The studio had found me three years earlier, when I took my parents to see the apartment, I had found across Central Park in the West 70’s. The Upper West Side was the perfect neighborhood for me then filled with people my age (boys, lots of young single straight boys) I could easily meet in the Laundromat, coffee shops, on the street, in my building, anywhere. I was trying to make amends with my father, who had suffered my long drawn out adolescence not with silence or mortar, but with exasperation and sarcasm. At 25 I had finished college six months earlier, and was officially living at my parents’ home on the Island while I worked and saved money for an apartment in the city. “Officially” meant that one or two nights a week somebody would drive me home at three AM, or I would take the railroad and fall out exhausted for twelve or more hours.
Banks gave presents for beginning accounts then, and I knew that it was time to leave home when my bleary-eyed father presented me a set of Teflon pots and pans. He didn’t like the apartment on West 75th Street. It was in the front of the building; garbage cans lined the area near the apartment’s window, and worst of all it was in a neighborhood my father hated. He bought a Times and circled an ad for a “lg studio, East 60’s, wbf, sep kit.” It was $300 a month–$50 more than the apartment on the West Side. The last tenant had moved there the year of my birth—1950. She was a madam who had run a profitable business out of the apartment. Soundproofing was half on and half off the walls, there were more telephone lines than I had ever seen at an office, the kitchen had last been updated sometime in the 1940’s and the linoleum was tinged with decades worth of dirt. But it was a large kitchen, the archway that separated it from the living room was large enough to be a dining room, the ceilings were high, all three bay windows stunning, and the architectural bones were good. Even I could see its inherent possibilities. I had never heard of crown molding; my studio had it both just off the ceiling and near the floor. The later was a bitch to keep clean.
We made an appointment to see the owner, a white collar criminal lawyer, who knew my father, a CPA. My name wasn’t allowed to be on the lease which I found strange as I had been signing leases since I was 20. “But this,” my father said in an effort to explain, “This is the big time. There were certain things we didn’t take into account. I was disorganized with absolutely no ability to organize space. It was a difficult apartment to keep clean for many reasons and I had no cleaning abilities. While there were three large closets they weren’t modern and totally overwhelmed me. The building didn’t have a Laundromat, nor was there one near my block. The only supermarket was a Gristedes where I would tell the men behind the checkout counter what I wanted, and they would get the food for me. Everything was incredibly overpriced, and when I would buy things for the apartment such as new flooring the price would be jacked up after the sale when the clerk or store owner found out my address. None of that really mattered. As I didn’t really live in a neighborhood, I considered all of Manhattan to be my neighborhood, and learned the city better than most people ever do.
My apartment was dark, and at night with candles glowing, it looked wonderful. As it was over 40 feet long it was the perfect party apartment, with distinct areas for food, liquor and dancing nobody ever refused an invitation to 5 East 63rd Street. I lived in the center apartment on the first floor and nobody complained when the 100 or more people at my all night parties spilled over onto the street. I had qualms about taking money from my father/ I didn’t want to be his possession. He only offered when I was fully employed, and I took his money with much hesitation. It felt as if I were being bought. But as he had insisted that I take this apartment, I felt less guilty than I had when I had dropped out of college, and saved my money for an open-ended ticket to Europe and Israel and back to Europe.
He had beaten me to the travel agency and the clerk was all aflutter over the longish haired older good looking man with a moustache who had picked up my ticket. It wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last time that my father had been mistaken for my lover. It was totally humiliating. The more I prove myself to be a worthy adult, the more my father wanted to be involved in my life. If I had allowed him to he would have bought my groceries, cleaned my apartment (well, he would have paid somebody to do those things), gone out on my dates with me, and decorated for me. Fortunately my mother made him see reason (sort of.) Once he brought over a client/friend, a graphics designer, who had a written and produced a Broadway hit that was currently playing. I had been offered various jobs that I would have taken in a heartbeat if my father had only told me about them. The one thing that my father insisted upon was that I find my own jobs.
My father’s friend was entranced by the way I had decorated the studio. A huge muslin screen embossed with a palm tree separated the living area from the bedroom. My couch and chair and a half were upholstered with pink flamingos. I had two deco swivel chairs that were upholstered in a more sedate blush with small mauve rectangles, built in shelves held my collection of Oaxacan pottery; many books were in the bookshelves. It had a decidedly undecorated but stylish look. I was proud of it except when my father came over.”This is wonderful. I love it!” My father’s friend had always been given to hyperbole but in this case it made me happy.
“She has good taste?” My father asked that in an astonished voice. “Better than good. Clever, witty and interesting. Exceptional. “Oh, just like me,” I couldn’t help interjecting.
My father left in a trance. He had to process this new information. An internationally known expert on design had just pronounced my taste to be exceptional. I hadn’t been using the money my father put into my bank account each month as I made enough to pay for my apartment and expenses and was trying to begin saving for something. He had noticed that and was a little sad and a lot proud. My credit card had a higher limit than his, though when he found that out he immediately applied for an increase. When we would have dinner together once a week, he had gotten into the habit of talking about his business problems with me. I was a good sounding board with good answers. Now he officially found out that I had good taste. I called my mother to tell her that he just might have a heart attack on the way home. I was no longer his wayward child.