Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Happenstance

First, my apologies for neglecting to post for over a month (where does the time go?). Since my last post, I have been busy watching some of my dreams come true, not the least of which includes securing an apartment in downtown Chicago (seriously, I've been dreaming about this for years).

Apartment-hunting was so much fun. With my budget clearly defined, and Craigslist at my fingertips, I scheduled two and a half days of studio viewings. I arranged all of my apartment-hunting very logically--day one: Lincoln Park; day two: Gold Coast; day three: Wicker Park.

The only thing I actually remember about the first Lincoln Park studios I viewed was how nonplussed the leasing agent seemed. I was clearly wasting his time, and my impression of all of his apartments was that they were as lackluster as him. After that, I spent the afternoon with an agent from an apartment-finding service. He was so skillful a salesman that he nearly convinced me to lease a gorgeous studio with a view of Lake Michigan, which was definitely out of my budget and inconveniently located. He was even fairly convincing about a dingy little studio with a view of—wait for it—a brick wall outside the window. By the end of the day, I almost had my heart set on the studio with the lake view, but I couldn’t help remembering how badly I wanted to live in a building with a bit of character, rather than a cookie-cutter high rise filled with identical white boxes. I knew I had about ten viewings scheduled for the next day, so I told him I’d be in touch.

The second day of apartment-hunting began with a gorgeous, vintage high-rise in the Gold Coast. I arrived on time for my appointment, and was about to head upstairs with the complex manager, when I was cut short by a stiff, academic-looking twenty-something with his doting mom and grandmother. He was there to get his keys so he could show them his new studio and, by God, that made him infinitely more important than me. After a lengthy discussion filled with mom and grandma bragging about the homely-looking young man in front of them (and me awkwardly and impatiently standing by), the manager suggested that we accompany them upstairs so that I could see his studio. The whole ride up the elevator I got an indirect earful from grandma and mom, who went on and on to the complex manager about how wonderful their grandson/son is. Now, I know that sometimes grandmas and moms tend to do that kind of thing, but rather than making a modest rejoinder or gentle attempt to persuade them to stop bragging, he just stood there basking in their praises. I rolled my eyes in a slow, deliberate arc and tried not to gag.

After a painful ascent to the twelfth floor, and an increasingly uncomfortable walk up the hallway, I followed them into the apartment. I feigned interest as I looked inside a few cupboards, took a step or two around the room, and rushed out. As I left the room, I suppressed a laugh. The truth was, I’d only come to look at this place because I’d already made the appointment (hence my annoyance that despite arriving on time, this ridiculous trio delayed my appointment by twenty minutes). Earlier that morning, while describing my plan of action to my boyfriend, he warned me that his brother used to live in this particular high rise (if you want to know which one, I’ll tell you off the record) and it was infested with roaches. It’s a shame, too, because it really is a beautiful building. And it would be such a travesty if grandma and mom were to find out that their darling boy’s adorable new home had roaches. Especially since he shared the stiff superficiality of the building into which he was moving.

If anything, I’d call that building academic. It had that Oxford air to it. And, frankly, I’ve been there and done that; rather than ornate beauty, I was looking for something warm, welcoming, and a little less sterile (and a little less roach-infested). It wasn’t meant to be.

The next few LaSalle St. apartments left me feeling uninspired, as well, and I started to worry that I was going to have to go with the out-of-budget Lincoln Park studio. Luckily, however, I had booked the remainder of the day with viewings on N. Dearborn. As I turned the corner from Division, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the lovely tree-lined street that had enchanted me on a drive home last November. I immediately recognized the vintage buildings that emitted a friendly residential feel. I remembered thinking how nice it would be to live there, but how pricey it must be, since everyone was always saying how expensive the Gold Coast is. Once again, however, I was reminded of why it's a bad idea to listen to "what everybody else says." I almost missed a wonderful opportunity…

It’s so funny how sometimes things just fall into your lap. The place I fell in love with wasn’t on my carefully-planned viewing schedule. I just happened to walk by the apartment complex on my way from a viewing farther south, and noticed an ad for studios and one-bedrooms out front. I decided to check it out, and immediately upon walking in, it felt right. I love moments like that, where you step into a situation you hadn’t even planned, and it just feels so authentically you. The lobby greeted me with a lovely, old-fashioned air and it smelled light and flowery (unlike most of the vintage complexes I’d been viewing all morning). Plus, the restaurant and full-service salon on the ground floor made me feel like I was in a real downtown apartment building.

Sandra, the leasing agent was friendly and genuine (as you can tell, I put a lot of stock into the quality of the leasing agent). She wasn’t pushy at all and I was highly impressed with the first studio she showed me. It has a separate kitchen with ample counter space and its own window, two large closets, a good-sized living space and a nice view. We looked at two other studios, but the first won out. As I wrapped up with Sandra, she added the icing on the cake by telling me that if I provided the paint, they would paint my studio any colors I wanted, at no extra charge. You have no idea how much this excited me—I wanted to sign the lease right then and there (it's all about the details). But, fending off impulsiveness, I decided to follow through with three remaining appointments I had scheduled for that day, before signing on the dotted line. Needless to say, a teeny box of a place at Michigan Ave., a crumby little apartment in a shabby building farther up Dearborn, and a couple of over-priced studios later, I still had my heart set on my eighth-floor studio with the separate kitchen. So I went back and filled out my application. I never even made it to Wicker Park.