building– the safest place I could think of. Alas, my car was broken into twice, my radio was torn out of consul, clothes were stolen out of it. The guy who lived downstairs spent half the year in Thailand, because, he explained to me one day, ‘the teenage girls over there aren’t so uptight and repressed and all’. He wasn’t talking about the 19 year olds.

    These things not withstanding, I love that town and would move back in a heartbeat. And since you don’t smoke and aren’t a motherfucker, you should really have nothing to fear by way of bummed cigs and stabbings.

  7. Carl says:

    *consul is different than console. Thought you should know.

  8. Jeff Holland says:

    That is almost EXACTLY where I was during the cig/stab combo!

  9. Carl says:

    Really? If you go back to scout something out and find that a squint-eyed, dirty looking, fifty-year old balding guy named Rich is leering at you through the slots of the windows in his ground-floor apartment, keep your tween daughters of Thai-descent close at hand.

  10. Melissa says:

    I live on what is, undeniably, the worst corner of Phoenixville, the one at Main Street and High Street, and I have not had any real problems besides late night parties across the street. Sure, there are dodgy people, but I just avoid them, and that works ok. My bike got stolen, but I had it locked with a crappy lock out on the worst street corner for much longer than I meant to, so I was asking for it. But generally, no problems.

    My boss is a landlord, she’s fixing up a one bedroom now that I think she’s going to charge $800 or $850 for (or maybe less, it was $650 before she fixed it up). It’s on the main strip of Bridge Street, newly renovated, and she’s no slumlord. Plus, you’d pay the rent by walking across the street and handing it to me! Yay! And, actually, I might know of other good places. If you want any help, do say the word. I know EVERYONE in Phoenixville, including many property managers and realtor people

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