Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Gratitude

Yesterday I learned that my Semester at Sea Itinerary has been changed. Now, instead of Italy, Istanbul and Egypt those ports have been replaced with Morocco, Namibia, South Africa and Mauritius. At first I was disappointed, now I'm flipping it upside down and getting excited again. The rest of the itinerary stays the same. We are going to be safe from pirates now. I was actually surprised that Thailand and India stayed on the itinerary, but we're on stand-by for other changes, based on political and terrorist situations.

Ironically, this was my horoscope this morning: You may be feeling anxious now because so much is up in the air. It seems as if your plans -- no matter how well formulated they are -- will have to undergo revision in order to adapt to the changing circumstances.

It's true. At my institution of employment the President is having all staff members read "Our Iceberg is Melting", which is a fable about penguins finding a new, safe place to dwell. Moral of the story is basically that everything is always changes, and how you manage it is what matters.

Speaking of places to dwell, I had drinks last night with my very good friend Vicki and my new friend Adam and we were in one of my old neighborhoods at a place called "Redemption". We also decided there should be a blog about places where I've lived in this Big Bad Apple. Why not? Everyone always seems fascinated and has a bunch of questions when I talk about New York. So here are some old apartments. Talk about Ch-ch-ch-changes......

So when I first moved to the city in Summer 2001 I interned at an ivy league university uptown. I looooved the neighborhood (Morningside Heights) and it was really hard to go back to Illinois at the end of the summer to finish my masters. Morningside Heights was a neat neighborhood. I lived near Grant's Tomb and cute little tree-line streets with ornate pre-war buildings adorned with gargoyles and beautifully sculpted wrought-iron trellises which were decorated with window-box gardens. Maybe a pansy or two growing in those boxes. Very cute, quintessential New York City. Below is a street scene from Broadway, near 113th street or so.



When I moved back permanently the following summer, I lived downtown in the financial district. The first apartment was pretty sweet. I had a dishwasher (a hot commodity, by Manhattan standards!) and a marble kitchen and bathroom. That's my sister-in-law and me in the kitchen. Notice the wine glasses....every single one of those has been broken since I lived there in 2002, between all the blissful wine-induced moments.....I mean..... between all the moves:
I worked on-call at that job, so the university provided my apartment for me so that I would be able to respond quickly to incidents on campus. Often times in the Residential Life role, one is asked to direct a different building, which was the case here. The following summer, my supervisor had me move to another apartment. I was excited about it, and I looooved this one, because it was huge and it overlooked City Hall and the entrance ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge. The first one is my living room and the second one is the view out my kitchen window.
Then I left this job so I had to find a new place fast. Two weeks notice meant two weeks to also find a new place to live. Kind of not easy in Manhattan. This time my new job was *not* footing the bill, as I did not rotate on-call. One of my friends was subletting her apartment for $800 per month, which was a STEAL in Turtle Bay. The exact same unit above me was rented for $1500- almost double. I lived on 53rd and 2nd. And I was excited. Well, as it turned out, my "friend" turned out to be a slumlord. The apartment was a small studio in a tenement building. I lived above that Indian restaurant pictured below (the red awning). My apartment always smelled of curry. Since it was an old building, the fuses would often blow, and guess where the fuse box was? In the basement of the Indian restaurant. One time, over Memorial Day Weekend, I turned on the air conditioner and blew a fuse. The Indian restaurant was closed for the entire weekend, so I had no electricity. Also, when I lived there in 2003, it was right after Bloomberg (or wait...maybe Guilliani at the time?) proposed the "no smoking in restaurants " rule. It was a great rule, but guess where all the smokers stood? You got it! Right under my window. There was also a popular bar next door to the restaurant. So if I opened the window, in came the smoke. It was also quite noisy and one morning I woke to a drunken puddle of vomit on my doorstep. Fantastic......Then in January, we had no heat, nor hot water because something was wrong with the boiler. I found out from the upstairs neighbor that everyone got a free month of rent. Since I was subletting and payed my "friend" directly, who in turn payed the management company, I was unaware of this. She claimed to know nothing about the free month. I was glad to get out of there. Cute neighborhood, though and I loved the conundrum of small very old tenement buildings being shadowed by huge modern glass office buildings.
In addition to hating that apartment, I also hated my job at the time. It was *not* in college student affairs, but with a jewelry firm which bought important estate jewelry and re-sold it to private dealers.
I left that job and got another job that involved being on-call, so once again my job provided the apartment. This one was in Chelsea. I loved it so much- I had a fairly large one-bedroom with lots of sunlight. Here it is at Christmas-time.
Oh, and did I mention I had a view of the Empire State Building from my window?

Then after I left that job, and ended up in Inwood/Washington Heights. Like a million blocks uptown at 204th and Sherman. The cheapest neighborhood in Manhattan. The best way to describe this neighborhood and building would be summed up in one word: disrespectful. People didn't clean up after their dogs. They left garbage and litter everywhere. There was often ketchup smeared all over the floors in the hallway. Teenagers played their reggaeton as loud as possible. The infamous neighbor below me was affectionately nicknamed (by me) "The Ol' Bitty". She would complain about everything and often bang on my pipes. The lady above me must have been auditioning for "Stomp", because that is mostly what I heard all hours of the night. Neither of these two women spoke English, so I would often have the one below (The Ol' Bitty) come upstairs, pound on my door, shake her fist and scream some Spanish obscenities...my Spanish is somewhat limited, and the only word I actually caught was puta. I got it.
That apartment was a very small one-bedroom. It looked like a shoe box. I had absolutely no sunshine, and the view out my bedroom window was a dank courtyard (if you can really call a cement dumping ground a "courtyard"). I did, however, love the exposed brick walls. Across the way, I had a direct view of Inwood's own version of "the ugly naked guy". You can sort of see him in this photo:

Then that lease just ended in September. I have been in transit since then. Currently I am on the Lower East Side, which I looooove. Here I am on the corner outside my building. I have always felt pulled toward this neighborhood. I love it so much because it is "old" New York. I think my Great Grandma Valentino may have lived here. Lots of immigration took place here in the 1920s from Italy and there is even a Tenement Museum on Orchard Street.
The photo below is of Dara outside a synagogue on Rivington Street. One of the things I love about New York is the contradiction of the city- the fact that something beautiful is often laced with graffiti (as seen below).

I joke with my friends, that the small cabin I'll occupy on Semester at Sea will actually be an UPGRADE for me, after getting used to the tiny shoeboxes in Manhattan! At least I'll have a port-hole so I can wake up to the skyline of Hong Kong and the pristine beaches of Mauritius and the jungles of Guatamala.....I would say that appreciating where I am at any given moment and adapting to change comes easily for me. Wouldn't you agree?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you ever took a walk around Inwood. There are so many lovely parts of this neighborhood, my neighborhood. Unfortunate that you felt you had to slam it here.

Laurie said...

I'm glad you had a better experience than I had. I agree- there are some lovely parts of Inwood. Unfortunately not the street where I lived.