Friday, July 04, 2008

The Great Apartment Search of 2008

This is the story of The Great Apartment Search of 2008.

After four years of living in my great li'l room on the UWS (or maybe it was Harlem or Morningside Heights--who knows...), the time had finally come for my roommate to go off to business school, leaving me to find another place to live. Sigh... To help me in my search was my friend Mark Baratelli, who was going to fly here in June and look with me. Initially I was hopeful about that, but there was a miscommunication: For some reason, I was under the impression that Mark was taking a break from the tour he was on, and would only be here for a week. When he got here and said he'd had auditions lined up, I thought, "He's only here for auditions! I am shocked and appalled!" So I decided it was time for me to at least start the search for a room and at least cover my bases.

I thought a good enough place to start was to create a person-seeking-room ad and put it on craigslist. After all, that type of ad had worked for my friend Lorenzo; it had never worked for me, but I guess there could be a first for anything, right? So I decided I would put up an ad, but I better try to sell myself a little--mention some selling points (the fact that I like animals; my collection of artificial Christmas trees) and illustrate them with photographs. Some of the photos I, er, 'adjusted' for comic effect (eg adding Nicole Kidman and other celebrities into pictures from my parties), but most of them were just adjusted for vivid color. (Yeah, I'm all about color and contrast.)

The plan, after I'd composed the ad (which I did here on terapad, to make formatting and cutting and pasting easier), was to put it up and then tell my roommate to send it to gawker as a tip. I figured if they published it, it would make it that much easier to find a place; frankly, however, I thought the odds of it actually being posted were one in a zillion. But that was the plan. Here is the ad as it appeared on craigslist:

Easy-going guy seeking room in Brooklyn or surrounding area

Hi there! I'm Ed, and I'm seeking a (cheap) room in a safe part of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City or Hoboken. I'm looking to move at the beginning of July, possibly mid-July, but I'd consider moving sometime in June if necessary. I'm quiet, creative, wacky, laid back, respectful, tidy-but-not-OCD-about-it, interesting to talk to, and not constantly at home. I'm hoping to find a roommate I can get along with--not a best friend, but someone that hopefully will become a friend. It would be great to find someone creative, especially someone into music, podcasting or video art--perhaps we could collaborate on things. On that note, let me tell you a little more about me:

I don't have any pets of my own, but I am an animal lover. I grew up around dogs, and now I live with a cat, which is my roommate's. Here's the photographic evidence:

I also read, so it's pretty likely that if we move in together we'll have something to talk about. Or we can share books. I also have a few DVDs. Let's have a look at some of my books and DVDs now (you'll notice that I'm an Amy Sedaris fan; hopefully that means that we have a similar sense of humor):

I like to consider myself cultured and broad-minded. Behold me in Paris reveling in the local cuisine:

In addition to reading, my hobbies including making the occasional CD and doing some radio. I had a show for a while on the air on WFMU called The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment. Once I get settled in a new place, I plan to go back to doing the show in podcast form. If you're interested in audio and the like, maybe we could work together on brainstorming themes and coming up with ideas. Who knows? Here are some bloops about my show and CDs and a snapshot of a column I wrote once upon a time for a Swiss newspaper:

And while I'm often pretty quiet, I do like to have fun, and I'm certainly not opposed to the occasional party. Here are some snapshots from parties my roommate and I have hosted in the past few years.

Here's me with Tionna Smalls of Talk Dat Ish Entertainment and my friend Jason:

And here are some pictures of our regular friends at some of our parties:

But enough about me. Let's talk about what I can do for you.

Firstly, I have a few concrete things that I can offer if I find the right roommate. I have a globe, a never-used Sonicare toothbrush, some never-used teeth bleach, and a small bottle of perfume (which I tried to give away as gifts, but people didn't want them because they thought it was something I made myself and therefore cheap and crappy. Actually, it was Marc Jacobs's Grass, which I put into smaller bottles so I could give more away. Alas!) Picture below:

If those aren't appealing, well, I do have a teensy bit of skill in Photoshop, so I could help you, say, make your Christmas cards or whatnot, maybe like in the picture below:

If that doesn't interest you, how about this: I do volunteer at a radio station, so I have access to gajillions of mp3s; how about a DVD of a few gigs of new, old, weird, obscure, or whatever music? Or how about a podcast dedicated to you? All possible for the right roommate situation.

Oh, and one more thing. Check out the fake Christmas/holiday trees (and jack-o-lanterns) I've got. Who could resist?!?

But if ALL THIS doesn't move you, consider the plea from my two pets-who-don't-poop (also known as uglydolls):

OK, so if this intrigues you, and you think I might be a cool person to live with, and you have a cheap (like seriously cheap, like under $700 cheap) room, email me at helpedfindahome -AT- gmail -d0t- com. I can give you references if you need them too. Or you can also email me if you think it'd be cool to collaborate or hang out or what not.

Lastly, if you really feel that you need to learn more about me, you can check out my links below:

Thanks! Hope to hear from you soon!

So I finished making that post Sunday night, and then Monday morning created the craigslist ad, which I immediately sent to my roommate with instructions to send it to gawker. I really didn't think they were going to publish it--I mean, it's not a celebrity sighting or anything like that--and I checked the site periodically through the day to see if it did get published, but no such luck. I did, however, start getting a few responses from the ad, so it seemed to be working out. (I didn't really expect to get responses from the ad anyway--I didn't think people actually checked the "rooms wanted" section, or wherever I posted it--but my friend Lorenzo had had luck with craigslist postings like that, so I figured it was worth a try. Anyway, I went home thinking it hadn't been published, but that everything would work out anyway.

Imagine my surprise when my roommate told me that gawker had published the ad, apparently while I had been on the subway home. It was entertaining reading the comments. Some were funny--someone compared Catner to an ocelot (had to look that one up); some weren't so funny, like the person who criticized the picture in my article where I'd put my Amy Sedaris stuff. The comment implied that I was trying to look unique by displaying the fact that I appreciate Amy Sedaris, when in fact that would make me anything but unique. Do I need even to say that the comment completely missed the point? Because if I'm looking for a roommate, shouldn't I stress what we have in common, rather than what makes me unique? So yeah, that's why I showed the Amy Sedaris stuff, rather than, say, The Secret of Scent or that book I have by Slavoj Zi┼żek.

Here's the gawker post, sans comments:

urban anthropology, craigslist, tionna smalls, top

Please Help the Awesomest Kid Ever Find Awesome Roommate

Meet Ed Shepp! He's looking for a home in "a safe part of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City or Hoboken." A cheap home. Like, cheap. "Like seriously cheap, like under $700." As we learn from his Craigslist posting, he's friends with Tionna, for one! (Our popular erstwhile advice columnist, Tionna Smalls.) He is adorable, dragging out all his media and tchotchkes for digicam show-and-tell! In an effort to be servicey, we procured a roommate reference for him, straight from Ms. Tionna herself:

Says Tionna, pictured with Ed, below: "Ed and I definitely know each other. That picture is from his amazing Christmas party he had in NYC. I think you should definitely feature this on Gawker. Everyone is looking for a roommate and he would be a fabulous one especially because he is a talented musician. He is definitely fabulous."

Cool! In case you are also looking for a new place, here are the things Ed likes to read: "Let's have a look at some of my books and DVDs now (you'll notice that I'm an Amy Sedaris fan; hopefully that means that we have a similar sense of humor.)" Also (not pictured): "Here are some bloops about my show and CDs and a snapshot of a column I wrote once upon a time for a Swiss newspaper."

Won't somebody help him out? He has references!


So that was the post. I was a little taken aback at being referred to as a "kid," since I don't think I've fit into that category for about, oh, 15 years, but it was cute. Needless to say, after that post went up, the responses started to flood in, which of course was great. I also, however, emailed everyone I knew to check out the post. After all, it's not everyday someone like li'l ol' me gets on gawker, right?

And then one thing started leading to another, and I found other people who were looking, and eventually had assembled a coterie of about 6 people who were all doing some part to look for a place. It was also at that point that things got a little awkward with my friend Mark--after I explained to a friend that he was here for the week looking at places, he clarified that he wasn't here for just the week, but indeed until the end of the month or however long it took. Oh. That turned out to be good news, though, because I genuinely would have liked to find a place with people I've known for some time, rather than any a stranger. But I figured that whatever will be will be, and decided to look both with Mark et al. and on myne own.

Moving on then.... Since I'd sent news of my gawker mention to everyone, and everyone included Pseu Braun, she posted my mention on the WFMU blog, which must have thrown some extra traffic toward the post, and did in fact result in another person joining the group of us looking for a place. Here's Pseu's post:

WFMU's Ed Shepp Gets Gawk'd

Shepp_2<>WFMU associate, Ed Shepp in actual time as his reality begins to fold in on itself and create ripples into the fourth dimension. You see, this brilliant and perpetually excited young man (and by young, I mean younger than me) innocently placed this innocuous ad for a roommate on craigslistnyc. Who'da thunk the postiest-post mawdernz at Gawker would finally pick up the hotline on this guy (can you say HELLO??) years after his radio listeners, Time Out NY and Vice mag have, creating what Ed would surely term "gwakloads of melisma"!? I''ll simply disregard the faint essence of attitude-doody and rightfully bitter New York renter's comments on the Gawker blurb and push my way to the front to proclaim that Mr. Shepp is absolutely genuine in his pursuit of a reasonable rent-share and was even willing to learn about *gasp* New Jersey pricing! I swear if I thought he wouldn't mind my regular drunken caftan'd and turbaned tirades ala Ruth Roman/Susan Hayward I'd move Ed into my spare room in Jersey in a Beep! Maybe this Other Ed Shepp can help our boy find his dream digs.

Posted by Pseu Braun on June 10, 2008 at 10:56 AM in DJ Crap, New York City, Pseu's Posts, The Internet |

And thus the search began. I got an email a few days later from the person at gawker who'd done the original post, asking for an update when I found a place. So I'll skip all the search details here and go straight to the update, which excerpts my email update:

making it, craigslist, not afraid to be servicey, urban anthropology

We Helped the Awesomest Kid Ever Find an Apartment for Under $700

In an attempt to be servicey (and atone for our sins), we posted the awesomest Craiglist apartment-seeking ad ever—it was a riot of nerdy kookiness. Musician Ed Shepp (our erstwhile advice columnist Tionna Smalls' buddy) was absolutely deluged with responses! To refresh your memory, he was looking for something cheap, "like seriously cheap, like under $700." (In case you think that's impossible, come to my place—I have achieved it.) Read on, because Ed has, too—"Thanks in great part to Gawker!" He's also included a computer rendering of what he hopes to turn his backyard into, complete with a menagerie of plastic lawn ornaments.

"I found a home! I dropped off the deposit last night, so it's all on the level now. It's in Brooklyn, at the 15th St. Prospect Park stop; it's under $700 (actually a great price, but I don't want to publicize that widely). It's a great brownstone with two cool roommates, Haiyen and Lindsey.

I didn't have to look at many places, either. Here's how it went down:

My first two places: the buzzer didn't work at the first, so I stood around looking a tourist or something, wishing I had a pink cake to cry into...

Then my friend was having lunch at some restaurant, and the waiter told him that there was a room avail in his building. We saw it that night—a GORGEOUS loft in Bed-Stuy, right off the Morgan stop, I think... The rent was something that came out to just over $500 for 4 people (and we had 4 people), so I said, "We want it."

This I said in front of someone we'll call "Blustafson," a very good-looking but quiet guy sitting playing on the computer. The person leaving the apartment said that "technically it's Blustafson's call, because he's here now..." And I had to whisper, "Is that Blustafson?" I think he finally looked up at this point, and the temperature dropped 20 degrees in the room.

...The next place I looked at was a $500 room... It was also in an interesting neighborhood, right on the Nostrand stop on the A, which felt in some ways like a Caribbean version of Canal St. I went into some great sneaker store and got these awesome sneaks for $19.90. A lot of great sneakers for uner $20. Don't know how they do it—don't care.

Then I went in one of those cheap stores that sell everything, and they had deodorants that I'd never seen marketed in mainstream stores and shorts for $5 and the like. Then I went into this oil and candle shop—because I'm a scent nut—and I was looking at the large selection of oils, and I asked if I could smell them. The guy said they were "not for perfume; for special purposes." But the perfume oils, of which there were a MUCH smaller selection, were on the other shelf. I turned back to the "special purposes" oils and he reiterated his previous point, adding that they were for "religious purposes." Oh. I should have known, considering one was called "voodoo."

The next day I saw the place I got—a gorgeous brownstone on the outskirts of the Park Slope area."

Congratulations, Ed! Oh, but one caveat: the house comes with this:

So that was that. Obviously it's not the comprehensive account of every place I looked at and doesn't mention any last names or such, but it's the gist of it. What it leaves out is one apartment that I looked at in Ridgewood (a referral from Maria Levitsky) that I considered but ended up not taking in the end; and also a great place in Washington Heights which I was pretty much settled on taking with my friend Mark before I saw the place in Park Slope. Since I'd pretty much expressed my interest in that place before taking the Park Slope one, another awkward moment came up when I had to say that I'd found another place. Later it became even more awkward when Mark decided he'd rather not take the Washington Heights place (which I still think is a great deal). Luckily, the room in Ridgewood was still free, so he took that. So in the end, it worked out. Sorta. For some of us. Um, yeah.

And HERE are the pictures that I sent but didn't make it into the gawker update:

Behold my new roomies, Lindsey and Haiyen:

And Haiyen on a mechanical bull, and a shot of the house, obviously taken in cooler weather:

And, of course, not to be remiss, I should mention the coverage of the whole thing on my friend's blogs:

Mark Baratelli

Jason Atkins

And that's the story of the Great Apartment Search of 2008!

......AND if you've made it THIS FAR in this crazy long entry, enjoy the very brief video Mark Baratelli took of me out-singing Celine Dion:

Ed Shepp

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