Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Forwarding Address

I was 26 when I arrived in San Francisco, ready to find a new place to live and, you know, start my life over. I began by crashing at my boyfriend's place, until I rented an apartment of my own.


Until then, I'd lived:
1. At home
2. In a college dorm at the University of Delaware for one horrible, torturous semester
3. At home: the reprise
4. In an apartment with my fiancé cum husband
5. In a house with my husband

Aside from my first couple years on this planet when we lived in New York City, I'd lived exclusively in Connecticut. (Because four months in Delaware doesn't count ON ANY LEVEL.) I couldn't wait to be somewhere new and different and full of surprises.


My First Apartment
I had no real idea of what I was looking for when I started printing out Craigslist apartment ads and wandering all over the city looking its many and varied offerings. I didn't have a feel for different neighborhoods. I didn't really get how one place might be short on closet space but big on view, whereas another might look all-around spectacular until you realize the on-site landlord is quite possibly the neighborhood crack dealer. I didn't inherently know that one end of the city enjoys an entirely different climate (sunny, pleasant 75 degrees) than the other (foggy, gray 52 degrees).

I chose an apartment on Bush St.  Not neighborhood-y, but very city-y. I overlooked the busy street and the sign to the Nob Hill Theatre.

Now, you might think with its fancy "theatRE" spelling there would be fewer naked men dancing there, but that would just suggest you don't know the first thing about San Francisco.

When I visited my family back east* for the first time and showed everyone pictures of my apartment and views, one of my mother's nurses asked, "Oh, you're across the street from a movie theater!?" and I politely showed her a second, closer-up photo of the NOB HILL THEATRE sign -- the one that said "All Male Nude Review" in smaller letters.

And then the nurse said, "Ohhhhh." I thought she got it. But then she added, "I bet there are fun ladies' nights THERE!" Um. And what do you say to a sweet old woman in New Hampshire who thinks that the nude male review in San Francisco is for women?

Imagine now that I am showing you pictures of my first apartment. (While you're at it, imagine where my external hard drive with all those photos is and email me when you figure it out.)

Just know that it was cute and Edwardian. It was on the fourth floor and had an old-school elevator that was quaint and charming and terrifying and only worked 11% of the time. It had a large garbage chute on each floor, which I found amazingly convenient. It had a small, adorable kitchen and two giant closets. The kitchen window overlooked a three-story parking lot, such that I would often forget I was four floors up, not one.

My building manager was a stressed-out, aging gay man who'd left Minnesota the moment he could and hadn't maybe ever stepped foot out of SF again. He was brusque and always looked harried (if not downright angry), but I liked him anyway because his apartment was on the first floor off the lobby, and I could hear him playing his piano when I entered the building. I think he thought the elevator was trying to kill him. He would post increasingly angry signs about how you can't shove pizza boxes down the garbage chutes because they don't fit.

If I think really hard, I can still smell the hardwood floors and fresh paint and city sunlight of that place. I could hear the cable car go by. Most memorably, I could hear the nearby hotel valets using their whistles to call cabs for guests. Those whistles would have driven someone less enamored of city-living BONKERS. I loved them.



*"Back East" is what everyone calls states east of California, which is hilarious to me because that includes states like Colorado.

4 comments:

  1. I love this. My first SF apartment had wall to wall carpet, a tiny kitchen with uber-retro tiling, amazing closet space, a shower door etched with a stag grazing, and a shouty, chain-smoking downstairs Russian neighbor. In fact, the entire building was full of retired Russians, all of whom would watch the same Russian TV drama every night at 6:00. I can still sing the melody of the opening credits.

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  2. When we lived in SF it was in the university family housing, which housed all 6 of us very uncomfortably for a long 4 years while my dad was in medical school. Ironically, they are the last happy pictures of my parents together. So, it wasn't all bad. When I visit, I only remember the happy times, not the small apartment.

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  3. My first apartment in San Diego made my mother cry. I felt like "That Girl."

    Your post made me feel like I was on the cable car, chomping Rice-a-Roni. Thank you, Kristy.

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  4. great post! i love hearing the fondness people have for the apartments they lived in when they didn't have too much money, but had the thrill of living on their own to make up for all the "character" of their less than perfect abodes. funny that such great times can happen under less than perfect conditions, yet all the money and huge mcmansions can't buy happiness.

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