Friday, February 03, 2006

Wide Open Spaces

If you've never lived in NYC (or you're rich), you might not believe this. The Times has an article today on the kind of spaces people rent to sleep in. Some rent mere beds in already occupied rooms, some share rooms in shifts. In this particular article, some students stuffed a mattress into the cutout space above a door and tried to rent it out for $35/month as a living area in Craigslist. The kicker? They got a number of takers.

I'm awfully lucky to be sharing an 1100-ft apartment I got an outstanding deal on with my partner (plus 3 cats and 2 turtles). The truth is, if I wasn't with her, I'd need a roommate, and we could easily sublet out several rooms here if we wanted to do so - provided we engaged in some subterfuge regarding our in-building landlords. But I've never lived alone since I moved to this city seventeen years ago, and some of the places I've stayed in have been not that far off from a mattress in the wall. My first two apartments involved sleeping on a twin-sized foldout chair on the floor in a shared studio with a relative stranger and on a foldout couch one room of a two-room apartment (minus the bathroom, which my middle-aged couple roommates and their angry, ancient toy poodle had to squeeze through my room to get to, while I had to pass through theirs to get to the kitchenette). Ah, the bohemian life.

Let's just hope those days are over for me, although I sometimes wonder. If you don't own your apartment here, you never can tell what might happen. I don't expect a break-up in my relationship, which could cause me housing woes, but any period of unemployment could leave me scrabbling for affordable spaces. It's just something you live with in the city. It's why most middle-class party conversations are about apartments and rent, and everyone has a dream of finally landing their own brownstone, if they don't quit the urban life forever.

As for me, this is just one of the reasons I've stayed in the job that's been killing my soul for the last few years (more on that later). As I contemplate finally leaving it, I do start to have nightmare flashes - could that be me up there on that mattress between rooms?

If that ever happens, you'll be reading this blog as posted from New Jersey. Hey, my mom could use the rent.

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