Home sweet saga: Apartment hunting in the Bay Area—Part 3(!)

Note: This is definitely not the view from our new apartment.

Note: This is definitely not the view from our new apartment.

It is a rite of passage, a hazing ritual, a bonding experience. Welcome to the Bay Area. Good luck finding somewhere to live.

For months, Tovin and I have been hunting for an apartment and sharing our struggles with friends, acquaintances and total strangers. Almost invariably our jaunty, “Still looking for a place to live,” has been met with sympathetic murmurs if not outright commiseration. Some people share their own tales of woe, like the college friend whose wife saw 21 apartments before finding a place in the Dogpatch. Some pepper us with questions, marveling at the insanity of studio rents from the comfort of a rent-controlled spot they leased 18 years ago. Our housing saga became my go-to icebreaker for meeting new people. After a while I felt like I’d unlocked some sort of secret San Francisco handshake.

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Home sweet saga: Apartment hunting in the Bay Area—Part 2

Oakland in black and white. By Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Oakland in black and white. By Thomas Hawk via Flickr

If you read last night’s post, you already know that our search for a reasonably sized, reasonably priced, reasonably located apartment in the Bay Area has been, well, reasonably frustrating.

To be honest, we expected as much. When you mention to someone in Las Vegas—land of bottom-dollar stucco rentals where anyone with a paycheck can claim a three-bedroom house as their own—that you’re moving to San Francisco, they tend to look alarmed. “Don’t you know how expensive it is?” they ask, genuinely concerned that we have somehow missed the countless news stories on the city’s alarmingly high real-estate prices. We had not. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We just weren’t prepared for what happened this week.

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Home sweet saga: Apartment hunting in the Bay Area — Part 1

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I knew we shouldn’t have let it get that far, but I suppose it was inevitable.

When you finally see an apartment that just feels right, how can you keep from picturing yourself there, cooking breakfast in the bright, airy kitchen, having a beer in the small back courtyard with petite koi pond(!), searching for an outfit in the absurdly large closet? When you find the place you start imagining the life you’d lead there. And maybe in the Bay Area—when you’ve been touring “cozy” basement apartments and studios so small you actually laugh upon entry—you fall in love with that life just a little too easily.

That’s what happened this week to Tovin and me: We got lucky, we got close and then we got nothing.

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Jerry Tarkanian’s biggest mistake ever

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A few years ago, right around this time of year, I had the chance to interview former UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who died today at 84.

I was working on a Valentine’s Day story about couples in the spotlight, how local Vegas celebrities manage the ups and downs of a relationship in the public sphere. So photographer Leila Navidi and I showed up to talk with Tark and his wife Lois, a city councilwoman, at their Las Vegas home. While we waited for Lois to arrive, I sat in the kitchen with Tark, trying to make small talk while he grumbled about Lois the way old married couples do. He wasn’t really in the mood for an interview, but he mostly tolerated us anyway. And when we got around to the early days in his relationship with Lois he lit up a bit, and told this wonderfully endearing story:

“We didn’t have a big wedding because we didn’t have a lot of money. I was the assistant football coach at a Catholic high school and it was football season. We had a game on Friday night and we got married on Saturday. I took her to the Fresno State/Idaho football game [for our honeymoon], and she’s never forgiven me for that. That was the biggest mistake I ever made, but in reality there was nowhere to go.”

Click here to read Tark’s obituary on the Las Vegas Sun, and click here for the rest of our 2011 story on “Love in the limelight.”

I resolve: Four things I maybe probably won’t do in 2015

Red cabbage salad with fennel, orange and pepitas (a new recipe for 2014, not from one of my cookbooks).

Red cabbage salad with fennel, orange and pepitas (a new recipe for 2014, not from one of my cookbooks).

New Year’s resolutions don’t work. You know this. I know this. It is fact.

Take my 2014 resolution—to listen to, and delete, my voicemails. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, there are currently four unplayed voicemails on my iPhone, but that’s because I ditched my old phone (and its 90ish unplayed messages) a couple of weeks ago.

Or take my 2013 resolution—to floss. I think I’ve made that one four or five times now. Never works. I’m an avid brusher, but as my dentist will tell you, I just don’t floss.

New Year’s resolutions don’t work because we resolve to do things we don’t really want to do. Sure, they’re often things we should do, things that the imaginary miniature mother living on our shoulders would nag us to do (in between scolding us to put on a sweater and asking if we want some tea). But unless you actually want to complete your New Year’s resolutions they won’t stick. Just ask the packet of floss in my bathroom drawer.

So, this year I’m going to try making promises I want to keep. Now, let’s see how I do in 2015.

I resolve …

• … to train for and run my first marathon. I’ve been running for a few years now, half-marathons, relays, trails. I even completed a goal to run 1,000 miles in 2014. And two weeks ago, I did my longest run ever, a 16-miler on McCullough Hills Trail that felt shockingly good, despite the 1,500-plus feet of elevation gain. So it feels like this is the year to step up to the next level. Plus, I’m unemployed, so I should have plenty of time to train.

• … to read more books. I don’t read enough books, and I’m self-conscious about it. I read on vacation, but at home picking up a book just isn’t part of my routine. I read the newspaper, I read magazines, I read way too much stupid crap online, but in 2015 I’m going to read more books—starting with the stack that’s been sitting at the bottom of my bed for months.

• … to cook new recipes. The thing about having a cookbook collection is that people expect you to, like, cook from them, and not just, like, find all your recipes on Epicurious and make the same things over and over. This can be a problem for me. But this is the year I actually bring my cookbooks into the kitchen, which is probably where they belong, right?

• … to have more weekend adventures. This falls firmly into the category of things-I-really-want-to-do-but-am-too-lazy-to-plan. So this will serve as my little self pep talk: Self, don’t be a lazy bum this year. Plan hiking trips and camping weekends. Scout out awesome cabins and cool places to kayak, and then find people who would also like to have fun and not just sit on the couch and go do these amazing, memorable things. Got it? Okay. Ready? Break!

There it is, folks. Four resolutions for 2015, which I’ll start, ya know, tomorrow.

So this is wedding planning

My perfect wedding venue: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They don't do weddings.

My perfect wedding venue: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. They don’t do weddings.

I have made a spreadsheet. In fact, by now the spreadsheet is color-coded, with 14 fields, and 21 venues, and all kinds of lingo I didn’t even know a couple of months ago.

Among the preferred vendors and BYOs, hopefully there is my future wedding. I swear it’s there, but it’s sorta tough to see that sketch right now. Maybe it’s the dozens of “real wedding” photo galleries I’ve clicked through or all the delightfully vague venue descriptors—”rustic chic,” “industrial glam,” “contemporary country.” I’m sure there’s a meaningful difference, but they all seem to include string lights and wood. When wedding vendor contact forms leave a text box for “your event vision,” I’ve taken to just leaving it blank. Who can form a complete, original vision among all those Mason jars and burlap table runners?

Next month, Tovin and I are heading to the Bay Area to scout wedding venues. The planner we recently interviewed (the lovely Stacy Hillstead of Wink! Weddings) promised me that once the when and the where are settled everything will come into focus. Let’s hope she’s right. Until then, I’ll be watching 27 Dresses and working on my spreadsheet.


This is seal potato


Looks can be deceiving. Take this guy. Is he a potato? Is he a clay sculpture? Is he an itsy bitsy seal that lacks eyes, a nose, a mouth and a tale?

He’s seal potato. And you know what, he ain’t mad about it.