The very first Curlew Quarterly interview took place on a Saturday afternoon in early April, 2017. That Saturday Emily Fishman and I headed over to Alison Rodriguez's place in Park Slope, on Carroll Street, near Fifth Avenue. Back then this journal was an idea, a hypothesis, something that may or may not become a reality, but was worth a shot.
The plan was simple. I had helped Alison and her husband, Paul, look for an apartment to rent the year before. They were moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn, and had found my real estate agent profile on Zillow, or maybe it was Trulia. A little over a year later, they had found a place, and Alison had written "Over the River and Through the Woods," which describes and recounts the journey of their search. That afternoon in April, 2017, I had planned to interview Alison, meanwhile Emily would capture portraits and photographs of Alison, Paul, their son, Sebastian, as well as their two hounds, Sasha and Samba.
A few paragraphs from Alison's piece appear below. More to follow over the coming days. Photography by Emily Fishman.
All of our best,
March 22nd, 2020
. . . I found what felt like a million different options and arranged to see all of them. There was one that looked like it got good light. I am a sucker for good light. I emailed the agent and he told me that the only time I could see it would be at the open house. Apparently the current tenant didn’t want to allow showings. I added it to the list of ten other apartments that we would see that Saturday in March and moved onto the next listing.
The day of the open house, it was miserable outside. It was overcast and rainy with the raw coldness of spring that makes you wonder if it will ever be warm again. Like every other weekend, we had trekked into New York City to look at apartments. We had seen everything on the list and nothing was possible. But we had one left; that apartment where the tenant wouldn’t let the apartment be seen. We had fifteen minutes until the open house was over and even though we were exhausted, we decided to go.
We found parking just out front of the apartment. The rain started to clear as we got there. The real estate agent looked thrilled that we showed up. Apparently only one other couple had come, and they didn’t like the place. The current tenant was requiring everyone to take off their shoes before they entered. We struggled to pull off our wet, muddy rain boots and walked inside.
It was everything. It was perfect. It was home.
Sunlight streamed through the bay windows and the kitchen was charming, just off of the hallway. The bathroom had seen better days, but there was a claw-foot tub that was darling. The bedrooms were small, but there was a patio off of the back of the main bedroom.
We walked outside.
“We’ll take it,” we said to the agent. He looked at us, shocked. We looked at him, thrilled. This would be the eighth apartment we would apply for. We were out of time and desperately in love.
At some point in this story, it makes sense to mention that we have great credit scores and a bit of cash tucked away so that we can hopefully buy a home at some point. We don’t have a questionable past and people tend to think that we are nice when we meet them.
But alas, there had just been no getting around our two hounds.
“Give me $100,” the agent said in thickly accented English. “I need to run your credit score,” he explained.
“We have two dogs -- labs,” I said first, wanting to make sure I got this hurdle out of the way. “Yes, yes. Dogs, no problem,” he said.
We haggled a bit more, back and forth. Could he speak with the landlady and make sure that the dogs were okay before running our credit score? Yes. Would he take PayPal? No. Would he take Western Union? No.
We gave him cash. No receipt.
We left, giddy with excitement and anticipation, laughing in the rain.
He called the next day: “The dogs would be fine.”
I had never taken so much time with an application. In the end, it was over eighty pages.
We included reference letters from our lawyer, our accountant, our previous landlady, and friends, all vowing that we were good people. Two years of tax returns, dog photos and a charming story about why we (foolishly) had adopted two of them rounded out the application. I had never wanted an apartment so much in my life.
The agent called back. We were set to sign the lease. We went to meet the landlady. She was utterly gracious, explaining to us how she had renovated her home after buying what ashes remained following a fire that had destroyed the building decades ago.
We thanked her profusely for accepting our two darling dogs. Somberly, she relayed that her own two dogs, that had looked just like ours, recently passed away. She smiled sadly. Her new puppy scampered up and she bent down to pet it, the loss still reflected in her eyes.
It’s hard to lose a pet. They become part of your family, part of your life, and even after they are gone, you always reminisce about the crazy, adorable, annoying, wonderful things that they did. We’ve lost several over the years (we like to adopt older pets, we are not pet murderers, thank you) and the loss stays with you for more time than you might expect, or even realize. did. We’ve lost several over the years (we like to adopt older pets, we are not pet murderers, thank you) and the loss stays with you for more time than you might expect, or even realize.
With the paperwork finished, we thanked her again and started to dream about what it would be like to move into Brooklyn. A few weeks later, we got the keys, ready to start our new life in our beautiful apartment with the bay windows and a little patio out back.
We walked into our new home. The cleaning lady was smoking as she sat perched in the bay windows. Except, they weren’t bay windows. Just regular windows, looking out to the street, glaring back the overhead light that buzzed above. The previous tenant had moved out because the beautiful claw-foot bathtub had collapsed while her son was in it, taking a bath. The water from the bath had flooded the apartment and the apartments below. The floorboards creaked and the kitchen was in the hallway with old, wooden cabinets and counter space that was narrower than me while pregnant.
Nothing was how we remembered it, and I felt a flash of fear.
What have we done?
In our excitement, in our giddiness, we had glossed over some very important facts. As I climbed into the claw-foot tub that was propped up on bricks with my eight-month pregnant belly, it swayed beneath my feet.
But as we had accepted the keys from the real estate agent, he had added something unexpected.