Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.

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faults in the clouds of delusion

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Alternate realities

The first thing I look for is always where the speakers will go. The living room needs a clear wall facing into a vacant space of a reasonable size. If there's no such wall, or no such space, I'm less interested already. However, to give it the benefit of the doubt, I wait to see if there's an attic or a basement. One house that we were shown had the most wonderful attic. It spanned the length and breadth of the building, and had a lovely soft carpet that would act as perfect sound insulation. The roof wasn't very high, only about seven or eight feet at its highest, but the dimensions of that room made it close to perfect.

That house also had an enormous back yard -- stretching out at least twenty meters to the fence. But the bedrooms were beyond tiny. And so were the doors to the bedrooms. Frankly, it didn't look as if our bed would find sufficient space in any of those rooms, even if it did somehow make it through those doors.

The owner, a professor of art history, suggested putting the bed in the living room -- Roman style. We laughed. We timed the walk to campus from the front door. Half an hour.

We didn't take the house.

But while we were walking, it was interesting to contemplate how it would have been to lounge on my bean bag in that attic, lights low, the room filled with soft warm sound.

***

At the other extreme were the funky designer loft condos in the heart of the handkerchief sized downtown that we were yearning to find an address in. The first one we walked into was, to my mind, the apotheosis of idiocy. A rectangular space with a large cardboard separation thrown lengthwise through it, at an angle, dividing the space into a corridor on the left and rooms on the right. Overhead no ceiling, just pipes and large tubes. A foot of space between the ceiling and the top of the cardboard 'wall'. Sliding doors built into the wall, marking out little rooms on the right. Approximately 300 square feet of living room at the end of the entry corridor, with kitchen appliances along the left wall. A large square balcony at the end of it all. Two thousand five hundred dollars a month for your troubles.

Could I even see myself in this place? There was a wall for the speakers, all right. I checked to see whether the bathroom had its own ceiling. It did. But the cardboard walls? The weird angle, the waste of space -- just didn't seem right. Walking past the building the next day we saw a couple of people sitting on their balconies on the 2nd and 3rd floors. "Suckers," was my immediate thought.

Yeah, I guess that one was ruled out all right.

For two thousand four hundred I was sorely tempted by this other two-bedroom place we saw. 22nd floor facing two directions, in a town where the second-tallest building is ten storeys high -- the view was *magnificent*. The charming owner of the wonderful b&b we stayed in had been telling us about the local politics. "They want to turn this into Manhattan. Do we really want that?" The speakers went in on the right wall, facing along the wall to wall windows right through into the dining room. It was so very tempting. There was even a desi restaurant at street level right next door -- bring up the kababs and crank the volume up. "Nine-inch concrete walls," the suave building manager assured us, "This is a surprisingly quiet building."

Despite the several hundred apartments, populated by representatives from all over the world, and - really - all ages. In the end, that was what drove us away from this expensive little luxury.

***

At the other end of the poshness scale was the apartment on the second and third floors of a run-down house that sat at the *perfect* location. The previous inhabitants were in the process of moving out. Looking at their things lying around brought the squalor home even more sharply. How do people live like this? I'd take this place, I thought, but only for the location. There's nice amounts of light coming through the windows on the west side. This one too has a nice attic. But the laundry? Why would one want to choose a place where you have to exit the building and come back in to go to the crummy basement where they keep the washer and dryer? In the winter? Is this worth the proximity to the music clubs, the restaurants, the cool hangout joints?

Or are we too old for that now?

***

We didn't think we were. We thought we were too young for the rows of houses tidily arranged in boring sequences: First Street, Second Street, Third Street, Fourth Street. We walked the Old West Side till Seventh Street before turning back in certainty. No way. The "market" that had been touted on Fourth Street turned out to be a single hole-in-the-wall kirana shop. "Too neighborhoody", said TPB. "Too quiet."

Exactly the words that had been touted as virtues on listing after advertised listing. Neighborhoody, quiet: good. Studenty: bad. You can't get the excitement without the noise, they said, and no one likes the noise. Put differently -- you can't have a house with big yards in a neighborhood that doesn't have yards -- as my friend said.

But there was something about the little white house with the purple door, and the purple trim on the windows. We really hadn't thought of ourselves as house people. It wasn't the odd-shaped living room -- no place for the speakers there, I thought as I walked in. But the dining room was nice and airy, and the family room at the back was large and lightful, skylights, bright colors. The bedrooms upstairs were small-ish but reasonable. The lady was very nice. The yard at the back wasn't overwhelmingly big. Everything seemed manageable. But I wasn't convinced. I thought I'd hold out for the condo we were seeing the next morning.

The next morning, during breakfast, the agent called to say that condo had been taken.

We traded off our options. I thought of myself sitting in that family room. I pictured how the Wharfedales would look against the bright walls. I wondered where the back speakers would go. I thought about how the stationary bike would go in the front bedroom upstairs, and I could look out onto the street as I cycled. I pictured our round dining table in that room outside the kitchen. I thought about storing the wine in the basement.

We called the lady and said we'd take it.

***

The little white house with the purple trim. From whose front porch I will pick up my amazon packages and junk mail come August. From where I will walk to work with my poodle. From where I'll go to the Trader Joe's that's "just round the corner" but only if one drives. The one that's a straight half hour walk to downtown but there's a direct bus.

Yes, I can see myself there.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Ph said...

Another one bites the best.

5/26/2007 7:26 PM  
Anonymous ph said...

umm DUST.

5/26/2007 7:27 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

ph:
okay, bite me.

5/26/2007 10:34 PM  
Blogger Saket Chaudhary said...

again too many rooms and too few people?

5/27/2007 10:33 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

hah! exactly.

and way fewer visitors as well, i'd warrant.

5/27/2007 11:17 PM  

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