Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The enemy above

I don't think there's much chance of a fire or burglary in my apartment, but once in a while I look up at the three sprinklers and wonder if all my possessions are going to be soaked by a false alarm. At least now I know not to hang my dresses off them.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My thermostat doesn't go to 11

It's getting colder, and I'm stuck with an efficient heating system in my new place. In every other place I've lived in, it was impossible to maintain a steady temperature during the winter. If I set the heat at 68, the furnace wouldn't kick in until it was about 62 (the alleged temperature reading on the thermostat, minus all the drafts coming through the rickety windows). But when the heat came on, it would stay on until the apartment was a toasty 80 degrees or so. I think that was because it took so long for the heat to make its way through the pipes. So when the thermostat said, "That's enough!", it took another half hour for the radiator to cool down. In my new place, if I set the heat at 68, it comes on before I notice any chill in the air, and it shuts off as soon I get the temperature I asked for, even if it only takes 30 seconds to get there. So I'm never cold, but I never get that redundant, completely wasteful blast of hot air that allowed me to kick off my blankets or walk around without a shirt for an hour or so in the middle of January. Before I'd start freezing again, of course. It's like I moved to Los Angeles or something. I want my four seasons, and I want them all in one day without having to leave the house!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

I'd better see flames next time!

My apartment building's fire alarm went off for at least the fourth time since I moved in six weeks ago. (I assume it's gone off a few times when I wasn't home.) This is an unexpected drawback to high-rise living, though I should have remembered it from my days in the Warren Towers dorm at Boston University. The alarm at home is even more intrusive than the one in my office. At least at work, I can't see the flashing lights or hear the "please leave the building" announcements from my little desk in a corner, and I can stay put until our receptionist sends an e-mail to everyone saying that, yes, we probably should head down the stairs. At home, I was once jolted awake at 3:30 a.m. by a female voice telling me that the "sound you have just heard indicates a report of an emergency in the building." It wasn't the alarm that woke me up, mind you; it was the shock of a female voice in my bedroom. (I guess they use women to deliver distressing news for the same reasons that women announcers are used in negative campaign ads.) I was already skeptical about the alarm system, so I took the time to get completely dressed, comb my hair, and put my wallet and cell phone in my coat pocket before carefully locking my door behind me. Sadly, just about everyone had the same idea, and I was not treated to the sight of my neighbors in semi-naked states or in embarrassing sleepwear. And the only real excitement was when we filed back into the building from the sidewalk and the guy in front of me tripped and fell over the suitcase-on-wheels that the woman in front of him was pulling. (It was black, and thus invisible in the dark.) The past two alarms have happened late in the morning when I was on vacation and thus not yet showered or dressed. Both times, I put on shoes as slowly as possible and waited for the alarm to stop so I didn't have to actually leave. My reasoning was that electricity was still working, so things couldn't be that bad. (There should be a manual method to let tenants know that the automated alarm shouldn't be ignored, like cutting the power or sending out bat-signals in the sky.) Anyway, the daytime fire alarms have dashed my dreams of becoming a full-time pajamas blogger. That, and the fact that I don't own a pair of pajamas.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

My unexpectedly decadent bed

I finally put together my Crate & Barrel Pathway bed, and may the Earth forgive me for all the plastic, cardboard, styrofoam, and wood used to pack what had looked to be a simple metal frame. So far I've made three trips to my building's dumpster, and I haven't got rid of half the debris. The sad thing is that all the material used to ensure that the pieces of steel wouldn't shift one millimeter during shipment probably would have made an adequate bed for a homeless person who now sleeps on a metal grate.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Pottery Barn is a crockery tease

One of the first pieces of mail I got at my new apartment was a catalog from Pottery Barn, along with a letter that started, "Welcome to the neighborhood!" Wow! Had I failed to notice that one of their stores was in Malden? Or had they just opened that very day? Had my mere presence finally caused the city to reach a tipping point into gentrification? Did I smell burritos? No. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the nearest Pottery Barn is at least two cities away! So what gives them the right to "welcome" me to Malden? Family Dollar and Kappy's Liquors, not Pottery Barn, are paying property taxes to keep my streets clean and to keep police sirens blaring outside my window all night. So save your welcomes for Brookline and Newton, Pottery Barn. Your furniture is too silly for me anyway.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Things I Have Learned From Moving to a New Apartment

1. Don't waste your efficiency skills packing all your clothes into a dozen medium-sized boxes. I had a few shirts left on hangers when the movers arrived, and they just hung them in a portable wardrobe that they wheeled out to the truck. They could have moved everything that way, and I wouldn't have ended up with inconvenient creases in every article of clothing that I own. 2. The people you trust the most lie to your face about Ikea furniture. Two of my closest acquaintances encouraged me to buy couches, chairs, a bed, and bookcases from the Swedish cult. "That would look nice! That's a good deal!" they said as I pointed to things I planned to buy from the catalog. But what did they say when I had second thoughts and cancelled my Ikea order? "Their stuff is terrible! Everything falls apart after a year!" Thanks for looking out for me, guys! Don't bother recommending any heart surgeons to me! 3. Not all electrical outlets are as slutty as the ones I had in my triple decker in Somerville. During the first night in my new place, I thought that I'd have to buy all new lamps because their plugs didn't seem to fit the sockets. I finally figured out that I had to work them a little bit, moving them slightly up and down until they were snugly inserted. In my old place, I slid plugs into the wall without any effort, and everything was good to go. Of course, if a speck of dust fell onto the electrical cord, it would drop out of the socket or just hang there so that the attached light or clock kept going on and off, occasionally producing colorful sparks. Good times!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How to set the wrong tone for a landlord/tenant relationship

In four days, I move to my new apartment in Malden, and all of my worries will disappear, but for now I'm as pissed as ever. Though my place still lacks furniture, I've been paying rent since the first. It's now the 11th, and my name still isn't on the intercom directory. On Saturday I was assured that my apartment would be buzzable on Monday, but it's two days later and I'm still not listed on the tenant roll call. If this were New York, I'd figure out by know that I was supposed to slip someone a $20, but I don't really think Malden has reached that level of sophistication. I do know that this is a bad first impression of the management. If it takes weeks to fix this "problem," how long is it going to take to get action if the garbage disposal starts working in reverse? Remember, boys and girls: Never move into an apartment building with an intercom problem -- or a building where you've ever noticed an intercom that was broken for more than 24 hours. Not only does this speak ill of management, it means that tenants will be constantly propping the front door open with phone books, and you will eventually be burglarized. And a word of warning: Whenever I enter or leave an apartment building, I close the front door behind me, no matter what cute handwritten signs are taped to the door and no matter what whimsical objects are used as doorstops.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ikea means "bad in bed"

Thanks to a friend with a car, I made my first visit to the Stoughton branch of Ikea on Monday afternoon and began the long process of furnishing my new apartment. For less than $100, I got six dinner plates, four desert plates, four salad bowls, a 40-piece set of flatware, four champagne glasses, four coffee mugs, six Tupperware-type food containers, and a toilet brush. (No, Mom, I’m not taking my old one with me. Call me extravagant.) And I resisted the temptation to buy everything in safe urban colors (white, gray, and black). Finding a bed was more problematic. Too many had the stink of “my first apartment” about them. One had a giant piece of shredded wheat for a headboard, and I worried that if I ate crackers within 50 feet of it, crumbs would lodge in the “handcrafted crazy weaving” and spell out WELCOME, VERMIN. Others looked quite suitable for overnight guests, at least if you’re in the habit of telling your bed partners, “Yes, I know you’ve had a terrible shock, but you’ll be fine once the sedative kicks in. Just keep looking at the ceiling and count backward from 100.” Of course, there is also the “Why do I need to sleep with anyone when I can store so much porn underneath my mattress?” model. Ikea has a lot to offer in terms of kitchenware and tasty desserts like this, but I'm not sure it can meet my nocturnal needs.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Malden, this is your last chance

Driven by optimism or insanity, I just signed a lease on an apartment in downtown Malden, the once-vibrant city of my birth. I almost decided against it last weekend, when the Orange Line (soon to be my lifeline to Boston) was replaced by shuttle buses, and there was another bad omen this morning when the MBTA announced delays on the subway line. (The T site actually noted delays "between Back Bay and Forest Hills," which makes no sense. If there are delays on any part of the line, there are delays on the entire line.) Maybe the hot weather drove me to an apartment with central air-conditioning, or the screaming kids in the swimming pool next to my current home forced me into a high-rise with no backyards for blocks in any direction.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Apartment roulette

Now that my day job is less frenzied (for a month or so), I can return to my real talent: being paralyzed by indecision. I'm spending all my time looking at or obsessing over apartments. Yesterday I was tempted by one in Bay Village, but then I was afraid that I would be haunted by the ghosts of the former regulars at the Napoleon Club, a gay piano bar in the neighborhood -- unkindly referred to as the "wrinkle room" -- that was transformed into expensive condos several years ago. (Specifically, I don't want to be visited by the spirits of the couple from Rhode Island who used to request songs from "Little Shop of Horrors" every Saturday night.) No, I can't be part of a neighborhood that has become such a bore. I actually put down a deposit on a luxury unit several subway stops from downtown Boston, mainly so I can impress friends giving me a ride home (as long as I don't invite them in to see my furniture), but I'm getting cold feet about being so far away from a good place for brunch. (My kitchen ain't going to qualify.) So this weekend I've been looking at places in the South End and in South Boston, all of which have had something for me to complain about. For example, the basement apartment was nice until I looked up at the two tiny windows in the bedroom and noticed that the screens were encrusted with dead insects. And the third-floor unit had plenty of room, but I had a vampire-like aversion to the mirrored doors of the huge bedroom closet. I guess it comes down to a swanky apartment in a dull suburb or a dump in the heart of the city. I apologize to all my housewarming guests in advance for the inconvenient location or the strange smell in the hallway. I just don't know which yet.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How not to rent an apartment, part CLXXI

Tip to apartment building managers: If you're going to show a "luxury" unit to a prospective tenant and your building's intercom system is broken, don't stop with a handwritten note taped to the front door that says, "Intercom is broken." Add a sentence explaining how a prospective tenant is supposed to get word to you that he is outside. (Fixing the damn intercom is even better!) And when that prospective tenant finally gets into the building by grabbing the door as someone is headed out, don't greet him with "Oh, you must be the BU professor!" -- especially when he isn't a BU professor. Instead, apologize for the broken intercom, or put the prospective tenant's mind at ease by asking, "Just how the heck did you get in here?" Also, don't chat on your cell phone while leading the prospective tenant to the apartment you're showing, as it gives the appearance that you're avoiding questions from the prospective tenant. In particular, don't say into your cell phone, "Yes, I know, I told you I'd be getting to that!" Finally, don't mention the Dunkin' Donuts a few hundred yards away as a major selling point of your building. In the Boston area, that's no more remarkable than saying that you've got indoor plumbing.

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