Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grand Experiment in Urban Living


We had a goal.  Go down to Memphis (for the first time ever) and in three days, find a place to live.  Success!

Jon did an excellent job of researching the Memphis-area, both from Afghanistan and Washington.  I admittedly did not do much, but I figured that since Jon was already hard at work and doing a much better job than I would have, I stepped back.  It wasn't until we arrived in the "Land of the Delta Blues," however, that we really figured things out.

We started to get a feel for the city immediately after disembarking from the plane.  And by feel, I mean sweat.  Despite spending all but the past three years of my life in the Midwest, I am not used to humidity any more.  These wimpy Northwest summers are spoiling me.  But we'll be in the thick of it (literally) soon, so it was probably good to begin the re-acclimation process.  Fortunately, it was much cooler than it had been, so we didn't have to suffer through anything hotter than the low 90s.

All along, we knew we wanted to live in the city, near Jon's work (and hopefully mine if I can get a job).  We will only be in the area for a short time, and since we don't have kids or pets, we weren't concerned with the school system or having a big backyard.  A suburban girl through and through, I have never lived in an actual city before, so I'm pretty excited about the change.  Jon lived in Seattle during college and really enjoyed it, so using that experience as a guide, began looking into the outer neighborhoods in Memphis and had some areas picked out.

Naively,  we opted not to rent a car, figuring we could navigate with public transportation.  The trolley and bus systems are fairly good...but not that good.  We started our apartment-hunting expedition in earnest by trekking out to an area called Mud Island.  On a map, it's not that far away from where we were staying.  On foot, in 90-degree heat, it was quite the hike.  I'm a fairly good sport most of the time, but I was not happy to discover that our directions got mixed up and the place we were supposed to be looking at was actually another half-mile away.  Jon wisely called a cab to take us to our next location.

Mud Island is nice, but it is very similar to the area we live in currently, so we kept on looking.  Our next destination was Midtown.  Jon read somewhere that "Memphis is Midtown," so both of us were thinking that this was it.  However, Midtown was much too spread out to tackle on foot (although believe me, we tried), and we are really eager to find somewhere walkable. 

On a bit of a whim, we took a look at a couple of places in the downtown area.  The city--specifically the police force--has done a lot over the past couple of years to clean up Memphis' reputation, and from what we could tell (over the course of a short three days), they are doing a good job.  Memphis is not an imposing city at all.  We felt comfortable and safe and with a dilemma.  Not only did we find one apartment we could see ourselves in but two.  Our list of positives for both places continued to grow and included things like, next to a minor league baseball stadium, above an operating train station, view of the Mississippi River, military discount.  Tough decision to make. 

But Jon is relentless.  After two full days of searching, I was tired and crawled into bed with a book.  Jon continued to dig up all the information he could find and even found one more place to check out so we would feel confident about making our final decision.  On our last day in Memphis, we headed out to what I will call "Apartment #1."  Ten seconds after walking in the door of the leasing office, we learned that the apartment we had looked at the day before had been rented.  In my mind, that was problem solved.  We'd head to "Apartment #2" and then have the rest of the day to ourselves.

Yet Jon convinced me to check out "Secret Apartment #3."  As we were looking at the front of the building, the construction supervisor came out and offered to show us the inside.  We were pretty much hooked.  The building is over 100 years old, yet has just been renovated.  It's absolutely beautiful with exposed brick, huge windows, and a rooftop garden.  The trolley line travels right down the street and Jon will be able to walk to work if he wants to.  We hemmed and hawed a little bit over lunch and went back to the building to walk through with the realtor, but I think in the back of both of our minds, we knew where we wanted to live.  We got the application filled out for "Apartment #3" just minutes before the office closed and mere hours before we left the city.

We just signed the lease this morning, so start making plans to visit beginning in October.

*So, clearly this post is dated as it is already October and we've already moved.  But I spent valuable time writing, so I'm posting it anyway.  Thanks for reading!

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