Sublet It Be


Welcome to dee Hotel California.


I moved into this apartment building in 1982, age 26, and lived there for 13 years. During the last year I lived there, I started falling WAY behind on the rent. I was working on a very ambitious — and expensive — project. Recording, and pressing up a CD, a compilation of Berkeley street musicians. Along with publishing a big, fat magazine to go along with it. So I was using every penny I could get my hands on to produce the thing. And rent be damned.

Before that i had been a cartoonist for the previous 10 years. Which is one of the cheapest artistic mediums you could get into. I mean, with a dollar felt-tip pen, a dollar bottle of white-out, a piece of paper, and a 10 cent xerox, you could basically produce a piece of art that was suitable for publication in the slickest, glossy magazine in the world.

But music is like drugs. You always want a bigger hit. Better guitar strings, more powerful amplifiers, more expensive microphones. There’s no end to it. So by the time I finished the CD project I was a thousand dollars behind on the rent. I guess I was hoping the CD was going to be a big, big hit and i was going to be a big, big star. And I’d pay the rent that way. But it didn’t happen that way.

So I packed my stuff up into a big frame backpack, sublet my apartment to a friend of mine, and hit the streets. My friend would end up living there for the next 23 years. And in fact is still living there. Which is weird.

So I worked really hard for the next couple of years, and saved up a thousand bucks. And one day I walked into the office of the landlord on the first floor of the building. And dumped the thousand dollars on his desk.

The landlord was very surprised. “That’s the first time in all these years that any tenant has ever done THAT,” he said with a big smile on his face, as he counted up the money.

In part I did it so it wouldn’t cause any bad feelings towards the guy I had sublet to. But mostly I did it because I felt I had had such a great deal there for 13 years, I felt it was the least I could do.

But the weird thing is. Thanks to me and my subletter, that apartment has been successfully rented out, month after money, with no problems, uninterrupted, for 36 years. And counting.

But the weird thing is. If I tried to rent out an apartment today? My actual application, my resume, would look so sketchy on paper. That probably no landlord would rent to me. Ha ha.