Archive for May, 2006

…that strange sensation…

Everyone, I’m told, has this dream: you’re doing something innocuous, maybe chatting with friends, maybe eating lunch, and then suddenly…

…you remember…

…it’s the last day of the semester, and you still haven’t done any of the reading for any of your classes!

…you were supposed to start your new job last week, but you forgot!

…you left the oven on!

And then it’s a mad panic and running and scrambling to make up for lost time, only you can’t even get to your car or the subway or the library because the ground keeps moving under your feet, and now you’re more late and more lost and if you’re me this is usually the part where you wake up thinking that this shouldn’t count as sleep because it sure as hell isn’t restful.

And really, that’s been my last three months. Only awake. Chatting with my coworkers, having a beer at Zeitgeist, going to a party… it’s all great fun, but there’s a little nagging sensation in the back of my mind: you forgot something. And if I listen to it, it tells me: you forgot your entire life. It’s not here. It’s somewhere else. And then the axis of the world goes all wobbly for a while. It’s a strange sensation, dancing between eigenstates, neither fully here nor fully there. Disorienting, terrifying, exhilarating and thrilling.

But as a wise flower once noted, you can’t drink possible beers. So tomorrow morning, I fly back to New York, and then on the 26th the movers come.

It’s time to open the box and see how the cat is doing.

boo. yeah.

25 miles, 2.5 hours (plus 30 minutes on BART), 20 ounces of water, two energy bars, one of the single nastiest things I’ve ever put in my mouth (seriously, imagine a fruit roll-up lightly seasoned with ground aspirin) and a very long shower in the work gym later… I don’t know if I’ll accomplish any actual work today, but I certainly feel accomplished. Not bad for my first ride since October 05.

Observation: several friends of mine have described the south bay (and specifically the areas immediately adjacent to US 101) as “a shithole”. Silly me, I thought they were being figurative. Ha ha ha, no: at least 2 miles of the bike path was immediately adjacent to an open sewer, and the mile of trail after that was, in fact, covered in horse manure. I was reminded of nothing so much as walking through outer Siem Reap, Cambodia — and was very glad that it was a cool, overcast morning. Even so, inhaling was a dicey business for a while.

At just shy of three hours end-to-end, I probably couldn’t do this every day, but 2 or 3 times a week might just be doable.

surely I have work to do

Blame Mars. Meme behind the cut.

Rules: Name 10 fictional characters you’d do and tag 5 of your friends.

In no particular order, by which I mean “I’m going to slip the comic book characters I was crushed out on in 7th grade into the middle and hope nobody notices”:

Moral, for the most part: competence = sexy. And I would appear to be fairly visually oriented, given the surprising lack of characters from non-graphic novels.


need a place?

One side-effect of finally getting my own place squared away is that sometime in mid-june I’ll no longer be occupying the guest-room at ‘s pad. Which is kind of a pity, as he’s cool and it’s a great place.

My loss could be your gain though: if you or anyone else you know (who is cool, reliable, petless and neither a total slob nor a junkie) is in need of a lovely room at a GREAT location (22nd & Capp, one block from Mission) for 2-5 months (pending Josh’s girlfriend moving west), let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

fumata bianca

26th & Guerrero, baby. I’ll probably always regret this a liiiiitle bit when I walk through Noe Valley (and every time I try to saute something), but I expect that the TEN THOUSAND DOLLAR savings over two years, not to mention the ability to always find a parking space in the Mission, will somehow cushion the blow.

And now, you all get to hear me talk about something else! Your long national nightmare is finally at an end!

(Of course I’ll probably spend the next 14 days angsting about packing, and then another month angsting about unpacking, but I never guaranteed quality here.)

raining, pouring, etc

I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time in my Western Adventure agonizing over close choices. For the sake of my stomach and the sanity of everyone who has to put up with me, I hope this won’t be a constant feature.

The good news: I have two offers. The bad news: it’s the most expensive (but awesome neighborhood) vs the least expensive. I’m going to spontaneously combust.

Pro Guerrero: cost cost cost. parking. laundry. skylights. larger (I think, slightly) master bedroom.

Con Guerrero: ticky-tacky. crappy kitchen. next to a church. dull block. all carpet. (fear cat damage)

Pro Jersey: location location location. back yard. pretty. nice kitchen. some hardwood.

Con Jersey: cost. no parking. no laundry.

My brain says Guerrero, my heart says Jersey, my stomach says please pass the alkaseltzer.

There are worse problems to have, I know.

Apartment Blitzkreig

Four hours, eight apartments. Thank all the gods for City Car Share: there’s simply no way I could have done this on foot or even my bicycle. I think I burned though my San Francisco parking karma for a lifetime this morning: I never had to spend more than 2-3 minutes looking for a space at any location.

I’m mainly posting this because I’d like feedback on the locations from my SF-savvy friends. The rest of you probably couldn’t be less interested, so I’ll just hide it behind this cut…

Okay, pictures of all of these are uploaded at:

  1. 3247 Harrison St, $1850

    Listed as Bernal Heights, but really on the border of Bernal and Mission, not too bad a walk from the shuttle and BART.

    Pros: Very cute. Owner/landlord was a nice guy. A huge living room with two patio doors leading out onto a private lanai, looking out over a shared back garden and letting in a lot of light. Seperate dining area from kitchen. Decent sized bedroom; sizewise it’s about the same as Josh’s place, maybe a bit larger. New floors (pergolaminate). Garden is gorgeous, neighborhood is cute, right next to precita park.

    Cons: only a shower in the bathroom. Ground floor, so the office and bedroom in front won’t get a lot of light. There’s a rented cottage on the other side of the garden, so possible privacy issues there if we don’t keep the drapes closed. Ugly carpet in bedroom/office. Ugly bathroom fixures. No laundry, no hookups.
  2. 2319 Bryant St, Mission, $2250

    The landlord officially says no cats (but was okay with a dog?!); the agent seemed to think there was wriggle room, but who knows?

    Pros: Big! Entranceway, big living room with a working fireplace, decent sized office, bedroom. Nice fixtures, for once a non-horrible paint job. Shared back yard. EIK. Utility room behind kitchen; builtin pantry in kitchen. Shared back yard.

    Cons: Expensive. Ugly carpet. Questionable wiring. No laundry, but hookups in util room.
  3. 435 Jersey St, Noe Valley, $2100

    Listed as a 1BR+Office on craigslist; a weird moment of realtor honesty? First floor of a 2-floor unit, but off street level. Front space divided into carpeted living room and pergo dining area attached to kitchen. Back “office” room has strange raised, carpeted area, door to shared back yard.

    Pros: awesome location. On-street parking didn’t seem impossible during saturday brunch hours. Big enough! Weird back room perfect for office/guestroom.

    Cons: ugly carpet. Light didn’t seem bad for a 1st-floor unit, but who knows on a cloudy day? Back yard contained enormous dog (belongs to upstairs neighbors) who seemed nonplussed to meet me. No real fixtures; very “1980s renovation” feel. No laundry, no hookups.
  4. 333 Haight St, Lower Haight / Hayes Valley, $2300

    Split-level: three bedrooms and one bath upstairs, downstairs a single large living/dining area (carpeted) with working fireplace.

    Pros: HUGE. New kitchen fixtures/appliances. Big skylight in ceiling letting light into both levels. Coin-op laundry in basement. Parking garage, no spaces currently available.

    Cons: neighborhood had bad vibe; accosted by one persistant homeless guy within seconds of leaving my car. (He spend 2 minutes trying to convince me that SF didn’t really require parking meters on saturday and that I should give him my change instead.) Building exterior ugly as sin. Expensive.
  5. 3567 18th St, Mission/Valencia Corridor. $2000

    Nearly perfect. Wouldn’t take our application. Grrrrrrrrrrrr.
  6. 1159 Kansas St, Potero Hill $1950

    Floor-through flat about midway up the hill. Shared rear garden, currently a little overgrown.

    Pros: Big! Gorgeous! Nice fixtures! Amazing old stove in the kitchen! Bay windows in dining and living room. Funky mechanical door opener at top of steps. (A big metal lever built into the wall; I neglected to take a picture.) Tons of on-street parking. Good view out the front windows…

    Cons: …except that the view includes the 101. (The front window is about 15 feet above Kansas street; the freeway is another 20 feet or so below street level: it’s not a roar, but more of a rushing river kind of noise.) Front of the apartment was definitely noisy, although adding furniture and drapes would probably help a lot. Close to MUNI, but a bit of a hike to BART and the shuttle.
  7. 2 units at 1410 Guerrero, Mission, $1645

    Listed as Noe Valley in a fit of optimism: really in the mission, at Guerrero near Cesar Chavez. The front unit on the third floor was listed on CL, but the rear unit (basically identical mirrored layout) also turned out to be available. The rear unit was $40/month more; the lardlord said it was a little bigger but I’m dubious. Since it faces the back, it’s certainly quieter. Possible parking spots available. Smallish kitchens just open out onto decently large living/dining areas.

    Pros: big enough. Cheap! Skylights! Good location. Parking available. Coinop laundry in building. Non-ugly views out front and back. Landlord very friendly.

    Cons: ticky-tacky feel (like Josh’s but not so well-renovated). Ugly carpets. Building interior hallways need paint desperately. Electric stoves (arrrgh). PINK BATHROOM FIXTURES!

Not bad for a day’s work. With the exception of the Haight street location, I could be excited about living in any of these places.

The Noe Valley one would probably be my best all-around choice, with the Bernal Heights place a close second if the privacy issue isn’t a dealbreaker. Guerrero street was the least pretty but was well-located and was the best monetary deal by far. Kansas street obviously has the huge drawback of the freeway in front, but it was by far the prettiest and probably the 2nd-largest unit I saw, and had laundry and parking. Bryant street was the 2nd-prettiest behind Kansas, but was over $2200; but since we’re applying for Jersey St from the same company, I might as well see what happens…

Thoughts from the crowd? , what’s going on with your place? :)

how to fail to charm me

In five simple steps:

  1. List an apartment that appears to be damn near perfect. (2BR, 18th btw Guerrero & Duboce, 3rd floor, wall fixtures, big kitchen, utility room, shared back yard, $2000)
  2. Have an open house at 1pm on saturday
  3. Ask everyone at the open house who wants to apply to stay in front of the apartment until 2pm so you can interview us on the spot
  4. At 2pm, after “interviewing” 3 couples, look at my application and inform me that you won’t consider an application from a couple unless you can meet us both face-to-face at the open house.
  5. Shrug your shoulders at the idea that the partner of someone moving cross-country might still be 3,000 miles away dealing with the moving logistics.

It is a measure of how well the rest of this day had gone (and it had gone very very well indeed) that I only found myself pleasurably considering the idea of spitting on this person’s shoes for a fleeting second.

It it actually normal in this town to have a list of conditions for rental in your head that you don’t bother to put into the advertisement? Am I the only person who thinks that this is a huge waste of everyone’s time, and that it’s maybe a good idea not to waste the time of people who are trying to hand you $24,000 a year?

loaded for bear

I have 7 open houses, one definite private showing and one possible private showing.

I have 10 copies of a pre-filled generic application form, our credit reports, and my freaking pay stubs. (Yes, people seem to ask for them here. Boggle.)

I have google map directions from each apartment to the next printed out and arranged in order.

I have a car rented.

With my shield, or on it.

why yes, I am begging

So it occurs to me that my multitudinous minions and friends, many if not most of whom are substantially smarter and better-connected than I am, might well be able to help with my increasingly desperate search for an apartment.

So, in a nutshell, here’s what we’re looking for:

We absolutely need:
  • 2 bedrooms (the second one will be used as an office, so it can be small, but the first one needs to hold a queen bed, two dressers and ideally have some closet space)

  • A living room large enough to hold a couch, several bookshelves and possibly a chaise longue

  • A kitchen larger than a postage stamp

  • A cat-friendly landlord (cats are 5 years old, neutered, housebroken, don’t scratch walls, and we’re happy to offer a pet deposit)

We would love, but could certainly live without:
  • Parking (garage or on-street)

  • A dining room

  • A back yard, deck or sun porch

  • A pony

We would prefer, in rough order:
  1. Central Mission (btw 18th & 25th, west of Folsom)

  2. Noe Valley

  3. Duboce Triange

  4. Potrero Hill

  5. Bernal Heights

  6. Hayes Valley

  7. Cole Valley

  8. SOMA

For all of this, we would in an ideal world like to pay $2000/month or less… Stop laughing, damnit. (Yes, we’d also like a pony, look up, it’s on the list.) Obviously, I’m aware that that might be completely unrealistic and am willing to consider going above it for the right place.

Recommendations for rental agents also happily taken: I’ve got one already, but she hasn’t exactly been burning my cell phone up with appointments.

If you lead me to a place, I will buy you and your SO dinner somewhere swanky.

an ongoing correspondence

Dear San Francisco real estate agents, landlords, and other shuffling undead creatures of the night:

A 6x5’ entryway by the front door is not a living room.

A three-room apartment with a 6x5’ entryway by the front door is not a 2BR, cozy or otherwise.

Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter,


p.s. may satan’s thousand razor-tipped erections penetrate your bowels in hell. have a nice day.

my middle finger, your eye, forever

Dear San Francisco landlords, property managers, realtors & other assorted scum:

If you have advertised a weeken open house, and the property rents on Friday, the way to let people know that the unit is off the market is not, repeat not, “just don’t bother showing up.”

Fuck you very much,

—me, standing on Noe Street, wasting my goddamn time

p.s. When a property moves, update your fucking answering machine. It’s your job, assholes.

pop quiz

So I’ve been spending most of my free time recently engaging in a grand old San Francisco tradition: fruitless apartment-hunting. It’s been an educational experience if nothing else.

But tonight was…special.

On paper, it looked like an amazing deal. A full house, with 3 bedrooms, a back deck, run room and yard, a full dining room… for $1800 a month. It’s in “Mission Terrace”, which is a little far out in the sticks, but you can’t have everything, right?

I got to the place around 7:30. The neighborhood was unprepossessing but clean, quiet and sunny. The exterior of the house was in decent shape. It’s a standard SF-style 2-story house where the first floor is a basement/garage area and the living space is on the 2nd floor.

The owner showed up on time and led me around on the tour, talking nonstop. He’s lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, most of the other people there are family homeowners who’ve been there for 20-30 years, all the neighbors know each other… sounds great so far. The house is in very good shape internally, and it’s no-joke huge. The back yard could be in better shape, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a lawn mower and some mulch. Great, right?

Well, except… there’s a strange list of caveats and exceptions that the owner starts rattling off at me. Very, very strange. Let’s go down the list:

  • All utilities including water and trash are the tenant’s responsibility, and have to be in our name.

  • The lease doesn’t include use of the basement/garage, which he uses to store “his cars.”

  • There is no access to the basement level whatsoever: it’s locked and he keeps the keys.

  • The circuit breakers are in the basement. If we blow a circuit, we’re to page him to come over and flip it.

  • He doesn’t want to put the security deposit into an interest-bearing account, because he “doesn’t want the paperwork”

  • We’re welcome to use the driveway in front of the basement as a parking space.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I put to you a simple question:
What is this man doing in his basement?
One vote per person, no fair looking at other people’s answers first.

psst… pass it on.


lady liberty

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”, 1883)

Law Day

As part of his ongoing campaign to try to straddle both sides of an issue that both his reactionary base and the loyal opposition loathe his stances on, our beloved president has decided to studiously ignore the massive protests around the country today, and has instead issued a press release commemorating May 1st as… wait for it… Law Day.

Now, this isn’t quite as much of a non-sequitor as it seems: Law Day is an actual day, and really is celebrated the first week of May. It’s probably a safe bet that this press release was in the pipeline and ready to go months ago. Still, as an expression of political tone-deafness, this is pretty much par for this administration.

But hey, they want to talk about Law today? Fine, I’m down, because I’m always happy for an excuse to pimp one of my favorite pieces of overlooked political writing in this country’s history: Jimmy Carter’s Law Day speech.

Those of you who made it all the way through Hunter Thompson’s “The Great Shark Hunt” probably remember this. The rest of you… should take a few minutes out of your day and read it. It’s a lovely little jaunt back to an era when we expected our politicians to grapple seriously and honestly with the gap between this country’s promise and its reality, rather than treating the former as a photo opportunity and the latter as something to be cordoned off and ignored.

good morning america

From my commute this morning:

Marchers gathering at 24th and Mission; 9am
(click to enlarge)