Yesterday . . . [UPDATED]

May 15, 2011 at 7:21 am (By Amba)

being a New Yorker was such an easy game to play.  Today it gets real.

  • Where is the nearest laundromat?  (It used to be across the street**.  Yesterday I was so blissed out I didn’t notice if it still is.  There was another one 3 blocks away.)
  • How to feed cats spoiled cats without attracting roaches? In the past, we helplessly attracted them and then fought them with nontoxic sticky traps and mint-oil sprays, and lost.  This time I’m looking at prevention.  I’ve already bought a bugproof dry-food bin. But, duh, the cats can’t eat from it.
  • What to do about the all-day-long rushing, roaring noise* from the restaurant ventilation system that was built right over my head on the roof shortly before we left, with a shaft to the ground floor right between my windows and another shaft partially blocking my skylight? (Lucky me, I don’t mind the smell of garlic that accompanies the noise.  It’s Thai, I think.  Or it was 5 years ago.  I didn’t even look yesterday.)  It’s like living under a giant white-noise machine or an artificial Niagara Falls.  The answer to “What to do?” is probably:  Nothing.  I studied up on it.  After three complaints and seven or eight months, the landlord might be mildly fined.  The other route is to stop paying rent, go to court, and hope the judge likes you. Expensive and exhausting.
  • My subtenant left the apartment bare, but dirty.  Oh well.  I left it far worse upon my frantic 2006 getaway with Jacques.  (I wish she hadn’t disappeared the box of old records I asked to leave here, though. But maybe I should be grateful for any inadvertent divestiture.)  It’s going to be a day of scrubbing, though.  I’ll need that Laundromat.  It’s not easy to clean a place that’s both old and partially, dirt-cheaply renovated. More to the point, it’s not easy to keep it clean.  I am not good at keeping the kind of vows and resolutions I’m presently making.  Can I change my spots?

Et cetera.  I won’t bore you more with more.  I’d forgotten, but it’s really a kind of frontier life, living in NYC without a lot of money.  If anything could keep you young! — Or age you prematurely.  Right now I can see myself, 4 or 5 years hence, moving straight into some immaculate senior community complete with housekeeping.  (The truth is, I can’t see myself at all — the next 4 or 5 years are a complete unknown.  I mean, I know what I’ll be doing but I haven’t a clue where it will lead.  I like this feeling.)

Yesterday . . .

Friday was a hard day of driving — six hours, a little too much for one sleep-deprived person alone.  The low point was being lured off the highway at Fredericksburg, MD, by a Starbucks logo, only to find myself in a vast-mall-and-six-lane-rush-hour hell that rivaled anything  Hieronymous Bosch ever imagined.  Something Dantean could be written about Washington and its encircling suburbs.  I settled for gas-station coffee and got back on the comparatively bucolic I-95, quick.

But that left only three hours on Saturday, and they were familiar hours.  Especially once I got on the Joysey Toynpike I could almost give the car its head, like a horse to the barn.  I could have taken exit 14C, Holland Tunnel, with my eyes closed.  But good thing they weren’t, because — I had completely forgotten — you’re driving through this toxic Jersey hell of chemical tanks and electrical transformers, and there’s a bend of ramp you come around near the geodesic sphere of the Liberty Science Center, and as you make the turn the the city rises in front of you, like the sun.  I cried!  (It only now occurs to me to wonder if some unsung hero of highway architecture deliberately designed that effect.)  The only thing it’s comparable to is driving across western Nebraska and eastern Colorado and seeing the Rockies rise out of the high plains.

I was surprised to find it so beautiful, and its energy so head-clearing.  It’s chaotic the way the floor of a climax forest is chaotic:  everything takes root wherever it can, and then strives and contends for its particular nutrients — be they the sunlight of fame or the slime of decomposition or the kill of the sale or human prey or just the hydroponic air — and the sum total is orchestrated by the forces of striving and accommodation into an inextricable harmony.  It strikes me that it’s the closest thing to a natural ecosystem that human beings have ever created.  And I adapted to it.  “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”

What fun to find myself driving with deadpan adeptness up Tenth Avenue (to turn in the rented car) like one more fish in the river of shark-like taxis.

**It is still across the street.

*Here’s what to do about the noise:

It’s already stopped bothering me.

The noise seems less noisy, the dirt less dirty — I’m home!

UPDATE:  After some hours of struggling to cling to a tiny dot of signal from one not-too-nearby unprotected network, I asked my next-door neighbor for her wireless network’s password until I get my own.  She said, “Why would you want to get your own, if this works?”  I said, “Well, I’ll be glad to share the freight.”  She said, “Get settled and then we’ll discuss it.”

I love New York.


  1. wj said,

    I would say that you’re still totally a New Yorker at heart. Evidence: you didn’t even mention the one detail that most impressed me when I was in New York (some years back).
    It isn’t the noise — all cities are noisy.
    It isn’t the crowds — I find all cities very crowded; but then, I’m a country boy at heart.

    No, it’s that fact that New York literally never sleeps. I remember being stunned, walking back to my room (from a wedding rehearsal dinner, IIRC) that it was 3 AM, and not only were the streets still packed with people, the light was so bright it might have been just after sunset, and apparently most of the stores were still open. I suspect it’s one of those things that a true New Yorker just doesn’t notice because it’s so totally normal. Right? But from the perspective of anywhere else in the country, it seems extremely odd.

    P.S. I wonder if there are other cities somewhere in the world which also never close. (My totally uninformed guess would be maybe Tokyo.) Anybody know?

  2. amba12 said,

    (Parts of) Tokyo for sure, and — just a guess — maybe Berlin, although the latter would necessitate a triumph of cosmopolitanism over Germanness.

  3. Melinda said,

    I’m in the back; I don’t hear anything.

  4. amba12 said,

    :) Hey, how soon can we stop meeting like this?

  5. Danny said,

    Riveting! And how did the actual moving mishegoss go–did you get a ticket? Unload your stuff elsewhere? I can romanticize everything you mention (I love white noise…and garlic!) except for the cockroaches. Hope they stay under control. I’ve never lived in NY but I miss it like crazy. My 16-year-old daughter is there right now exploring and loving every second of it–I think I may have a future New Yorker on my hand which bodes well for future visits.

  6. amba12 said,

    Sounds like she’s got the bug! Well, she is an actor!

    My stuff hasn’t arrived yet — I entrusted it to so-called professionals, who have since fallen off the radar. (Budget Van Lines; they broker space on other carriers that are having an empty or part-empty trip, and pass along the savings.) I’m trying frantically to get cleaned and maybe even painted before it all arrives.

    The “roar” of the ventilating system has become more of a stage whisper; the only thing I regret is that I can hear just enough of the church bells to realize I can’t hear ’em.

  7. Ron said,

    I have had more than one adventure in NYC that started at 3AM….it’s what makes it ‘fun’.

  8. Melinda said,

    Amba: I was waiting for you to get settled, whatever your definition of “settled” is right now!

  9. amba12 said,

    My definition of settled is needing a break from getting settled . . . so, once my stuff has arrived! That’ll be, I don’t know, Tuesday, Wednesday . . . Budget Van Lines is sucking big-time in the communications department.

  10. karen said,

    Yeahhhhhh– i have so been waiting anxiously(patiently)for you to get back to NYC– and now you are so home!!!! So much for you to look forward to and so lucky to meet Melinda– did the two of you know e/other before?

    Sososo– who knew i was a seamstress?

  11. amba12 said,

    Melinda and I met just once on a street corner when both our husbands were dying — mine much more slowly than hers,

  12. mockturtle said,

    I’ve never been to New York City. Culturally challenged, I guess. My older daughter was there once as a guest at David Letterman’s Christmas Party and she fell in love with it [she went with her then good friend, Eddie Brill, who is a comedian].

    The concept is neat: Multicultural, cosmopolitan, always ‘on’, etc. The crowds and noise would reduce me to a whimpering mass of jello. How perfect that I can enjoy the fine points of NYC vicariously through your blog! And without the noise and crowds! :-)

  13. karen said,

    Mockturtle– my sentiments exactly!

    When wj said that NYC was always awake– so funny- this past Monday night we decided to treat our little family to a supper out… got done chores early, all cleaned up and went to a local cool place to eat about 15 minutes away. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. So, the joint in town is not so great, we went back to point A and then 10 minutes in the other direction to another eating place. Closed Mondays.

    We ended up eating at Wendy’s:0). The kids were happy.

  14. mockturtle said,

    Right, Karen, I can relate. I’m more at home on top of a mountain than in a city, although we lived in Seattle for many years and I loved it when I was younger.

  15. Melinda said,

    This apartment had had a bug problem when I first moved in a million years ago. Before we moved my stuff in, my father and I stuffed steel wool and spackled every conceivable place roaches could enter or hide.

    There’s still been an occasional outbreak over the years, but it helps that the building management’s staying on top of the problem more than the management thirty years ago, and also many of the other tenants are…let’s put it this way…more SANE than some of the ones from back then.

  16. Danny said,

    And what about the bedbug problem that’s scaring everyone around the world about New York (maybe it’s just a plot just to keep people away)? My daughter says there are giant billboards of huge bedbugs all over town which are more terrifying to her than the prospect of actual bedbugs.

    Best thing about NY compared to NC, I dare guess? Excellent bagels, knishes, and other Jewish food. Yum.

  17. amba12 said,

    I swear to God, there’s a bagel place every half block.

    My subtenant had bedbugs here for a while. The landlord helped her cure them, so desperate was he that they not infest the rest of the building. Apparently you can acquire them from someone else’s clothing or a waiting-area bench on the subway! They are a real problem, not only here but in all major cities.

    My attitude is, we’ll cross that bridge if/when we come to it. I’m not going to let the bedbugs ruin my bedbug-free time with worry about them. Mark Twain said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

  18. mockturtle said,

    I could almost give the car its head
    I love that, Annie! :-D

  19. A said,

    Uh-huh. I was waiting to read this. You’re back in your element and it makes me smile!

  20. tamarika said,

    Welcome back! I come to NYC quite often – haircuts and visiting my son – would love to see you again – when you are settled in … all good wishes to you, Amba!

  21. Maxwell James said,

    It is the greatest city in the world, in large part because it is completely, utterly impossible.

    Glad you’re back.

  22. amba12 said,

    Amen. Double amen.

    Tamar, let me know when you are coming next!!

    And that goes for you, too, Maxwell, and the rest of youse!

  23. Donna B. said,

    I’ve been worried about your move for you :-)

    Projecting, of course, since moving is something I really really hate. My last move was 21 years ago and I’m planning on always calling it my last.

    It was into a house that was overrun with roaches. What Melinda said about steel wool and spackling is good. I spent almost a month cleaning & painting, killing roaches, and removing their habitat before the move.

    Good luck with the movers, and don’t think it’s necessarily because they are ‘budget’ that that’s why you might have a problem. Last July, a non-budget mover lost my daughter’s household stuff. In their case it involved losing the entire trailer (yeah they got lots of stuff) for two weeks.

  24. Icepick said,

    you’re driving through this toxic Jersey hell of chemical tanks and electrical transformers

    Hey, it’s the opening credits for The Sopranos.

    Glad you’re back in your element.

  25. Robyn said,

    So glad you’re home!

    I think we will be coming back there in September…at least we’re planning on it right now. A short but meaningful trip.

  26. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Yes, the 19th! I really hope so.

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