May 07, 2006

Nice apartment. Nice apartment to DIE IN.

I have just put myself into the rather stupid position of looking for a studio apartment in Santa Cruz in the next few weeks, before all the students have the chance to move out for the summer and open up some places.

Yeah, I know, I know. My grand plan had been to move up to Berkeley with my Delightful Housemate, partly in order to live closer to my Darling Baby Sister, and partly to live in a town big enough to live/work/date in, or at least meet people who aren't my students. But it's not working out, in part because I realized that with gas prices the way they are now, and the shitty mileage I get in my middle-aged Ford Motors product, my worst-case estimate is that I could end up paying an extra $300 a month just to commute back to the place I already live. Yeah, dumb, and also impossible on my grad student pittance. Oh, and if I do that commute, it will hasten the death of my car, and there's no way I can spend that much on gas and make car payments at the same time, whereas if I stay here I won't have to do either. Oh, and after my father's recent accident, all of a sudden a twisty mountain commute several times a week doesn't make me all that hot. And once I started pulling that thread out of my plan, a whole lot of the other ones came unravelled too: blah blah, blah blah. Insert the whole list of fifty reasons that this just isn't a great idea right now.

I'm bummed out about not living with my Delightful Housemate and around the corner from my Darling Baby Sister, but now that I've realized I need to stay, all of a sudden I really want to. I'm totally re-enchanted with Santa Cruz and how cute it is. I mean, OK, it's a stupid small town, but that does mean that all of my drinking buddies are concentrated at one bar and it's close enough to stumble home from. I've also realized that this is an opportunity to make another kind of really bad decision: I've never ever lived alone, for several really good reasons, but this might be the time to try it and see if I (a) go insane, or (b) get a lot of work done and really like having my own space. Although not much of it, from the studios I've looked at so far.

This approach clearly has its own list of 50 reasons it's a bad idea, two of which are as follows:

For one thing, I am incapable of dealing with my own spiders. Over Christmas when both of my housemates were gone for an extended period, I had to barricade a spider into one room of the house so it could stay in there until someone else came home to remove it, because I didn't think that my landlady would appreciate my calling her about it. However, I have recently noted that the Toys R Us in Santa Cruz carries bug vacuums: essentially a dustbuster designed to suck bugs into a detachable nosecone perfect for either (a) depositing them into a terrarium, or (b) flinging outside and then running screaming back into the house. A $20 investment that will allow me to impersonate a self-sufficient, cool-headed adult in the bug department.

For another thing, I am a total weenie in all other areas as well. OK, this reason and the last reason are basically the same. I get freaked out really easily, especially at night, especially when I'm alone. I can't even watch crap like the X-Files or whatever, which no one finds scary but me, because it gives me nightmares. Oh, and the prospect of going really and truly insane and inflicting terrible psychic harm on myself and/or others has always weighed very heavily on my mind. Fun fact: My most terrifying nightmares are not the ones in which someone else is trying to hurt me, but the ones where I turn out to have lost my shit and done something appallingly awful to someone else.

In light of the above, it was probably not a good idea that last night I let my Delightful Housemate talk me into staying up really late and watching What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? with him. I'd forgotten that this movie really scares the crap out of me. Why? Oh, because it's about people losing their shit and doing appallingly awful things to each other, that's why. So at about 3 AM, after I had broken the land-speed record for running through the hall from the bathroom, and I was huddling in my dark creaky bedroom with a pillow over my head trying to drown out the "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" song in my brain, I resolved that the only way I could possibly live by myself would be if I made a rule that I am never again allowed to watch a movie that features anything more disturbing than the worst Disney can cook up. The grub-eating scene in The Emperor's New Groove was gross, but it didn't keep me from sleeping.

It didn't help that my one model for what living alone might look like was the "apartment" I had gone to look at earlier in the evening. This was advertised on Craigslist as an $800 studio at one particular location, but once I got Juan, the property manager, on the phone, it turned out to be at another address in a crappier part of Beach Flats (not a nice area). I went anyway, because I'd already arranged for him to show it to me, and because I'm an idiot.

The place turned out to be a soul-crushing 8x8' hole in a terrifying labyrinth of run-down bungalows next door to the place a friend of mine moved out of last year because the location was so notoriously crappy she couldn't get a pizza delivered. To the "credit" of the "apartment" "complex," it turned out to feature a bona fide Faulknerian idiot man-child standing half-naked by the mailboxes with his mouth open and clutching a filthy piece of string, but the intrigue that guy provided was somewhat offset by the presence of the belligerent drunk guy with the Doberman that Juan had to maneuver around on the stoop to "let" me into the dimly lit cupboard that he persisted, strangely, in referring to as an apartment. Once inside, Juan whispered to me that he would have asked the guy to move but was a little afraid to pick a fight with him after what happened last time; he did, however, reassure me that the place might have a stove soon. I didn't speak enough Spanish to explain to him that I wasn't looking for a place to go insane or be raped & murdered in just yet, but that if I changed my mind I'd let him know, so I just thanked him and ran home. I stand by the call I made in conversation with my housemate this afternoon, though: I'd be willing to stake some serious money on the fact that Dirty String Man and the Belligerent Drunk were probably totally normal, functional people before they moved into that place. Maybe even grad students just like me. And that that was probably less than four months ago.

I'd stake serious money, I say, but not $800 a month.

On the plus side, the place I looked at today has 15' ceilings, which, although that means it officially has more vertical than horizontal space, does make it light and airy during the day, and comes with a built-in nightlight above the wainscoting. And although the washer/dryer were tucked into a slightly terrifying basement, the half-naked man with the piece of string didn't appear to be waiting down there for me. I know, because I insisted on checking every corner with the landlord right behind me.

Posted by katie at May 7, 2006 08:10 PM | TrackBack

But... but... but no neighborly big sister for me? I... I thought... I thought I might get to have a sister. Um... I mean, I mean, if it's best for you to live in Santa Cruz then that's great... but, you know... it is my birthday and all and I just thought I might get to have a sister.

*little shaky breath* But, you know, it's really okay.

All right, all right, I guess that's enough of that. The problem with saying it's your birthday when that birthday is #25 is that it only highlights how you really should be old enough not to be such a dick. Anyway. That movie sounds terrifying, do not live in the 8x8 closet in the crappy neighborhood with the guy with the doberman no matter how excited you are about the half-naked idiot man-child, and the nice thing about living alone is that you won't have a housemate making you watch scary movies that will give you nightmares. The bad thing is that that won't help you with the last scary thing you watched. And I do sympathize. Last week I managed to give myself nightmares by watching an episode of Carnivale (yes, the HBO show). When you find a place I'll send you a 12-pack of those little green eternal nightlights for a housewarming gift.

Posted by: Dianna at May 7, 2006 09:34 PM

naked guy with string! yes! that is brilliant!

no idea why i am so excited about this right now. possibly because i am about to watch 'wolf creek' by myself and it's almost midnight.

Posted by: michele at May 7, 2006 11:11 PM

Dianna: Argh! How did I know you were going to pull Trembly Lip on me as soon as I divulged that I'm not moving? I'm seriously bummed out, although, as nice as it would be to live next door to my DBS and have no money (especially since I know you would be happy to fatten me up on baked goods of various kinds), there seems to be little point in living in a town with Ethiopian restaurants if I can't fucking afford to go to them. However: I will be able to afford to visit, possibly even next weekend, and then can we have Ethiopian please please? Please?

Michele: Are you insane, woman? Did you look at the first "trivia" item on IMDB, about the Australian government requesting that they delay the release of the movie until they finished the trial of a guy who did exactly the same thing? Eep! Seriously, tell me how you sleep tonight.

And for the record, my (for the next few weeks) Delightful Housemate has sworn that he will not allow me to move into Terror Shack, no matter how deranged with insomnia I am.

What the fuck is an eternal nightlight? It sounds like a product made for me, except that it's almost 2 AM and the phrase "eternal night" is starting to scare me.

Posted by: katie at May 8, 2006 01:49 AM

I don't know if they're actually eternal or not, but in my experience so far they do not inflict eternal night on the user. They're just little square thingies that plug into the wall and make a slight green glow which is not nearly as creepy as it sounds. They don't have bulbs, so they're supposed to last for some unspecified really long time and hardly use any electricity. Most importantly, they come in multipacks so you can put one in every room of the house or every corner of your 8x8 square cupboard and never do the stupid thing where you have to walk into a pitch-black room to turn on a light so you can see if something's hiding in the corner to jump out at you when you walk by to turn on the light.

You should definitely come up to visit, although if it's next weekend I may only be able to drag myself away from my studying briefly. My last final is next Monday, and naturally it's the only one that's not either a take-home or open-book so as soon as I get done with my other two it'll be time to start panicking. Ethiopian dinner might be all I can do, but a) I would totally love to do that and/or b) if you for some reason felt like coming up the next weekend there could be not only an extended visit but also a pool party that Michele's having. So, you know.

Posted by: Dianna at May 8, 2006 05:33 PM

come to my pool party! there's a pool, badminton, floaty things, and a diving board! we can BBQ corn like that one time when you came to baseball. and it can be an aquatic adventure wherein you don't have a broken toe. speaking of, we really need to all go back there this summer.

Posted by: michele at May 8, 2006 06:36 PM

Pool party! With BBQ corn! I'm SOLD! Next weekend it is! Wahoo!

Oh yeah, and that makes more sense, because I really need to be apartment-hunting this weekend so I don't have to move into a terrifying hovel. Have I learned nothing?

Posted by: katie at May 8, 2006 08:04 PM