Wednesday, September 22, 2004
My New Apartment
Ahh…New York in the summertime -- when the whole world smells like trash. And pee. When the heat of the day radiates from the macadam until well into the evening, allowing residents to suffer a low level of nausea 24/7 for three solid months. When mysterious drips from tall buildings rain down upon midtown pedestrians, ruining their suits. What better time to look for an apartment in the city?
I’ll spare you the tedious recap of the 154 apartments I looked at before landing my current one. Suffice to say that if it wasn’t a crack den in my price range, it was a movie-fantasy apartment so far out of my price range I would have had to resort to selling crack to stay in it. My favorite had to be the day when I almost landed a Classic 6 on 86th and Columbus for $1700, due to some senile old lady about to sign over her lease to myself, whom she thought was her sister (?), but it fell through when someone tipped off the managing agent (damn doorman). So when I got a tip on one not only located within walking distance from work but under my price range, I did what any desperate New York apartment hunter would do – I jumped on it. Then I killed my broker.
I’m sure all of you who have ever had a time finding a residence in the five boroughs are now licking your lips waiting to hear how I found such a place. The secret? A mother who is not discreet when talking about her progeny to her coworkers. She told one person who told another who just happened to have a daughter breaking her lease. And thus I have my little corner of heaven on the Upper East Side.
Except it’s not a corner of heaven. At all. It is, what I would gently refer to as, “a dump”. Yes, my perception is a little skewed – I came from an extra large one-bedroom with balcony and pool in LA, but all relativity aside, the building is crap. Its façade does not bring to mind the height of Beaux Arts architecture, but rather the George Washington projects in Spanish Harlem (excuse me – “SpaHa”). The trash lives in a corner of the bottom stairway, but the Super’s pretty good about putting it out on trash day, so a pungent odor wafts up the hallway only every other day. The interior of the apartment is shellacked with white primer (which may be the only thing holding up the building, now that I think of it) and I have uninvited visitors of the cucaracha ilk every so often. But most of all, I hate, hate, hate my bathroom.
Just the act of shutting the door requires that one contort themself like a Cirque de Soliel sideshow act. The tile is painted (yes, painted) with some bargain latex from Home Depot that is now peeling off from the humidity, revealing a lovely patina of mold. The toilet is one of those industrial jobs that you see in schools or correctional facilities. Careful not to flush while still on the hopper – you might lose an intestinal organ. The plumbing in the tub isn’t quite finessed, so in the past few months I’ve had to get used to taking a bath and shower in tandem.
Not only is the bathroom almost unlivable, my upstairs neighbor is also a treat. She has no rugs, lots of high heels, a dachshund and apparently an elephant living with her. The dachshund likes to chase after a tennis ball she rolls down the hallway. The elephant likes to chase after a medicine ball she rolls down the hallway. I get to listen to their frolicking nightly (usually just about the time ‘Law & Order’ begins) with a second set starting promptly at 6:15 every morning.
My apartment is not a happy place. However its one redeeming quality is the big picture window in the living room. From there I get to watch the world pass by and write about them surreptitiously a storey and a half above. I see everything from there – dogs and their owners, drunk frat boys, kids going to the park with their nannies, trash pickers, undercover policemen, bored doormen. It’s more entertainment than a Saturday night at OTB. Perched at my writing desk, I have no trouble conjuring the Muse, a visitor I haven’t welcomed into my home for many years. For that alone it’s worth the small bathroom, cucarachas and elephant living above.
I still wish I had gotten that apartment on 86th & Columbus, though.