I headed downtown with reluctance, ready for another disappointment, tired of searching, but – as always – with a twinkle of hope in my increasingly cynical New Yorker eyes. I was beginning to resent swiping my Metrocard at the entrance to the subway, for it only led me onto a train of disappointments.
After searching uptown, where I thought there would be more apartments available and for better prices, the realtor with whom I had been apartment-hunting sent me photos of a small SoHo apartment with black brick walls. SoHo? I thought. Yeah, right…
The idea of being within walking distance of NYU seemed impossible, so I hadn’t been looking downtown. I looked at a couple Brooklyn apartments (some day, I do think I will end up in Brooklyn if I am still in NYC…), but, in order to get the benefits of cheaper apartments, you’ve got to go deep enough into Brooklyn that the idea of hopping on a train one to two times a day (for science labs, NYU events, using the NYU gym — whatever) buffs the sparkle of Brooklyn down to a dull muted tone. There is a lot of appeal to living in Brooklyn, but I guess this just wasn’t my Brooklyn-year.
I headed down to Canal Street on the 1 train — my loyalty will always be to the 1, no matter where I live — to meet the realtor in front of the SoHo walk-up. While black brick walls aren’t my thing, my quest for the right apartment was becoming thoroughly dehumanizing, and I had to give something different a chance.
SoHo is way too cool and hip for me — I’m a comfort girl. SoHo is like the pair of cute shoes that I figure I should own, but never actually wear because I’m much more comfortable in my Upper West Side-esque flip-flops, alpargatas (actual ones from Argentina, such as these, NOT Tom’s – side note: did you know these currently very popular shoes are Argentine gaucho shoes that Argentines have been wearing forever? Notice the Argentine flag on every pair?), and flats. SoHo is chic, fashionable, designer, white tablecloths. I am sporty/casual, low-maintenance, reusable water bottle, and second-hand table right now. But I am also something else: open-minded. I had to at least see what a SoHo apartment could look like.
We met downstairs. I immediately felt this neighborhood — the SoHo-Tribeca border with Chinatown and Little Italy just a few blocks away — felt totally not me, in a good way. I’m an uptown girl at heart, but if I could live on the corner of Guanguiltagua y Arosemena Tola en Batan Alto (my Quito address – yeah, I had to carry an index card around my first week), I could probably handle this change of scenery too. South of Houston isn’t South America — what’s the big deal, right?
On the corner of my potential future block: a cute Mexican restaurant. SCORE. Also on the block: a mini-supermarket, a pizza place, a cool lounge, and a modern Chinese-comfort food restaurant. All great things. I also like it when buildings have names. This one did. But I’ve stood hopeful outside a building many times. This momentary optimism was usually quickly shut-down upon ascension into the potential digs. According to the photos, this apartment had black walls. That’s a big no-no for me! But I knew that a little paint could fix that — the black walls, at this point, were not a deal-breaker.
We entered the red and white, tiny, tiled lobby. Good vibe. We headed up to the third floor – good: fourth floor or higher apartments were deal-breakers to me (knee trauma), and second or first-floor apartments usually meant noise, garbage, cold, or darkness — all deal-breakers. (I told you, I know what I want.) The staircase was wider than other ones I had seen. I liked this: good for carrying my bike up and down. We got to the door. It had a good number. I walk in, quickly evaluating the tiny but cute kitchen, which opened up into a decent little living room, and that’s when it happened: I smiled.
The apartment is completely imperfect — the kitchen is teeny-tiny, but it is an actual eat-in with a big window: score. The bathroom is in two parts: a toilet in one end of the apartment, the shower at the other end (hehe — this would “not” make sense better if you could see it). They call it “European-style” — yeah, yeah, whatever. The walls were NOT black! Much to my happiness, the apartment was full of light, the brick walls are painted white but in a really nice way. The light fixtures were antique-style, not the usual upside-down glass bowl with a cluster of dead bugs at the bottom. The floor was being redone, the closet space was great, the views were actually nice (enough) and — most importantly — despite all it’s minor imperfections, it was the first apartment that I walked into and felt HAPPY.
After a whirlwind of cashier checks, lease-signing, paperwork and the nightmare that is moving-logistics, I have a new apartment to call home, beginning this weekend. It’s going to be a quirky place to live, but – if anything – it can be “that quirky SoHo apartment with the weird bathroom that I lived in during my twenties.”
As you can see, I may come off as a perfectionist with unreal expectations (OK, I really hope I don’t but I think that is how the previous realtor I was working with might describe me), but really, I just know what I want is out there, and I’m willing to take a little longer to find it. Of course I am also willing to compromise, and I’m not expecting everything I am looking for to come in one perfectly tied-up package, but the important thing is finding that place that makes you happy, despite its imperfections. And really, the imperfections are what make my new home special.
Every apartment brings with it a new set of memories, life experiences, ups and downs… I’m excited to find out what SoHo has in store for me. Within the next three weeks, I have to pack up all my stuff, move it all downtown (along with furniture in three different locations), unpack, set up wireless, set up cable, set-up furniture and LIFE. I also have to finish studying for the GREs, take the GREs, get my new NYU ID, figure out my new life, and begin school for the first time in six years. There is actually even more going on, which I’m not blogging about… Just trust me when I say I’ve got my hands pretty full right now.
But outside, the cloak of winter has been lifted and the cherry blossom petals rain over the cement. A new season, with a new apartment, and a new chapter full of possibility is about to begin. And the black walls have been painted over in white.