I tried to write the post several times, even did some psychologically healthy pre-writing, but just couldn’t zone in on a topic. I had seen West Side Story and considered writing about it, but that just depressed me. I’ve been thinking a lot about sex and relationships, but that just confused me. Each time I sat down to write, I would get frustrated, bored and eventually distracted by the hundreds of wonderful home improvement shows all over television these days.
This is so weird, to be staying at my parents’ house in “The Valley” – not the house I grew up in there, but their “new” house they moved into six years ago, which wouldn’t be weird (I’ve stayed here for months at time when I’ve worked on other projects in LA) except that I’m not even in the room I used to stay in here, rather in a new room that didn’t previously exist before their recent improvements.
This room feels like a hotel room, maybe a weird foreign hotel room, like the kind that’s owner operated, the kind we would have stayed at while visiting my dad’s family in Argentina. My parents did a great job, staining some old family pieces (my mom’s rolltop desk, the antique armoir they bought when they outgrew the closet in their old bedroom, my sister’s old dresser…) to match the fabulous new flooring. And, best of all, I have a bathroom en suite. Never had that growing up.
I don’t even have a bathroom en suite in my apartment. You could say that I don’t have a bathroom in my apartment at all, in that I literally have to walk down the public hallway to get to the bathroom, or kitchen.
Let me explain, I live in a rent-stabilized (classic?) old school four-room railroad apartment in the heart of the heart of hipster trendoid (and convenient!) Williamsburg. I’ve lived there for 10 years and with what I pay in rent, not to mention the 3 minute subway ride/$10 cab ride to Manhattan, I can’t imagine leaving any time soon. When my old roommate/best friend, Brian, and I first moved in, I took the big bedroom in the back and he the small room off of the kitchen/living room.
When Brian had a gentleman caller, I would theoretically use my bedroom’s separate entrance so as not to pass through his bedroom back and forth between my room and the common areas. Back in those days, though, mostly I just knocked and waited for him to cover his business and tell me it was okay to come through. A few years later when we traded rooms, he did the same.
When Brian moved out, I was still struggling to make ends meet, stringing together low-paying directing jobs and not working a dayjob, so although I craved having the apartment to myself, I found a new roommate on craigslist. I envisioned a new roommate situation where we wouldn’t share common space. I would move back to the big room in back and use it as a pseudo studio apartment and encouraged my new roommate to set up furniture against the door between our rooms so that it was essentially impossible to pass through and I was forced to go around, through the public hallway of the building, to re-enter the front of the apartment if I needed to use the bathroom or kitchen.
And what a pain in the ass that has been at times.
Times like 4 AM, when I’ve had to pee and didn’t feel like putting on pants and shoes and passing neighbors en route. Times like when I’ve had a guy in bed with me and he had to pee. Or when I’ve had any new friend over and had to explain the set-up.
Although I didn’t let this sometimes embarrassing inconvenience stop me from cooking between the sheets, it did pretty much put an end to my use of the kitchen. My most recent roommate (of the last three years) has a cat and I’ve let her/its filthy messiness stop me in my culinary tracks.
I’ve ceded the kitchen to cat hair and a morass of high-end beauty product samples. I scurry through on my way to shit, shower and shave, never stopping to cook so much as a pop tart or piece of toast.
Of course, that’s gotten expensive. Living on delivery food at home means I’ve essentially eaten out three meals a day for the last four years. A sushi feast in front of the TV on a Monday night feels like a fun splurge, but waiting an hour for a $25 plain old omelet on a Saturday morning has felt plain old stupid.
As time goes on, I’ve yearned for a kitchen, to be able to bake brownies or throw a dinner party, or make myself breakfast. And I don’t like hanging out with my friends in the same room where my bed is. I’ve fantasized about living alone, having a separate bedroom and living room and kitchen, like the real person, the adult I’ve always wanted to/put off becoming.
This last year, working forty hours a week in a law office, my mouth has really watered to live alone, to have my roommate move out and have my apartment to myself. What am I working so hard for if I’m still living the way I did three years ago when I could barely rub two nickels together?
After months of planning, plotting, and theoretically saving money, the date is finally set, my roommate will move out November 1st. There are so many things I want to do to transform the apartment into the home of my dreams.
I’m definitely turning my room, the great big window filled room on the outside corner of our corner building, with a view of the park (well, McCarren Park, not the Park…) into a living room, which I will eventually redo with all the wannabe W Hotel style I can get my mitts on, or at least as much of that Crate & Barrel crap as it takes to upstage my various show posters (commemorating my projects, Patti LuPone’s projects, and projects I’ve done about Patti LuPone…).
And I will clean up my roommate’s small bedroom to transform it into a zen little oasis for my sleeping. I’m envisioning black-out curtains, my bed flanked by nightstands and a flat screen TV on the wall.
But the first priority and my first task, which I’m hoping to begin the day my roommate moves out, is the kitchen. As I mentioned above, there is a layer of cat-ness infused in the floor, walls, ceiling and air, in addition to a couple of years worth of grime for which I have shirked responsibility and willed myself into denial. I’ve been planning to bring in a professional cleaning crew, but there’s weird part of me that wants to put on some old clothes, get down on my hands and knees, and get up in there.
I’m a little titillated by the fantasy of owning every inch of that space, not just because of my lease, but my elbow grease too. If I personally remove every speck of dust myself, won’t I feel proud of my sparkling new kitchen, and more committed to its maintenance? Plus, think of the playlist I could make for that adventure! Definitely a Revenge of the Nerds moment.
Fine, so that’s what, $300 for the cleaning crew? Or a weekend of me in a dust-mask and ripped jeans – oooh, and maybe my cute blue bandana that nobody ever lets me wear! But there are more serious problems with my kitchen. The fixtures are ancient. This is true of my whole apartment. Brian and I used to joke that, to see examples of how we lived, you had to watch movies from decades ago. It’s like that scene in Beaches, from the flashbacks when Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey were young and living together and they had to bang on the radiator with a pot to get the landlord to turn on the heat.
But through most of the apartment, this amounts to nothing a couple of surge protectors and the Lord’s prayer won’t fix. The kitchen is another matter.
My kitchen has no built-in cabinets except for the sink fixture which you could call industrial if your industry were washing clothes in a whorehouse in Haiti. And that sink is the only sink in the apartment as the bathroom is strictly a toilet and shower situation.
On top of that (or beneath it, rather), the floor is dramatically slanted in several directions to the extent that if you placed a marble on the linoleum, it would roll for hours. And there are the electrical issues, like I can run both air conditioners simultaneously in the apartment, but I have to plug one of them into an outlet in the kitchen via extension cord, and if I’m going to use any other major appliance such as the microwave or hair dyer – or a fucking nightlight, then I have to turn off one of the A/Cs.
Early last week, all worked up from “True Blood” and “Weeds” (and weed), I was desperately searching for something to watch besides Liza Minnelli DVDs or the news. I saw this show “Kitchen Impossible” and got instantly hooked. Then I started searching for shows by topic and was blown away by the selection. Home Improvement is bigger than Sports – or Food!
I set the DVR to record a couple dozen of the shows I like best in my initial sweep (“Kitchen Impossible,” “Design on a Dime,” “Renovation Realities,” “Work This Room,” etc.) and now, I’m 3000 miles away hoping that I didn’t overload my cable box and come home to find there was no room to record “Mad Men,” or “Theatre Talk.”
Even if I do miss “Mad Men” and have to watch it online (AMC shamefully has no On Demand), it will be worth for all the I’ll learn from my new obsession. And I really can’t wait to be done with the work and enjoying my new home.
Still, though, wrapping up this post in my parents’ fabulous new house, among all their fabulous new things, I’m aware of little remnants of the old house here and there, the glass coffee table in the living room that we’ve had when I was little in New York, three-foot school-desk my brother, sister and I all colored, watched TV and ate snacks on, etc.
I know that months and years from now, as I put on my best Martha Stewart, just like the fabulous star Bette becomes in Beaches, part of me will yearn nostalgically for the good old days with my first roommate in New York.