Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dorm Living At The Ritz Carlton

A few months ago, while arranging my visit to Iowa City, I searched for an apartment. Last year I rented a quaint attic-like apartment for a month. It was, cozy. One of the women from the Nonfiction Writing Program had left on assignment to Chile for the summer.

Being from San Francisco, we don't really do air-conditioning. We leave doors open and get a breeze. So I suppose having the air-conditioner on with the windows open wasn't the right move. My apartment could be hot as hell. It was cute, but I never wanted to be there. So this year, when I craigslisted an apartment sublet, I hoped for the best but didn't expect much.

A sophmore at University of Iowa wrote to me and said he was going to Italy for the summer, and was subletting his apartment. "It's high security," he told me. "You have to be a student to live here." How did that translate? Dormotory.

Since he had already left for the Italian Riviera, I met up with one of his friends to get the key. I had already been through a day of driving, a day of classes, and was facing a hundred pages of homework. A girl named Angel with a heavy Chicagan accent looked at me tenatively, asked my name and then proceeded to give me directions. Angel looked Filipina, and wore a coral dress with a Juicy belt wrapped around her chest. Her makeup was flawless, I remember that. I figured she was going out.

The key itself was a wide piece of plastic attached to a small metal chip. "This will get you in everywhere," she said. Everywhere as in the basement laundryroom, I had supposed. The apartment was located on the outer rim of Iowa City, and it was built so recently it didn't show up on Google Maps. I learned this the hard way.

Tired, and just wanting to sleep, I became lost. I was looking for a pentitenturary looking place, made of bricks and cement and possibly gated with steel wire. When I finally took what I thought was a wrong turn, curving up a long road to an upscale resort, it hit me. This was the place. This "resort" was where my apartment for the summer would be.

About ten nineteen and twenty year olds crowded around a Costco sized BBQ pit at the front entrance. Some of the women half clad in bikinis because there was a hot tub beside it. This was the entrance to one of the buildings. Men laughed hard and drank beer and the smell of marinated things waffed through the air. I asked where Building 2 was, and one of the women in a baseball cap said, "We're going that way."

The entrance opened up to a large stone fireplace that reached the skylight. It was in the center of the building, with mahaghanny chairs and tables around it. Plants and large works of modern art peppered the walls and mantle. My apartment itself had (what looked like) brand new modern couches, and a TV larger than the one I have at home with instructions for Tivo. My room has a closet the size of my bedroom in California. I was too tired to check out the kitchen, but it was more of the same.

For my first night, I fetched minimal needs until I could really unpack. I walked past three guys on my floor playing pool, hunched over the red felt. They looked up in unison, and I put my head down. I walked around the other side, though it was longer, to get back to my apartment. Something about the realization that I was possibly 10 years older than them, that they might ask me to join them really spooked me.

The only unsophisticated thing about my new digs was my bed. I considered at first that it might be an actual box spring. It was that hard. Laying on this cardboard-like slat, I tossed and turned, unable to shake that I would possibly be the oldest person in this College Co-ed haven. I calculated all the benefits of being older. I use 700 count sheets, have a nicer car (or have a car at all), have worked in large cities and lived in a ski resort town. This did not comfort me. I looked in the mirror, examined one side of my forehead and wondered if I needed Botox already. I stretched the corners of my eyes to rid my imaginary wrinkles.

I decided to watch TV to bore myself to sleep. The name, "Mark Ruffalo" appeared as I clicked on the television. I love Mark Ruffalo, so I kept it there. The movie was "Rumor has it..." Jennifer Aniston's narrative explained that her family was quite possibly the source of the book and movie "The Graduate" and that "Mrs. Robinson" was her grandmother. Really though? This is what I get? The only movie worth watching is interwoven with tales of The Graduate?

I woke up the next day and walked through the quiet halls to the parking lot. Even though it's summer, these hot young guys seem to be everywhere. I mean, really though? At 8 am? Isn't that why people go to college, to sleep in until noon? Again, head down, I passed a guy with a deep tan, wrinkled t-shirt and a baseball hat.

"You from California?" he said, eyeing my license plate.

I unlocked my car with my key fob, something I rarely do. It whirled out it's two tone security sound, which embarrassed me a little because to his crappy used Ford, I'm sure it seemed flashy.

"Yeah, I guess so," I said, stupidly. How can someone "guess" they are from someplace?

"Cool," he said. "Nice car."

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