Sunday, 15 May 2011

house hunting (part 2)

The story continues.

I just went home from house hunting this morning. I forfeit Dance Conditioning class at FCBD just to go to North Berkeley to a shoddy cluster of apartments in a quiet neighborhood. The affordable units didn't pique my interest. The only good thing about going there was that in one unit, there was a house cat who (yes, I use "who" to describe animals that familiarize themselves with me) stood to attention - the cat was curling on a stool - when I came in. So I quickly gave the cat some strokes and pets and the cat nuzzled me back in return.

How I miss my cats back home.

Yesterday, I went to Orinda to see a house. Apparently, Orinda is very different from San Francisco in a number of ways: one of them being bus shelters with no digital sign of when the next bus is coming. To make matters worse, I was late. So the very nice landlord decided to pick me up.

There I was, being driven in a black Porsche to a grand, luxurious house with plush carpeting all over, state-of-the-art kitchen, high-speed internet, furniture, and exotic bathroom (for USD 1275, no less). It was beautiful all over, even the garage had a great view of the clearing and bits of the forest down below. It was so quiet that I could hear the howling of the wind as the long blades of grass swayed and bent under the strength of the air.

Still, I couldn't bring myself to ask my parents to finance the apartment. And anyway, it was so far from the BART station. The bus came every 30 minutes or so (and I thought waiting for the 47 Muni here - coming every 5 to 10 minutes - was an unnerving task) and I'd have to walk uphill for about 2 miles from the bus stop to the house.

The landlord dropped me off at the BART station. He was such a nice person.

"Do you often do this to your potential renters?" I asked.

"No, my potential clients have cars," he said, not cynically, but with warmth. There I was, a foreign graduate-student-to-be, carless, unable to ride the bicycle, wanting to rent a house in a non-walking distance.

We chatted long in the car in front of the BART's station entrance. I could smell his sweet and musky smell of cologne. There was something in the signature scent of successful, proud, confident older gentlemen that always seemed to sexually arouse me. The landlord was about 60 years old, and he was not my type, but he was so cerebral and visceral at the same time. I had intended to stay in the car for only 10 minutes, as I tried to get back to San Francisco and catch the FCBD dance class, but we ended up talking for more than an hour.

"Do you often see movies?" I asked again when we passed the houses on the way down hill.

"Sometimes. Why?"

"These houses remind me so much of those from Stepford Wives," I said. He laughed.

"Yes. Here, people seem to go back to the greens, choosing to have a secluded house," was his answer. "You know, when you e-mailed me and said you were from Indonesia, I thought you were a conman."

"What? Why so?" I was intrigued.

"Well, you called me and you didn't have an accent. I often go overseas as I have offices in several parts of the world including Asia, but everyone I met had an accent, but you... You sound like a regular American."

"Why, thank you. I started learning English when I was 4 years old. I used to have a perfect British accent but I lost it to Hollywood," I said, inciting his laughter. "My English teacher said that if you learned English after sixteen, you'll retain your original accent, no matter how hard you work."

"That's true. I can distinguish the accents of people from parts of the US, I know how French people sound when they're speaking English..."

"Oui, zei talk like zees..." I said, imitating the Francophones, and he laughed again.

"Yes, they do talk like that. But you sound like you came from Chicago."

"I guess now I kind of know the reason why most landlords from Craigslist didn't reply to my e-mail," I said with a sighed. I sent and called at least 20 resident managers and none of them replied my e-mail. Big apartments, small apartments... Almost nada. "Maybe when I said I was from Indonesia, they thought of jihadis and terrorists."

"Well, this is a tumultuous time," he answered sympathetically. I just nodded.

The conversation went on. At first I kept glancing at the digital clock on the middle dashboard, but after a while, I didn't mind. This gentleman showed me a lot of insight on living abroad, on living in Orinda at his house, on life in general. He poured his experience into me, and I, a glass, only about 1/8 full, gladly accepted his generous, rich liquid.

As I bid him farewell and closed the door of his black Porsche, thoughts ran in my mind, criss-crossing like vehicles on a busy intersection. I was happy, though - my confidence in being a potential renter was restored. And so, bubbly, I walked to the platform to wait for my train that would take me back to San Francisco.

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