Looking for a home, Nashville edition

I thought moving from California would be difficult with the packing, loading the shipping containers, and driving but it turns out that moving to Nashville is harder. Where is our place here? We've been here looking for days and so far it's nowhere. I'm ultra-methodical when looking for a home and stalk Craigslist and property management sites, make phone calls and visit apartments to the detriment of anything else I may have to do. My mind swirls with THE CHOICES! and I mull over and weigh options until finally something makes sense. But the choices in Nashville thus far have been 1. sad 2. more sad and 3. depressing, I'm going to bed. We've found ourselves saying things like, "Well, if we're going to live on a sad street, then I'd rather be on that sad area." The city doesn't make sense yet to a degree that no amount of advice from others, driving for hours on end, and mad Googlemapping has solved. Everything so far has been out of our price range or dismal and I'm entirely confounded.

For years I had ability to attract unique or inexpensive homes - I was a caretaker for an old schoolhouse in Seattle and lived free in the nun's attic quarters, $500 for a room in a rent-controlled condo with brick walls and french doors to a patio in the East Village and at one point I almost lived on a boat - and from 1995 until a few years ago, my rent was almost always between $350 and $500. In Covington, we paid more than that and the place wasn't the perfect location but it had a LOAD of character and I'm a character junkie. I like urban and country, super old or super modern. I like the tall brick buildings of the inner city and log cabins and modular and mid-century. I subscribe to the idea that my surrounding's aesthetic affects my mind and swear that on a cul-de-sac my thoughts feel dead end. My ideas are bigger around tall buildings, trees, or mountains and fluid when I'm on water.

The first house we looked at in Nashville was nice inside but small. The smallness would have been fine if the vinyl siding of the outside wasn't as shabby, the front porch so dingy and the street so sad. "It is winter," we said as we walked down the sidewalk, "We have to imagine what this will look like in six months." But it also wasn't close to anywhere in the city we wanted to be and would have been a drive to everything. It had a yard and a park at the end of the street so Patsy would have been a happy dog but the humans would have been painting our nails black and popping Wellbutrin once they dried. It was cheaper than California but more than Cincinnati and Kentucky. I assumed we would easily shave off several hundred or even a third of our rent price by moving to Tennessee but this may not be true. We saw a place today that I nicknamed the moldy campground and it was only $150 cheaper than our Oceanside apartment. It was that house you went to a party at when you were 19: stained carpet, the walls listing oddly, cabinets that don't shut, extension cords run along the walls, and black in all the corners. It was on a beautiful street and looked great in the photos.

What I don't get is that Nashville has tons of artistic and musical residents, not all of whom can be rich. WHERE ARE YOU PEOPLE LIVING? I think it's more affordable to buy a house here than rent but we're not trying to buy a house. I've had people tell me that I need to live in East Nashville, or Sylvan Park, or Green Hills. We drive around and it looks great but nothing is for rent or it's boarded up or it's malls and tract housing at which point my brain's synapses quietly power down. One area, Germantown, I was warned against because it's supposedly not walkable to anything. We found it today and it was near a grocery, several cafes, and a farmer's market. I loved the buildings but everything was $1,800 or $2,000 a month. There is one Germantown house with a warehouse and watertower at the end of the street. Downtown is in the distance and modern row houses are around the corner. It was the warehouse and watertower that got me, though. In a potentially suburban setting, I actually find signs of industrialization comforting. The rent is less than $1,000 a month and we're going to see it tomorrow. Assuming we like the inside, the catch is that the current tenant doesn't know when she's moving out. "It could easily be by February," says the listing agent, "I'll be the first to know!"

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