If it doesn't have a floor, can you call it a bedroom?

Armed with a map and the latest listings from the Daily Sun, we spent the weekend in Flagstaff looking for a place to live. Perhaps more appropriately, we spent the weekend in the car, which was itself primarily in Flagstaff, except for the 250-mile one-way drive, at which time it was on the highway.

Winter doesn’t seem like a very good time to go house-hunting up there. Even the nicest rental—and there are not very many of them, a point to which I will return—is surrounded by mud. And this winter, extraordinarily heavy snow shellacked the trees in most of the neighborhoods we visited, so that piles of dead wood waiting for pickup line every driveway. And, there just aren’t that many listings available in the spring, as most leases run into the summertime.

But what was available was, well, by and large, you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We drove out into the country south of Flagstaff to a couple of smaller mountain communities that a friend recommended we check out. Based on that ill-fated adventure, I have just a bit of Advice to Future Landlords: If the “home” you would like to rent isn’t ready, don’t advertise it, and don’t promise over the phone that you’re “going to fix it up real nice.” Holy hell, this place was miserable: It looked like it was rotting on its foundation, the porch was decrepit, the walls were filthy and peeling, and four crumbling sofas sat in the bedroom—which at least mostly obscured the holes in the floor.

Increasing the price range quite a bit didn’t open up many more options—it just made for hovels with more bedrooms, generally. We developed a handy translation system for making sense of rental ads.

  • Cozy: Apartment is in a basement with six-foot ceilings.
  • Condo: Squalid mud hut
  • Cottage: Studio apartment with six-foot ceilings located in the rear of a mud hut
  • Clean: Cleaned once, when new, since abandoned to entropy and/or badgers
  • Carport: Lean-to currently occupied by a badger
  • Eclectic: Remodeling begun and aborted by at least four different “handymen.” Both closets are “still full of my tools, but you can probably squeeze some of your stuff in there.”
  • Fenced yard: Fifty-degree slope ringed by cyclone fencing and stray dogs

After a trying weekend of driving, calling, and google-mapping (and waiting for something better to come up on HBO; how many times can they show Coneheads in any single two-day period?), we finally found a place that seems like it will do the trick: It’s clean in the conventionally-understood sense, and actually really pretty, inviting, and comfortable. It’s owned and managed by a professional who has taken great care of it, and although it’s perhaps not ideal because of its price, we’re actually really excited about it. It’s in what looks like a nice location, with relatively easy access to downtown and to walking trails for the dogs. However, it wouldn’t hurt to have more options, so now is the time, gentle reader, to call up those old friends living in Flagstaff and mention that you have an internet best buddy who is looking for a place to live, and might they have any more leads?