The tourist attractions of a city are like the nice shirt people wear on parties. The real estate market is like the underwear. One doesn’t have to match the other. So I was eager to explore the rented space in San Diego now that I plan to stay here for at least one month.
I opened craigslist.org which is always a creepy experience and started to browse around. The offers are overwhelming. The prices are very good, especially if you just want a studio. There are a lot of options for the students attending the University of California and a lot of roommate matchmaking.
First I went to a zone with the uninviting name of Cajon (the drawer). As scary as it may be for some people, it’s still a nice poor neighborhood. Yes, old cars and humble houses, but you have order and enough cleanliness. That’s the difference between poverty and decadence. In my country of origin, poor, nasty and insecure were pretty much the same thing. Here you can separate the concepts. I love this country and I find virtue even in its failures.
What pushed me out of this part of the city was the “culture” factor. The room for rent was in a neighborhood full of children yelling and running around. That alone told me that I won’t make the deal, but I inspected the place anyway. The room had a balcony with a clear reception of the music played by the neighbors in the building behind, and the selection of all of them was this Mexican combination of country and fair-band that they call “banda”. I think that music is the best reason to leave this planet. I said “thank you for your time” and ran to my car.
The next candidate was a room in a mansion at the top of a hill. Things looked pretty good and the owner waited for me in his Audi in a spot nearby. He asked me to follow him to his house and we entered a spacious front yard with trees. But then the guy came out of the car. It was a sixty years old white tall man, drunk as if he were coming from a bachelor party and dirty as if he was taking a nap in a dumpster. He smelled the same way he looked. Turning to me he opened his sleepy eyes and invited me to come in. We passed through the main entrance of a very elegant and furnished home that seemed to be totally out of maintenance for at least six months. He showed me the way to the kitchen that had a full view of a half full pool. That place was the epicenter of the mess. Nobody had cleaned after himself since Katrina, and even when the hurricane didn’t touch California, the untidiness found its way here. At that point, the tall man turned around and I notice that he had a knife in his right hand. Then I notice that he had an orange in the left hand and asked me if I'd like some fruit.
We seated at a glass table with digital prints of everyone who has been there since spring time and he conducted a general interview to see if I was a wordy renter. At the end of the orange, he showed me the way to the room. It was a cozy corner with its own bathroom. There was a bra hanging from the shower. He told me that his twenty years old daughter just moved a couple of days ago. Then a call interrupted. Some kind of broker was trying to negotiate a price. After that, he explained to me that we may have to leave some days to let the real estate seller show the house.
I have no idea what is happening in that life but I don’t want to be part of it. For a minute I even thought this may be just a homeless man who broked-in and was trying to rent this house out. But why not taking a shower or hold on the drinking that day? Does he found the keys of the Audi under the carpet? If I give this man a deposit check and then he disappears I’ll be the only one to blame. Even if he was the legitimate owner, he doesn’t seem to be in a position of returning checks. So I walked away.
I’m now in a comfortable apartment with independence entrance and bathroom just 15 minutes from downtown. A friendly Mexican couple rented it to me and let me move the very same day. No traces of “banda” around. This seems to be a Philippine neighbor, and I love how quiet everything is so far. I swear it's so silent that there is less noise outside than inside, and the only thing indoors is the fridge.
You place your chips, you roll the dices, and you collect. The only difference is that in real life you never know the extent of the bet.