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How to Find a Place to Live (part 4)

The exciting conclusion...

I just want to let you know straight up that this story has a happy ending. (To everyone's relief, I'm sure). But not without entertaining misadventure, first.

It was cold, gray and rainy on Friday as I made my way out to the East end on the Queen streetcar. Very ominous. The atmosphere was not improved by the sketch 7-11 at the top of the street.

My mantra - Queen East is the new Queen West.

I made my way down an unassuming street with small semi-detached houses. The place I'm heading for is a room in a basement apartment - shared kitchen, bath and laundry with two others under house shared by a guy and his girl.

As I reach the South end of the street, I see the house. The lawn - astroturf held in place with rocks. Two knee-high stone eagles are chained to the front steps. I remind myself it's what's inside that counts and knock on the door.

I am met by a boisterous Weimeraner and a waiflike woman who holds the dog off, with indifferent success, by using a water pistol. I step over various boxes and miscellaneous items strewn about the floor into a dark, gloomy and full of stuff house.

At this point, I'm just gratifying my curiousity. I could not live here. I'm introduced to the 'lounge' - a coat room at the rear of the house stuffed with two chairs, a desk, and an ancient computer. Doesn't change it from a place clearly architechturally intended as a place to remove boots and coats.

The downstairs apt. is equally small, though not as squalid - think tolerable student housing.

I beat as hasty a retreat as I could manage without being rude. (Incidentally, I'm leaving out a juicy detail here out of modesty and consideration for the folks who're renting the space out. If you really want to know the rest, email me).

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The second place, which I could actually have tolerated for a few months, no prob, thanks to the bright yellow walls and above-ground nature of the room, is in Kensington.

More of a house for travelers than a long-term kind of place, it reminded me (not unpleasantly) of some of the nicer hostels I've stayed it - communal kitchen, shared bathroom, an atmosphere of friendliness but not really intimate or heimlich.

Roomy and comfortable, for sure, but it wouldn't really feel more like home than a dorm.

The last place I hit, the upper level of a duplex in the Annex, was immediately appealing. The apt. is shared with two relaxed and groovy types who I could see kicking back with on the deck or chatting with over coffee on a Sunday morning, easy.

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The room itself, small but well lit with a window looking out into the back yard, plenty big enough for me, my desk and books, especially considering the cool kitchen/living room upstairs. Laundry, check, two bathrooms (nice and clean, too), check.

Five minutes there and I knew I wanted in. And, more icing for me, two cats who I know my kitty Lola will absolutely adore (she digs other cats- and shes about half their size). Lucky for me, the two extant roomies liked me more than the other seekers. That's right - come next month, I'll be annexed. And I can't wait.

Ultimately, finding a place is about simply hitting the pavement and looking at places. I saw six places altogether (and went through countless listing) - and let me tell you, you learn a lot about yourself going through the process.

For example, I've learned that in spite of my love of solitude, I can handle living with strangers, but the idea of living without in-house laundry (especially with the cold winter coming) is terrifying. So clearly I have a thing about ensuring the smallest number of people possible see my dirty unmentionables.

And I need space. A tiny bedroom is fine, but only if there's enough shared room to breathe - I checked out a place on Thanksgiving that not only had no laundry and a miniscule kitchen, but no living room whatsoever.

I would have been, for all intents and purposes, trapped in a 10x11 box. Watch me have a panic attack. Same with basements - the low ceilings and dim light kind of freak me out.

You've gotta trust your instincts, know your limits, and have a little luck (not to mention first and last months' rent).


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