In a previous post, I mentioned things that Liz and I learned on our first day in NY, specifically what it feels like to carry a 20lb. cat long distances and that NY crowds are different from CA crowds. Here’s another thing we learned: everything in NYC is smaller. Or, perhaps more accurately, more compact. For example, there are no houses. There are homes, but not houses. The homes are in buildings, and all the buildings butt right up to the next building.
Another example: there are no parking lots. Or at least no big expansive parking lots like we have in CA, where no matter how busy Safeway is that day you can find a spot—though a longer walk—with an empty spot on each side. There are parking lots, but no big parking lots, is what I’m sayin’. Not even those big parking structures or garages that are all over San Francisco. What there is is little lots—little little—in little enclaves between buildings, and in these little enclave lots are these elevators that take your car (not that we had a car) way up into the air. That’s what they do in New York: put it up higher. Everything is stacked. McDonalds and Target are all 2 stories. Or 3. School playgrounds are on school roofs.
The reason for this, of course, is that New York City is compacted with people, all of whom have stuff, into an area significantly small relative to other areas containing the same amount of people and stuff. As we learned as we arrived at our apartment our first night in New York, dropped off at our stoop by a cynical cabbie at around one or two in the morning after a full day of travel. We had subletted the apartment sight unseen—other than a couple of photos, but you know how that goes—from a pleasant Frenchman named Jean Louis who writes enthusiastic emails and who was studying Arabic in Spain. I didn’t actually get a good look at the place for the first fifteen minutes, during which I battled through four trips up (and down) the three flights of narrow, steep, rickety stairs, transporting in each trip one of four sixty-plus pound and awkwardly-shaped (when climbing stairs, that is—hell on the shins) suitcases. Once I caught my breath , I joined Liz, who had had fifteen minutes to begin perusing the joint, in perusing the joint.
We still had our poker faces from the cab ride over in full deployment, and neither of us said much. Here are the highlights: First, it kinda smelled. But then, New York kinda smelled, especially in the summer, and in both cases, we got used to it. Second, the lesbian couple that Jean Louis had rented to before us seemed to have been rather slobbish. As a result, everything in the apartment, from the TV remote to the hardwood floors, seemed to be coated in an unidentified grimy film. The couple had also had a dog, and though unidentified, there seemed to be an element of dog hair subtly incorporated into the grimy film. Also, there were food remnants caked to the inner walls of both the microwave oven and the oven oven. This, eventually though, would be remedied by a methodical, obsessive, and desperate process of cleaning on Liz’s part (other than the oven oven, which we never opened again).
Beyond all that, the principal characteristic of this apartment was just how tiny it was. Tiny tiny. The entire apartment—a one bed, one bath—was at least slightly smaller (if not just smaller) than the living room of the house I live in now. I lived in an apartment in college, and our Brooklyn apartment was about the size of the front room of that apartment, which doesn’t include that apartment’s kitchen, two bathrooms, and two bedrooms.
The kitchen of our apartment in New York was big enough for two people to stand in, but only single-file. If I was in the kitchen, and then Liz came into the kitchen, and then I wanted to leave the kitchen, Liz would have to first leave the kitchen, let me out, and then re-enter the kitchen. The refrigerator door could open about 43 degrees before hitting the counter on the other side.
Our bedroom was exactly the size of one Full mattress, a dresser, and a small walkway for humans who wished to access the bed (again, single-file only). Of course, that first night there was no mattress, but rather the space later to be filled by our mattress was occupied by a stained futon that the next day we temporarily replaced with an air mattress that required re-inflation at intervals of every 2.5 hours, participants rising and standing sleepy-eyed in the single-file walkway area as the mattress regained its form.
Yes, Liz and I looked over our quaint, tiny, filmy new home and didn’t say a word. We were tired and—unbeknownst to us (or perhaps known but lacking specifics)—we had other problems to begin enduring the next morning.