I need to start this story with the Bungal-ette. I moved into it in 2003. Imagine a wood-frame bungalow, built in the late 30s. Imagine wood floors and tile in the bathroom and kitchen and windows everywhere. Imagine it shrunk down to 500 square feet. Imagine it convenient to bike lanes, bus routes, coffee shops, and a body of water. It was a little piece of rental perfection, and was thus my home for the dozen or so years between when I was hired at Grit City and when I went off to my divine year at Fancy-Pants U. And though the owner and I got along famously, "no sublets" was a hard and fast rule. Thus, I knew that I would have to find someplace to live upon my return. And I was pretty sure that I'd get less and pay more -- prices are high here, and Bungalettes are hard to come by.
I am here to tell you that I had no idea.
In the scant year I was away, rental prices went up about 15%. In a single year. And the vacancy rate fell to below 3%. I looked and looked. One place wanted a two-year lease. Another didn't come with a refrigerator. Another was a whopping twenty-five percent more than I had paid only a year ago, for a smaller and less desirable place. And just about everything already had five applications in.
And then I found the Beehive.
Here's how it went: my former Pilates instructor asked the owner of the studio who had a friend who was moving from one unit to another in a subdivided house, and so the small upstairs unit would be available, and might I be interested? Well, it was indeed small -- 410 square feet, including the closet. And certainly a little more chaotic than my previous place, what with everbody living on top of each other. And there were a few things that Did Not Work that I knew I would have to fix myself or just learn to live with. And the previous tenant had done only a desultory job cleaning. It was not promising at first. But... it was next to the neighborhood I was hoping for. And both the co-owners (one of whom lives in a back unit) seemed pretty cool, and happy to have someone mostly self-sufficient and quiet, as well as to knock off over half of the deposit in exchange for the full day of pre-move-in cleaning I did. And though the unit kitchen can only accommodate one butt at a time (and that only if said butt is not dancing), and a living/dining room that could not fit an actual dining table, it also had a little corner nook under the eaves for an office and my bike. It was still biking distance from work,if in a neighborhood a bit less well maintained. There were wood floors. The other tenants were friendly, and the resident co-owner built conceptual art out of reclaimed wood in the backyard, and was the kind of person who would eventually offer to swap her preserved meyer lemons for my cranberry-apple chutney. The bedroom got tons of morning sunlight. It had a little working gas fireplace in the corner to provide the heat in winter. It rented for 50% below market, enabling me to put well over a third of my take-home pay towards my ever-optimistic house fund. And it was available.
Reader, I rented it.
 "Why 'The Beehive?'," you may well ask. Well, in large part because, with four units in the house plus two stand-alones and the owner's workshop/studio -- did I mention she's a conceptual artist? -- in the backyard and half of the units taken up by people who either are related to each other or have known each other for ages, all kind of on top of each other, it's a hive of seemingly chaotic but perfectly cheerful activity. And also, because there is an actual colony of bees that has taken up residence in the exterior wall just below the gorgeous bay window in my miniscule living room. The screens, fortunately, are sound. I checked.