It’s been a long day, and it’s way past my bedtime. I work at home, and there was construction, in what sounded like the apartment next to my bedroom. Only my bedroom doesn’t abut another apartment, which is part of it’s incredible charm.
I found a letter under my front door saying that there would be 60 days of construction in the apartment closest to mine. As this was after 7 PM, the drilling was loud. I became very angry. It sounded as if it was not just abutting my apartment but was in the middle of it.
I went to the elevator which is right next to my apartment. It jolts, jerks and does strange dances at the best of times. Often it’s out of order or being serviced, yet it never improves. When my friends’ kids were young they used to love being in the elevator; they’d treat it as an amusement park ride. (No, they weren’t part of the problem.)
In the elevator a woman had a petition which is very strange for my building. Even I have been scared to begin my revolution. It’s just not done. It’s like telling family stories and we’re never supposed to tell people that the old super was a sexual pervert, and this one has to be better just because he’s not.
This doorman rules the building with an iron thumb. Literally, as all the physical work he will do himself, is wipe the cast iron on the front door. Yes he excels at polishing the brass, (in every sense.) He will inspect for floods, and then tell people what to do. As I’ve said before, he makes more than 80K a year, has a free apartment, that if on the market would bring about a mil five, gets tips from every resident, and tips before any construction job.
Every body’s favorite doorman, and one of the only two who had been working here for more than two years had been fired by the super. The woman, Cathy, was asking for the doorman to be reinstated. Nobody knew that the doorman had been fired as the super wouldn’t allow the other doormen to talk about it.
There were three other people in the elevator. We all began talking over each other in the way that New Yorkers do, though I could tell that only I and the woman with the petition were natives. It wasn’t our accents; it was something in our eyes and look.
Fernando, the evening doorman, who was passed over for the head doorman position, by a little twit who isn’t friendly to residents, confirmed that there would be construction. But the noise I was hearing was both emergency plumbing work, and other men were literally drilling holes in apartment walls. The pipes on that line had all choked. Don’t ask–Fernando forgets that he was born in the Bronx during emotional moments, and loses his command of both English, and Spanish come to think of it. Fernando cares greatly about the people in our building.
Doormen in New York are your best friends. They watch the kids grow, and play with them; look out for the elderly and anybody who might be sick or lonely. Doormen are the people you talk to when you want to brag about something but not to a friend, colleague or family member. Doormen are the people you vent to. Doormen hear it all. You see them on the Law & Orders reluctantly giving the scoop. It’s true. I’m lucky that I have my blog to vent to.
Poor Fernando’s on vent overload. Actually he’s been venting to me, but not about the building. He’s under orders not to talk about anything, and he’s obeying them to the letter. Don’t ask; don’t tell. Ask and he will tell you. But I’ve been self-absorbed lately and just assumed that Victor the doorman who should be on a sitcom was on one of his long vacations to his country. (The former Yugoslavia.)
My building is considered a luxury, big deal building. (Or so both New York Magazine and The New York Times said.) Luxury in New York, where the average apartment sells for a cool mil is relative. People flock to pre-war buildings like mine, where the apartments are beautiful, but the pipes are always always flooding. My tiny strangely laid out, but adorable apartment is worth a very, very small fortune. (Should add some more verys.)
I live on Riverside Drive in the 70′s. While my apartment doesn’t face the park, it has good views, and is flooded with light, especially in the morning. It’s two blocks to Broadway where there are some of the best take out shops in the world. To survive living in New York, I must have good views and good light.
Yesterday I bought a pair of gloves, and a faux skin bag that is beautifully lined, trendy, and not pretending to be a designer bag from the dealer on the corner of 75th and Broadway. The Senegalese dealer gave me the pre-sale, neighborhood discount. Twenty five bucks covered everything.
I frequent him often as both he and the man who operates the newspaper stand are there until late at night and make the area a bit safer. It’s very safe already, she says jinxing it. The two blocks west from Broadway to my building are filled with apartment buildings (doormen to look out for people), expensive multi-family walk ups–only in New York would people pay over a mil to walk up five flights, and some private homes or mansions or mansionettes, depending on who is talking.
We put up with a lot to live in New York. Things people in the rest of the country take for granted like a dishwasher and washer dryer are mere dreams to me. My kitchen plumbing can’t handle a dishwasher; I tried, and there’s no room for a washing machine. It’s sad. I pay more to have less.
For people who can afford a summer house, the inconveniences are minimized, as they can always us this as their second home. Oh who am I kidding; most can afford to live well everywhere. My almost next door neighbor on the other side has a home in LA also, is in Europe much of the time, went to Sundance as a guest of a member of the board.
Her apartment has room for a washer/dryer, dishwasher, and she even has a real office/dining room. Not a five foot section of the living room I have designated as the “office.” I also have a virtual dining room. I’m good at making the most at of a small space. I could hate my neighbor; but she’s a good person.
My building’s not real friendly. But tonight in the lobby, a number of us stood and talked about how horrible things have become. Because the super forbade Fernando from informing the residents of the building, who didn’t live on that exact line, where the plumbing had choked and then I believe backed up. Yet many of us were affected. We hear the noise, but aren’t supposed to ask about it.
For some reason the water in my bedroom bath sink had shriveled to a trickle, and the super had come but said nothing, nor had he done anything. You know, I’m a great advertisement for gun control, because I wanted to shoot that man.
Fernando had also been forbidden from telling us about the firing. This was the last straw. A super, a board, doesn’t fire a doorman without informing the residents. Most of us own our apartments; as stockholders in the coop corporation, we have a right to know. As people we have a right to know. If somebody we love is fired we have the right and responsibility to try to get his job back.
We would also like to give him some money if we can’t get his job back. Victor’s been an integral part of our lives, and it feels like a toe is missing. His body is tall, sinewy, and rubbery. Victor can do three things at once with grace and charm. He never loses his temper. He’s funny without meaning to be, and I’ve long thought he should be the main character in a sit com, or reality show.
A reality show about life in a Manhattan apartment building is a great idea. It would do much to demystifying us. You wouldn’t envy our lives but rather be amused by the banality, and Victor would be the greatest core character.
Okay Pia, now that the building’s organizing see who is a producer, or network executive, and pitch her that idea.
For much of my life I had dreamed of living on Riverside Drive, and seven years ago, I finally moved here. I don’t face the park, and my apartment’s only 630 square feet, but it’s been totally renovated, has a huge marble bathroom, and looks like me. My bedroom has a metal four poster bed, a twenty gauge steel dresser with pink and blue steel drawers, a metal “entertainment center,” a wooden night table with eight drawers, because I need them, and a mustard colored Stressless recliner that I felt much guilt about buying, but love. It’s very small, but because of the way the furniture is placed looks much larger. It also has a tiny entrance hall, painted turquoise. I always think of my bedroom as the fine jewel box in a larger jewel box.
When it’s quiet it feels like the country, and I can hear birds singing, dogs barking, people talking–didn’t mean to rip off Louis Armstrong, sorry.
Having attained much of my dream, small as it is, I’m not going to let a coop board and super rule my life.
It’s funny; I’ve gone through a terrorist attack and a blackout with many of my neighbors, but we didn’t begin talking to each other until conditions in our building became so bad that we were forced to. That’s not unusual in New York. People become friendly when they have a cause in common.
We expect to make our friends through our mutual interests like saving the mid west side from becoming a giant sports stadium when we have a perfectly good one that reflects the history of the city; it’s called Yankee Stadium. It’s on a far end of the South Bronx. The South Bronx is no longer a no man’s land, but filled with good housing and good people. The Bronx could benefit from the Stadium being renovated.
The West Side Stadium would cause people to be displaced, and would cause much hardship for the entire city (Manhattan.) But that’s a separate post.
This is just an update on life in the Upper West Side.
Though I’ve gone category crazy lately, I’m going to start a new category called “the coop war.”
The unfilled categories will be filled with excerpts from the book I’m writing, and I haven’t finished putting all my old posts in order.
I’M LOSING MY MIND; I NEED ONE DAY WITHOUT CONSTRUCTION NOISE. THIS IS WORSE THAN BEING IN JOHN MALKOVICH’S HEAD.