Springtime Troubles

When people ask me what my favorite season is, they should really ask me what my least favorite season is, which is spring.  It’s messy and confusing, with the conflict between the cool temperatures and the warm sun making my hands cold but my head hot, and all the dirt that settles and accumulates into the city throughout the winter is finally liberated by the springtime breezes, which always ends up in my eyeballs.  Plus, I have bad allergies, and the dirt and the pollen that fly about always, without a doubt, find their way through my airways which leave me in a season-long state of discomfort.  But the worst part of spring is what happens in my apartment.

The walls and floors are porous, so I’ve gotten used to hearing my neighbors sneeze and cough, do their dishes, and practice their guitar, but it’s also porous enough for their smells to end up in my tiny studio apartment.  With the heat on in the winter, and the AC on in the summer, I don’t get these odors, but last night I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of someone grilling steaks and this morning to the smell of wet dog.

I don’t really care what other people do in their own homes, but when I can smell what they do, then they involve me.  This is unfortunate when you live next door to the most evil person on the planet.  She knows how much all this bothers me, so she’s been invading her odors with her evil powers where every piece of fabric that I own smells like her dog.  I swear that she uses her sorcery to absorb all the odors from everyone’s apartment and siphon them off into my stuffy little studio.  Sometimes it’s a guessing game, like, oh, what is that? is that… menthol? now what is she putting up against my closet??  that smells like.. mothballs!  The worst is when she, with her evil powers, spreads the smell of urine right where I’m sitting on my couch.  A few years back, I thought it was me.  But then, I was like, I haven’t changed my hygiene habits- I still bathe everyday.  When I realized what she was doing it really grossed me out.  Now every time I get a nasty whiff of her dog, I feel like I’m on the verge of getting pink eye.

It’s supposed to get up to 90 degrees this weekend, and I can’t wait to blast that AC so I can finally inhale without getting any gritty particles in my nose or a whiff of any disease inducing odors.

Summer can’t come soon enough.



When Rent Control Is Controlling You

Nora was so ecstatic when she got the apartment on Spring Street that she was in tears when she got the news.  It was December of 1967, and she just broke up with her fiance Rod.  She was going to have dinner with her girlfriend last week, but Dottie cancelled, so she decided to surprise Rod by stopping by his place to grab some pizza at their favorite joint down the street.  She never imagined that she’d  find him splayed out with Gwen, the downstairs neighbor, in his bedroom.

“Oh, and just before the holidays, too!” was all she could muster up to say before she ran out of Rod’s apartment and his life forever.

She couldn’t afford to stay at her current place on the Upper West Side, even though she had put some money set aside for her wedding dress.  She picked up the classifieds and landed a place Downtown.  The landlord was only asking for $49.16 a month.  The one bedroom was dingy and smelled of cigar smoke, but Nora felt that it just needed some new curtains and a fresh coat of paint to make it habitable.  Soon, however, the white lace curtains she picked up from Gimbels browned from the smokers that hung out on the stoop right below her kitchen window.  The garbage trucks and police sirens that passed by her building at all hours of the night never let her get a good night’s sleep.  She could hear the super while he was hacking up the morning of phlegm with his breakfast of unfiltered Camels as she headed off to work.

Her new living arrangements made it even harder to get over Rod, but she was never able to trust any one after that.  She went on dates and to cocktail parties here and there, but there was no one that measured up to her Roddie.  She let the rest of her twenties go by without being attached, and she then grew to like her rent-controlled apartment.  She caulked up her windows to block out the smoke and the noise, and always had fresh flowers on her nightstand to brighten herself up first thing in the morning.  Then, it happened.

His name was Bob, and he was charming and would take Nora out to dinner and to the theater.  He was eight years her senior and had flecks of gray in his distinguished sideburns that reminded Nora of Peter Lawford, her favorite actor.  He worked for an accounting firm on Madison Avenue and lived on the Upper East Side.  He was recently divorced and had three kids in boarding school.  Bob would take Nora up to his cottage in Maine for entire weekends together.  Nora was in love, deeply in love.

When Bob proposed, it came as a complete shock, even to Nora, when she turned him down.  She just couldn’t give up her apartment.  Her rent had stayed the same while everyone else’s had tripled.  How can she ever give up such a fantastic setup?  She was offered a promotion to head the Chicago office, but it still wasn’t enough to make her leave her treasured home.

After breaking up with Bob, she avoided relationships altogether- of any kind. She didn’t want to risk getting her heart broken again, and she got rid of all her friends after they grew envious of how cheap her rent had become. She was content to be a mid-level editor at the publishing company she worked, and to deal with the increasing crime in her neighborhood, she got an extra deadbolt for her door and never went out after dark. Nora wanted to get new appliances for her kitchen, but that would have meant a rent increase, so she told her landlord that she would live with just the one functioning burner on her stovetop.

New construction began on her street, and Nora became nervous.  Word spread that her new landlord was trying to kick out all the rent-controlled tenants.  Nora never answered her door or left her apartment for too long since she was afraid that someone would come and change the locks on her.  She became a recluse and a hoarder, but nothing meant more to Nora than to keep her dwelling for $49.16 a month.

My Super the Tyrant

Did you ever see that Seinfeld episode where the mechanic was so obsessed with Jerry’s car that he ran off with it when he was supposed to fix it? Well, if my super could run off with my apartment, I think he would.
Buddy was way too eager to fix the crack in my ceiling. In fact, instead of working on that single crack, he replastered my entire living room. “Oh, it’ll only take 2 days- 3 days max,” Buddy said, assuredly, “and, um, well, we’ll have to paint over the plaster, of course, and uh, well, sand the plaster down before we paint, of course, but don’t worry, we’ll move all your furniture into your bedroom so we won’t get any dust on it.”
“So, I’m going to have to sleep with all my living room furniture for the next 2 days?”
“3 days, max.”
“Ok, and how much is this going to cost me?”
“I’ll let you know the sum total once we’re done.”
Of course, I thought.
After the fourth day of climbing over my entertainment center in order to get dressed for the day, I texted Buddy: when will you be done?
He texted back: today!
I was so relieved, because it was Friday, and I couldn’t bear to live like this through the weekend. By late afternoon Buddy texted: Everything’s finished today, ceiling is painted, we cleaned up and mopped the floor but I need to touch up just one spot on the ceiling. I will get to it on Monday.
I read it again. So, was it done, or not done? When I got home, I saw the “spot” he was talking about, and I texted him right back: the spot is barely noticeable. you don’t have to come on monday to fix it. thanks for all your hard work!
Enough with all the dust from the sanding, I thought. I moved my furniture back into the living room that night, happy to have my apartment back.
Monday arrived, and when I got home that evening, I noticed that my super went in and worked on that last spot on my ceiling anyway. There was dust all over my sofa. This is what I expected from Buddy, and I have come to realize that although I technically own my apartment, it’s really Buddy’s to do whatever he wants to it.
He would put little additions, like a magnet for the chain to the lock on my door. I would remove the magnet because my clothes would get caught, but he would put it right back on. I gave up and left it there, awkwardly closing the door so my sleeve wouldn’t get caught. I asked Buddy one time if there was something wrong with the electrical wiring of my apartment because my light bulbs kept going out.
“You need to use incandescent bulbs.”
“But they don’t sell those anymore.”
“I have some. I’ll change your bulbs today.”
The good news is, the bulbs haven’t blown since he changed them, but now the amount of lighting in my home is just a little more than candlelight. Sitting in the barely lit apartment, I knew there was no point in putting back my old bulbs. It was so dim, my tv was brighter than those bulbs. I couldn’t tell that my clothes were wrinkled, linted, or even what color they were until I went outside where there was a normal amount of lighting.
Buddy is young, as far as superintendents go, but has an air of confidence, and has manners and a way of speaking that you would normally find in a middle-aged man. He always addresses the elderly in the building as Mr. and Mrs., and greets the residents in the entrance by saying, “Welcome home.” He has a full head of jet black hair and a complexion of a permanent sunburn. Although he doesn’t look to be in very good shape, he hauled up my air conditioner with ease. When he first started here 14 years ago, he was a scrawny teenager, but has taken his physique to fit into his title as super, as his belly has grown immensely over the years.
Now people would tell me that I should be grateful that I have such a competent and attentive super, but he may have gone too far with what happened last week.
I hired a contractor to re-tile my bathroom. A couple of Russian guys showed up the day the job was supposed to start- they didn’t speak a word of English. Buddy went nuts and wouldn’t let them use the elevator and demanded to see their certificate of insurance. They just looked at each other and mumbled something in Russian and left. I got home to find that nothing got done.
“Uh, I didn’t understand what they were saying,” Buddy tried to explain after I asked him what happened, “all I did was ask them for their certificate of insurance.”
“I faxed a copy over to management yesterday,” afraid of looking too upset, because if I looked too upset, I knew Buddy had the power of blocking anybody from working on my apartment.
I called my contractor the next day to apologize for the confusion.
“That guy had no right to that to them!” He gave me an earful, “You know I paid them for a full day’s work for nothing!?!!”
“I’m so so sorry, but I straightened everything out, and everything will be ok next time you send them over.” Dead silence on the other end. He hung up.
I took the morning off to make sure that the tilers were allowed into the building and able to start the work. They were met with scowls from the building staff, but work was allowed to start. Because of all the extra tension, I called my office to let them know that I wasn’t coming in at all that day to witness the tough time Buddy gave them. He wouldn’t let them open the windows even though it was stifling hot because they were creating too much dust, he wouldn’t let them use the sink in the utility room, so they made a mess of my kitchen sink. I was lucky the tilers didn’t put up too much of a fuss, and it only took them a couple of days to finish the job. They were in such a rush to get out of there that the grout was laid on too quickly and started to peel off. I didn’t even want to call my contractor to have them back and fix it, and just left it alone.

The lightbulbs that Buddy installed finally blew. I put in my old ones. Several hours later, they started to flicker.

Virtual Skin

Tragedy struck me as my friend Geselle told me the bad news two weeks ago when we were on our way to Bloomingdale’s together.  “Prescriptives went out of business.”

            “What?!” I gasped.

            “Yeah, some time ago.”

            I have had the same complexion for the past 15 years.  In Prescriptives terminology, it’s called Virtual Skin Y/O Real Gold 07.           

I’ve tried different foundations over the years with utter failure- Trish McEvoy was too thick, Laura Mercier too brown.  I never returned things, so I would just put up with it, bear my mistake and walk around with a too-brown face for six months or however long it took to use up a whole bottle.  But I always had Prescriptives as my fallback. 

I dreaded the idea that I would have to find a bona fide replacement.  I could have hoarded and collected all that was left of the company’s supply, like “Seinfeld’s” Elaine character in that “Are You Spongeworthy?” episode, but I just decided to accept fate, move on, and get to work.  As I’ve been hanging on to my last gop of my Virtual Skin, I have been on a crusade; the most thorough makeup expedition ever.  I am familiar with almost every Sephora store in Manhattan and the beauty counters at Bloomingdale’s.  I have never been the type to ask for makeup samples, as I would get easily intimidated by the cold angry stares the all-too-made-up beauty sales reps would give me behind their shiny glass caves.  In these desperate times, however, I became bold and fearless.  I ignored the unjustified and weird animosity I received at Benefit and Chanel and helped myself to trying on their foundations.  It seemed so weird to have to endure the silent taunts and to muster up so much bravery for an even skin tone. 

Other makeup counters were a little less hostile than members of Al-Qaeda.  Shiny-green-eye-make-up guy at MAC was nice enough to leave me alone to try on different shades in peace.  Bronzy-make-up guy at Bobbi Brown was nice, and was definitely the most generous in actually giving me a sample.  Sephora, however, is the most awesome place ever.  Most of you have already discovered the awesomeness of this mecca for makeup, but that’s when my obsession for collecting makeup samples went in to full gear.  I have never been an addict to anything, but the top of my dresser is now covered with tiny clear plastic containers of makeup samples.  I’ve been taking detailed notes-   “Lorac SMS 4- nice color, but too matte; Nars Ceylon- stinks!”-  I began reading makeup blogs and reviews online.

After an exhaustive search, I finally settled on Bobbi Brown’s  Natural Finish Warm Beige 3.5.  For now.