I HAVE come to the realization that using the word “hell” in relation to “Los Angeles” is thematic in most of my writing as of late. And I stand by it. Working out is hell. Eating healthily is hell. Cooking is hell. Driving is hell. Los Angeles is essentially a more climatically desirable incarnation of hell with limited beach access thrown in as an honorable mention. My latest struggle is apartment-hunting hell. Second only to the apartment-hunting hell of New York (literally too traumatic to write about) is apartment-hunting in Los Angeles. It’s worse than job hunting. I can honestly say I have had a harder time finding a place to call home than securing a paying job in LA. Once in 2009 I was homeless for two months in between apartments, living out of my car and in a friend’s spare bedroom. True story. For those of you not au courant on the struggle, let me tell you precisely what it takes to get a lease in the bag around here.
I’m a one-and-done kind of girl and I move fast and furious. I saw a car I wanted one day last month and finagled my way into it a week later even though I was already locked into an active lease and didn’t have the budget for it. I don’t have a lot of time or patience for these kinds of things. I have manicures to brainstorm and shit to buy at Target. I spent hours making phone calls a few weekends ago and most went un-returned. Many others picked up and still had active postings listed online even though the places weren’t actually available any longer (helpful). I was able to set up exactly five property viewings for the following Saturday with my boyfriend Mike. We got to the first property at 8:45am. It was love at first sight. The current tenants are a young couple who introduced us to their toddler, Gordon. Their taste is impeccable. I had hearts in my eyes. My immediate lust for this property backfired by giving me extreme anxiety. I felt like I was on a job interview and I had to nail it with cool precision. Ed, the landlord, came in several minutes later. He and I already had a solid connection based solely on the fact that we had the same San Diego area code (858 in the house). Ed drove all the way up from San Diego to meet prospective tenants. I needed Ed in my corner in a bad way. I asked him about his wife, who was picking up coffee and on her way in. I asked him about his kids and about life in general. We talked about my exotic childhood spent in Tokyo and La Jolla before my family moved to Park City, UT. I tried hard to convey a sensible, educated, humble mountain-girl persona (lols). I was connecting on any level I could.
Your wife is from England? I have family in London and Surrey!
You live in Solana Beach? So does my Cousin!
Your kids went to Torrey Pines High School? Go Falcons!
Your mother is in a retirement home in Encinitas? My grandfather might be!
I kid you not; I privately called my mom and THREATENED HER LIFE if she could not provide the name of my grandpa’s retirement home within fifteen seconds via text, then I hung up on her. I thought perchance he might be friends with Ed’s mom, or possibly even dating her, as he is a very popular guy in the elderly community.
I even tried to connect with little Gordy who was very busy sucking on some sort of banana snack, although I don’t understand children whatsoever. I would have sweet-talked the floorboards had I needed to. This home would be mine. When I want something, I NEED IT. And I need peace of mind IMMEDIATELY or there will be no rest. Call my mother and she will tell you how I operate. I don’t have a lot of patience when I have my mind made up and until I get what I want I will drain the life out of everything around me.
We tried to wait for Ed’s wife to return so we could win her heart and seal the deal, but another couple showed up to view the property, things got awkward, and Mike and I had to make a smooth exit. The problem was, I wasn’t ready to go. I was ready to stay. I wanted to push them down the stairs for getting in the way of my precious time to sell myself as THE tenant for this home, but I had a hunch that violence would get me nowhere in this situation. I already had my next move calculated the moment we stepped back out the front door.
Our second property was an insipid, crappier version of the mega-structure with mega-amenities I live in now. It’s great, but it’s like The Labyrinth with a nice gym and pool, and the community gets weirder and more frat-like with each passing year. Time to vacate the premises.
The third property also stole our hearts. It was a restored duplex on a quiet street with a private front patio, a shared backyard, two floors, and all-new appliances. The landlord seemed nice and normal, but she kept making references to the co-owners with whom we would share a wall and backyard. She gave off a very discomforting vibe about them and kept referring to “relationship building” as being necessary should we want to utilize the SHARED backyard. In addition, even though this place is literally 1.3 miles south of my current apartment, anything south of Olympic Boulevard makes me feel nervous and isolated, and Mike felt the same. Plus, the first property we saw is .9 miles EXACTLY from our favorite pizza place (Lucifer’s for those of you who live in LA) and I could actually crawl to the Grove mall from it, so location-wise, Property Number Three was far-less desirable. That aside, we were both incredibly impressed with the home itself and found ourselves a bit torn between this property and the first.
The fourth property was just a straight-up pass. It was like a weird, New York railroad apartment, and way too close to American Apparel for comfort.
I viewed the fifth property on my own. This turned out to be an incredibly awkward/rushed open house situation. True life— the man who let everyone in had tattooed “hair.” Tattooed “hair” with a distinctive crow’s peak, meaning he asked whoever tattooed on his “hair” to make a deliberately pointed ink peak on his head. If you’re going to tattoo your hair on, don’t do that. I will never understand West Hollywood. This is the only redeeming piece of information to relay from this showing. Total pass.
Back to Ed. I figured by that time in the afternoon he would be on his way back to San Diego. Since he had mentioned this property has been in the family for quite some time, I wanted to follow up with a phone call to really hammer home how much I happen to value family, and would therefore take great care of his family’s property. I’m a real family gal. My sister lives down the street and I see her maybe once every few months, usually by coincidence. Every year at her birthday party, people are blown away when they meet me (“Mackenzie has a sister?!?!”), and even more blown away when I tell them she also has a brother and two parents. I know she makes a plethora of Vine videos with a miniature turtle daily, but other than that, her life is a pure mystery to me.
My brother lives in New York and could get hit by a double-decker bus and not feel the need to communicate it to anyone. He reminds me almost every time I request a phone call with him that time is money, and he usually does not have more than five minutes to lend in my general direction. When he comes to Los Angeles, he usually gives me a one-hour timeframe of availability for whatever duration of time he is in town and if I am not available, my problem. Thorough on email, though— I will give him that. I do, however, call my parents very frequently, mainly to talk about myself, so clearly I am a paragon of family values.
Fortunately and unfortunately, Ed was driving (safety first), so I spoke to his wife instead, and regaled stories of my time spent over the years in England, her motherland. As it turned out, she knew the small town in Surrey my family has a home in. The phone bonding was a success though I’d rather have spoken to her in person so she could see for herself how friendly and normal I appear to be.
I emailed our applications to Ed later that afternoon and invited him to call me at any hour of the day should there be anything else he needs to discuss to be convinced that I’m the clear winner here.
Ed called me on Monday with a bit of a downtrodden tone. He was torn. He had narrowed his prospective tenant pool to four couples and Mike and I were the only ones unable to move in on his preferred date of August 1st. We needed to move on the 15th or both pay double rent for the month of August. Ed started to slowly break my heart. He said he liked ALL of the people he was considering and was truly torn on what to do. The fact that Mike and I would put him out two weeks of rent didn’t help our case. I didn’t know what to do, so I started talking to him about his kids again. I asked their ages, hopes, dreams, passions, whatever I could ask to keep him on the phone. He mentioned his younger daughter’s major in school and I immediately started spinning my wheels trying to see if I could find her an internship somewhere. I was spewing any drivel I could to tip the scale in my favor.
I would literally not let him get off the phone with me. He came up with a proposal that Mike and I could move in on the 15th, and he would raise the rent $50 a month and have us commit to a two year lease. It occurred to me then that this math was not exactly in our favor, but I didn’t want to offend him, so I told him I needed to call Mike to discuss his proposition and I would get right back to him. I then called Mike and told him that he had to call Ed and get us out of the bad offer and into a good offer if he wanted to keep his girlfriend happy. Mike called me back 15 minutes later, said we would move in the 9th of the month, the rent would stay as is, and we would sign a two-year lease. The place was ours! I hooked Ed with my saccharine charm and Mike reeled him in with his negotiating skills. After living in a behemoth apartment structure with heinous management for the past three years, Ed seemed like the kind of landlord anyone would be grateful to have. And everything aside, Mike and I are fit to be amazing tenants. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder to the point that if I make my bed and Mike sets something on it, leaving a dent in the fluff, we don’t leave my house till I smooth out the comforter again. If he puts one of the pillows with the pillow case opening in the wrong direction, the situation must be rectified. There are no messes in my homes. No piles. No dirty dishes. No stray shoes lying around. A cluttered house gives me a cluttered, inoperable brain. I walk almost all of my trash straight to the dumpster. I have problems. But I also have a new home!
There is just one more minor thing left to address. One of my top priorities was that I have my own bathroom. I NEED my own bathroom for reasons I’m not mentally prepared to get into. Ed’s nearly-perfect apartment has two bedrooms, a gorgeous living room, dining room, and balcony, but only one bathroom, and that is simply a poetic road I’m not going to pedal down till next week.
Until then, I will Pinterest away the denial that I will be sharing a bathroom with a man (even a perfectly clean one) in a handful of days, one of my life’s greatest fears. May acceptance be kind and find me soon, Lord knows I need it.