Apartment Living – The Edge of Poverty

One thing that living in an “affordable” apartment complex is that you live among people who are near the poverty line. No desperate poor, but people who are close. There are many signs, but one sure sign is the ubiquitous “Swisher Sweets” wrappers.

Not being a smoker, I wasn’t very aware of the small flavored cigarillos that are sold at convenience stores. Small, dark paper (like a cigar, not a cigarette) and often with wild flavors. Orange, Chocolate, Cherry, and others, they are popular with kids (those near 18) as they were inexpensive, and sold in singles or three at a time.

These wrappers are all over the apartment grounds
These wrappers are all over the apartment grounds

When the cost of a package of cigarettes approaching $9.00, the less taxed flavored cigarillos is a popular option. That and the fact that they can be bought in singles or in small packages. A couple bucks will buy a 3 pack, or about 70 cents each. Popular when you live dollar by dollar.

I know that they are popular here, as you can’t walk without seeing the empty wrappers everywhere. On dog walks, or even cycling in the neighborhood, you see them all over.

It is sobering to be reminded on such small items of how close to poverty many people live today.

Update: A friend who shall be nameless mentioned that there is possibly another explanation for all the Swisher Sweets wrappers, than people who could only afford a couple of smokes at a time. Apparently they are opened up, the tobacco stripped out, and then stuffed with marijuana. We might have a pot-head problem instead of a poverty problem.  Not sure that is better though.

Apartment Living – Now the party house is a car repair…

More on the trials and tribulations of living in an apartment, this time, the house across the street has stepped up their game beyond the 4 nights a week of parties. Now they are doing auto repair.

Yep, auto repair. Changing oil, replacing starters, installing LOUD stereo systems, and fart cans on cheap Japanese econoboxes.

It is a joy, especially since they start at about 6 PM. Nothing like unmuffled motorcycles buzzing up and down the street. I think I prefer the parties, the fights, and the police activity.

Then last week, an honest to god street race on Sunday night. About 8:00 PM two cars pull up, a chase car behind them, and redline clutch drop. Sigh.

I hope we can one day afford to buy a house.

Apartment Living – Competitive Parking

Life in a moderate density apartment complex is fun, and I mean that in the most positive way. The property management team does try to be fair, particularly around “parking“.

Each unit has one assigned space. There is a “permit” (a mirror hangar) that looks impossible to counterfeit. And even if you could, the spaces are assigned, so each permit is numbered. We have one.

Of course, most units have people living with more than one vehicle in them, so the quandary is where to park.

There is no formal guest parking. No open slots in the lots to fight over. Cool, I guess. So it is on the street.

Sidebar: Clearly the people in San Jose never fucking learnt to parallel park, or they just suck at it. Or both.

During the day, it usually isn’t too bad, there are enough openings to get a decent spot. Starting around 6:00PM, it becomes brutal. Not enough linear feet + people who can’t park to save their lives = chaos. Some people leave acres of room before and after their car, and some insist upon jamming in close up. There are typically about 7 – 9 car spaces wasted by morons parking.

After 10:00PM, you are definitely going to have to go well int o the neighborhoods to find free space.

It doesn’t help that across the street are a series of duplexes virtually all with three garage spaces (split, 2 for one “master” unit, and 1 for the “rental”) that have been converted to additional rentals. That means that the small yards they have are now parking, and a lot of overflow into the street. Sigh.

Street cleaning day is the 1st Friday of the month, and it does mostly empty the streets. For a few hours anyways. Then the chaos returns.

The Office has a few reserved spots, and  there are 5 employee parking spots in the main lot. Of course, when the office is open, the residents do honor these reserved spots.  Until the office manager leaves, then BAM they are all filled. Strangely, the employee spots don’t get used (my theory is that we do have an on-premise maintenance person, and he is likely to call the towing company.)

There is hope though. There are a number of “extra” spaces that can be “rented” for $35 a month. Alas, they are all taken, and we are on the waiting list for one of them when it frees up, and our turn rolls around.

Apartment Living – Living with less space

Having the shock of going from ~2,400 sqft to < 1,200 sqft is enough. While we never filled out last house, we had collected a lot of “stuff“. But there are things we have lost that hurt. Today, I will talk about kitchen space

Both our houses in Arizona had ample counter space. In Tucson, they were fine Corien counter tops, with ample space for gadgets. But I didn’t need to keep the gadgets out, as we had massive amounts of cabinet space.

Chandler was similar. Lots of places to tuck and hide things to keep the counters clean, and presentable.

Add to that the large pantries, and life was good. You could stock up in a trip to Costco, or even goof and double up on things like condiments, or canned food. It didn’t matter, there was plenty of room.

Not so in Apartment land.

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Apartment Living – Competitive Laundry

Continuing on in the vein of apartment living adjustments, this episode will be about the laundry situation. As the units do not have hookups for washers and dryers, we have four laundry rooms spread across the campus. Open from 9:00AM until 10:00PM, they are convenient oases for those needing to do laundry.

Of course, there are wrinkles.

First – machine hogs

The doors unlock at precisely 9:00AM, and by 9:00:32 all the washers are full and running. The early crowd gets in and monopolizes the rooms.

This drives my wife nuts, as she walks down with our laundry in a basket to find all the machines occupied, even when she is early (for her).

Second – broken machines

The MachinesAs the tenants aren’t the owners of the machines, they often are out of service. Perhaps they overfilled it, and ran it too full, or perhaps it is just time for something to break. Regardless of the root cause, far too many of the machines are inoperable.

There is of course a phone number to call for service, and tenants can call, but most do not. In fact I would say that virtually none of them will call. They seem to assume that the property management team will track and report the non-functioning machines. But since they do not do their laundry, unless someone complains, they do not know to call.

My wife has reported broken machines in three of our 4 laundry rooms. Finally they are being fixed. Hopefully, that will reduce the contention for the machines.

Rays of light

One thing that is cool, is that instead of needing a fistful of quarters, the machines use smartcards that are rechargeable. No need to make a special trip to the bank to buy rolls of quarters.


Life in an apartment is interesting. Having lived in condo’s and houses for the last 15 years have insulated me from some of the frictions that are in normal lives. So it is good to experience the other side.

I am just hoping that we can afford a house when our lease is up here and we can move into something that is more permanent.

Apartment Living – Communal Trash

The continuing saga of apartment living; today we will talk about the common trash area.

The complex has three parking lots, and in each parking lot has a common trash collection area. Three large trash bins, and one recycling bin. One would think that would be sufficient capacity. And they would be, if all was normal.

Fortunately, the pickup happens 3 times a week, so roughly every other day the trucks come.


Almost as soon as the the dumpsters are empty, the vultures move in. First to fill up is the recycling. Unfortunately the tenants here when they move, often jettison unwanted furniture and appliances. Straight into recycling. So by noon, the bin is full. Then they move to filling the trash dumpsters.

Alas, by late afternoon after the pickup, the trash bins look like the picture at the top of this post.

Then two things happen. First, there are some pros that come by to dump more. I see the same green older Chrysler minivan dump furniture and appliances. Overloaded to the max.

Second, the scavengers come. They pawl through the recycling looking for things with value (aluminum cans, metals for recycling, etc.) There are at least three different waves I see. Competitive recycling at its finest.

Then within 2 days, it all begins again.

I will say one thing, the maintenance staff of the apartment do a pretty efficient job of keeping it orderly, and as clean as possible. It is a daunting task.

Apartment Living Part Deux

Settling into apartment life is interesting to say the least. There are benefits and detriments of course in the life. This episode I will be just have some random observations.

The people

We are lucky that all our neighbors are pretty friendly. We wave and say “Hi” and they all say “Hi” back. This is easy for us, as we generally try to befriend our neighbors wherever we are.

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Apartment Living – A series

My wife and I have embarked on a new journey. As we wait for our house to sell in Arizona, with the fear of destroying our down payment for a house in temporary housing, we have punted and signed a lease on an apartment. Fortunately, we found a place that was happy to have us with our greyhounds. Yay.

This series of posts will chronicle our time here, and the fun that it will surely entail.

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