The Return of the Moose: Denying the Projects

Monday, April 10, 2006

Early March I wrapped up my year-long, 5 day a week writing experiment where I told true stories about growing up in Brooklyn and going to school in Boston. POSTCARDS was in the early development phase and I figured I needed time to publish the book. I decided to update this site twice a week for a while and eventually come back to the storytelling once I had the time.

Well, guess what? An unstructured blog is much more time-consuming than a structured one. The Moose in the Closet was easy to write after a while - I'd knock down a story in ten minutes. So, I'm going back to the Moose starting today. I won't be doing it five days a week but between this site and the POSTCARDS Production Blog I'll be putting something new up every Monday-Friday. If I was to guess at a schedule, I'd say POSTCARDS and the Moose will alternate between Tuesday/Thursday and Monday/Wednesday/Friday updates.

I'm probably going to try to do this round of stories in chronological order - there's a bit more structure here, this is the story of moving to DC, building a life and, more importantly, building a healthy relationship with Robin. I'll probably drop back to the Brooklyn/Boston stories now and again, there are quite a few stories left to tell.

Anyway - let's just get to the stories, shall we?


We left off with Robin and I spending our first night in DC - a hotel in McLean, Virginia, actually, several blocks from my first job out of college - a company we'll call TAO. They gave me a two-thousand dollar relocation account and our hotel was over a hundred dollars a night. We realized we were cutting it close but the apartment we secured (online without ever seeing it) will be ready for us in two weeks.

Our friends warned us about putting money down on an apartment but the rent was 800 a month in Arlington - supposedly the hip and trendy DC-metro area.

Let me tell you about Arlington. Ten, fifteen years ago, all of Arlington was straight ghetto. As communities built up around the orange line certain neighborhoods began to become more affluent. First Rosslyn, a quick walk from Georgetown across the Key Bridge - its closeness to DC and the fact that buildings within Rosslyn are actually allowed to be taller than the Washington Monument made it primo location for business development. Following the orange line you hit Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square and Ballston (which is now being built up quite rapidly).

My current apartment is between Rosslyn and Courthouse - I live within a block of eight restaurants, three bars, four fast-food joints, one video store, one grocery store, three coffee shops and one 24-hour CVS - it's everything I expected from the Arlington apartment we found online for 800 a month.

That apartment, however, wasn't on the orange line. It wasn't on any train line, actually - it was an hour long bus ride from our hotel. After trekking across Arlington to get to the building we notice the area around it - it's kind of run down, pawn shops and check cashing joints line the strip malls. Our apartment building has a seven foot iron gate topped with barbed wire. I grew up in Red Hook when Red Hook was bad - but there was always this sense of neighborhood - I rarely felt unsafe walking around Red Hook as a kid - I never felt like people were trying to keep me out. This part of Arlington was filled with ugly mid-rises and people who didn't want to live there - people who didn't feel safe.

We buzz the office from outside the gate and explain to the intercom that we're moving into the building in a couple of weeks and wanted to take a look around. We get rung in and make our way to the lobby - the smell of curry and sofrito hit us like a brick wall. We go to the office and ask the building manager if we're allowed to see our apartment and she tells us, "No."

That's really it. "No." No reason, no apologies. No offer to see a different apartment. Robin and I just decide to check out our floor at least, we get into the elevator that's littered with trash and sticky substances and ride up to the seventh floor.

The place reeks - the hall hasn't been cleaned in a while. Within several minutes we see a variety of bugs. Loud music - people yelling. I grew up in Red Hook, I remember visiting my Aunt Sophie's apartment as a kid - I knew what this was.

It was the Projects. It cost 800 bucks a month, they were probably trying to attract people with money - change the demographic within their building one renter at a time, but beyond that there was nothing about this building that didn't scream Projects.

I need to put you in our mindset and in order to do that I need to disclose some information that I'm not entirely comfortable disclosing. Robin and I both grew up in struggling families - you all know that. I got through college on grants and loans and stipends - the first person in my family to go through the four years. My first job was paying me a healthy 50k a year with a raise after six-months if I was performing - at the time I was making about the same amount of money my father was making.

I was proud - my family was proud. I could not have them visit me to find me living in the Projects. I told Robin I can't live here, she agreed - we walked away from our 300-dollar deposit, hopped a cab and made our way back to McLean, realizing that we'd need to find a new apartment as quick as possible.

Nothing's ever that easy, however.


posted by Jason at 7 Comments


Blogger Shane Bailey said...

Glad to see you returning to the regular Moose stories.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

The story... continues! It truly is the neverending story.

Oh, interesting comics news:

8:53 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Shane - glad to be doing it again - also, your posting here reminded me to check out Meanwhile... and thanks for the plug this past week.

Chris - Saw that story, love and support goes out to Taki for going public and respect goes to Ronee for fighting for her. I'll be making my donation come payday.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Dembicki said...

God I miss Strangeways, a defunct dive that featured 99-cent Blue Ribbon in a can. Now the ultra-yuppie Iota sits there. Really the only two places left fairly intact from that era is Galaxy Hut and Dremo's (Bardo). And I really miss the Crow Bar in D.C. Cause, ya know, we needed another law firm in this city!

10:32 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

You can get cans of Miller at Hard Times for a buck.

Iota was the first bar I went to in Arlington - after a year of living in the DC area. It was "eh".

I obviously love Dremo's, only been to Galaxy Hut a couple of times - mainly because Dremo's is closer and free wi-fi with my beer and Chicken Philly makes for a productive work environment.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Sean Maher said...

Glad you're back, brother. Love the new site design; cross-pollination? Brilliant.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Dembicki said...

Bardo Rodeo (now Dremo's) was actually the first bar I went to when I moved to D.C. in '93. I didn't realize that until now. The bathroom used to have one of those communal handwashing bin wher you stand on a lever and the water comes out. guys used to stand around it and piss in it instead of washing their hands. and yet no one found it unusal that ten guys were standing around with their dicks hanging out pissing into one big sink.

6:44 PM  

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