Wednesday, June 4, 2014

House-Hunting in South Philly

I moved from New York to South Philly in 2005, with my then-fiancée/almost then-husband/now ex-husband. We rented a house for two years, and then decided that we liked South Philly enough to want to purchase a home there. It took a very long time to select the place that we would call our home. My ex-husband isn't exactly a handyman, so we wanted a house that had already been renovated. One time, he put together an Ikea bed. After he put it together, he realized that the bed frame was actually upside down. He felt that it didn't matter because it really wasn't noticeable. He was right. It really didn't matter-- for about a year. What happened after that year, was that I came home from work, and I flopped down onto the bed. Unfortunately for me, the entire bed caved in. This is why we were seeking a house that, at the most, required us to hang our own pictures. Wanting a renovated house meant that I did not want a house with someone's old carpeting, which would most likely possess one or more of the following qualities:

a) had been excessively walked on by former owners.
b) had been walked on by dogs, cats, hamsters, horses, lizards, etc.
c) has had food and/or drink spilled on it, and is now deeply embedded in the carpet fibers, much like the vomit in quality "d" below.
d) has been vomited on.

An avid shopper of vintage items and an artist of found objects, I am somehow intensely freaked out by other people's old crap. It's fine to buy someone's old crap and slap it on a canvas or wooden board, but I don't want to live in a house where people were dying and throwing up all over the carpets. If a house hadn't been entirely gutted out and renovated, I wanted nothing to do with it. This lead to a long, labored house hunt, lasting several months.

In South Philly, it was difficult to find houses that don't have:

a) at least one mirrored wall
b) a ceiling that looks like a board game because it's made up of many squares.
c) a statue of the Virgin Mary, or some other religious representation.
d) a carpet that is purple or green.
e) more pointless, waste of space knickknacks than a store on Antique Row.
f) a large dog, drooling all over the carpet and furniture.

Here are some other things that we came across in the search for our first home:

a) A house with a urinal in the basement.
b) A house that caused my ex-husband to say "It smells like a bunch of old people died in here!" upon opening the front door.
c) A house that was so cluttered we had trouble walking. The owners apologized-- "Sorry! We still haven't finished putting away these Christmas gifts yet!" It was almost February.
d) A house that was so clean I was afraid to move because I didn't want to create a dust particle. I would have licked the ground of the outdoor space in the back of that house. It looked cleaner than my dinner plates.
e) A house on a safe, quiet block that had a security system with a camera. There wouldn't be anything odd about that if the owner of the house hadn't been sitting in the basement watching 24-hour footage of the street.

The next few are from when we originally moved to Philly and were looking for a place to rent, but I'll throw them in anyway:

f) A house that was falling apart so bad that when the owner shut the front door, a piece of it fell off. That same house was so worthless that the owner was actually using those ugly horse posts that you see on some South Philly sidewalks as a unique selling point. The sad part was that he really looked as though he believed in it.
g) A house with a kitchen that was so dilapidated that when I opened the refrigerator I had to ask, "Hey, why is the toaster oven in the fridge?" That same house also had an oven that looked like it was used to make lunch for the soldiers in World War I. I asked the owner when he was planning on replacing the stove. He looked horrified and offended that I would ask such a question. "Replace it!? IT WORKS!"

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