Tootie and Cheese.
My Dad would cut a hole in the stem end of the fruit; a somewhat deep, but not gaping, hole.
Then I would squeeze the orange, and its juices would bubble to the top and up through the hole. My lips would become sticky from slurping up the liquid, the loud sucking sounds continued until no more came forth when I pressed with tiny hands.
I don't know why I don't eat oranges that way anymore.
I always wanted to have a place of my own in a big city, and I got one. Yesterday.
I am moving to a studio apartment. I have only ever lived alone once before, and it was glorious. Now that I can do so in this city that I hold so dear, I am beside myself with excitement.
My new neighborhood is predominantly Asian, instead of Latino, like my current hood. Burma Superstar is right down the road, a fact that delights me to no end. It will be colder where I will live next, what with the ocean a mere 30 blocks away. I look forward to cheap, fresh seafood, affordable produce from Chinese markets and experiencing new Shanghainese food.
I am a mere four blocks from Golden Gate Park. I plan to make the trek there regularly with my hoop.
My apartment has hardwood floors, a big bay window, lots and lots of sunlight, a breakfast nook with room for a table for two and a giant closet you could put a bed in. There is a 1920s era elevator that is equal parts scary and charming. There are laundry facilities on the first floor. (That laundry part is huge, because I have never had to haul laundered clothes up four blocks of hills, and I don't want to.)
The day I looked at my new home I met, kind of, one of my new neighbors. She is an elderly Chinese woman easily in her 80s who knows not a single word of English. The container that held her take-home soup was compromised, and clear broth ran all down her cane and onto the linoleum floor. She spoke in wildly fast Cantonese, and the building manager who was showing me the place answered her in the same. I looked at Ian and asked if he could understand them. He said no.
"She is speaking too fast?," I asked him.
"That, and because my Chinese isn't all that good," he shrugged.
It is good enough, however, because he was able to make small talk in Mandarin with the landlord while I filled out the application. I think she was taken by his broken attempt to communicate in her first language. I think it may have helped me secure the spot.
The listing is still up at Craigslist, so I took the images from it to share on this blog. The previous tenant didn't care much for art on the walls or anything, but rest assured, my space will be laid out much differently:
Many thanks to my co-pilot and ace navigator Ian for helping me get to the endless number of viewings I went to. Without him I'd have been a crying heap on the street corner.
THINGS I LEARNED WHILE APARTMENT HUNTING:
Delano's five hours away. I might drive four hours for this, because now I am hooked. I just crept up beside the cracked door to her room and asked to have one. There is only one left. This could get nasty ugly.
I consider the popcorn ball (Thanks, Mrs. T!) a dessert topper to my first day of apartment hunting. My very flexible boss allowed me to take off a bit early to see an apartment in the "exclusive" neighborhood of Pacific Heights. I read the part about its exclusivity on a Wikipedia page for the Michael Keaton movie of the same name.
The 1-California was my chariot to the unnecessarily abbreviated Pac Heights, a sturdy, oft-appearing bus that takes that gut lurching hill climb with unwavering fortitude. I have often thanked the good gods for brakes since moving to San Francisco, but rarely as breathlessly as this evening. I worried I wouldn't make it to the appointment on time, which is not the best way to scream "I'm responsible" at your potential landlord. But eventually Pacific Heights crests, and I arrived five minutes early.
The apartment building was okay. It faced some kind of community college or art school. It was a boring neighborhood with lots of big, brick houses, but I did enjoy that there were many exterior Christmas lights happening in that hood. That's what springs up when you find home owners en masse, I guess. Inside was old maroon carpet with muted silver metal mailboxes, eighteen of them, lined up along one wall. The studio was behind a gate and a front door than another door, then its own front door in one of the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco. Fortressy. Mom would have approved.But the space was teeniny. I'm talking little. I'd have to get a single bed, and I ain't single. The ad lied, that kitchen was not eat-in, unless you mean Hot Pocket on a stool. Oh, and the bathroom was in the closet. Okay, not in the closet, but through the closet. Who wants that? That closet gonna be full as hell, since the rest of the place is so little.
Oh, but he was going to sell me on the light. It had two windows. Two. It could be my sunny little corner cubby cove. But I wasn't buying.
I hoofed it on up to find a 24 bus, and there was one, just three blocks away, sitting shining an open like a beacon. I knew I'd never make it in time before it pulled away, but it just sat there, doors flung open. I didn't even run, I could tell it would still be there when I arrived.
"This bus in operation?," I asked the man at the wheel reading The Examiner.
"What?," he looked at me as if I'd just cursed his mother.
"Is this bus in operation?," I repeated.
He nodded, and I climbed aboard.
I sat, alone with the driver, on the parked bus for five minutes before I got the balls to walk up and talk to him again.
"When will this bus be taking off?," I asked with the conviction of a paying customer. "45," he spat back. I looked at the digital clock on the bus' display. That was in 3 minutes. So, I took my seat.
I was trying to make it to an open house in the Western Addition or the Panhandle or NOPA or whatever that place there is called at 6, in hopes of somehow making it to the Castro on the 24 by 6:30. Lucky me, when the ad said open house, it meant it. I arrived at the building and buzzed the number as instructed and was greeted by a man's voice who told me what apartment number it was. He buzzed me in. Then again through another door. I found the studio I was looking for and knocked. Nothing. So I rang the doorbell. Nothing. So, I gently opened the door to find the place completely empty. And kind of a mess.
It was being repainted and the hardwood floors are being redone, but otherwise this place was great. Big with plenty of closet space, a genuine(ly huge) eat in kitchen and a spacious bay window. I considered taking all of the applications in the stack on the counter, but didn't. Instant karma stepped in instantly when I stuck my fingers on the door right under the sign that said wet paint. Anyway, I wanted it. Bad. I thought about it all the way to the Castro. (I was able to run for the 24 and catch it just after leaving the literal open house, which was batting a thousand with Muni, which is rare indeed.)
But once I saw the GIANT studio with the You Can Have a Party in There Kitchen I'd forgotten all about that NOPA cutie. This was sleek and modern, and the walls were a COLOR, and claw foot tub, y'all. Claw foot. And 4 blocks from the Castro Theatre. I die. It's beautiful. And apparently really desirable, because I was told to get my info in right away, which, of course, is probably already too late. Oh, but the previous tenant who was there for, like, two decades, put in swanky lighting, and seriously, the kitchen. There is a dishwasher in that studio, friends. That just doesn't happen.
I took the application and my fragile hopes and dreams back up to Castro Street to find some food. All the double entendre offerings at the cutesy eateries on Castro weren't doing it for me, so I said fuck it, and had oysters at Anchor Oyster Bar. The line to eat there is always endless, and it was just me, and it was a cold and rainy Thursday, so I went for it.
I sat at the bar and got cheap wine and expensive seafood. (Not really, it's fresh seafood. That shit costs.) The service was comfortable and unassuming and nice. I fell in love with oysters a while back, but rarely indulge due to they can really ratchet up the dinner tab. Tonight I had six, two Sweetwaters from the local waters here, two gems from Cape Cod, and my favorites, the twin beauties from British Columbia. Just lemon, and swallow. So perfect. I never knew.
I also had clams and soup some, but they oysters were the main event. If I end up living within walking distance of that joint, I may need to start washing dishes there as a second job.
One of the servers behind the bar caught my ear as he chatted up a regular, and I settled up my bill. It was distinctly Southern; it was unmistakable. Even underneath all his otherwise effeminate voice, I could hear it in his "well, welcome back" to the gentleman beside me.
"Where are you from?," I asked him as I handed over my card. It's a standard opening line in these parts. He grinned as he said, "Texas."
Not quite Southern, but oh so close when you are this far away.
I told him I was from Tennessee, and that his drawl is unmistakable. And nice to hear. You rarely hear the Southern accent that unbridled here, and his was certainly thick.
"Have fun during your stay," he told me warmly as he returned my card with a pen and requisite receipts. I nodded, and headed for the door. I tucked the rental application papers further down in my purse as misty rain greeted me at the exit.
I crossed at the crosswalk, and saw the lights of the 24 approaching the stop down the street. I hustled, oysters jostling, and easily made it.
I watched two young girls, both wearing dramatic eyeliner and both clearly in love, sharing headphones and stories as I sailed the hills of Noe Valley back to Bernal Heights.
So, of course I had a popcorn ball.
Closing your account when you cannot access a branch is an exercise in futility. Nigh impossible. I've called three times to find out how to do so, with each call resulting in the answers 1) mail a letter and 2) if your balance isn't exactly zero, we charge $20. (I suppose if your balance is less than $20 they charge you $36 for an overdraft fee, then leave your account open.)
So, I mailed the letter. And I attempted to get the balance down to $0.00. Problem is they never closed my account. Two weeks after mailing the letter my account was still open (and overdrawn thanks to an errant auto withdrawl I had overlooked). I called to see about the hold up, and was told I mailed my letter to the wrong address. Silly me, I'd used the ONE POSTED TO CONTACT THEM on their website. Stupid girl. I was supposed to mail to it a SPECIAL address, one SunTrust failed to give me on each subsequent phone call about closing my account.
These people are so incompetent that it is downright astounding.
Why, why, why could my letter not have been forwarded to the proper desk? Why? Why? Why must the burden fall on the customer?
I'm still not done with these fuckers. Thanks to their continuing shitastic customer service. They are like a leech sucking the lifeblood from all that dare tangle with them.
I'm begging you SunTrust: Let me be done with you.
It was like Kroger, but it wasn't. Because the prices were all wrong.
$4.50 for a box of Morningstar fake sausage. Milk for upwards of five bucks. You had to have a Club Card to get the reduced prices, but as it was the first trip, there was no card in my wallet. And I was afraid the cash in there might soon not be there as well.
I felt defeated. Even simple things like marinara sauce in a glass jar was 30% more than what I expected to pay. Reality was settling over me like a heavy, dank blanket.
I no longer flinch at $4.50 for a box of fake meats. I've got my Club Card, and know where to find cheap produce at a farmer's market or Mexican grocery, coupled with bargain buys from Trader Joe's.
I guess I am saying that feels like a really long time ago. And like yesterday.