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I love New York

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Rollin' in the Deep

Husband and I returned from my granny's funeral last night. It wasn't late, so to save money, we took the dreaded M60 bus home. (I almost always have some sort of horrific experience on this route, whether due to traffic, overcrowding, or more dramatically, a woman insisting that the man sitting next to her on the bus is sexually harassing her and thus calls 911, and put the call on speaker phone so the overcrowded bus can hear as we sit in traffic.) The bus was a little crowded, but not awful. A middle-aged man sat across the aisle from me, chatting loudly with a young girl I assumed was his daughter. Mostly I paid no attention to them. However, as we approached the Astoria-Ditmas stop, the man swirled around in his seat, and flailed his arms. "Is this where we get off to take the N train to midtown so we can transfer at Times Square to go uptown?" he asked no one in particular. I looked at him. It was Richard Kind: Yes, the guy my granny would have enjoyed on "The Carole Burnett Show," who she may have watched on "Mad About You," and also on "Spin City." He actually lives in my neighborhood. I have seen him wandering around in a clueless manner on several occasions. It was just funny to see him on the dreaded M60 bus, also clueless. I thought that Granny would have gotten a kick out of it.

I debated telling him that he could stay on the bus to 125th and take the 2 or 3 downtown, but I worried that I would seem like a stalker, and he got off before I could say anything once I decided that I would just seem like a helpful, not scary fellow bus rider. This is too bad because the second part of our adventure took place on the subway train. Once the train pulled out of the station, some (drunk?) ornery fellow at the end of the car began yelling randomly. Then a station or two later, a young woman stepped into the car.

"Hello everyone," she announced. "I'm struggling right now, and pregnant, so I am going to sing you a song and if you like it, you can give me a contribution. I'll also take clapping and smiles if you don't have money to give."

I braced myself - she looked like she was going to be a horrible screecher. She took a deep breath, and the first notes came out. I was floored: it was like Adele was standing right in front of me. Everyone in the train was quiet while she belted out "Rollin' in the Deep," even the shouter at the end. When she finished, there were a few seconds of silence. then the shouter yelled, "BOOOOOOO!" but was immediately drown out by applause. She collected some dollar bills from appreciative riders. (I considered asking her if she wanted to be pregnant, and if not, giving her the number to the New York Abortion Access Fund, but she got off the train before I had a chance.)

The whole commute was one of those times when my faith in humanity was, temporarily, restored.

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New York City, An Affair 19 Years In

It amazes me how time flies. Next Wednesday, August 28, will mark the date that I first came to New York City - 19 years ago. Nineteen! Neunzehn! Diecinueve! Dziewiętnaście! The night before I left, my family celebrated my parents' 22nd wedding anniversary. We all went downtown and indulged in a carriage ride along the lakefront. It was weirdly romantic (not in the sexy sense - don't get any ideas) and sad and fitting. The next day, we all packed into the car and drove to O'Hare. Nineteen years ago, anyone could walk to the gate at the airport, not just people who were ticketed. (Remember that? Right - it really was another era.) We sat together, then when it was time for me to board, we hugged and kissed, and I tried really, really hard not to cry. On the plane, I hugged Theo (my teddy bear companion to this day) tight, and we tried not to think about what was behind us, but what was ahead of us.

My plan was just to go to college in New York City, then move back to Chicago. But, as readers of this blog know, almost nothing I do goes according to plan and works out anyway. New York City, it turned out, was really where I was meant to be all along. I loved everything about it, even if it made me a little nervous at first. I wasn't sure that I'd take the subways at night, that I'd venture out into outer boroughs, that I'd ever eat sushi or Thai food, or walk miles and miles for fun. Over the years, it all became second nature. Here I am, 19 years later, co-owning a residence in a neighborhood that I'd never even heard of when I got here.

Oh, the affair with New York City has not always been smooth. There were the Giuliani years, where anyone who was not 100% with him was an enemy of the city. The gritty places that I was a little bit afraid of (like 14th Street beyond 2nd Avenue - seriously) turned into luxurified neighborhoods that I rail against. Seedy Times Square was already on the way to becoming a tourist trap from hell (although I appreciate enormously the expanded pedestrian areas) when I arrived, but it is abominable now. September 11. The blackout of 2003 (which kind of was awesome). Bloomberg the Fascist giving away the city to the Republicans in 2004, only for them to continue to fuck us as anticipated. A subway strike in December 2005 (which I walked 8 miles to work in 20 degree weather, but also perversely enjoyed). The distressing changes in my neighborhood, including new apartment buildings with one bedrooms renting at $6,500 per month. How much other people consistently annoy me by walking on the left side of the sidewalk, or riding their bikes the wrong way on a one way street and/or not following traffic signals. The fact that assholes insist on standing directly in the doors of the subway so that it is hard to get on or off the train. My 900,000 job changes.

But here I am. In the last few weeks, I've been pretty stressed out in general. I've been evaluating what I've been doing in the last decade or so, and what I can do in the next one. Increasingly, I found myself maybe not as much in love with New York City as I had been. Maybe I need a change of scenery, I've been thinking. A fresh start, at least for a year or two. Then I'll walk down the street on an unexpectedly mild August afternoon, gazing in the windows of shops, watching the street life bustle around me, or stand on a sweltering subway platform and hear wonderful blues music from the platform across the tracks, and I know. Once you love New York, it never really ends.



Invaders Must Die

The exterminator is coming on Thursday. This will hopefully end the reign of terror that was foisted upon us beginning in July. The tally of the dead thus far:

  • Bedroom: three or four, one of which was already dead upon discovery
  • Hallway: four or five, most of which involved some level of screaming, although the last kill was just a ho-hum affair on my way back from the bathroom on Friday morning. "Oh, there's a hideous giant roach sitting outside the doorway to our bedroom? I'll just grab a paper towel and dispose of it. Yawn."
  • Bathroom: Three or four. The first killings involved a sneak attack. One roach was the decoy while another hid. This involved enormous amounts of screaming and the partial temporary destruction of the bathroom. First phase of the invasion.
  • Living room: Three. One already dead, one dying, and one not dead until I found it and made it dead.
  • Dining room (including entryway to apartment): None, although I shudder every time I think about the day, years ago, when I was eating breakfast and felt something on my bare foot, only to discover a brazen motherfucker roach walking over me.
  • Kitchen: None. Last sighting in December, when one fell from the ceiling. Yes, the ceiling.

This is the joy of living in New York City, especially in a humid summer, especially when construction is going on next door. There's nothing you can really do to control the invasion, although I would love to develop an app to map each kill site. We've been pretty lucky to have not let any of those who dared show their disgusting antennae escape our death machine, either through:

  • stomping (not preferred - very gushy; only used in a moment of utter surprise when critter is running and there's no time to get less blunt tools);
  • grabbing in a paper towel (or in one instance, a plastic garment bag used by the dry cleaner because it was handier) then flushed down the toilet or thrown out in the building trash outside the apartment; or
  • spraying to death with Raid, then grabbed with half a roll of paper towels and disposed of in trash in apartment as a warning to its friends and family.

When I spoke to the building porter today about what to do in preparation for the exterminator, he seemed surprised that we had a problem, but also reconciled to it. He's the one who pointed out that construction was going on next door, and that this is New York City. I think he didn't want me to feel bad or embarrassed. Quite thoughtful of him, really, unless he was worried that I was accusing the building of doing a bad job with pest control, which I was not. They do a great job.

Anyway, hopefully the exterminator will be our knight in shining armor. If not, I'll have to get a permit for a weapon. There's a war going on here. I know that in the end, the roaches will inherit the earth (it's inevitable), but I'm going to try to save my apartment. Just for a little while.