Saturday, February 26, 2005

Am I the Most Oblivious Person In The World?

Or, I Love My Place So Much A Whole Pack Of Drug Fiends Can Move In Next Door And I Won’t Notice, La La La!

This was actually supposed to be last night’s topic, but then I got a message from a friend who’d been traveling for a while & had a nice chat with her & that was the blogging time.

Being home last night wasn’t the original plan & that’s why I was going to write about it. A friend who lives on the Upper West Side near Central Park had coordinated 2 nighttime walks of The Gates, taking advantage of the full moon. The Wednesday night walkers must have found out exactly what color orange nylon is when lit by silver but I had the usual pool session. I was going to go on Thursday night instead – which went from being a Full Moon Gates Walk to being a Snowy Night Gates Walk – but on Tuesday night, there was a notice from the building management that front door lock was being changed on Thursday and they’d recut any keys delivered to the super’s workshop by Wednesday night. Thursday night was the official night to get the new keys, and since the walk would’ve meant get home well after the doorman had gone off duty, and I had no interest in competing with the local crazy lady for the warmest stoop, and was kind of tired after 3 hours of rolling (only one student, sigh) & the usual late night the night before, I just passed on that & came home instead.

So far so good. Where does the obliviousness come in?

Well – the reason that the front door lock had to be changed was because we had some squatters move into one of the apartments in the building. My friend IL, who’s a paddler & also the real estate agent who found my apartment for me (I think it took 3 days – I was just so lucky…why I ended up apartment shopping right when she had the perfect apartment for me to buy is actually a fun story although telling it makes any New Yorker that is currently, has been, or will be in the market hate my overly fortunate guts – but believe me, I paid my dues) was having an open house in a 2-bedroom in my building last weekend. The first 6 visitors were all nosy neighbors, including me. I was first, and shortly after that, 3 others turned up – a young lady who lives on my floor & a nice lesbian couple from downstairs. They knew each other, I introduced myself, we got to talking about how much we liked the building and all of the sudden the one from my floor was talking about how totally nice & sincerely apologetic the management was to her about her putting up with this absolute nightmare-sounding squatter situation next door for as long as she had to – she said they had parties all the time, and people doing drugs, and she’d be hearing people throwing up at 2 am & occasionally would call the police when it got to horrible.

Apparently the old woman who had lived there for a long time – and so had that increasingly rare NYC treasure, a rent-controlled apartment, had passed away a few months back. She was the only tenant, and had lived there for a long time so was still under rent control. Her drug-addict grandkids saw their chance, moved in and claimed that they’d been living there all along & so were entitled to keep the place under the rent control rules. After that, it was one big party all the time for them & their friends.

My apartment is at the opposite end of the hall & doesn’t adjoin at all, but still – you’d think a person would notice a crack house right down the hall. Not me. Nosirreee. Me? La la la, look, daffodils!

Actually, the answer to my title question is no – not all the time anyways. That’s part of why I was so surprised. I’m very alert when I’m out paddling – you just can’t afford to be daydreaming out on a big, busy river with barges & ferries & speedboats (oh my) & stuff. 3 years of guiding kayak tours & 3 more of working on a charter schooner intensified that. The ability to swivel one’s head 360 degrees like an owl would be most useful out there. Travelling around the city – ok, there sometimes I can space out a bit but mostly you do have to stay awake because otherwise you’re going to get pickpocketed or hit by a car or else just really annoy somebody who’s trying to get somewhere quickly (grrrr…). At work – well, there I’m selectively oblivious. Been through enough layoffs & other office politics to have decided that on the whole it’s better to just stay out of the gossip & do my work. I can tune out just about anything.

In general though – I am reasonably observant.

But I think the key to this lapse in my observational abilities is that I still just go into a blissful-haze state when I get home. It’s those dues I mentioned paying before getting this place. For the last few years, I was sharing a 2-bedroom rental with 3 successive roommates (the first actually insane – thought the upstairs neighbors were all in cahoots & following her all the time). The apartment would’ve been OK for a couple but it was too cramped for two people who didn’t want to share a bed. The most successful room arrangement was with the last roommate, where I simply turned the good-sized living room over to him & used the 2 back rooms (a very dark 10x10 bedroom & a maybe 11 x14 “sitting room” with a hideous suspended ceiling & floorboards that leaked cold air in the wintertime from the outdoor passageway that ran beneath my rooms) for myself. It was so cramped and so cluttered that even when it was clean, it felt shabby and sad. My ex-boyfriend gave me flowers once. Poor guy. He gave them to me at his place. It was only once because I never remembered to take them home & they wilted in a glass on the floor by his bureau – in part because my place just wasn’t flower-friendly, every flat surface that wasn’t either the few square feet of open floor I tried to preserve - or bed - had something stored on it. Not very romantic of me I suppose but there it was. Plus the landlady had a few screws loose, and her daughter actually told me point-blank (shortly before I left, and that’s no coincidence) that she HAD to raise my rent the usual 10% - right during the worst of the post-9/11 economic slump – because with the rent-controlled tenants and the deadbeats they kept letting get in (they never checked references until it was too late & the "nice new tenant" hadn't paid a dime for 3 months - and I know that 'cause the landlady used to complain to me bitterly about it) if they didn't jack the "good" tenants up they wouldn't make money. GGRRRRRR.

So…no. I guess in this case I’m going to cut myself some slack. After 6 years of that (and that was the summary rant), I come home to a place that’s spacious, clean, warm, and mine all mine, and no wonder I don’t notice the drug den next door until it was already gone!
P.S. – I think I’m going to go to what is evidently the blogospheric s.o.p. of not posting on weekends. Nobody reads, nobody writes. Paddling outside tomorrow, rolling class Sunday – hmm, I wonder what I’ll write about on Monday?

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