- To get an apartment, you need a bank account.
- To get a bank account, you need I.D.
- To get an I.D., you need a permanent address --- the motel wouldn't do, so you need an apartment.
Working under the logic that Ivanka wouldn't just grab the first place available, we started off the morning with the classifieds section of the Chronicle, looking at SROs that weren't too sketchy, someplace bordering Nob Hill and the Tenderloin. "Private Baths" was a plus in the listings. We found ten in an eight square block area and began scouting.
Rule number one: if you walk in and it smells like curry, don't bother. There may be Indian-run SROs in the world that aren't dumps, but I've yet to come across one. Expect bad plumbing, holes in the walls, and cockroaches the size of terriers. The walls are still standing, and that's good enough for an Indian landlord. (And tough shit if you think that's racist. I spent too much time looking for places to stay, only to find myself in an unused set from "The Blood of Heroes", to kid people. I don't like roaches, mold, stopped-up toilets, bad lighting, junkie-blood on the walls, and other atrocities. Avoid the places run by Indians, period.)
Rule number two: "Semi-private bath" just means "public bath with a key." The person responsible for blood/syringe artwork can be narrowed down to six or eight people.... maybe. If nobody bothers to close and lock the bathroom doors, it could be anyone in the damn building.
"Cooking facilities!" translates to an oven/range and refrigerator that have been in use since the Truman administration. You're better off with a mini-fridge from a dorm and a microwave. Neither will smell so bad.
The elevator. Hoo boy. It will be original equipment, like the 1930s, and may work just fine (if a little wobbly). Or it may break down four times a week, leaving you trapped for an hour between floors. Ask other tenants as to its reliability, and plan your exercise regimen around that: Rooms with private baths are usually up top, which may mean a six to eight floor hike . (Sometimes it's just a matter of some dipshit not closing the door all the way, taking the whole thing off line. Stupid jack-bags.)
We scored. We found a place on Franklin called The Winton that had a fully private bath, clean walls and linens, actual linen service, an exterior window (a blessing if you've ever been on an air shaft), no sign of roaches, functioning elevator, a pleasant lobby, working vending machines, and was a half-block from the Hilton, which meant being able to get a cab at any hour. Its price, $110 per week, was a walk for Ivanka, but a bit steep for those usually seeking long-term accommodations in such places, hence the vacancies. The tenants generally seemed to be bicycle messengers, who partied on weekends, but not where they lived, so noise would not be too much of an issue.... And if it was....
(Two weeks later....)
"Hey, that hot foreign chick asked if we could turn it down some."
"Ahh, fuck her."
"No dude, fuck you. She's the babe that gave me the money for a new chain when mine snapped. Not a loan, just 'Here, is this enough?' and 'Everyone needs to work, I help you to work', with a smile on her face. I've talked to her, she's helluv awesome She works doubles a couple days a week as a stripper and dancer, so she gets a workout as heavy as we do. She ain't tellin' us to clam up, just tone it down. She did me solid, I'm sayin' we let her get her rest, you know? And I already asked, she don't wanna party."
"So how hot is she?"
"Oh, dude. She is fucking hot, double-Ds and perky. She's here until she can get a real apartment; 'cos she's foreign she had trouble getting I.D. and shit; she's waiting on her real I.D. to come in the mail. Dude, I couldn't believe it. I was carrying my bike, we were waiting for the elevator. She asked me what happened, I told her my chain snapped. She stood there staring at my bike, then asked how much they cost. I told her, 'Hell, $65 or so, more'n what I got,' so she reaches in her purse and hands me fuckin' $80 and says with a big smile, 'Now you will still work!' I told her I couldn't pay her back for a couple weeks, and she says, 'Is no worry, it is so you work. We all need to work!' Coulda knocked me over with a feather, man."
"Maybe she think's yer hot, dude!"
"Naw, she spends a lot of time around this couple, the chick is pretty hot, and I guess the guy is okay looking. The way they interact it's obvious they're more than just friends, y'know? Like they really, really kiss when they see each other. I think they're... What's it called.... "
"Yeah, that's it. That would be a wild scene, man. Havin' two girlfriends? And they're both hotties? That dude's either really lucky or really skilled or something. And it's obvious they really care about each other, you know? They ain't just partyin'. The three of 'em hold hands walking down the street."
"Are they all foreign?"
"In a way, they may as well be. The dude's a punk, but kinda subtle looking, right? The other girl has jet black hair and bangs.... I swear I 've seen her before. And, um, Ivana, she's pretty straight looking. Kinda surprising being with those two, a punk and a trendy."
"She's gotta look that way."
"Figure dudes that go to strip clubs are basically building mental jack-off fuel for later on. They want women they can kinda relate to. You and me, we'd get into a chick with a mohawk, right? These dudes want chicks that you could imagine as bank tellers or receptionists or whatever. Punk chicks and rebel girls wouldn't get them off, they'd just scare 'em. You gotta know your audience. Sure, they may all be the same naked, but the.... the imagery they're selling has to be relatable to the dudes droppin' money. And I heard they drop a lot. Fuckin' dudes paying a chick $60 to sit on his lap and give him a hard-on with her ass-cheeks. Shit, they make a grand in four or five hours! That money? I never wanna hear the word 'exploitation' again."
Okay, address established. The next day (Ivanka still spent the night in the motel with us) we were up bright and early and took a cab to the DMV, so that Ivanka Kovnik of Bucharest, Romania would become Ivanka Kovnik of San Francisco, California, USA. There was an initial jam-up: the cheese-brain at the desk refused to recognize Ivanka's visa as a legitimate form of I.D. "I'll need to talk to my supervisor," she said. The supervisor was greeted by an unamused looking punk, a wild-eyed hipster chick, and an ash-blonde beauty who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, and had the indefatigable patience one adapts when dealing with that form of bureaucracy. We could outwait, out-pester, and out-insult anything they threw at us. The supervisor photocopied her documents, stamped APPROVED on them, and we were soon leaving with a temporary identification card. Ivanka probably took the only good DMV photo that decade.
The next stop was the Jackson Street branch of Wells Fargo to present various papers --- DMV identification, visa, and receipt for rent on a room at the Winton Hotel (they had to dig for them, many residents wanted proof they were anywhere else than there) so that a checking account could be created and the $3400 she'd been wandering around with in her purse could go someplace safer. The teller counted out the cash and asked point blank, "Where did you get this from?"
Ivanka answered with a smile, "Dancing naked for horny men. It is very.... Lucrative. Is that the right word? Yes?"
The teller, who couldn't dance naked for horny men on a bad night in Bakersfield, gave a "Hmmph" noise and took us outside for a lesson on how to make ATM deposits. The question was asked, "What if there's too much cash for a single envelope? Should she do two separate deposits?" The teller resisted the urge suggesting the money be deposited rectally, simply saying that two separate deposits should be made.
Ivanka had talked her way into a six-hour shift at the Hungry I, six to twelve, and even good drugs are a piss-poor substitute for sleep when you're going to be engaged in an athletic activity such as dancing to make men horny --- and given the complexity of her moves, one bad step could result in an injury --- so four hours of sleep would make the nut. We decided to go to the Winton and nap. The desk clerk stopped Bekka and me as we followed Ivanka to the elevator, wanting to know who we were and where we were going. Ivanka intervened, explaining we were her friends, the clerk would see much of us, and please do not be upset by our presence. We needed to rest before work, and would it be possible to wake us at five? No? Would a gesture of twenty dollars help? After all, it was very important we be woken at that hour. It would? Here you are, and thank you for your kindness.
In the elevator ride up, Ivanka explained, "Desk clerks are the same all over the world. Do not worry, he shall wake us. If he does not, people will think of him as a man who cannot be trusted and will be treated in kind." She was right, our door was knocked on at exactly five.
My biggest worry for Ivanka? Burn-out. She was doing a six-hour shift at the Hungry I; if she had her druthers she'd work four there then run down the street to spend another four at the Lusty Lady, a total of at least four or five hours on stage altogether. And she wasn't simply up there shaking it like a lot of girls, who would show off the goods and go down to work lap dances. Her routines were complex, erotic, and acrobatic, bringing on cheers as she "lost" her top in the middle of a running flip. And she'd keep this up for seven or eight minutes, a serious work-out, then work the tables while gleaming with sweat, which the men actually found even more appealing. It was like she was saying, "See how hard I've worked for you?" as she smiled at them and got their shirts and pants damp, which drove them wild. She'd have to put her hand up at least twice a night as guys gave up control and pulled it out. She'd warn them, but they'd refuse to put it back in their pants.
Bekka and I hadn't paid admission since our second night. We were viewed as her managers or something, the couple who took care of the hot and nasty but rather naive foreign girl. The manager also liked meth, so we were always welcome in his office. The girls would come to drop their cash, Bekka and I would critique whoever was on stage ("her timing is off," "dance, don't masturbate!" "she's gonna snap an ankle trying that move again") Then walk up the hill into Chinatown and get some dinner. Ivanka would insist on a dinner of two Snickers bars and a quart of milk.
We were getting her used to sleeping alone, insisting she stay --- by herself --- at the Winton, us reminding her that in two weeks we would be leaving for San Diego again, once we helped her find a decent apartment. She tried to deal with this news with good grace, but so far she had close acquaintances and not budding friendships, excluding a handful of bicycle messengers from the Winton, who seemed both friendly and star-struck: they couldn't believe this goddess wanted to sit around and talk about their respective days, maybe smoke some pot if Ivanka wasn't working that night. The friendliness with other dancers was a bit stilted: she was very friendly with them, and them with her, but they got the feeling she was trying to one-up them on the stage, when she was simply doing what came natural: she danced her ass off in her acrobatic way. She was having fun dancing, period. I feared she was feeling sad at the loss of the two people who had helped her escape from the Wellow family, and relocate to The City. All of us were losing a friend.
On the third day of apartment-hunting, Ivanka fell in love. It was a small 1-bedroom on Telegraph Hill, with a view overlooking Little Italy and across to Russian Hill, and sort of peeking around at the water. Parking was a challenge; her lack of interest in owning a car would serve her well. In fact, it was maybe a brisk seven-minute walk down to Broadway and both jobs. It was a relative bargain at $1200 per month [*For reference, this was 1988. These days this place would be $73,400,289... okay, a slight exaggeration, but still.... *]. We did the trudge up to Coit tower to enjoy the view while waiting for the property manager, and Ivanka only fell in love with it more.
The manager gave us the full tour, such as it was. A decent living room fronting outwards, with a smallish kitchen coming off of that. A hallway with closet space led back to a teen-size bedroom with a single bathroom connected by both the hall and bedroom. It was perfect for a single 22-year-old, the potential to make it very stylish was there. I poked around under sinks looking for mold or rust, checked for lifting carpets, and ran water taps to check for drips. Ivanka was dancing up and down with excitement.
"So what is your place of employment?" asked the manager.
"I have two jobs, at the Hungry I and at the Lusty Lady. I work many hours, I can afford rent, " said Ivanka.
"Do you have many gatherings?"
"BZZZT! That doesn't matter, so long as she doesn't disturb the neighbors or have the police called," I said.
"We've had problems renting to dancers in the past," said the manager in an icy tone.
"That's nice. Don't rent to the same ones again. This one works hard, thirty-five hours a week. With her work ethic, she wants to rest at home, not party it up."
The manager sighed, "All right, I'll try another dancer. God knows they always make rent. Sign here, here, and here, a $2200 check for deposit and a $1200 check for the first month's rent. Welcome home."
Bekka and Ivanka grabbed each other and squealed. I pissed on the parade, quite by mistake, by saying, "Too cool. What are you going to do about furniture?"
I'm not sure what was said next, but I'm sure that in Romania it would be considered very rude, especially from a lady's mouth. Presuming it translated to "Aw, heck" would be simplest.