Articles Archive for January 2010
After being downtown, my second criterion for an apartment was one that I live in one that was owned or operated by a responsive landlord or building manager. You may remember that when I lived in my Little Italy apartment, the apartment I lived in for three years before moving to LA, on eight separate occasions I either awoke in the morning or returned from vacation to find that my toilet had overflowed and there was shit and shit water and used toilet paper covering 20% of my apartment. I mentioned this to my landlord each time, and each time he “cleaned it up” (read: removed the water, but left bits of dried toilet paper and what I hoped was lettuce on much of the floor).
(It was not lettuce.)
(And worse, it was not even my lettuce – it was the entire building’s septic system’s.)
The coup de grace came on that eighth and final shit-spew. I was so used to the toilet overflowing when I went away for any stretch of time that I called my landlord, a real wop asshole, from LAX after being out in SoCal for a week:
Me: “Hi Vince, it’s Jason. Listen, I’ve been out of town for a week, and I’m assuming that the toilet has overflowed.”
Vince: [in real wop asshole voice] “Yeah, it’s my understanding that it did.”
Me: [sighing] “That’s fine. Can you just make sure it’s cleaned up – like, really cleaned up – this time? I have a six hour flight and don’t land until after midnight, so I’d rather not deal with that when I get home.”
Vince: [in real wop asshole voice, but trying to be conciliatory] “Oh yeah, yeah, Jay – no problem.”
When I returned home that night at around 1am, I saw that the landlord had done the standard cleaning job – bits of dried toilet paper and “lettuce” and brown streaks everywhere – but I also found poo/poo water on my $120 electric toothbrush and (wait, it gets better) saw that my two bath mats, which were thoroughly soaked in the poo water and covered in lettuce, were picked up off the bathroom floor and placed in my kitchen sink.
By 5pm the next day, I had sent a letter out via registered mail, initiating the process of suing him.
Ultimately, I didn’t (it turns out that suing someone is a lot of work). But I did get 100% of my security deposit back. Friends, lawyer friends among them, insisted that I push for more for all the damages, but I was moving cross-country and didn’t want to deal with it. (See also: laziness.)
So for my new apartment, I didn’t want an absentee landlord. This didn’t mean I needed to live in a white glove doorman luxury building with a fleet of supers on the premise, but, c’mon – if shit spews on my floor and I didn’t cause it, I want someone to show up promptly, clean it up thoroughly, and apologize to me profusely. I don’t think this a ton to ask in a city where most security deposits could represent a significant down payment on a house in 99.1% of the rest of the country.
The other not-really-apartment-but-apartment-related criteria I had was a simple one: no brokers. In NYC, your standard broker’s fee ranges from one month’s rent to 15% of the annual rent. I knew that this was a renter’s market, due to the depressed economy, so there was no way I was going to tack on a few extra grand just because some jerkoff had a lot of keys on his keychain.
Fortunately, this wasn’t that big of a deal. First, because there are a number of websites that list no-fee apartments. And second, because many brokers (and their fees) were being paid by landlords. So, not an issue.
Ultimately – and not to repeat myself (because I’ve written about this before) – I found, through a no-fee broker, a one bedroom apartment on Ludlow Street, just two blocks north of where I lived when I first moved into Manhattan in 2002 (after spending a year in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn). As I’ve said, I did not seek out the street on which I lived some of my favorite and funnest years, but rather was shown the apartment, was impressed and ultimately decided to take it.
(To clarify, it is in no way, shape or form sad that I’m back on the same street as a 30 year old that I lived on when I was 22. No, sir. Not sad at all. Just a total coincidence.)
Now just about two months into living there, the apartment and I have had something of an interesting relationship – not quite tumultuous, not quite peaceful, not even something in between, really. Just…interesting.
(Boy, that was a horrible paragraph.)
The obvious is that this is the nicest and most conveniently located apartment I’ve lived in. I’m the first to live there, as the entire building was recently gut renovated and fitted with nice and shiny appliances and such, and it has digitally controlled heat like in a hotel room (no small amenity in NYC, where in two of my previous apartments I ran the air conditioner in my bedroom in the winter, as the heat had two levels: “Off” and “Fuck yeah, it’s hot in here”). It’s also, as I said, on Ludlow Street, smack in the middle of the LES, which still has retained some of its charms despite the influx of, you know, phonies. And it’s around the corner from Rosario’s, where I’ve already developed a regular order (more on this another time).
But in addition to being the nicest and most conveniently located apartment I’ve ever lived in, it’s also the smallest and most expensive. Just as it has digitally controlled heat like a hotel room, well, it’s just a bit larger than a hotel room. And after living in LA, where I paid 2/3 the price and had 2x the space, man, it’s hard to write that rent check every month.
(Let’s just move on.)
But there are other issues. For starters, I am (likely clinically) addicted to showering, and spend upwards to two hours a day in the shower. What I do in there is (surprisingly) not related to the manipulation of my genitals to the point of ejaculation, but rather something more akin to meditating or, at the very least, relaxing. Mostly this means that I sit in the shower and read, doing so by pointing the showerhead down at my feet and allowing the tub to drain so that everything above my knees stays perfectly dry, thus allowing me to hold and enjoy a book or magazine. I also sometimes play poker on my iPhone or otherwise just veg out. But one thing I never, ever do is jerk off. The shower is my happy place, a clean, sterile environment where I can relax, not a place to sully up spraying semen everywhere (and then it doesn’t go down the drain properly, so you have to scoop it out with a wad of toilet paper – I mean, who wants that?). I figure that I have so many masturbation zones in my apartment (the couch, the bed, the floor while doing a one-armed push-up to simulate missionary position sex, etc) that I can leave the shower alone.
(However, the shower is not a sex-free zone. If the opportunity to make love presents itself – or the opportunity presents itself for me to do what I consider “making love,” which most other people would consider “some sort of thrusting, then there’s, like, this shrieking noise that starts off quiet but gets louder, and then there’s a wail and it’s still for about three-four minutes, then the whole process repeats itself and finally ends with what sounds like what you’d imagine an elk or a buffalo sounds like right before it dies” – then I have to take advantage of that opportunity, no matter where I am.)
In order to properly enjoy this shower experience – which my college roommates long ago dubbed “fantasy showering,” or “fanting” for short – I need me some hot water, since the goal is to relax and not give myself hypothermia. And – surprise – there’s not enough hot water for me to pull off fantasy showering in the new apartment. This hasn’t precluded me from trying – I’d estimate that three times a week I completely drain the whole building of hot water, usually around 20-25 pages into whatever I’m reading – but it has prevented me from enjoying it. So, strike one.
Another thing that’s not really a problem but something strange is the issue of safety. Now, I always feel safe in NYC, since there are usually about 1500 people within screaming distance no matter where you are. But a month ago a friend of a friend (a girl), who lives very close to me, was home alone, drunk, at 4am, when she heard the doorknob to her apartment start jiggling. It was someone – or someones – trying to break into her place. She screamed like a banshee and fended them off. When the police arrived, they told her that there was a gang of bad people going around breaking into apartments ALONG MY STREET.
I consider myself a fairly bad mother fucker. Not totally bad, but bad enough that I’m confident in handling myself, breaking up fights, doing one-armed push-ups while masturbating, etc. And so if one dude broke into my apartment, I could probably take him. But if it’s a bunch of dudes, well, that’s another story. So during the second week of living in my apartment, I slept with the following “weapons” by my bedside: a bottle of Miller Lite, a half a bottle of Johnny Walker (red, so it’s ok), a plastic fork (I had no real utensils yet, and figured a fork in the eye, even if it’s plastic, might do some damage), and a phone cord, perhaps to use as a strangulation device a la Dexter. This only lasted about a week, until I realized that if I ever did bring back a woman to my apartment and she saw beer, whiskey, a plastic fork and a phone cord sitting neatly next to my bed, I could be charged on the spot with attempted R. So while not strike two, certainly a fun development.
And finally, we have the most interesting issue of all. Several nights a week, I have been and continue to be awoken by noises in the apartment. Noise in an NYC apartment, especially one in the LES (though mine faces the back, thankfully), is nothing new: one has to deal with the clicking-clacking of high-heeled shoes, the conversations of neighbors, the sirens of squad cars, and myriad other nuisance noises. But the noises that kept waking me up were unlike those normal nuisance noises – it sounded like things were falling, things falling actually in my living room, when I knew that couldn’t be the case (I still own hardly anything, something that will not change for the foreseeable future, I think).
I mostly ignored them, rolled over, and went back to sleep. But last week it went from slightly annoying to full-on obnoxious. Monday’s noise was loud, Tuesday’s noise was louder, and finally, in the middle of the night on Wednesday, there was a noise from my living room that not only woke me up but caused me to jump out of bed – it sounded like the thwack of a moderately-thick glossy-covered book falling on a finished wooden floor. I had long ago returned my weapons to their rightful places, so had to go at it alone. Still in a daze, I half-expected to see someone in my apartment when I opened by bedroom door, quickly turned on the light, and…nothing. No one. No book on the floor. Nothing at all.
But at that moment, I got this sudden insight, clear as day, so obvious that I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of it before: my apartment is haunted.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy. Though my ancestors come from Ireland, I enjoy imbibing the water of life, and I am lyrical, sensitive, and (at times) beautifully poetic, even I think it’s crazy. But this is a century-old building that was once a tenement, housing each of the waves of immigrants to the New World, holding within its confines their lives, their stories, their loves, their losses. And this building, with all its history, was gutted, cleaned out, stripped of its charm, and fitted with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, marble bathrooms and polished floors, all so that yuppies like me can overpay rent in order to get drunk at the “cool” bars on the street below. So I submit: if you watched the room where your lived most of your life, where you loved your wife and raised your children, completely torn out and remade for the sake of charging as much rent as possible, and then you watched this room occupied by a 30 year old fat man with a beard who sits in the shower for hours and hours and, well, masturbates on your floor, wouldn’t you haunt this place and this son of a bitch?
That next evening, I was hanging out with my friend Meredith, who had only seen my apartment the first day I moved in. Meredith is very intuitive (except when it comes to men – zing!) and before I even told her the story about my epiphany, she asked, “How’s your apartment? By the way, I kinda got a funny feeling about it, but…it’s nice, so that’s good.” And with that, the case was officially closed: I am living in a haunted apartment.
The noises still continue. Two nights ago, there was another huge thwack that woke me up. However, I was heavily under the influence of Xanax at the time, so there was no jumping out of bed and preparing for a fight. Instead, half-asleep, I yelled in the direction of the living room, “Dude, we’re gonna have to make this work!” And I went back to sleep.
Am I happy living in my apartment? Sure. Do I really believe it’s haunted? Maybe not totally, but it’s sort of looking that way. But I can live with it (I’ve already stopped jerking off on the floor, though I can’t promise that I won’t do that ever again). Life, like the apartment, is not perfect. But at least I’m around the corner from Rosario’s.
Believe it or not, being outside was part of what I missed about NYC when I lived in LA. Yes, LA has far better weather, but I enjoyed walking to and from work each day in NYC, passing about 10,000 people on each thirty-minute walk, taking in the sights and sounds. Once a weekend I’d put on my iPod, head out of my apartment, and just walk – from my place in Little Italy to the (way) West Village or up to Central Park or through Alphabet City and up the east side, stopping along the way to have a beer in a random bar or grab a bite to eat. It was wonderful – I could walk in NYC every day for 20 years and on each walk, find or see or experience something totally new.
(I’m sorry – did I just slip into my Carrie Bradshaw voice there? Further: do you think less of me because I made a Carrie Bradshaw reference? You should. I am ashamed.)
Of course, LA offers a number of things to do outdoors, but, as alluded to above, they were not my speed. That is, they were too fast for me. In LA, you can drive to a place to go hiking, or you can drive and run along the ocean, or you can drive and, I don’t know, find some other outdoorsy things to do, but you can’t put on your goddamned headphones and go for a nice (yet exciting) walk.
So when I moved back in NYC, in addition to eating and drinking at a number of different places and seeing and hanging (and potentially making) out with a number of different people, I was greatly looking forward to my walks. Hell, when looking for an apartment, I limited myself to downtown, so that I could walk to work each day. I was going to walk all over this damn town. Walk, walk, walk.
And after moving here just after Thanksgiving, I did. Sure, it was cold – but I love the cold! I hadn’t had real, lasting cold in eighteen months! So bring it on! After all, I have certain genetic and physical advantages over most normal human beings that allow me to thrive in the cold (beard, layer of body hair, layer of body hair under that layer of body hair, etc), so I did not shy away. Though the temperatures never really dipped below 40 or so, I still trudged to and from work each day, 1.9 miles and 40 minutes each way. Love it.
But then, just before the holidays, the wind shifted. Literally. Long gone were the reasonably cold winter days, replaced with a string of bitterly cold days and nights, complete with snow and wind. A passing phase, I thought, as I prepared for Christmas and splitting my time between NYC and Philly then NYC and Philly then NYC again. The cold spell would break in no time, and we’d be rewarded with a nice stretch of 50 degree days in there somewhere.
But that was each ago. And – guess what? – it’s still really fucking cold out.
And it’s definitely getting to me. I feel like I spend my days going from my apartment to the subway (two blocks away) to the subway to my office (two blocks away). The other day, I tried to walk to and from the East Village to get my Sea Thai, but I had to take a cab back, as it was too cold. Tonight, I wanted to hit the grocery store after work, which is about nine blocks/just about a mile away (actual shopping list from the “Notes” app on my iPhone: Pam, yogurt, cake(s), bread, funnel, plunger). Instead, I came home and ate a burrito. So I guess I made out ok there. But you know what I mean.
(I can see the emails now: “Hey, nancy, I live in Canada. Do you know what the fuck temperature it is here right now? -132. Yeah, -132. So why don’t you take your positive wind chills and barely-freezing air temperatures and bring them into the tub with your candles, vibrator and US Weekly, and just make a little party out of it, ok?” That’s fair. But there’s this: I don’t care. I don’t live in Canada, and I’m cold. So, shut up.)
And the cold is just generally making me feel down. It’s a strange thing, because I love my place, love my job, love being back in the city, and had an enjoyable holiday, but…meh. I’m tired. I’m cranky. And I’m realizing that I’ve seen just about every single fucking episode of The Office, Family Guy, Dateline and 48 Hours: Hard Evidence, so I probably shouldn’t even bother DVRing them anymore.
But still, though I feel almost as though I’m in prison in my little LES apartment, I remain hopeful. I realize that full-on warmer weather is still several (several) weeks away, but I don’t care about that – I don’t need 72 and sunny to make me happy, or else I would have stayed in LA. Instead, I have much more modest goals. For example, maybe a 48 degree day in the near future? Maybe even two in a row? Maybe even something a little colder thank 48 but that allows me just to walk home from work once or walk to and from the grocery store without feeling the need to take a steam afterwards? Maybe?
(Saturday’s forecast: Sunny, with a high of 25 and a low of 14.)
(I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer.)