Ezy Reading

Evan Kanarakis

A wise taxi driver once declared to me that the three worst things in the world are divorce, funerals and moving, and in no particular order.

I'd offer what he believed were the three best things in the world but there may be children reading and I still haven't figured out how to do his number three just yet without going to jail so I'll hold out on that for the moment.

In any event, having lived in the one house in Sydney's suburb of Annandale for the fast four years or so, I'd truly forgotten how miserable moving and house hunting could be. While I'm here in the United States on something of a one-year sabbatical and thus this is an essentially fun, new experience for me, and while the only things in my possession I need to 'move' are two suitcases, it's still a--------------------------------------------------------------- drag looking for a place no matter where you are.

For the past three days I've been poring through the classifieds section of the Bangor Daily News here in Bangor, Maine and making appointment after appointment to see apartments or small homes. After weeks of research into the area and a preliminary visit a few weeks ago I was pretty much as organised and ready to go as you could be. I set a budget limit (not willing to pay more than U.S $800 per month), I had my preferences finalised (heat and hot water utility costs to be included in the rental cost, washing machine on the premises would be good, somewhere near a park or other greenery/'serenity' an added plus), and I knew what size place I needed (any bigger than a two bedroom place would be unnecessary' I just need a nice space to sleep and write). You'd think with that kind of checklist it'd be easy, right?

Sadly, even for a small town like Bangor, there's a plentiful supply of apartment listings to get through, and even as this is a sm-all town in population, geographically it's quite large. You can easily kill a whole afternoon driving between apartments from one side of town to the other and only see four different places... Add to this logistical hassle the fact that I'm good at completely second'guessing myself. For every perfectly fine apartment or duplex I've seen I'm still annoyingly stupid enough to keep thinking the next place might be that much better, or that indeed the 'perfect' place is really just another listing away.

And then there's the standard miseries of any house-hunting mission the textbook pitfalls that go with the territory. In the first instance I've seen far too many places that had a specific price advertised in the newspaper per month for rent, only to discover upon arrival that it's actually more expensive and the newspaper had contained a 'misprint'. Scam, scam, scam! Next, there's visits to the kind of dumps that only racoons and skunks would consider inhabiting, and even then that's a stretch' I've been to plenty of those types of places this weekend, places masked in classifieds with terms and phrases like 'cozy', 'full of character' and 'would suit young person'. It's all essentially code for 'this is a fucking shithole and basically impoverished college students are about the only folks who might want to live here.' I couldn't believe the landlord that kept a straight face while telling me that it was kind of neat to see a squirrel occasionally duck into his unit's bedroom via the hole in the ceiling...

Speaking of which, the task of crossing the landlord minefields can be a tad oppressive. Most folks showing me apartments have been, to be fair, just fine' normal, friendly people. And yet more than a handful did have massive warning signs attached to their backs. There was the irritable elderly lady whose living room had a door connected to my potential apartment and explained that she'd 'drop in from time to time to check on me'. There was the thirty'something stoner landlord who kept calling me 'mate' upon discovering I was Australian with such violent emphasis, as in 'And here's the fucking bathroom... mate!' that I was genuinely concerned he was about to roll me for more pot money. And there was the other elderly landlord, the ninety'two year old former marine with two hearing aids who enjoyed telling me about how he was due in for leg surgery in the next few weeks. He was as deaf as could be. Here's an exchange we had:

Evan: So is there a washing machine in the basement?
Old Dude: Wha?
Evan: (louder) Is there a washing machine in the basement?
Old Dude: Huh? You have to speak up, son. I'm a bit deaf.
Evan: (shouting) I said, is there a washing machine in the basement?
Old Dude: You say you want to move to Washington D.C?

You get the picture... The place was nice enough, I guess, but I could only imagine the battles ahead if something important happened, like I had to explain to him there was a leak in the roof, or my lights weren't working...

Last night, after a frazzled, hot day of apartment hunting I looked forward to a restful night of sleep. Instead, all I dreamt of 'painfully' were endless black and white newspaper pages of apartment listings.

You want to ask me about the apartment and house scene in Bangor? You want to know if most places have tubs or showers? Tiled kitchens or wood floors? At this point I know all there is to know.

Now if I can just find a bloody place to live...

Ezy Reading is out every Monday...