Pedro Ávila

After many trials, much deliberation, constant interruptions and no less than 3 death threats the search is over. I have new flat mates. And not a moment too soon.

With one Katie gone and the other soon bound for the grey Isles of Britannia, I was left wondering how to replace such characters in my life. That and their respective rent payments. They’d become such dependable friends and I knew I would miss them so.

Remaining-Katie helped me to shed some light on the matter from her usually helpful female perspective. Her reliable company by the window was just as appreciated with our almost mandatory tumbler of whatever alcohol sat on top of the fridge. Already-left-Katie, bless her heart, could do little from the heart of darkness, the war-and-disease-ravaged lands she currently assists in raising to civility. She wrote to me of her daily issues – problems of blatant and rampant racism, crossing war fronts in the line of fire, outrageous palm beaches with hammocks for the evenings, savage kitten-spewing cats, missing pants and large rats that were somehow responsible for the absence of the pants in the first place. Suddenly my issues of not having flat mates seemed pale in comparison.

But everyone has their problems, and large or small, I had to deal with mine.

So let’s get to the hunt for new flat mates. What this city holds in terms of dubious characters and outright weirdos is understood by some and well-known to most. I imagine almost any place on Earth with a large enough population of humans will have its fair share of shady types so know that I recognize that and am not here peddling in insignificant judgments. There’s no need to get all self-righteous or defensive and protective of your own town of wayward freaks. I know they’re everywhere. I’m from San Francisco and I have friends in other strange places like Portland, Manhattan, Las Vegas, Fairbanks, Brussels and Tilburg. I know these things.

But Amsterdam, friends… it’s a housing mess. This is true. Sure, New Yorkers pay 3 grand for a studio apartment in Manhattan and Parisians have to deal with the French – but do they have to worry about squatting mafia connections and large porn kings returning from a 2-year long flight from the cops?

Rhetorical questions, of course.

But seriously, you’d think that for an apartment in the center that is practically a living postcard with canal-side natural light, an absurdly large living space, a large kitchen, a sink in the bathroom and a decently normal flatmate with all of his teeth would attract good people so fast you’d wonder where they had all been living before.

But lo – the oddities of humanity are larger in number, and they love to answer them some Craigslist ads. They came in droves.

The first two girls that replied were from Spain and came as a pair. Ideal, I thought, and they seemed interesting. Red-and-blue-hair-kind of interesting – true – but interesting nonetheless. That is, until they asked about the possibility that I dye my hair green so that the mood would feel more rounded and we could project ourselves better across the continuum.

“What continuum?” I asked, naively. I shouldn’t have.

“You know, the essence of ‘x’,” said one of them.


“Ecstasy,” she corrected me. “It’ll be more soothing when we all do ecstasy.”

It went downhill from there.

All in all I received:

  • 21 responses from people living abroad who wanted the place no matter what.
  • 12 promises to deposit all necessary funds into my own account no matter how strongly I pointed out that we might have mice and maybe they should see the place first.
  • 10 Jesus freaks.
  • 8 propositions of marriage for a visa. Eight.
  • 6 responses from people whose names were so unpronounceable it was impossible to know their sex. 4 of them wouldn’t say. What’s up with that?
  • 6 replies in languages I could not identify.
  • 4 requests that I stop posting ads on craigslist because of global warming.
  • 4 Nigerian Bankers.
  • 2 accusations that I was actually an ex-missionary in Africa who should burn in hell or else pray there’s no afterlife. Apparently there’s an explanation for these on the craigslist website, but damned if I’m going to read it.
  • 5 responses from ex-professional athletes in their late 30′s who did not seem to read the HUGE part about how I was looking for young students/professionals between 20 and 30, and not large ex-linebackers for the Flevoland Flounders.
  • 1 pet chicken.
  • 1 proposition that I help a couple raise their child.

And as I said, no less than 3 death threats.

what? I don’t always know how to react to people.

Along the way I got, of course, numerous tugs on the sleeve and side-lip-whispered rationales and explanations out in the corridor for things ranging from criminal records to massive debt to schizophrenia. Naturally, I’ve left out the handful of otherwise reasonably normal people that I actually let come over and see the place. But even among these I had:

  • 5 exceptionally boring people.
  • 4 cases of clinical B.O.
  • 2 people with interpreters.
  • 1 violent allergy to peanuts AND ketchup.
  • 1 more Jesus freak


Nothing like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, but trouble all the same. I tell you, looking for a place to live or for flat mates to share your own is one hell of an exercise in getting to know humanity, assuming you’re into humanity. So you can imagine my glee when 2 girls of caliber and seemingly normal levels of decency showed up at my door with registration papers, phone numbers, passports and a fun and friendly demeanor. Hold on to them, Pete!

I snagged each of them by the arm, one at a time, and yanked them into the apartment, thrusting the contract and clean dishes at them with promises of respectful living conditions and no more than 1 mouse at a time since, you know, it’s Amsterdam. You can’t keep those little fuckers out forever.

Tibi Dabo, I told them, so long as they didn’t have pet chickens and didn’t set fire to my books.

And wouldn’t you know it? They signed on the dotted line and paid up. Jelena with her thorough accountant style and Maryla with her indifferent nonchalance to anything that might bother her. You can tell high caliber when you see it, I’ve been told. And that night, we all saw it.

Good times lie ahead, I think.

Pedro Ávila Pedro Ávila

For a reasonably sane & productive member of society (arguable, but let’s not complicate things), I’m far too mobile and unrooted. I travel quite a bit for a job that is simultaneously my greatest privilege and my worst burden.

So I write. And I write. Travel pieces, political journalism (a stretch from ranting but, still), short stories, poetry and other such riff-raff. I contribute to a handful of publications and will probably just keep going until something gives out, or someone gives in.


The Site

"It's a fresh look, based on Google's material design. The design is responsive... see? It adjusts to your mobile or tablet device, so th...… Continue reading

Of smiles and roars