My California (Street) Home
This time around, the apartment hunt was totally different than it had been when I started looking for my own place in 2001, post-divorce, post-Connecticut, pre-knowing-anything-about-SF.
Over the course of three years, I had established something of my own (new) life and self and identity, and needed a place to go with it. Which was exciting in a new way, although not so easy to do given my modest budget. (Miniature donkey marketing wasn't exactly lucrative.)
So I started looking. Again, I relied on Craigslist. Again, I discovered that apartments on modest budgets are mostly terrifying and awful. However, I had zero -- actually, less than zero, if that's possible -- interest in living with roommates. Thus, my hunt took weeks and weeks and weeks.
Weeks and weeks and weeks, that is, while I was still living in the loft. With one bed. With my now-ex-boyfriend. It wasn't entirely awkward, it was just a little strange. (But then, so is everything in San Francisco, so whatever.) Mostly it just made it feel like we weren't really broken up.
I FORGOT TO TELL YOU ABOUT TRIVIA!
I'm not sure exactly when it started, but at some point when we were living in the loft, our small group of friends started playing trivia at the Tuesday night Pub Quiz at the Edinburgh Castle. It became our thing. Every Tuesday there would be a core group of us -- sometimes as few as four -- and others would drop by, or just drop in, on an ad hoc basis. We once had 19* people playing! But it was awesome to have a weekly activity that we could count on. Trivia was our social touchstone.
One night, early in our trivia-playing careers, my friend's boyfriend invited his friend to come. And she, not wanting to show up alone, brought a guy friend from work. She didn't quite take to the game, and gave up after a couple weeks. But her friend from work continued to join us. We liked him -- he was funny and smart and good company.
A YEAR later, after EG and I were broken up but still living together, he -- the friend's boyfriend's friend's coworker -- suddenly took an interest in me. (Until that point, he'd been somewhat cordial, but was clearly NOT interested in me; I'd assumed it was because, you know, he wasn't interested in me. Apparently it was because he wasn't interested in flirting with someone who had a boyfriend. Duh.)
And THAT is how I met, and started dating, The Boy. Tony.
EG and I living together while we were broken up and I was looking for an apartment wasn't awkward UNTIL I started dating someone else. HA!
So, yeah. I stepped up my apartment search.
Still, it wasn't until AUGUST that I happened upon a cryptic Craigslist ad that sounded...good, but...vague? It had the wrong address (two perpendicular streets) and was categorized in the wrong neighborhood. And when I called the number to talk to "Bob," no one picked up the first three times. But I persevered, figuring if the apartment really was as described, maybe I'd be one of the few people who had the tenacity to actually get to see it.
I eventually booked a time to see the place, which is how I learned that the small, six-unit apartment building was owned by a Japanese woman who spoke almost no English. She therefore depended on her wacky, 70s-throwback handyman -- Bob -- to place apartment ads and field inquiring calls. I took one look at the apartment and knew I wanted it, but Bob, who was showing the apartment, told me I'd have to wait to meet Fumi first. Two days later, I went back, met Fumi, and offered to write her a check on the spot. She agreed. She told me I seemed nice ("you nice girl"), and besides, the apartment was "pink...for girl."
The place was on the third of three floors, up two small flights of green, carpeted steps. It was off-street so there was minimal noise. But the building was located on California Street, at Polk, which meant it was on the cable car line, and I could faintly hear the tracks running all the time. I could also (far less faintly) hear the actual cable car go by and ding when it stopped practically in front of my building. I loved it.
Even better, though, if you listened carefully on a foggy night, you could hear the fog horn from Alcatraz.
The interior was simple and perfect for a single gal. Fine-sized bedroom, smallish living room. Two large closets, giant built-in shelves. Eat-in kitchen. Full bath with claw-foot tub. Good light.
Fun location. I had a totally ghetto grocery store in one direction, and a Whole Foods three blocks in the other direction. I was right ON Polk Street, too. So if I turned left, I'd be in the seedier part of the city, smack-dab in the middle of what was once called "Polk Gulch." For those of you unfamiliar (which is probably ALL of you), that was the focal point for SF's tranny scene, and remained a favorite hangout for tranny hookers. In the same direction, I was within walking distance of the Castle (the place with the Tuesday Pub Quiz) AND my favorite bars in all the city -- Lush Lounge** and Vertigo.
If you turn and go the other way up Polk Street, you end up in the Russian Hill area, which is far nicer and a lovely place to stroll on a weekend morning for coffee (there are about 90000 coffee places aside from the requisite Starbucks and Peet's) or brunch or stopping in at a sports bar to catch an East Coast baseball team in a game that starts at 10 a.m. in California.
I loved that place. Which was good, because there were moments when I wondered if I might just end up staying there alone, with my cats, knitting, for the rest of my life. As you might know, since a few months after I moved in, I started this blog.
Here's a quick little video I made of my California St. Apt.
Note: 1. I always hate how my voice sounds in video. 2. I don't know why it sounds like I'm heavy breathing. 3. I almost switch the camera sideways in the bathroom and then quickly remember that doesn't work with video. 4. Yes, unmade laundry on the bed.
*Don't think that playing trivia with 19 people and one answer pad is easy. 19 people have 19 opinions about what is "correct." We always did poorly when we had too many people on the team. Luckily, no one but me ever really cared.
**Lush Lounge was the only bar I ever attended regularly. EG and I would go there when we had no other plans on a Friday night, which was often when I first moved to the city. We loved the great bartender there, who eventually left to start his own place a few doors up: Vertigo. Sadly, Lush Lounge has since moved. I'm told it's the same old place, but I've yet to see it.