Airbnb hosting

A little over a year ago, I decided to try my hand at hosting Airbnb guests in my apartment. A nice easy way to make a bit of extra cash, I thought, and I like meeting people.

I was part of the online Couchsurfing community years back, when I tried my hand at visiting some cities to promote my new comic book ideas, long before I was published, and I hadn’t had any bad experiences.

So I set up a room in my basement, a nice cool space with a queen size bed and another twin, memory foam mattresses with plenty of blankets, a private bathroom, free wifi, and full use of the kitchen and dining room areas. Little things make a big difference in pricing on Airbnb. Having a private entrance that locks, for example, and having variable check-in and check-out times.

I live in an older space, so the recommended pricing on my apartment is generally between 25 and 45 per night, sleeping up to three people. A pretty decent deal, when nearby hotel rooms with similar amenities but no kitchen run double or triple the price. But hosting isn’t always so easy. I work a lot, so accommodating people’s arrival and departure times isn’t easy. Some guests check out at 4 am, some at 11 am (the latest check out time), and others want late check outs. Some guests arrive hours early, some at 5 pm, and some in the middle of the night. And I have guests nearly every day, so I have to find time to be home between guests to clean the basement up: changing bedding, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, changing the garbage, and vacuuming, plus making sure the rest of the house is presentable. And it’s preferred to be there when the guests arrive and depart, but I often just have to leave a key out for them, or have them leave the key and lock the door behind them.

Despite all of this, I have had mostly good experiences in hosting. I have had guests from all over the world: Colorado, New England, Florida, New Brunswick, Mexico City, Tehran, Dublin, Paris, Rome, New York City, Addis Ababa, Moscow, Osaka, Shanghai, Bombay. By and large, people are pleasant, kind, good communicators, respectful, and clean.

But every 7th guest or so, I’ll have a slightly negative experience, something that makes it feel not worth it at all.

The guest who sends passive aggressive text messages at midnight about some random complaint.

The guest who is pleasant in person, but then leaves a passive-aggressive comment about something online, rather like an errant Yelp review, about how the place was filthy when it wasn’t, or how I stomped on the floor above them all night when I didn’t.

The guest who uses my groceries without asking.

The guest who hangs out in the living room all day, seemingly traveling halfway around the world to plop himself on my couch and never leave.

The guest who expects excessive amenities with his 25 dollar room rate, like free laundry detergent, surround sound, and a foot massage.

The guest who comes to get away and drink or drug out in my basement, making little effort to clean up after himself afterwards. Also, the guest who makes way too much noise late at night.

The guest who cooks the stinkiest fish I have ever smelled at 1 am, leaving the aroma to assault me in my sleep one floor up.

And the guest who leaves the surprising messes behind, unflushed human waste or a pile of sand spread over the carpet.

Overall, I suppose it is rather like the hotel industry, you never quite know who is arriving to stay in your room and you have to try to be accommodating. The difference being, of course, that this is my home. When I stay in other people’s homes as an Airbnb guest, I work hard to be respectful, quiet, clean, forthright, and understanding, yet not everyone has the same value systems as me.

I’ve met a lot of very cool people through Airbnb. The man from Tibet who brought me an orchid as a thank you for letting him stay, the young musicians newly married traveling around to launch their careers, the elderly parents from Japan here to see their only daughter married to an American, the young Frenchman who stayed for three months and turned out to be a great friend, the two Saudi brothers who made me laughing uproariously at their jokes on Muslim culture.

I sit back and marvel at the new innovations in industry happening in the world. People are launching their own home businesses by selling items they pick up at garage sales on Ebay, by doing magic tricks on YouTube stations, by using their car as a taxi and their home as a hotel. The world has never been more connected as we draw in to each other around the world over the Internet, yet never disconnected as we stare at our big and little screens.

Overall, I do Airbnb for one simple reason: it helps pay the bills. Having an extra (on average) 30 dollars per day is a small amount that builds up, because 30 days of that in a row makes up 900 dollars.

And that’s the face of American life more than any other: we do what it takes to pay the bills.

airbnb_800px

Advertisements

Let me take a selfie

I blog. Obviously.

There have been times over the last few years of my blogging that men will flirt with me or chat with me a bit. I’ll invite them out for coffee, and they’ll respond with a ‘no thank you. I saw your blog, and I don’t want to be someone that you write about later.’

This is absolutely hilarious to me. I share of lot of myself on my blog, but anyone who thinks they know me well by reading things that I’ve written, well, they will be surprised when they actually get to know me and realize I’m much more complex than some words on a screen. I write about things, and about myself, but I am much more than the things I write about.

When I write about others, I do one of two things: I change their names and a few key components of their identity, and only share things that are sanguine to a topic or that I know they would be okay with me sharing; OR I get their permission to tell stories about them. I’m not a passive-aggressive individual who vents about strangers on my blog, naming them by name and publishing for all readers to see. That would be downright cruel.

I also share openly on Facebook, and on my YouTube channel. I share things I am comfortable sharing. I try to keep my Facebook page one of positive energy, wit, and inspiring thoughts and ideas. It can at times be a delicate balance. Oversharing is uncomfortable, as is public whining.

Recently, in a conversation with a 15 year old male, I was told that Facebook was for the “older generation”. “Kids are using Snapchat now. Facebook just kind of. It’s not really for us, it’s more for your age.” I was startled by this. But as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, looking at my friends and those who posted often, it did indeed seem to be primarily those in their mid 20s to late 40s. Funny videos, random statuses, and selfies.

Now I take selfies from time to time. I might send to a friend or two or I might post one on my Facebook wall in an attempt to, again, be either inspiring, witty, or funny. I’ll make a thoughtful face, snap the shot, post, and write some sort of line underneath.

In thinking about selfies, I realize there is a certain amount of ego involved in taking and posting them. There is an assumption that if I take a selfie, I not only like my face, I assume that other people will want to see it also, and that they are interested in what I have to say and show. I suppose there is some desire for validation and reciprocity.

Honestly, that’s a lot of the reason I blog. I have something to say and I assume people will want to read my words and share in my experiences.

Today, I made myself black coffee and, as I drink it shirtless, I snapped a selfie, contemplating how such a delicious drink is zero calories. Yesterday, I had a flat tire. While I waited for the tow truck, I snapped a selfie of my frowning by the tire. A few days ago, I snapped a selfie of me cuddling with my four year old. The day before that, I asked a woman to take one of me with my children in the swimming pool.

There is no hidden agenda when I post a photo of myself. Just like anyone on Facebook, I enjoy getting ‘likes’ and comments on my photos. It’s fun to have the ego stroked a bit. But the fact of the matter is, I have no idea if other people want to see my face, if they don’t want to see my face, if they are ambivalent to my face, if they are tired of my face, or if they wish my face was on their Facebook feed more often.

Again, I like the validation. But I post the selfies, well, for me. Which is another turn of ego I suppose.

I’ve written on Ego before, but I see it as a pretty healthy thing. I spent a bulk of my life kind of hiding in plain sight. So to be at a point in my life when I like who I am, when I like how I look, when I like how I present myself… well, I’m pretty damn okay with that.

So it turns out, at nearly 40, I might just be a “millenial”, one of that dreaded generation who texts too much, has too many apps, and is glued to their phones, posting statuses and Emojis and images of themselves on social media. I hashtag things. I share, comment, like, view, Tweet, Imessage, Snapchat, and download apps. It isn’t so complicated, it’s just this new generation, and I’m fully a part of that.

So as I engage in social media expression, at age 37, as a dad and a social worker and a writer, I’ll keep sharing what I choose to share when I choose to share it, and I’ll be just fine with having a bit of ego about it.

But first, let me take a selfie.

13230063_10156975804295061_4788861655004312279_n

Men Seeking Men

rum-coke

It was a Saturday night and, lacking anything better to do, my best friend Kole and I walked down to the gay bar a few blocks from my apartment, a divey little place with tables and chairs and a nice back patio. We showed our IDs at the door and walked the perimeter of the place, looking at the patrons as they nursed their drinks, everyone checking everyone else out.

“Let’s just get one drink,” Kole said. “My treat.”

I hesitated. “I drank last night. Not really sure I want anything.”

“Come on, two bachelors out on the town on a Saturday night. One drink.” Kole smiled and I rolled my eyes.

“All right, one drink.”

“What do you want?”

“Surprise me.”

Kole walked over to the empty bar and smiled at the bartender. “We’ll take two drinks, something sweet. Surprise us.” Then for the next few minutes, the bar tender mixed different colored beverages in two mason jars, stuck straws in them, and handed them over. They were much larger drinks than we had planned, but when in Rome, and soon we were seated at a corner table taking sips as we talked about life.

Kole is a unique friend, and one of my favorite people. We can laugh, be obnoxious, and be adventurous, and we can kick back and be serious and there for each other during the tough times. We spent some time being snarky, laughing about inside jokes, then the buzz from the sicky-sweet started to kick in. Normally, I’m pretty happy when drinking, I get silly and want to dance. That night, though, the alcohol seemed to have the opposite impact, and I got sad and serious.

Kole, who had recently broken up with the last guy he was dating, lamented about the simple things it takes in relationships to help him be happy. He took another sip from his drink. “Have I ever told you about the date where I knew I fell in love Todd?” Todd was Kole’s ex-husband; they had split just a few years ago after Todd had cheated on Kole with a younger guy.

I shook my head. “You haven’t.”

Kole twisted his lips up, a bit sad, thinking. “I had to cancel a date with him pretty early on in the relationship cause of some family stuff. He checked in on me, didn’t get mad, and later he picked me up and took me for a picnic where he had all of my favorite foods prepared. None of it went together. Vanilla Coke, Stovetop stuffing, and Twix bars. He did all of those things just for me. I knew it then. We had a good marriage for a long time, and I could overlook the bad things cause he did sweet things for me. He always had a Coke and a candy bar waiting for me at home when I had a bad day. He was always there when I came back. But over time, things changed. He started lying to me, then cheating. I think I might hate him now. But I can’t seem to find anyone who will care about me in the same way.”

I thought for a moment, looking at Kole with narrowed eyes as I came to a realization. “You know why dating isn’t working for you, don’t you?”

Kole shook his head, surprised. “No. Why?”

“Because you are looking for him.”

“Him?”

I nodded, sitting my drink down after one more sip. “Yeah. You are looking for your ex-husband. Or at least the way things were when things were good with him. You’re looking for someone who does things the way he did things.”

Kole looked surprised, then tilted his head as he chewed on that information for a minute. “You’re right. I can see that. But is that so wrong?”

“It absolutely isn’t wrong to want to be someone’s priority. But you’re never gonna find that. I mean, sure, you can find someone to date and care about you and put you first, but they won’t ever do it in the way that he did. It will be in the way they do it. Instead of picnics, it will be notes on the mirror, or instead of Cokes, it’ll be bear hugs at the end of the day. I closed my eyes tight, feeling my head spin from the alcohol a bit, like little wires of stress loosening in my brain. It felt wonderful. “I mean, we all look for what is familiar, right? And we all seem to turn down whatever doesn’t match that.”

I leaned forward in the chair, having some sort of epiphany on dating in my alcohol haze, like suddenly it all made sense. “We’re in the age of instant gratification, right? Look at all the lame reasons we rule people out for dating. They didn’t text back fast enough. Too old, too young. They only bottom or only top or aren’t versatile enough. They don’t have the same kinks I do. They’re too tall, they’re still in college, they want kids or have kids or don’t want kids. They’re too sensitive or not sensitive enough. They smoke, they are a recovering addict, they live too far away.”

I sat back then, gesturing with raised hands and talking just a bit too loud. “Everybody’s ruling everybody else out because they aren’t a picture perfect expression of exactly what they are looking for. And we’re gay, which makes it worse. Men are all logical, more head than heart anyway, and growing up gay meant hiding yourself or feeling broken or whatever. The cards are totally stacked against us.”

I rested my elbows on the table and put my head in my hands, suddenly tired. I half-expected the Beatles’ song Eleanor Rigby to come on. “Ah, look at all the lonely people.”

It’s just how it all works. Adam wants Ben who wants Charlie but Charlie only wants what David and Edward have and Frank doesn’t think anyone wants him and George doesn’t want anyone.” I took my long last drink, slurping up the remains from the ice cubes at the bottom, impressed with my alphabetical naming skills.

“But you’re totally gonna find someone, man. You’re one of the good ones.” I looked up, my brilliant speech finally concluded. I reached over the table, grasped Kole’s hand with a tight squeeze. “One day at a time, brother.”

“You too, Chad.” Kole squeezed my hand back, and then suddenly I was laughing, my chin dropped to my chest and my eyes closed. “What? What’s so funny?”

I laughed harder. “It’s Saturday night and we are buzzed in a bar and having this conversation. Oh god, we are those drunks.”

Two days later, Kole and I got coffee together. As we chatted, we took out our phones and opened up Grindr, the gay-chatting app. We compared notes on the guys we were looking at, starting chats with some, ignoring others, being ignored by others still, ruling out this one for this reason and that one for that reason, just like every other gay in the city.

And on another Saturday night soon me and Kole and so many others would wonder why we hadn’t found the one yet.

massively-into-faces