This weekend we are flying to Chicago for my cousin Mindy's wedding.
I am almost finished with my current book, and I began to panic that I would not have something to read over the weekend. So I stopped into Barnes and Noble on my way back from work.
When I got to the cashier, there was a woman in front of me. She possessed a towheaded little boy who looked to be about five years old. When I stepped into line, the little boy was saying, "I'm going to do it. Look, Mom, I'm going to do it."
"Stop it!" the mother said, not even looking at her son.
He was holding his index finger in front of his face. "I'm going to pick my nose, Mom. Look at me! I'm picking my nose." His hand moved in closer to his face, then pulled back triumphantly. "I GOT ONE! I GOT A BOOGER, MOM! LOOK! SEE! I GOT A BOOGER!"
"Don't." the mother said, still not looking at her son. "Put your hand down. Wipe it on your shirt."
The mother may not have paid her shrieking son any mind, but I did. And sure enough, I could see that he did in fact have a booger on his finger. Ugh.
"I'M GOING TO EAT IT, MOM! LOOK AT ME! MOM. MOMMY! I'M GOING TO EAT THE BOOGER. MMMMMM."
He moved his index finger ever closer to his mouth.
"I'M DOING IT, MOM. I'M GOING TO EAT THE BOOGER!"
Oh God, Jeremy, I thought, DON'T DO IT.
His finger was dangerously close to his outstretched tongue.
"Oh God, no," I said out loud, and had to turn away.
And then I heard, "MMMMMMMMMMM. I did it, Mom. I ate it. Delicious!"
If that kid were mine, I would have vomited on him. See if he ever tried to eat his boogers again.
Currently, we have shower doors on our shower.
The first time we saw the apartment which was to be our new apartment, we looked around for about ten minutes, filled out an application, then dropped $50 for a credit check. We didn't see it again. Until last night.
People had been asking me what our new apartment looked like, and I had been somewhat at a loss. I saw it once. For ten minutes. I had a concept, but not a clear one.
I felt like I was describing a spouse-to-be in an arranged marriage, someone I had seen once only, and for ten minutes. You walked in, and there was a bedroom. It was a nice size. Not too big, but definitely enough to fit a queen-size bed. There was a kitchen here and a bathroom here. There was a large living area. And a small dining area. And a little office off to the side which was 5.5 feet by 9 feet--the only thing I took the time to measure with the measuring tape I had brought.
I told this to my coworker Molly, who lives nearby. She said, "Wait. You have to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen?"
Hm. No. That doesn't make sense. That can't be right. "There's a hallway somewhere. I think maybe the kitchen and bathroom are both at diagonal angles. Is that possible?"
"I don't know," Molly said. "Here," she said, pushing over a piece of scrap paper. "Draw a picture of it for me."
If the bathroom and the kitchen are at diagonal angles, then the bedroom would be here, and the dining area . . . . By the time I was done, my apartment floor plan looked like something a cat might cough up. It was all wrong. I had no real idea what the apartment I was about to marry looked like.
I do remember saying to Brian, "Well, we are going to need shower curtains." Presently, our bathroom has shower doors. "We are going to need to buy them in advance. Because after the move, we will be very hot and sweaty and we will definitely want to take a shower, but we won't be able to do it if there are no shower curtains."
So, after I heard the apartment was ours, I went online and purchased shower curtains. And a shower liner. And shower hooks.
Yesterday, our new landlord suggested we drop by and make sure everything was in order to our liking. How nice! And the curiosity was killing us. So drop by we did.
Our new shower has shower doors.
I totally swear they weren't there before. But now I have an unopened box of shower curtain paraphernalia.
I took pictures this time. With my cameraphone. And I made them into another dumb Windows Media Player movie. This time I figured out how to cut the song short.
I spilled coffee in my shoes this morning.
Now every step smells like a sickening mix of vanilla and French roast.
I have been spilling a lot lately. Dropping a lot. Tripping and falling a lot. I've been very out of sorts lately. I know I sound very melodramatic, but moving is very traumatizing for me.
This past weekend we went to our friend Heather's sister Allison's wedding. We spent the weekend on Long Island. Everything was very nice and fun, but I just couldn't relax. The entire weekend I had the joie de vivre of a prisoner of war on furlough.
Heather is moving to South Dakota for a spell. She had been living in on the Upper West Side with three friends/fellow teachers. All of these roommates had decided to go their own way, and have all been in various stages of moving over the past several months. We had been commiserating lately, and at brunch the morning of the wedding, we all admitted that our first thought upon seeing the hotel room was: "How many square feet do you think this is?" The second was: "Would this room really be livable as an apartment?" And the third was: "How much would an apartment like this go for in Manhattan?"
I did not trip and fall on the dance floor at the wedding. I did not even spill my drink on myself. All that waited until this morning, when my coffee cup escaped my grasp and all its contents landed in my shoes.
In case you were wondering: we have packed up all our books and our VHS cassettes and DVDs. They are in 12 boxes in the middle of our studio apartment. We have also packed up all our plates and bowls. We have packed up almost all of our pots and pans. I went through the fridge and the cupboard this morning and began throwing things away, food items that were definitely not worth moving. You would be shocked if you knew how many condiments we had -- and this from a couple who almost never eats at home.
We have the keys.
The lease is signed. We scheduled movers. The electricity and gas are good to go. But I am still unbearably anxious.
Brian and I got into an argument this morning because I felt he had not packed up our books in the most space-efficient way. He piled up boxes with a devil-may-care flare, and where he found empty space, he stuffed in a t-shirt or a pair of socks to fill the void. This drove me crazy. If he had aligned things better, all the books might fit in a neat and compact fashion.
Brian said, "Who cares if our books are in 9 boxes or 12 boxes. They're packed. Isn't that what matters?"
My answer, of course, was "No." What matters is that things are packed up the way I want them to be packed up. I threatened to unpack and repack the boxes the right way. Looking at my desk, one would never believe it, but I like things to be done in an orderly fashion. I like the container to fit the contents and the contents to fit the container. Especially when I am about to have a nervous breakdown. I find tremendous peace in the dream of perfect, meticulously packed boxes.
Brian said, "We're getting movers. So, who cares if it takes an extra trip and a half to get the boxes up the stairs? We are paying other people to do it."
"I care. I care."
"But you're not even going to move the boxes."
"But I have to live with them until the move. And I'm going to have to unpack them afterwards. And then they're going to be all higgledy-piggledy."
I felt that spending the countdown to the move staring at boxes I knew were packed in a disorganized fashion would drive me crazy.
"There are big things to worry about here," Brian said. "This isn't one of them."
Of course, he was right. But I've been going out of my mind with anxiety.
I will try to think other calming thoughts. Not just nicely packed boxes. Until then, I offer up this relatively non-threatening image taken on the downtown 6 train.
Sometimes I stare in the mirror for extraordinary periods of time.
I will stare and stare until my features dissolve before my eyes. I examine one eye. Then the other. The eyebrows, the nose, the teeth. I read my features like kabala, hunting for secret hidden answers. I focus in so hard I could broil them with my gaze.
Yes. Tooth! This is why I am unproductive as I writer. Because of this terrible Tooth. See how it juts out of my mouth at such a jaunty angle. Tooth is the cause of my pain.
No. It is you, Chin. You are so namby-pamby, always trying to retreat, to skulk back into my neck. You, Chin, project a sorrowfully weak imagine.
ACK! Left Eye Ball. You are lazy. God damn you. Wake up. Right Eye is doing all the work. Don't you care? I would disown you if I could, you slovenly freeloader.
This is the sound of me splashing around in a pool of self-loathing.
But as caustic as my hate can get, my love can be just as absurd.
I had decided very early on that I had a wonderful, graceful neck. I believe I got this idea from my ballet teacher I had while I was in the second grade. Looking back, she probably said something like, "Debbie. Stop slouching. Nobody can see your beautiful ballerina's neck if you slouch around the room like that."
I got it into my mind that I had a beautiful ballerina's neck. Yes. How nice. How elegant. No matter how bad Eye and Tooth and Chin act up, I will always have Beautiful Ballerina Neck. How regal.
I kept my secret with my, held it close to my heart. It was my secret beautiful trait. Like an aristocrat hiding out among the common people. I would catch sight of it in a rear-view mirror or reflected in a store window. What a beautiful neck.
I never talked about it with anyone. But with each passing year, my adoration for my neck grew warmer, brighter.
One afternoon while I was in tenth grade I was chatting with a couple of my classmates. It was Madeline, Evan, and me. I thought Evan was really cute. And he was being kind of flirty. But the flirting appeared to be directed more at Madeline than me. At one point in our conversation, Evan (maybe he was even stroking her neck lovingly as her head rested on his shoulder) said, "You know who has a great neck? Madeline. Madeline has a fantastic neck.
That love in my chest, a thing like a beautiful plumed bird, which had sat quietly on its perch for nearly a decade, went wild. It was rabid with desire to make itself known. Like an explosion, my ribcage burst open and the bird flew out, a torrent of the manifested exquisiteness and brilliance of self love. Sounding like someone who has discovered something which must not be contained, I cried out, "I HAVE A BEAUTIFUL NECK!"
Madeline, who had been in repose, sat up. Both she and Evan looked at me in quiet horror.
Shocked and full of fear, I said, "I was told once that I had a ballerina's neck."
Finally, Evan said, "Yes. Sure. Deb's neck is okay-looking too."
The bird had been released, and in a puff of smoke and ash it disappeared.
Later than week, Madeline and Evan hooked up. Once again, it was just me and my neck, which actually, when you really examined it, wasn't all that great. But it was mine. I was stuck with it. We were going to have a very long trip together. So I might as well try to enjoy the company.
We had brunch with my grandmother and my uncle yesterday.
The meal began inauspiciously with a verbal altercation between my grandmother and my uncle over which side of the booth to sit in. My uncle plopped down on one side of the booth, and my grandmother said, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, IRA. DON'T SIT OVER THERE. SIT OVER HERE."
My uncle said, "BUT I WANT TO SIT OVER HERE."
My grandmother said, "WELL, I WANT YOU TO SIT OVER HERE." She pointed to the other side of the booth.
My uncle said, "WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE IF I SIT OVER THERE OR OVER HERE?"
"THE DIFFERENCE IS," my grandmother said, "THAT I'M TELLING YOU TO SIT OVER HERE."
My nearly 62 year old uncle pouted and rolled his eyes. His 88 year old mother continued, "IF YOU'RE GOING TO ACT LIKE AN IDIOT AND SIT OVER THERE, THEN YOU CAN JUST PAY FOR YOUR OWN BREAKFAST."
At this point, my uncle got up and moved to the other side of the bench, saying, "WHY YOU ALWAYS YELLING AT ME?"
Now we had the full attention of everyone in the diner.
My uncle ordered steak and eggs. The waiter brought down a bottle of A1 steak sauce, which made my uncle chuckle like it was some sort of novelty. He said, "A1 STEAK SAUCE? I DIDN'T KNOW THAT STUFF WAS STILL AROUND. I HAVEN'T SEEN IT IN YEARS."
Both Brian and I understood that my uncle was experiencing a cognitive blip. A1 steak sauce hadn't gone anywhere. It was my uncle who had been away.
After breakfast, my uncle insisted on coming back to my/his apartment, just the two of us. Brian ran some errands, my grandmother went up to her apartment, and my uncle and I were left alone. I was a little nervous, because he had been questioning me for the last four years about where all his stuff was. Once in the apartment, he rattled off some possessions, and I tried to locate them. But as soon showed them to him, he became uninterested. He asked me for some money. Small bills. I gave him the six ones I had in my wallet.
Then he asked about his magazines. I produced one for him, saying the majority of them were in storage. He sat down and began flipping through a nudy mag called "Player's Pictorial". Talking to the page, he asked if I might not bring them up to his mother's apartment so that he would have easier access to them.
I just shrugged.
Then he said, "NEVER MIND. MOTHER WON'T LIKE IT. SHE SAYS IT'S PORNOGRAPHY. BUT IT'S NOT PORNOGRAPHY. IT'S JUST . . . POSING."
As he said this, he tapped an image featuring an interesting angle of a body part not usually seen in magazines.
To change the subject, I went over to the computer. I called up one of my email accounts. I said, "Look, Uncle Ira. Remember when I was telling you about the computer and the internet? Here. I have a very good friend who is living in Atlanta right now. See. She sent me a message. See the words here. That's the message. She's pregnant. And she sent me a picture too. It's a picture of her ultrasound. That's her baby. All the way from Georgia. You can do all this with the computer."
The entire time I was talking, my uncle stared down at an odd spot on the computer desk. He did not once lift his eyes to the monitor. All of a sudden he said "AH!" He grabbed the hem of his shirt and said, "I GOT FOOD ON MY SHIRT!" Then he took his comb out of his back pocket. He ran the comb through his hair twice, then exclaimed, "THIS IS TERRIBLE!" Then he ran into the bathroom.
That was the end of Introduction to Technology.
When he came out, he wanted to know where all his clothes were. I showed him the drawers in which clothing was being stored. He said, "THAT'S NOT MY CLOTHES!"
I said, "Well, they're sure as hell not mine."
He began rattling off particular items which he did not immediately see. I told him that there were clothes in these drawers, and some clothing in a suitcase in our storage facility, and maybe his mother had some too.
Finally, he got fed up and left. Brian came back.
All of a sudden, the buzzer rang. It was my uncle and my grandmother. My grandmother stormed right in and said, "IRA TELLS ME YOU TOLD HIM THAT I HAVE HIS CLOTHES UPSTAIRS.
My middle-aged uncle was pouting again. I said, "I said I thought you might. He said the clothing in the drawers isn't his, and I said there was some in storage and some here, and that you might have some too."
My grandmother and uncle began bickering again. My grandmother pulled open the drawers again and said, "LOOK! LOOK IN HERE, IRA. ARE YOU SAYING THESE CLOTHES AREN'T YOURS?"
My uncle threw up his hands and said, "HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER WHAT MY CLOTHES LOOK LIKE! IT'S BEEN TEN YEARS!"
Then they both stormed out.
Brian and I savored the sweet thought that we would be moving out at the beginning of August. That sweet, sweet thought.
During brunch, Brian took only a few pictures with my camera phone. I made them into a movie with windows movie maker, a totally dorky program. The song is way longer than the image or text content, but it's nice sounding. So enjoy!
Brian and I have tried to be absolutely candid about out living situation over these past four years.
Still, it seems that people have thought we were joking, or maybe they could not take it all in, so perverse was the situation. Or maybe our mouths were full of food at the time, and they could not quite hear what we were saying. But now as we tell people about our impending move, we find ourselves explaining again the circumstances by which we have come to live on the upper east side since 2002.
My father is a fine, upstanding citizen. He has a swell job, a wife of over 35 years, a house, two cars, three kids, and a backyard which is littered with the corpses of so many fish, hamsters, birds, and snakes that his children saw fit to make as pets over the years.
My father has one sibling, a brother two years his junior. My father was in law school at NYU when his brother began a masters program in psychology at the New School. My uncle had been a smart enough kid, if not a bit of a smart ass, and had even skipped a grade. But by early college he began exhibiting some strange behaviors. This was in the mid-to-late sixties. Hallucinogenics were readily available. My uncle's bizarreness escalated. His first commitment came when he got in a verbal altercation with a taxi driver and then stole the cab. According to my grandmother, who tells the story laughing, he drove around for hours picking up free fares.
My uncle's most recent diagnoses was paranoid schizophrenic with bipolar disorder. He has gotten in a number of tussles over the years, with family members, with general riff-raff, with police officers, with other patients. He has been picked up for directing traffic, throwing rocks through plate-glass windows, disturbing the peace. He has also had a problem with setting fires to "destroy evidence". This is why he was locked up over a decade ago. It has been by far his longest commitment.
Of course, he is not cured. But after a ten year rigid regiment of medication, he is as good as he's going to get. He is like a vase that has repeatedly fallen off the shelf and been glued back together.
So, my grandmother bought an apartment for him in her neighborhood. But he set it on fire, was committed, and then released. My grandmother bought another apartment for him, this one in her very building. Three floors beneath her. She wanted him to feel ownership for the apartment. To care for it and be responsible for it. And it worked, because this last time, he set the fire elsewhere.
So we have been living in this apartment for the past four years, paying $400 in rent to my grandmother, visiting my uncle in the mental institution, having my grandmother sneak down during the day and riffle through our things. Both my grandmother and my uncle have been happy to continue the farce that the apartment belongs solely to my uncle, and that he is really calling the shots. Because he exerted almost no power from the mental institution, this did not worry us too much. We went along too. It was easier than arguing with a crazy man.
He would request us to smuggle him in candy, wonton soup, birthday cards for his prostitute girlfriends, pens and paper, and most nefariously, cash money. We did all this. We never argued.
But now Uncle Ira is getting out. And he doesn't see any reason for this patronage to end. This is one reason we wanted to find an apartment that was a full borough away.
I am including in this post four answering machine messages. Two from before he begun his unescorted visits home (a little over a month ago), and two since. The most recent is from last night.
Uncle Ira is happy that we agreed to meet him and his mother at the diner on the corner, but he wants to come down and look through his (our) apartment "to see what I have to see." This means, he wants to make sure all his Black Tail magazines are where he left them ten years ago. They aren't.
I want to tell you about the little one-legged boy we saw at the Mets game.
Brian and I went to Shea Stadium on Friday to watch the Mets give up the ghost to the Florida Marlins. We had had, as I mentioned before, a very hard week. Every morning we were combing through the apartment listings on craigslist. We would print ones out that looked hopeful. We would send emails to people with no phone number listed. We would call people who had listed a phone number. At 7:30 in the morning, mostly we left messages.
At work, we would follow up on our phone calls. We would sometimes make lunchtime appointments to see apartments. Often, we would make after work appointment. We would hoof it out of work early to run out to Brooklyn, only to get stood up by another broker, to see another fourth-floor dump.
By the end of the week, our bodies were mere flabby vessels for our shrunken and wrinkled souls. It was so nice to be watching a baseball game, to focus now on someone else's problems. Our biggest worry should be whether Jose Lima gets thrown back to the minors for pitching like my grandmother. Still, the apartment situation, as well as all our life's problems, haunted us like spectres, like ghostly gnawing gnats. We felt like these last few weeks had taken years off of our lives.
Brian and I talked about this during the game. It didn't help that our team was losing. We were two people wrapped up in their own problems, like chilly campers in flannel blankets. Problems, problems, problems. We were being consumed in the mire of our own woe.
That's when we saw the one-legged boy. He looked like he was maybe between eight and nine. He was wearing a Mets t-shirt and little shorts and a roller blade--only one--because you could see that out of his little shorts came only one leg.
He had crutches too. He was scooting around on his rollerblade and his crutches, all the while talking excitedly to an older man, saying, "Grandpa! Grandpa!" And he looked so goddamn happy that the moment we spotted him, our tiny, wrinkled souls twisted in on themselves and turned into putrid old socks.
"Oh god," I said, "That kid totally has only one leg."
"But he's scooting around on that rollerblade. He looks so happy."
"It's tearing my heart out."
"Me too," Brian said.
The beer guy walked by, barking his wares, and some drunk kid threw peanuts at him. A crazy lady screamed down to the players everything she read on the jumbotron. We got a base hit. Brian stepped out to get another beer.
Before we knew it, we were back into our own heads, thinking about apartment hunting and losing big, fire-setting uncles, work, speculating about the train ride back. And then . . .
"Grandpa! Grandpa! I can't wait for the Mets to be up again. Do you think they can beat 'em?"
"We'll just have to stay till the end and see."
"Can we really stay till the very end?"
Brian looked at me. "He's back."
And he was. His one leg. His rollerblade. His little crutches and his enormous spirit. What turds we were to feel sorry for ourselves. That poor kid had to scoot around on one goddamn rollerblade. But he was so freaking happy to be here.
"Why can't we just enjoy the moment?" I said. "Our lives are really just fine. We're looking for an apartment, not running from the Gestapo."
"I know," Brian said, "I know."
Three more times we forgot about the kid and sunk back into our fetid pools of self-pity, and three more times that kid scooter by us, leaving a glittery rainbow-colored trail of candy-sweet gumption in his wake. Each time, we felt more and more awful about our complaints, our self-involvement. Our souls were now little golden raisins, tiny, pee-colored, and mildly transparent.
Leaving the game, we made our way down the ramp with the throngs of cursing, drunken fans. And the kid and his grandpa.
"There he is again!" I said, and Brian and I ran past him on the ramp, ran breathless to the bottom, across the lot, towards the train.
But he was in front of us again. Somehow, he had managed to lap us.
Brian said, "How the fuck did he do that?"
We were dumbstruck. We tried to run past him again. There was a street musician playing jazz guitar, his case open for tips. The little boy did a joyful loop around the musician. The grandpa threw in a coin, and as it blinged, the musician said, "Thank you very much."
The one-legged boy responded, "No, thank you for sharing your beautiful music with all of us."
"What is this?" I said, "And God bless us, every one . . ."
Brian said, "Do you think that kid is the Antichrist?"
We sped up again, ran willy-nilly to the 7 train. We moved towards a car we felt a one-legged boy would have trouble getting to. The doors closed. He was gone. No one-legged boy with an indomitable spirit. No kindly grandfather. Brian and I were alone. With all the other people on the train.
We immediately fell into talking about how our commute to Shea Stadium would be much harder once we moved to Brooklyn, about the cost of movers, about our plans for Saturday.
I am dreaming of new shower curtains.
My daydreams of new shower curtains are so pleasant, they have eclipsed my night dreams of my teeth falling out or crumbling to dust inside my head.
I am hope this means that things are looking up.
Today had a very inauspicious beginning.
I did not leave the house as early as I would have liked. As I walked down the steps into the subway, I knew something was amiss. There were throngs of people inside the station. Much more than is usual for 8:40 on a Monday morning.
An announcement was being made that there was an injured passenger and a police investigation at Astor Place, so the local train would be running on the express track from 42nd to Brooklyn Bridge.
The express track was super crowded. I watched four trains pass before I was able to wheedle my way into an overcrowded train. It crept. And crept. And when we arrived at 59th Street, the train simply stopped. An announcement was made that due to a sick passenger on our very train, all express trains would be running on the local track from 125th to 42nd. I waited ten minutes. Just for kicks. But when I realized the ambulance to take away the sick passenger still hadn't arrived, I switched trains. I was going to be very late.
When I got out of the subway, I called Brian, who had actually left after me, but arrived to work earlier than me. Such is the nature of our transit system. I told Brian about my trip, and he said that the first incident was do to a "jumper", and that someone in his office had been at the Astor Place station. He didn't know about the second incident, but mentioned that while I was underground, I had managed to miss a building explosion and collapse.
With a morning like that, one can hope things only get better.
Let me back up. I want to talk more about the one apartment we did see on Saturday. I totally understated it, because I did not want to tempt the Evil Eye. The apartment is huge. A huge (by New York standards) one bedroom with a nice-sized bedroom, an eat-in kitchen, a dining area, a large living room, and even a small office area off the living room. It's very nice inside, and outside, the street is cute and quiet. The end of the block brings you into the heart of Park Slope, with wonderful restaurants and cute little boutique stores. After seeing the apartment, Brian and I prayed that something would happen to the young woman who had put in her application ahead of us. Actually, it was mostly only me evil-praying, because I am a bad person.
We waited around all day Sunday for an answer. We even called and left a message with the broker around 5pm. Nothing. By noon today I was pulling my hair out. I was so sick sick sick of every morning printing out listings and calling up brokers and landlords. Waiting for a call back. Making an appointment. Getting stood up. In three weeks, Brian and I had seen about nine apartments between the two of us. But we had not seen about 18. In fact, the better part of Brian's Sunday was spent in Prospect Heights sitting on a bench, waiting for a broker to call and tell him when she finally got the keys to some apartment she wanted to show him. She never was able to get the keys.
But, a little after noon today, we found out --STAY AWAY, EVIL EYE-- that the Park Slope apartment we loved so much is ours. Ours, ours, ours. All ours. To move in on the first of August.
So Brian and I are moving to Park Slope, Brooklyn. The Blue Futon will be moved out of storage. Happy Day!
It's July 9th and we still haven't found an apartment for August.
On Wednesday morning, Brian saw a listing for an apartment in the East Village. Brian went to see it alone, and I started having a melt down, because I decided I wasn't ready to leave Manhattan.
The apartment turned out to be too small, and the broker was just plain weird, saying "You guys don't really want this apartment." Then the Crown Heights people called to say they had gone with an applicant who had been living in the area longer and was more familiar with it. Brian and I breathed a sigh of relief. We got back on the computer and scoured craigslist again for the rest of the day.
Brian went to an apartment in Park Slope that evening. While he was on his way, the Crown Heights people called back. They said the first applicant fell through. So we were going to take the apartment, right? They needed to know immediately. I kind of fell apart on the phone, then made Brian call them back to say no.
Meanwhile, when Brian emerged from the train, he discovered he had a message from the broker saying she was cancelling their appointment because the apartment had just been rented.
On Thursday morning, I was suppose to look at a 2 bedroom convertible in Williamsburg, but the broker stood me up. In the evening, we saw a large, dirty place in Park Slope. It was the 4th floor in a 4 story walk-up. The stairwell smelled like fish food. The broker kept saying, "This place is a steal. It won't even be on the market for 24 hours." She was also asking a 13% commission, which is rather high for Brooklyn.
Then we saw a place in Fort Greene. $1550 and no broker's fee. It was across the street from Fort Greene Park, which looked idyllic in the summer twilight. The apartment was small, but the current tenants had left it very neat and tidy. And it was relatively close to the C train. Brian and I filled out an application, paid for the credit check, and left feeling relieved that we could stop looking. We made plans to sign the lease on Saturday.
In the middle of the night, I had a panic attack. The apartment was too small. We had too much furniture. There was no way we could fit all our furniture in that tiny one bedroom apartment. It just could not be done. I couldn't breathe. Anxiety was like a hand around my throat. I woke Brian up. We couldn't take the apartment. We had to continue looking.
I saw two small one bedrooms on the Lower East Side on Friday. They were too small too.
Yesterday, we had three appointments in Park Slope. The first broker arrived without the keys to the apartment, so we just stood around in the hot sun while she speculated vaguely about what the apartment looked like.
The second apartment was huge. It was close to the F train. It was $1,800, one month's rent broker's fee. It was nice, clean, and on the second floor. We filled out an application and paid for a credit check. We were the second people in line for the apartment.
The third broker stood us up.
I spent the whole night on Saturday dreaming about losing apartments.
Brian won 4 tickets to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July.
When he went to collect his winnings, he asked the woman, "What exactly did I win?"
She said, "Well, we collected all the entries, weeded out the one's that were incorrect, put the correct ones in a hat, and then selected the winners at random. You were one of the winners."
Brian said, "But what did I win?"
She told Brian he had won 4 passes to watch the fireworks from the EDC Heliport at 34th Street along the East River. Then she added, "There's going to be ice cream this year."
On the back of the passes very strict rules were printed. One had to arrive between 7:30 and 8:15. No one would be admitted after 8:15. No food. No drinks. No large bags. And ABSOLUTELY NO COOLERS. Well, we thought, at least there'll be ice cream.
We met up with Sam and a friend of his from work, and it took us about one minute to realize that the ABSOLUTELY NO COOLERS rule was not being enforced very well. There were plenty of police officers around, but they did not seem to mind that people had brought coolers and backpacks and suitcases and enormous sacks full of food.
One thing we couldn't find: Ice cream.
The word "heliport" sounds sexy, but really it just looks like a parking lot. This was a parking lot strewn with people and coolers and sacks of food and industrial-sized garbage cans filled with bottled water and industrial-sized garbage cans filled with garbage. And there were two clowns there. That's about it. At one point, Brian spotted a little girl carrying around a nice-looking sandwich. He accosted her, saying, "Where did you get that sandwich?"
The little girl looked panic-stricken. She blurted out, "My mommy made it. From home," then ran away.
We were jonesing for ice cream. We were promised ice cream. I was getting very grouchy. Brian went on yet another ice cream quest. When he came back, he had a can of Pepsi in his hand. He said, "I found a cooler over there. I don't know if it belongs to anybody. There's mostly waters inside. But I did find this Pepsi. Oh, and there are Mike's Hard Lemonades in there too."
Sam, his coworker, and I immediately forgot about ice cream and made a beeline for the alcoholic beverages.
I don't even like Mike's Hard Lemonade. But there wasn't any ice cream.
Here are a couple of pictures from our July 4th.
One is of the fireworks. And one is of Sam pretending to be filled with youthful awe and wonder.
Uncle Ira has access to a free phone again.
As if all this visiting and moving weren't bad enough, now he calls me every night. Of course, I don't answer every night. And so my not answering becomes the fervent subject of most of our phone conversations.
Even though Uncle Ira gets unescorted passes every weekend, he still wants us to visit him in the institution. So we can slip him money without my grandmother knowing. It's become an obsession. First he screams for 10 minutes wanting to know why I didn't answer his calls the day before. Then he screams for another 10 minutes about how we need to visit him in the institution so we can slip him money. Conversations with him are incredibly draining.
I told him that we would be visiting less because we were using every free moment to look for an apartment. He said, "MOTHER TOLD ME YOU'RE MOVING TO BED-STUY."
I said, "No. Crown Heights."
"No, it's not," I said. "Crown Heights is different. And anyway, we're not moving yet. We just put in an application."
My uncle said, "WHY YOU WANT TO MOVE TO BED-STUY?"
"SAME THING. IT'S ALL BLACK AND WEST INDIAN. THE ONLY WHITES THERE ARE HASIDIC. BUT THEY'LL CHARGE YOU DOUBLE AND TRIPLE THE RENT. BECAUSE YOU'RE WHITE. THE WHOLE GODDAMN PLACE IS A SLUM."
"Actually, it's getting quite nice in some places. Middle-class families. Kids playing all along the sidewalk."
"IT'S A SLUM"
"Well," I said, "We wanted to move more in the Park Slope area . . ."
". . . Or the Fort Greene area. . . "
"Or the Cobble Hill area. . . "
"SLUM! NOTHING BUT A SLUM. NOTHING BUT STRUNG OUT PUSHERS AND BUMS. A GODDMAN SLUM. IT'S BECAUSE THE PROJECTS ARE RIGHT THERE"
"Uncle Ira, Cobble Hill is actually very nice now. We can't even afford it. Maybe because it's so close to Brooklyn Heights--"
"THE WORST SLUM OF THEM ALL! JUST A BUNCH OF FLEABAG HOTELS AND HOOKERS AND DRUG ADDICTS."
Our conversation went on in much the same fashion for about 20 more minutes. I would name a relatively nice neighborhood in Brooklyn, and my uncle would scream "SLUM!" When I got off the phone, I was exhausted. Taking to my uncle is like trying to push a parked car with its emergency break up.
I told Brian about the conversation, how Brooklyn neighborhoods are like bugs trapped in the amber of my uncle's brain, New York City as forever bankrupt, forever the gritty city, forever doo wop and hash and coca-cola.
Brian said, "If only we could buy real estate in the market of your uncle's brain . . ."
Someone interviewed me.
Someone interviewed me, and I didn't even have to pay them.
Anyone else want to interview me? Anyone?
Looking for apartments has been a little like online dating.
Brian and I look at listings on various online sources. We read the apartment's profile, and we wonder how close to the truth it really is. Spacious. Sunny. Quiet. Cozy. Close to transportation. Sometimes, "Fort Greene area" or "Prospect Heights area" simply means "Bed-Stuy". If the ad mentions the "fabulous neighborhood", this usually means the apartment is the size of a peanut or a nickel. Spacious = rather small. Sunny = tiny. Quiet = tiny. Cozy = not quite big enough to house an average-sized human.
The listings sometime have pictures. Does the apartment really look like that. It's like seeing a fuzzy picture of a cute blonde. She describes herself as tall and athletic. She likes going out with friends, going to the beach, seeing movies. And loves to have a good time. She claims to look great either dressed up or just kicking around in jeans and a t-shirt. She's just looking for someone to have a good time with. Are you that somebody?
Of course, she is none of these things. She is a hatchet-faced drooling psychotic who is an anemic four feet tall. And she has no closets. And she is actually in Bed-Stuy.
The real problem is that Brian and I feel more like the hatchet-faced psychotic. Often, the broker's won't call us back. We email and leave messages. But apparently, we're not worth their time.
We did see a one bedroom yesterday afternoon. It was in Crown Heights. We got out of the subway and were a little freaked out by the neighborhood: trash on the streets, the liquor store adjacent to the check cashing store, bums bumming money and cigarettes from other bums.
As we walked closer to the apartment, the streets turned charmingly residential. The apartment we had come to see was the entire first floor of a small town house. A young couple had recently bought and renovated the entire building. The apartment was spacious. It was sunny. It had closets. Marble countertop and a new fridge. It was actually about a 6 minute walk from the C train. And the owners, they were just adorable. We wanted them to be our friends.
While the apartment wasn't a steal, it was well within our price range. Brian and I were overcome. We talked to the couple for almost an hour. Then we walked around the neighborhood for a bit. The store fronts looked like stained and broken teeth. We stopped for a Gatorade at the only air-conditioned restaurant we could find. Inside, it was actually kind of cute. The bathroom was clean-ish, too. They claimed to veggie burgers (a good sign) along with "cow foot soup". When I went to pay, I discovered I had a wheat penny in my change purse (another good sign!).
Brian and I talked it over. And over. Then we ran back to submit our application along with $50 for the credit check. We were told that at least one other person had also submitted an application ahead of us. They would get back to us early in the week.
At lunch today, Brian and I talked it over again. The apartment was wonderful. It was close to the subway. The landlords were very nice. There was a washer/dryer in the building. But the more commercial aspect of the neighborhood was pretty run down. No real restaurants. The nearest grocery store was rather cruddy. No theaters or museums (though there was an enormous old armory which was acting as an enormous old homeless shelter. We could be pioneers. We could get mugged. Did we really want this? Did we? Mostly, we wanted the search to be over.
We had submitted our application. Now, it was in God's hands.
Did I mention that the apartment was in the part of Crown Heights that is closest to Bed-Stuy?