Manhattan: The Roving Adventures of a Serial Subletter
By TRISH HALL
HERE have been times when Bud Ghegan, on his way home after a very late night with friends, has to pause for a moment. Where exactly, he has to ask himself, does he live?
It is a natural enough question for a guy who has occupied three different apartments in the last three months. Mr. Ghegan, through his own choice, has been a serial subletter, moving from furnished place to furnished place, sometimes with no more commitment to his environment than a check for one month's rent.
He has not always been this peripatetic. When he moved to New York several years ago to take a job with a management consulting firm after graduating from the University of Virginia, he took an apartment on the Upper West Side with two friends, paying $1,250 a month for his own room.
But in the beginning of this summer, he found out that his work might take him to London soon, although it was not clear exactly when. Because of that uncertainty, he did not want to renew his lease when it ended in July.
For a month, he traveled to Eastern Europe and Russia, visiting a friend who is working with the Peace Corps in Siberia, and in August, he settled it into his first sublet, a one-bedroom apartment in the West Village for $2,000 a month. After that, he tried out a large studio in Murray Hill for $1,600, and for the last month, he has been living in a smaller studio for $1,350 a month in the East Village, on Third Street between First and Second Avenues.
He has made arrangements with his current landlord to keep the apartment until he goes to London, whenever that might be. The apartment is simple and nearly without color, except for the bathroom painted a blue to match the Matisse poster on the wall. There is a bed and a few chairs next to a small table.
When a visitor asks whether it is O.K. to put a glass of water on the table, Mr. Ghegan said jokingly: "Sure. It's not mine."
A plaid spread on the bed and the towels in the bathroom are his only contribution to the decor. What he carries from place to place has diminished drastically with each move.
"I started out with a ton of stuff," he said. "To my first sublet, I took all my clothes and CD's, and more books than I'd read in the last year, even letters people had written." After moving his possessions up and down four flights of stairs, he reconsidered.
"Pretty soon you realize, how much of this stuff do I actually use?" he said. He put the music from many of his CD's into his computer, a laptop that now has two small speakers attached to it. He now packs only the clothes that are in season, a few books and his guitar. Everything else is in storage.
Finding sublets, he said, has been easy. Each time, he logs onto www.sublet.com, types in his requirements and after paying a fee, gets access to the phone numbers of people who match his needs. He could easily find a new place in a day, he said, although he usually gives himself a week of lead time.
Moving each month has given him a financial flexibility that he likes.
"The cool thing with sublets is you can change your rent every month," he said. He wanted a less expensive place for October, for instance, because he knew he would be out of town a lot.
HE has had a chance to see various neighborhoods, and to learn about people simply from their objects. The first apartment was inhabited by a sculptor who had filled it with stainless steel fish. The second man, a decorative painter who put clouds on the bedroom ceilings and a jungle theme in the bathroom, cleared out most of his personal belongings.
"You can figure out who the person is just by the stuff," said Mr. Ghegan, who majored in both business and architecture and is convinced that possessions tell a lot about people. "I'm a big believer that habitat is a reflection of who you are, consciously or subconsciously."
Next week or the week after, he hopes to be off to London — for how long, he doesn't know. Why London? "If you heard my French, you'd understand why," he said. After 14 years of studying it in school, he said, "I don't speak horribly, but I would never try to provide advice about what's happening in an industry."
When he returns, and he hopes to return to New York, he would like to live in the East Village or the West Village, not as a subletter but in a permanent place. Still, he might start out by subletting, because there is another thing he has learned: sometimes the person who lives in the apartment is leaving for good, and it is an easy way to take over a lease without having to pay a broker's fee.