Casual

PODHORETZ, JOHN

Casual THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM They're out there every Sunday, rain or shine, killing time the Manhattan way. They travel as couples, and all four of each couple's eyes are haunted with confusion,...

...The New York housing market plunged in the years between 1990 and 1994...
...I want," cried Henderson, the protagonist of Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King...
...Then there are the Sadomasochistic Hoboes...
...They're standing near the bathroom door at the corner Starbucks waiting their turn, or browsing at Barnes & Noble, or sitting at the counter in a coffee shop...
...They've got checkbooks in their pockets and a mortgage pre-approval letter in a briefcase...
...The uncertainty in the stock market has evidently caused many people to turn to real estate as a particularly sound investment...
...But still, there's the matter of finding a place...
...That's a lot of money...
...The other Hoboes are nowhere near ready to buy...
...Okay, so it's an extra $1,000 a month...
...Some Hoboes are ready to buy...
...Then, if you don't take another cab ever again, you can save $200 a month...
...But when they do go to a place they can afford, they walk around remarking on the appalling way their hosts have arranged the furniture...
...The pieces of paper come from the dining tables inside the apartments to which they've been directed that day by the Times's real-estate section...
...Therefore, many people want to sell their stock and use the cash for a down payment...
...They visit places they cannot afford so they can feel worse about the places in which they already live...
...It's happened before...
...Many apartment fetishistsóand everybody in New York City is an apartment fetishistólive for Sunday, because that's when real-estate agents throw open the doors of the apartments they're selling for about 90 minutes...
...There are the Sociologist Hoboes, who spend a great deal of time looking at the books on the shelves in the Open Houses...
...Everybody's lost the apartment of his dreams because he thought he was being responsible by sleeping on it...
...So basically, $100,000 will only cost you $100 extra a month...
...But where Henderson didn't know what it was he wanted, the Hoboes know all too well...
...Score...
...The Hoboes are killing time because they've seen the first batch of Open Houses between noon and 1:30 and now have to wait a half hour before getting to the second batch, open between 2 and 3:30...
...DR w/renov EIK in DM bldg steps from Central Park in their price range...
...The market isn't supposed to be this tight...
...And they've learned from bitter experience that they don't have any time to mull things over...
...They want a light-filled 3 br/2 ba, sep...
...That's what the Hoboes are crying out as well...
...Many people thought that the combined effects of a slow economy and September 11 would drive apartment prices way down...
...There are hundreds of thousands of dwellings on Manhattan island, but the number of apartments for sale in a single price range and size may be no more than 10 on any given Sunday...
...They travel as couples, and all four of each couple's eyes are haunted with confusion, downcast with disappointment, glittering with overstimulation...
...The Times section is folded over to display classified real-estate advertisements...
...If they don't act, the apartment will be gone...
...Then you go home, play on the computer with mortgage calculators, and manage to convince yourself that $100,000 is basically nothing...
...The Hoboes with checkbooks have already done all this math...
...Getting to this desperate point is a psychological process...
...Meet the Open House Hoboes, ceaselessly on the move all weekend, every weekend, in search of a better or happier or more fulfilling life...
...JOHN PODHORETZ...
...There are the Dreamier Hoboes, who are doing the real-estate equivalent of window shopping...
...And they'll continue to wander in search of it forever...
...Or want to sell their current apartments, take their profit, add some savings from stock sales to it, and trade up for more space...
...But factor in the tax breaks and it's only $610 a month...
...It's not even clear they're really apartment hunting at all...
...And the New York pride following September 11 has made living here seem virtuous and heroic...
...Along the way you'll also discover that you need to spend $100,000 more than you had planned just to get something you might consider livable...
...What marks them as a breed apart are the rolled-up pieces of paper they're carrying in one hand and the rolled-up section of the Sunday New York Times they're grasping for dear life in the other...
...If you live in New York City, you may have to commit to a transaction involving sums of money well over $500,000 in the space of a few minutes...
...And if you eat out only twice a month, instead of 10 times a month, you'll save another $300...
...It's possible, on a good day, that 200 people will traipse through an apartment in that short time...
...But it hasn't happened this time...

Vol. 7 • May 2002 • No. 34


 
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