Pilsner’s Progress – Saipan Edition

A week ago, a bar buddy and I were looking for a bar near my San Vicente apartment.  Now I have not found any great bar in San Vicente, but hey, I walk, and there are lots of twisty streets here.  None full of great bars.  But my buddy, a big-wig at the tourism council here, should know.  It’s not just his job to know where the bars are, it’s a passion with him.

Nope. Zilch, Nada.  We bounce down side streets — why fill in the holes?  Do that, people just go to fast. — Like I say, we bounce down side streets, and find nothing within 3 miles of my place.  And the bar only has Bud Lite. In desperation, we drink the watered-down soapy ammonia brew.

It was that moment that I realized I live in the wrong part of the Island.  If I’m going to have to live in an apartment, I had better have a good bar within walking distance.

As it is, in San Vicente, I got a huge apartment with a great sunrise view over the pacific.  But no beach, only a half mile of jungle down to sheer cliffs.  And a mile and a half walk to the closest coffee shop.  Java Joes, it’s across the street from the supermarket that mysteriously has higher prices for exactly the same things as all the mom and pop shops that are everywhere.  It is another 2 1/2 miles down the hill to the oases of Beach Road.

As the fatal Bud Lite hits my innards, my stomach does a little dance of submission and humiliation, I realize I gotta move.

My current lease runs out in a month so I seize the opportunity!  I start at a major intersection on the lagoon.  (Yes. Lagoon.  I knew you were going to ask.  The beach here is on a lagoon.  The coral reef is at least a half mile off, and the water is shallow, warm and calm: All the time.  Just thought you might want to know.)  I start at the intersection and start walking around looking for places with apartments for rent.  It is an easy walk down or up Beach Road to nearly 80% of the businesses in Saipan from this intersection.  Most everything is on Beach Road, but clustered in several areas: touristy Garapan up north, Library, Shopping Center down south, and Bank and Theatre here at Isa Road.  Everybody calls it Isa, but recently it got renamed to honor a dead priest.  Nobody remembers the name.

So I walk south and call all the numbers posted with “apt for rent” signs.  I walk north and take a look down an alley.  A local family is walking out of their house.  I say hi, and ask if there are any rentals.  They all point to a house nearby.

There, Jess shows me a tiny three room space.  Bedroom, kitchen, bath.  But each is in a separate building.  Cool!!!!   This one is high on my list on sheer funk factor alone.  Jess tells me that he just painted there and doesn’t know what the owner is asking.  We talk for a while.  I leave.

The next day, the owner calls, comes and picks me up from San Vicente, and shows me a very tiny, but very workable apartment —   This one is all in the same place, and I sigh as I give up my dream to commute from kitchen to bathroom.  The price is right: $200/mo.  100 yards from the lagoon. 200 yards from Isa Road. I’m Superman, Able to walk over tall buildings in a single step.  We shake hands, I give him my deposit and it’s all over.

A new record for apartment hunting.  Four Hours.  Tops.  I have raised the bar for “quickest rental.”  My biggest challenge now is to get a snorkel and fins.

I move in a couple of weeks.  My address will not be changing: The US Post Office has no connection to geography in Saipan.

Oh, yes.  There’s a bowling alley nearby, bar included.

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