Leaving New York

By Ivan Vanderbyl

This is the second story in the set: My 2015 — The Year Of Transience


One thing which probably helped the feeling of being stuck more so than secure in New York was the fact that I had to pay many months of rent in advance to get an apartment, because being a new resident alien I had no Credit History in America. There was also this clause in my lease near the end — after all the riders about bed bugs, rats, scratching walls, and multi-tenancy — which said that breaking the lease would not only render my deposit void but exclude any possibility of getting back the months of rent I’d paid in advance for which I had not yet used. But if I sublet to someone else, then that didn’t break any rules.

So the plan was to find a sublet using Craigslist, because everyone in New York uses Craigslist to take out their dirty laundry, so to speak. And more than one colleague had said something like “You’ll have no problem filling your apartment, you might even make a profit, it’s a very competitive market out here”.

I listed my 7 month old, 600 square foot apartment on Craigslist with some nice photos and a pretty compelling pitch. After 3 weeks and countless re-posts with variations on the same tune, not a single person had committed even coming to look at it. I did get offers for everything from drugs, sex, and Ponzi schemes in the process. Apparently listing your place on the sublets list is somehow a free for all where classification is ignored, or maybe that’s all of Craigslist, I didn’t hang around long enough to find out.

After some thinking I concluded I should list it on the same site I found it on, StreetEasy. It cost a few hundred bucks but it sure was worth it.

Less than a day later, a Thursday evening if I recall, an actress from LA walked through the door with her film director boyfriend, didn’t say much except for some pointed questions and then asked if I could be out of there by Saturday. I said sure, if she can pay all the rent in advance.

A few days later as I was moving my things out and she was loading her new place up with more boxes of belongings than I could have stored everything I’d owned in my life so far, she asked “What do you do for living?”, I responded with my usual terse acclaim “I build apps and stuff”.

Cool, like a hacker?

“Sure, if you’re not referring to the kind that find exploits in other people’s systems.” She was actually referring to that type, but the term Hacker has become synonymous with both building things and breaking things I suppose.

“Wow so you like work with computers all day yeah?”

“Yep, pretty much all the time” I said, as I felt this conversation heading down the sort of cliché dark hole of a nerdy college flick from the 90s.

“I’m actually an actress, I’m working on a show called Mr Robot, have you seen it?”

“Nope, never heard of it” I responded, thinking oh god this is going to as bad as CSI Cyber with a token white guy in a suit saying “zoom and enhance” over and over to reproduce the registration plate of a car seen in the reflection of a chrome surface through a window in some low resolution surveillance footage taken from a camera across the street. Which only somehow survives any credibility because the audience is too stupid to know that this is infact a plot hole.

I also already knew she was an actress from pulling her name from our email exchange and finding her IMDB page, which was impressive both in that that it was the last result I expected, and that she’d been in some pretty big stuff on American TV, and had a nomination or two. But regardless I never follow pop culture closely enough to even be able to identify half the actresses men or women in America talk about wanting to fuck.

Mr Robot however was not yet listed on her IMDB, so I hadn’t heard of it. But she did assure me it wasn’t as bad as CSI Cyber, and that the writer Sam Esmail had done a lot of research to avoid said plot holes.

A few weeks later I was flying to San Francisco and saw season 1 of Mr Robot on the inflight entertainment, and binge watched half of it. I can assure you it’s quite good, so much so that my friends who actually work in cyber security begrudgingly enjoy it, and I’m glad to see an American TV show including some themes which wouldn’t have been seen ten years ago.

Carly ended up being the perfect person to sublet to because I think she was constantly expecting some asshole from New York to do wrong by her, so when I didn’t, things worked out well.

In the end I didn’t get my deposit back due a few unrelated technicalities, which taught me a solid lesson about New York and stands as a testament to a constant reminder I was first told by a dear friend before moving there:

New York will eat you, if you let it. — Dee-Jane
The same quote depicted on a poster on my walk to work, July, 2014. Artist: Ivan Orama

I’ll publish the third story soon in a few days.

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