Pros and Cons

Our landlord is a 50-something widowed woman with a 25-year-old daughter who lives in Boston. We’ll call the landlady Anne, which is not her name. Anne has lived in this house since her daughter was born. When she bought it for $49,000, Lincoln Park was a ghetto. She said she used to have a 12-gauge shotgun hidden under her bed. Anne’s husband passed away when their daughter was seven, although I’m fuzzy on what happened to him.

When Anne remodeled the downstairs – the garden apartment we now live in – she said she always imagined a family with a small child and dog would move in. We were the first ones to ever rent from her. Her tenants till now have apparently been standup comics, potheads, drunks, a gay couple, some confirmed bachelors, and the occasional girl roommates, all of whom apparently never stay for very long.

I’m not sure why no one has ever stayed. I don’t know if it’s Anne’s personality that bothers them (she is extremely chatty – like, to the point that I’m trying to walk inside the house because Bea is in there alone and Anne just keeps talking and talking and talking). Maybe it’s the neighborhood? Ours is one of the busiest streets in Chicago, save for the downtown shopping areas. There’s a lot of traffic and not a lot of people stop along here to do anything. The businesses nearby either have their own parking lots, or it’s the kind of place where you just stop in for a little bit, then head back out.

I do know that Anne really, really wants us to stay. She has offered to have a washer and dryer installed in the utility closet off our kitchen – a brand-new, full-size stackable set – if we pay a little more in rent (because there is no plumbing, drain, or the right kind of electrical outlets to use a W/D in the house) and sign another lease. This would mean, if I graduate on time, our lease would be up as I finished my Master’s degree. So we would at least not have to worry about finding another place in a year.

I admit that we had already begun to consider where we would live next summer. There are a lot of pros, and several big cons to this apartment. It’s easily accessible to the train – there’s a stop about two blocks from us – and all the things I mentioned in my last post. It has a great privacy-fenced backyard, a good amount of space for us, allows dogs (we have both of them here now and I can’t imagine finding another apartment in all of Chicago that would let us have two 80-pound dogs), and there’s a parking space out back we can use for free when Anne’s business partner isn’t here. There are two great parks really close by, Bea has her own bedroom, and we’re all on one level. Anne is actually quite considerate and nice, including allowing us to pay rent twice per month – half on the first, half on the fifteenth – until we get back on our feet. The visit to the hospital was a bit of a blow, financially. I don’t think we could have asked for a more understanding landlord.

But the cons include an extremely chatty landlord. Honestly, sometimes, I just don’t want to talk for 20 minutes about the same things we did two hours ago. I like her, and she’s super-nice and funny, but sometimes I feel like listening to her tell the same story for the fifth time is my penance for accepting her help on the rent. We don’t have a functioning air conditioner. This hasn’t been a problem until the past two days, when the heat index took us into the 100s, and it’s gotten sweaty and uncomfortable downstairs. We hooked up the A/C unit we found in the utility closet two days ago, and it just blows out air that smells like my grandma’s house. We don’t have a washer and dryer — yet. If we get one, we have to pay more and Charlie isn’t thrilled about that. But, recall the twice-per-month rental agreement.

There is also a lot of moisture and bugs. So many bugs. I try to keep things really clean and dry, but that’s an uphill battle in a garden apartment. The dehumidifier actually makes it hotter in here, though dry. And, considering this place is over 150 years old, there are certain holes and crevices and spaces that I can’t locate or clean or fill up. I’ve found three wolf spiders – two dead, one alive that got away from me, so I spent that night on the couch – potato bugs, weird little round things I’ve never seen before, weird flying things I’ve never seen before . . .

We’re also right next door to a bar, three doors down from another bar, there’s no parking close to our house if people want to visit (it’s all side streets and you need passes after 6pm). We have discovered drunk people wandering in to our yard three times already, one of which stubbornly refused to leave because he thought he was in the right place. And, of course, Charlie’s bike was already stolen. The scary part about that is, someone had to come in through our gate, to the back door, and into the shed under the house where he kept it. Which means the thieves around here are super-ballsy, or it was someone who knew the bike was there.

I also tend to freak out when Bea tries to take off down the sidewalk. Like I said, it’s crazy-busy on this street and she doesn’t pay any attention to me when I ask her to stop or hold my hand. We’d probably have to stroll to the park and take a trike, rather than me letting her ride a tricycle on this sidewalk.

But, really, the pros are so big they tend to outweigh the cons. Yeah, it’s kinda dark down here, and occasionally there’s a weird smell I can’t eliminate, but it’s our first apartment in Chicago. Sometimes I’m a little hard on myself because I’m like, look, you aren’t 25 years old. You’re 35. You’re an adult with a child. But who the hell can afford $3,200 a month for the place across the street? And if you could afford it, why not spend less on rent or just buy a place?

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