Me, in a moment of desperation, morning number 12:

If this is the right place, I sure could use a sign. 

What kind of sign, Niki? 

Heck, I don’t know, maybe if we saw the eagle again…


I know, there’s no such thing as signs. 


We were on day six, seven or ten – who can recall? - of full-time, grueling apartment hunting.   Before arriving we’d spent collectively maybe a week in the area, so each experience was new, everything had to be learned, from how to recycle Boulder-style to where the grocery stores are.  Thank the tech gods for GPS.  


Each day I started out chipper and excited to see a new space. Each day by the third apartment, I was broken into a thousand micro-pieces of pain and exhaustion, which I lifted up to the universe in a big question mark, then dropped in a disorganized heap on my soft, foam Airbnb pillow at night.  Colin did physically better, but by the time a week had passed and we’d found nothing suitable, he was looking crookedly hunched, like a stick left out to dry in too much brazen sunshine.  Despite the excitement and beautiful mountains, we were snapping at each other over minor annoyances.  In a word, we were both demoralized. 


We’d agreed to look at nothing over our $1700/month budget for the fist week.  But everything sucked.  It was dark, or too small, or full of dog hair and looked out onto a brick wall.  In Boulder things are over- priced and shoddy, meant for students at the University.  In the ‘burbs, it’s a little less over-priced, but construction is visibly new, which on one hand usually means lovely looking cupboards and countertops, and on the other hand means thin walls and zero character. 


We learned so much that first week, such as how the corporate overlords of large apartment complexes change prices based on some algorithm meant to maximize profit, but seems to mere mortals like diabolical whimsy.  Some apartments wavered above, then below the $1700 mark, changing prices sometimes twice a day, not by just $10, but as much $80 or more.  It was like internet dating and buying an airline ticket combined  – more than once we became emotionally attached to a space we’d seen pretty pictures of on the internet, only to find that one had gone off the market or the price had gone up the next day.  We put an application in for one condo I fell for, but Colin felt isolated in the neighborhood and didn’t feel the bedrooms were big enough.  We had panicked and pulled the trigger too fast.  $110 gone.  The clock was ticking; we only had a week left.


Every morning Colin would check all the prices of all the floorplans we were interested in. “Bad news,” he would say when I woke up, “That one we wanted at Bell Summit at Flatirons is $62 more per month than it was when we went to bed.”  Start over.


Speaking of Bell Summit  at Flatirons, want another head banger? Everybody has named their apartment complex after the Flatiron mountains. So there is Bell Summit at Flatirons, Bell Flatirons, Grand View at Flatirons, Flatiron View, Flatiron Crossing… Addled from seeing the same dark wood imitation laminate floors in 18 apartments with practically the same name, I started referring to them as, “The one with the – you know – which was behind the thing,” and expecting Colin to figure it out.  Amazingly he had about a 50/50 shot.


Also, all of those apartment complexes have slightly different ways of breaking down the cost of your utilities, so comparing apples to apples requires, well, more guessing than math. Which creates a kind of low-burning, chronic frantic, frenzied doubt.  Whatever you do, it will be a gamble.  At most condos, water sewer and trash is included.  At some apartments, they participate in this socialistic system where everyone in the building shares the cost of these things. Some are in between.  In one case we were told that while we’d share the cost of air conditioning with the building, (and that it was gas powered,) our cooling bill may be more because our unit would be on the South side.  That turned out, not surprisingly, to be untrue.


At condos you may get a garage, but heaven forbid you skip the fancy amenities at some of the apartment complexes such as a tanning bed and doggie spa. In the way of amenities we might actually use, year round pool and hot tub topped our list.


We figured out early in the process that we were going to have to make some sacrifices. We both work at home.  Right now we have a really good deal on about 1100 square feet.  Colin’s office is in the formal dining room, plus we have two bedrooms, making it a practical thee-bedroom space. We have a whole bedroom dedicated to a massage/guest space. 


In the modern building frenzy in Colorado, there are no formal dining rooms.  But Coloradans wouldn’t think of having an 1100 square-foot apartment without a second bathroom and a washer and dryer. (Do we need a second bathroom?  Only when certain friends come to visit, or one of us is prepping for a colonoscopy.)  That’s the equivalent space of my office or my massage space.  Where will that go in the new world?


I’m not even sure I will ever feel well enough to do massage again, but would like to be optimistic, so maybe that’s not a priority. On the other, other hand, I do you like to keep my table up just so I can get face down and horizontal, which seems to relieve some of my pain.  Guest space?  How many people will come visit us, anyway?   Unknown!


So we decided the massage/guest space would have to be split up – massage, if plausible, would happen at the foot of the master bed, and Colin would put a futon/couch in his office space for guests. That required two beefy size bedrooms.


To complicate matters, we now have two trailers.  Yes, we are those people.  Our pop- up is already stored at a facility nearby, but Colin had hoped to retain access to his 5 x 7 cargo trailer he uses for shows, at least in the summer.  To our dismay, parking is a big issue in many Boulder and Broomfield areas.  You can drive anywhere for one minute and see wide open land, but no trailers are even allowed to park in most apartment or condo lots, even if you’re allowed two cars and it’s counted as your second car.  One tour guide even said they lack enough spaces for two cars per unit, so overflow is across the street at the bank, where you’d have to move your car by 10am or it would be towed.  If you pay for a garage, you lose one of your two allotted spaces, so may still have to use overflow if you get home later at night.


Here I put my foot down.  I am not moving to Colorado to continue the madness of moving my car every day, even if I’m not using it!  We will have a garage, or enough allotted space for our vehicles.   Colin volunteered to put his trailer in storage. 


Still, after a week we had 13 pages of notes and still no apartment.  


Meanwhile, after trudging through twenty spaces or more, I threw in yet a new criteria (I know, I’m such a diva!): there must be light coming from at least two sides in any living space. I also did not come to Colorado to live in the dark, I declared, and we saw too many spaces which looked like the light at the end of the tunnel. At only the end.  I am over it! 


Well, I did my best to put my foot down, but it wavered, my big toe peeking out, sliding along the edge, seeking a way out.  I kept thinking of all the movies I’ve seen where someone was being tortured and a faceless voice says, “You can make this all stop. You can make it all stop right now.  Just tell us what we want to know!” 


Just pick a space.   Any viable, reliably safe space. Whatever it is, it will be better than Sackett Street, (six years was not that long ago) with four flights of stairs, cockroaches, the furnace spewing carbon monoxide…All you really need is to keep the rain off your head and the chill winter air off your skin, right? 


But then I’d have to live there. And we don’t know for how long.  Might be one year, might be five.  And I really, really want a positive change of environment.  It’s been twenty years of city living, and I want…space, quiet, mountains, sunlight, a patio, clean air, hills and dales ….  No moving the car every day for street cleaning, no hauling my laundry three blocks away, no schlepping groceries on the subway, no emergency sirens 24/7, no opening heavy building doors, and heavy elevator gate and door (or up three flights of stairs) with stuff in my arms.  Just. No. More.


After a week or so, we did the math six different ways and figured out that we would have to increase our budget by at least $100 per month in order to get something that would truly make us truly happy to work at home most days, and come home to when we did choose leave.  By that point Colin had met with three theater companies and a corporate production company, all of whom seemed likely to engage his services at some point in the future, so stretching the budget by fifty pucks a piece didn’t seem too crazy.


Enter Terracina. We had looked at an apartment complex nearby, Catania, when we were in town last year. On the surface it looks to be a super nice, ultra modern complex in the middle of industrial nowhere. We had gone for about a half mile walk, which passed Terracina, and found a small park which seemed, honestly, a little sad. It bordered a highway on one side. There are no restaurants or businesses to walk to. Construction is happening on some future unknown businesses across the street. We were unimpressed despite many fancy amenities at Catania.


Terracina is designed to impress as an ostentatious Venetian resort, even from the outside.  As we’d walked by, our artist-brains said, “Well of course I’ll never afford anything like that.”  To us, theater people, it looks like a well-dressed set.  A three-tiered fountain dribbles water droplets into a shallow pool at the main entrance.  Romanesque columns support a horizontal trellis which is only missing aspiring red grapes.  An internet search shows an expansive, crystal blue pool surrounded by perfect loungers, a gazebo, bocci ball and basketball courts, an Italian-inspired yoga space with lofted ceilings, and a business center.


And one of the floor plans seems like it might work.  According to the drawings, one of the bedrooms is fifteen feet long, perfect for adding massage space.  The other is definitely large enough for Colin to share with a guest bed.  One morning Colin pulls out his laptop magic and says, “Hey, one of these is currently $1825 for a twelve month lease.  Wanna go look?”


Well, what the heck.  Of course, like everywhere else, we can’t see the actual apartment we’d be leasing.  We can’t even see the actual floor plan.  Just a model which is, “Very similar, but there would be an extra bedroom here, and some more space, like, here for the dining area.”  And on the other side of a vast complex.  We’re used to that by now.  I have a compass app on my phone, to assess sun coverage.  And we can imagine.


There are two units available in that floor plan.  Both are on the ground floor (not so great for views, but I’m also trying to reduce the schlepping factor, so… good.)  Both have light from two sides, and a floor plan which would somewhat separate my office form the living room.  Good.  One is $1776, one is $1901. The first, explains our tour guide, has partial views of the prairie behind.  The second, good views, which includes a field with horses. 


Horses are good, we say affably, and since we can’t see either unit from inside yet (they’re occupied) we go for a walk, and try our best not to look like we’re casing the joint. 


Circumnavigating the property, we came across the partial view first.  We noticed prairie dogs scurrying about along the slice of land  visible from the patio, and decided if we lived there we’d likely film a prairie dog version of “Meercat Manor.”  We tried not to notice – or mention to one another – the fact that the bedroom window looked at the dark, cement garage only feet away, and the view from the main floor mainly consisted of the building across the street.  It’s perfectly acceptable, we said, and continued our path along the back of the property.


Green space.  Open, pastoral, quiet, beautiful green …space. What?


As we walked along the path at the back of the property, I felt my heart quiet, my nervous system open up and go still.  I heard no highway noise, no loud intake vents, no ice cream trucks.  Just the occasional snort of horses nearby, and was that frogs we could hear chirping in the small pond just over yonder?  We sat down on the steps outside the entry to option #2.  The one sorely over budget at $1901/month.  It seemed like a good place to sit.  And rubbed our sore calves and closed our eyes, a moment. 


“I’m going to admit to you that I like this location better.”  I said to Colin. 


“Yeah.”  He said. 


We sat in silence a few moments longer, gazing at the horses and the prairie.


“Is that an eagle?” I said, knowing my eyes aren’t so good any more.


“Um.  Yeah…  I think…  Yes!”  he said.  And we watched as it soared, bald and proud.  Probably hunting our prairie dogs.  “Maybe it’s a sign.”


We both laughed.  There’s no such thing as signs.


So we put “prairie dogs” on our list of potentially acceptable spaces, but not “horses and eagles,”  because when you’ve started out with a $1700 ceiling, $1901 is right out.  We watched prices on both fluctuate daily, while shifting our search mostly to condos and townhouses, figuring those may be a better fit.


Meanwhile we did some more research on the area.  Turns out it’s actually .9 mile from the Park-n-Ride bus direct to Denver, and one of Colin’s big pet peeves about most our potential haunts is lack of public transportation.  Also, .2 miles away is the bus to the airport.  About 2 minutes down the road by car you can find Flatiron Crossing, a bustling hub of businesses and shopping mall, and by now Colin had grown used to the idea of driving for more of these kind of things.


We also learned there’s a wildlife refuge not far from the complex, which rescues, among other things, birds of prey.


A few days later I woke up and Colin said, “Prairie Dogs is gone.”  So we spent the next 48 hours looking at more spaces, mostly condos, which were starting to come available now, 45 days  before we want to move in.   


Then, one morning: “Hey, guess what’s down to $1828 this morning?”  Eagles and horses.


Me, in a moment of desperation, morning number 12:

If this is the right place, I sure could use a sign. 

What kind of sign, Niki? 

Heck, I don’t know, maybe if we saw the eagle again…


I know, there’s no such thing as signs.


So Wednesday we went back out to Terracina.  First we applied on line, so we could lock down the price and no one could rent it ahead of us.  We’d lose a max of $100 if we backed out in 24 hours. After than, $400.  On Thursday, a unit with the same floor plan was open for inspection.  We went for a walk again.


We toured the beautiful blue pool, the gazebo with comfy chairs and the dark cement parking structure.  We admired the sculpted landscaping, the view of gleaming white mountains from the front of the property, the business center with dark wood, oversized furniture, and even a nook high above which has a table and chairs, (but no way to get to it - staged for effect.)  We sampled the chocolate latte you can get out of the machine.  It was good.


Walked along the perimeter at the back of the building.  No eagle, but further along the path, we found ourselves at the “sad” looking park we’d seen the year before.  Only now it didn’t seem so sad.


“That’s the eagle,” said Colin out of the blue, almost as if it were another Subaru Forester, just like ours, parked next to us.  It happens.  There, I saw, up at the very top of a tree across the field. “And I think that’s a nest, right underneath.” 


Well, all right, OK.  There’s a refuge, so odds were in our favor.  We notice two guys heading toward the tree, with what looks like a big telephoto lens and some binoculars, so we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed.  We circled around back to the reception area, where we declare our find.  “Did you hear there are babies?” said the young woman working there.


Baby eagles? 


“Ok, now I’m sold.” Says Colin.  Signs or no, I agree.




So we are $128 over budget.  We hope we can make up some of that in free lightbulbs and coffee for Colin. (We’ve never lived in an apartment before where lightbulbs and fancy coffee are supplied.) Also, maybe by body will need less body work with access to a pool.


When we measured the similar model, (now open,) we discovered the master bedroom is only fifteen feet long if you include this awkward space where two doors close, so …the massage table space is back on the table, as it were.  We’ve heard the walls are paper-thin, and a woman sitting next to us in the lobby explained that she’s leaving because the upstairs neighbor’s dogs are too loud, scampering overhead in her living room.  Reviews of all the local apartment complexes are mixed, nnd it will be tight, overall.  Nothing is perfect. 


But we’re choosing it, anyway.  For the baby eagles.  And to make. It. Stop!

Photos by Emory Collinson        © Niki Naeve 2015