Our Airbnb year of life
It was artistic New York, where Sid and Nancy became Sid and Nancy, and from which an imposing branch of the Gagosian Gallery now presides over the art world. A residential area of walks, cafes and rats, right in the center of it all, Chelsea embodied our image of city life, a fitting first stop on our homeless journey.
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But as soon as we entered our walk-up from a room facing the back, we were struck by the smell of gas. Worried, we alerted our host, who came and called the fire department. In a few minutes, the sirens approached. Helmeted men burst into the apartment.
“Smells like garbage,” one said.
“Spearmint,” said another.
And they were gone. A shrug and our host left too. We laid out bowls of vinegar, scattered charcoal briquettes, and sprinkled baking soda on the floors, to no avail. Defeated, Elaine bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby to console herself, but within hours it turned to mud – the freezer was hotter than the refrigerator.
Luckily, Airbnb took control of the situation and within days moved us upstairs to one of our host’s street-facing one-bedroom units – larger, brighter, and mostly odorless ( albeit with a daily wake-up call of horns and a blitzkrieg of profanity from frustrated drivers). We later recognized the cold business experience offered by this host and others of his ilk, with multiple listings of places impersonally furnished and a willingness to let unappreciated customers stay, was something we wished to avoid.
According to a report from 2014 report, although only 6% of Airbnb hosts rented more than two units, they accounted for more than a third of bookings in New York City. The same report found that the majority of short-term rentals in the city were illegal, and short-term rentals made thousands of apartments unavailable as long-term homes, two main reasons Airbnb is controversial in the world. New York and other places.
We enjoyed the intimate experience of staying at someone’s home at our next stop, on the north side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, two blocks from where Frank Serpico was shot.
A studio, it was decorated with Titanic-style suitcases, the leather box type made for travel, not travel; a large white “S”, possibly the sign of an old pharmacy; a big red “O” in a font that reminded me of an old cinema; a manual typewriter; And so on.