The Great Hunt

Great.  Just what I needed.  Another useless, time-wasting habit.

It all started when my husband and I decided we’d be spending the next school year in Manhattan.  He had to get out of Austin so he could write a book, he said (if you think the Mafia is bad about drawing people back in, that’s nothing compared to academic politics).  We wanted an urban experience, but London and Paris were too expensive (note the dollars floating in your toilet these days).

“Why not Buenos Aires?” somebody asked.  I don’t know.  Maybe because our Spanish is so bad we’d be subject to ridicule, if not arrest.  Maybe because, at our age, we don’t learn as quickly as we used to.  Maybe because, dammit, we like New York.  “But everybody in Buenos Aires speaks English,” she persisted, being one of those people who likes to weigh in at great length on others’ choices, invited or not.  Oh, shut up.

So, we’re going in September.  This is fine with my husband.  He’s hardly thought about it much at all since we made the decision.  Believe me, this guy can turn on a dime.  No mulling, no angst, no preparation required.  He’ll think about it on August 31.

I’m a different creature.  I have to endlessly obsess and ease my way into new situations.  I’m one of these losers who likes to get to the airport early.  Imagine the preparation a temporary move requires from the likes of me.

First, I Googled New York rentals and got depressed.  All we could afford, according to those ads, was a closet — and probably not even a walk-in.

Then my friend Margo told me I had to go to Craigslist sublets.  Great advice — the kiss of death for a real-estate obsessive.  I’ve been there ever since.

Every day, I try to resist it.  Work on your novel, I tell myself.  You think the second draft’s going to write itself?  Finish that article you promised somebody.  Think of some new ideas.

But every day, I give myself permission, the same way I used to give myself permission to smoke an occasional cigarette.  Just a few minutes!  Just a few clicks of the computer keys!  What’s the harm?

I’m lost, I’m hynotized, I’m hopeless, I can’t quit.  I flit from the Village to the Upper East Side, back down to Tribeca.  I peer into apartments and lives.  I become a harsh critic; a bedspread I don’t like will earn my instant rejection.  Who cares if none of these places will be available when we need them?  I’m — well, what?  Preparing myself.  Getting the lay of the land.

You think that’s bad?  Well, here’s an even worse story.

“Did I tell you we’re going to Manhattan next year?” I tell my friend, Joyce.  No, I hadn’t.  Joyce immediately gets it — the significance of the search.  The next day, while I’m guiltily lurking on Craigslist, she’s on some vacation rental site.  She sends me link after link for appropriate places.  Check this one out! she orders.  (She’s also looking out for two-bedroom units so she’ll have a place to stay when she visits us.)

Today, I swear, I’ve only been on Craigslist once.  I’ve got discipline, sort of.  Pretty soon, I’ll be bored by the whole thing.  Any day now.  Maybe tomorrow.  In the meantime, at least I’m not smoking.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

7 comments… add one
  • Oh, come on: Those two-bedroom units aren’t for ME to come visit.  I doubt I’ll do any just-for-the-hell-of-it travel in the next year or two, since I have no disposable income to speak of. The extra bed would be for Teal or Nick to come visit! Unless, Mom, you seriously believe your adult children would pass up having a place to crash in Manhattan.  

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Don’t be so egocentric.  I was blogging about my other friend Joyce.

  • M A Link

    Good Morning,

    I’d love to be going to NYC for a year of living, what fun!  I have friends who own a brownstone in Chelsea & they have at least one apartment (maybe two now) that they rent out for short-term stays (I think a year is considered a short-term stay).  Check out their website:  It really is a terrific location on the West side & their website says that the apartment is rented through 2008.  They also have B & B rooms so people who visit will have a place to stay, though it won’t be free…  When I lived in the city I spent many Christmas Eve’s in the main house in this brownstone.  Come to think of it, I spent many other holidays celebrating there, too (Easter, Passover) & the parties of my friends who live(d) there are legendary.  

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Wow, this looks great.  I’ll look into it and obsess some more.  Thanks so much.

  • Don’t forget Brooklyn —
    brownstone heaven and you might
    get lucky. Maybe.

  • Ruth! I totally randomly clicked on this blog title from another long blogroll and then saw your name. You wrote for me at Whittle — seems like we’ve communicated sometime since but I can’t remember when or where. Anyway, how fun to stumble across you like this! And what is TOTALLY amazing is that I was in the drugstore this very morning with my daughters trying to explain to them what tinsel is and I thought of that Special Reports foto with tinsel tossed and tinsel placed…and this very moment it strikes me that you wrote that piece (I dug it out a moment ago to check and am ASTONISHED my memory is still functioning so well; you did!) 

    I’m working at, which is how the word “geezer” caught my eye!… check it and out and drop me a note! ps

  • M A Link

    Ruth, you must see the NYT for Sunday, 25 January 2009.  Rents are falling Fast:
    This could really work in your favor but I still think craigslist is your best option…

Leave a Comment