Category Archives: brokers can bite me

Out of House and Home

Together, Mr. Ben and I have been preparing to embark on the incredible journey of Home Ownership. It is a quintessentially American journey, more American than Route 66 or McDonald’s or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps — at which, by the way, apparently our people take a back seat to the Danes, Swedes, Canadians, and lots of other pinko-commies who have supposedly grown fat and lazy sucking on the government’s teat.

Over the years, we have pinched our pennies until the outline of Lincoln’s hat remained etched on our thumbs, and stretched a dollar til it was so thin you could read through it. Despite bouts of unemployment, Mr. Ben’s law school debt, and the fact that we got engaged and then married, we now have enough money for a down payment. What’s the secret, you ask? Well, for one thing, you let your parents pay for the wedding, even if it means they do everything their way and you get about as much say as the flower girl. For another, you re-use everything. Those sweatpants your mom bought you from the Limited when you were ten? Why *not* wear those to gym? So what if you look like Liz Lemon on an off day?

SIDE NOTE: I love it when people compliment Liz Lemon.

“You’re Liz Lemon, damn it. In certain lights, you’re an 8! Using East Coast, over-35 standards, excluding Miami.” –Jack

“There’s something about you lately. Make me want to put my feet in your mouth.” –Tracy

Um, I’m getting off track. The point is, I’ve been looking at apartments since late summer and discovered, as many good people have before me, that in New York, the definition of “amenities” has been broadened to include many things that residents of other places take for granted, such as “light,” “floorboards,” “non-lead paint,” etc. In order to get a whopping three (3) rooms, plus a kitchen and a bathroom, in a Stuff White People Like neighborhood, you need to produce a huge amount of money, the kind of dough that bought a prize racehorse in the Godfather

Poor Khartoum came to a sticky end, as perhaps you recall.

Anyway, we have an accepted offer on our apartment of choice, and it’s all terribly exciting. In honor of this development (and in honor of Filmspotting, which I’ve been listening to regularly now for almost a year), I thought I’d do a Top 5 list of movies about houses, and I’m soliciting suggestions. What are your favorites?

In any such endeavor, rules are crucial:

1) The house must be a character of sorts in the film and not just a backdrop (so, like, the Austen novel Mansfield Park would count, but the Austen novel Emma would not).

2) The hotel in The Shining does not count as a house. Neither does the prison in The Shawshank Redemption. We’re being strict here, people.

3) The action must take place largely in or around the house; the house must be central to the plot and even the identity of the film.

So! Recommendations? Suggestions? Let’s hear ’em.

45 / 14

I’m so addled that I just bought three pairs of shoes in one afternoon. Granted, there were sales involved, and running shoes that are necessary because my current pair has destroyed one of my toes and I’ve been ignoring that hoping something will change for six months. But primarily I did it because I’m feeling low on impulse control right now and would like pretty things.

Of course, the real pretty things I would like are well-situated, spacious apartments with amenities. Brokers and I differ on what “amenities” are: they believe “oxygen,” “floorboards,” and “non-lead paint,” count as amenities, and expect you to pay top dollar for them. Consider this apartment in Brooklyn Heights. It is a boring, boxy 2 BR condo in a boring, boxy new tower built without any regard for neighborhood architecture; it is, furthermore, under 1000 square feet; and it is selling for nearly $1M. To which I say, “How? Does it come with leprechauns? Do the air vents release the musk of the great god Pan, making you sexually irresistible to anyone you fancy?”

Because otherwise that is a fucking waste of money. It drives me round the bend. Everywhere in north and south Brooklyn, people are willing–in direct contravention of the laws of god and man–to SETTLE, to get so little for so much. That makes it much more difficult for reasonable people like me to say, “How about I give you half a million dollars* and you give me light, space, safety, comfort, workable appliances, and even perhaps a tiny slice of the great outdoors?”

*Still, by the way, a HUGE amount of money!

It is not to be. Or, anyway, not yet. I will soldier on, boats against the current, until I find what I want: a reasonably-sized place for Ben and me to sit and ponder whether buying an apartment has finally made us adults. (Appropriately I’m currently reading this book: Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House.) “You act all twenty-something,” a friend told me recently, “but secretly you’re all thirty-something.” She’s sort of right: secretly I’m 45, and also 14. I want everything to be all settled and stable and yet I am also totally immature and unready for real life. I just want someone wiser to take care of me and make the important decisions on my behalf while I, well, buy shoes on the Internet.

And to think that I saw it on Montague Street

I’m pretty broken up about Bristol and Levi but not as broken up as they are. Zing!

Yes, I know I already Twittered that. But I wanted to keep it around for posterity. Speaking of Twitter, I am loving this #fuckitlist thing, wherein people list things they will never do (this is as opposed to composing a “bucket list,” where you make a list of things to do before you die or before you make two hours of inane, waste-of-celluloid-and-talent Christmastime pap).

Choice samples from the Twitterati’s #fuckitlist:

#Fuckitlist – Learn to speak French. I mean, really, what’s the point? A few well mangled words out of a phrase book and they speak English.”

“Upon my death I will have never seen all of the avante guarde films of Andy Warhol nor ever have volunteered for the Rose Parade #fuckitlist”

“#fuckitlist Eat turducken”

“#fuckitlist: learn ballet.”

“#fuckitlist Saving for retirement. I’ll just shoot myself at 45.”

“#fuckitlist getting tickets to Jimmy Fallon”

“#fuckitlist Make a turducken.”

“#fuckitlist: give country music a chance.”

“#fuckitlist pay off all my debt, get arrested in Mexico, oh yeah, join a dance troup or the circus”

“#fuckitlist Read Twilight or Harry Potter, pay for cable, drink beer, eat raw meat, become a sumo wrestler”

“#fuckitlist Getting tickets to The Price is Right”

“Watch The Godfather #fuckitlist”

The hostility cheers me right up somehow. Things are basically better, anyway, as always happens: darkest before dawn, right? I mean, not in Darfur, where it’s darker before the dark continues and it’s like fucking Narnia over there — always winter and never Christmas — but here in America, for us privileged folks.

Darkest before dawn! Only hours after writing that last post about broker-monsters, I met a kind, funny, and helpful guy who found me a large one-bedroom on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights in my price range with high ceilings and laundry in the apartment. Then he convinced the owner to pay the broker’s fee and didn’t ask for any money for either the application or the credit check. Basically he did everything but secure me a three-book deal with HarperCollins. Mr. Ben and I are very grateful and we should be signing the lease in the next day or so.

Take that, broker-monsters!

Still no job, though.


There’s a line between being active and proactive (good) and trying to control things you can’t control (bad) and trying to make things happen just to shift the weight off your goddamn shoulders already (crazy). I’m straddling that line and it feels like a permanent wedgie. Help me, lord.

Actually this is one of those moments I wish I did believe in a higher, guiding, benevolent force in the universe. Then maybe I could lay back and think:

– the fact that I have not yet secured us an April 1 rental, despite spending every day shuttling from one middling apartment to another is all part of the plan

– the fact that, after a month, the bank has still not rubber-stamped our pre-approval so that we could forward with our potential purchase is all part of the plan

– the fact that brokers keep chipping away at my self-esteem and self-confidence is all part of the plan. Viz:

ME: My husband and I …
BROKER: No. No! You’re a BABY!

ME: I’m not sure this is quite right for us.
BROKER 2: Well, what is it you want, anyway? How many apartments have you seen? Shouldn’t you know by now? Shouldn’t you just commit?

ME, DIFFERENT APARTMENT: I’m not sure this is what we’re looking for.
BROKER 2: (Shouts in Hebrew on her cell phone for a long time)

ME: I’d like an application, please.
BROKER 3: Mm, sorry. I really don’t like giving wives applications without their husbands present.

ME: Well, for $2000, we’d like a large one-bedroom in a building with laundry and an elevator.
BROKER 4: You’ll never find it.

– the fact that Mr. Ben doesn’t know what he wants to / will be able to do once he leaves his clerkship in September is all part of the plan

– the fact that I keep applying fruitlessly to the sprinkling of available jobs is all part of the plan

– the fact that my father is sick and spends his days calculating the value of his library is all part of the plan

That would have to be one serious plan, that’s for sure. And it could be. I just wish I had the faith.