I realized recently that I’m celebrating two important anniversaries this week:
1. Five years of home ownership.
2. Five years in the same apartment.
I actually think #2 is more incredible because, as much as I like to settle in and as much as I loathe moving, the second you unpack your things you instantly wonder if there’s something better out there. Not to mention, within a year, you have grown into your closets and within two you have outgrown them. (My mother once commented, “did you notice there was a married couple here before you and you use as much closet space as both of them?” What, I have a hard time throwing things out!)
Anyway, I thought it’d be a fun moment to take a tour of “Becca’s Residential Upper West Side.” Sorry for the darkness of the pictures but the sun hasn’t shined here in several weeks. Here we go!
This is my first apartment in NY (it’s the brownstone on the left, basement apartment). I was a fresh-faced grad student at Columbia and my roommate was (and is, she’s just no longer my roommate) an actuary in her first job out of college. Within three months we had fled in terror from our wacko landlord and entered into a lawsuit that hasn’t been settled to this day. The conditions were abysmal and there was a toilet left over from another apartment’s renovation in the front, but it was all worth it for the cheap rent and back garden. We planned barbeques and parties before our landlord started calling and harassing us, accusing us of stealing from him and telling us to get out. We were young and stupid and we freaked out and high-tailed it out of there. Despite the fact that our friends still refer to it as “the apartment with the toilet in the front,” it was renovated and turned into a house again a couple of years ago. It sold for $4 million.
Here’s the apartment we ran to. Sadly, it seems to be undergoing some kind of construction so you can’t get the full view. It was smaller then the first one, had a higher rent, was further from the subway, and was on the top floor (a disadvantage on the sabbath when you can’t use the elevator). And I don’t need to tell you that barbeques were not a possibility. But the landlord left us alone (so much so that he wasn’t really interested in fixing anything) and we were happy, at least until we were robbed. After a couple of years I made enough for my own place.
That would be this dump. I know, it doesn’t look like it, but it was. First off, it’s on the wrong side of Broadway (this high up you want to be west of it, closer to the river). There was spotty or no heat most of the winter, there were mice, and the super used to hit the tenants up for personal loans. It was a co-op building, meaning the apartments were owned, but most were then rented out to other people at a profit and so no one had any incentive to improve the situation. My own landlord was fantastic and paid to have someone come in and rodent-proof the apartment. After that I could only hear them in the walls. Still, it was great to be on my own, and it was small but cozy. It lay between the subway and a youth hostel so I spent a lot of my time giving directions to backpackers. Once, I came home and found the cops clustered about a guy lying dead in front of the building. It’s OK, a cop reassured me, he had been shot elsewhere and had run and just collapsed in front of my building. Splendid!
At some point I had raised enough to buy a place. I thought I’d buy a studio but after 9/11 all the prices went down. As a matter of fact, my landlord, when I told him I’d be breaking my lease, said, “oh, moving out of the city? I understand.” Well, no, Osama doesn’t control my living habits. But that enabled me to snag a one-bedroom before the prices skyrocketed. It’s a great building, a great apartment with tons of closets and built-ins, and it’s doubled in value. And the location makes all my friends jealous. If I could just kill a couple of my neighbors it would be perfect. Finding it was easy, it was the second one I looked at, but buying it was a complicated hell on earth. I think that’s what finally convinced me to never move again.
As you can see, I favor low buildings that are from 1910 or earlier (this one was built in 1898). I couldn’t imagine living in a big box. Even my office building is only 8 stories, although I can’t say I had any control over that.
So who will be the first houseguest after the big anniversary? Why, it’s Top Commenter and former ROTM, Sarpon! Sarpon has decided to take advantage of the J-Ball policy which is, even if I’ve never met you, if I know you from the Internets a bit, you can stay with me in my
closet apartment. Unfortunately for her, Sarpon will be arriving on a Friday night, negating the airport pick-up by subway offer. What does this mean for you? A week of posts about Sarpon taking Becca to the theatre (really!) and Becca taking Sarpon to see live music. Fights over my one bathroom will not be discussed.
The chief thing I remember about the first week in my apartment, beyond utter exhaustion and disorientation, was painting it and hearing on the radio while I was atop a ladder that Layne Staley had OD’d. Now, this was as surprising as Ronald Reagan succumbing to Alzheimer’s, but it still dampened my enthusiasm. RIP.