Wednesday, September 30, 2009
In New York City, Real Estate is an emotion more powerful than Love - ask any number of pitiful split-up couples who are still living together. Here you peruse the Classified section and watch as real estate agents with the demeanor of piranhas battle for a percentage of your meager rent.
The Classifieds are written in a strange language of abbreviations and some have been influenced by a peculiar version of "product placement." For years, Mayor Edward I. Koch made discreet payments so that all apartments with Eat In Kitchens had the initials "EIK" in the ad. Defunct Radio Station WBFP, a lite-rock 70's monstrosity, similarly paid for its call letters to be displayed for apartments with wood burning fireplaces. But there were other abuses of the English language, and the prime offenses are the codewords "Luxury" and "Cozy." Luxury should mean it has a working elevator to the wine cellar and at least two maids' rooms. It actually means "recently painted, but still overpriced." "Cozy," which brings to mind a little bungalow-by-the-sea, fresh scones and cocker spaniels, actually means "tiny."
How tiny? Let's look at this little number on Thompson Street. After walking up three floors (watch the banister), the agent unlocks the four locks, and pulls the door ("Watch It!") suddenly. A Murphy bed leans out of the doorway and comes to rest with a two inch clearance in the hall. On a little recessed shelf: a hotplate, a chamber pot and a seltzer bottle. Cozy!
Or look at this one, around the corner on Sullivan St. A brisk stumble down the basement stairs and over some piled-up two-by-fours to a rough hewn door, guarded by a Master lock. Inside, a matress is sprawled on a coal pile. A few empty cans of Sterno are strewn about. Cozy! But watch out for the pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis!
So, when I got to this one, an attic on 24th street in a former stable, I took it. Though accessible only from a trap door, it was relatively spacious. My diminished stature and habit of going shoeless was an advantage because of the six-foot-nothing ceiling. The window gave me a view and smell of the refuse strewn backyard of an Indian restaurant. But it was worth it because it measured nearly 1000 square feet. Or would have been if there weren't so many old trunks and wallpaper rolls. But it was cozy.
As I pulled out the futon for my first night's rest, I found that I had to move some of these old remnants aside. The natural tilt to the building aided me in this effort! There were a great number of noises - both muffled and clear - which seemed to be coming from the ghosts of the horses in the long-empty stable. I could hear the creak of the Third Avenue El train, which was torn down in 1953. With a mighty lurch, one of the rolls went off by itself, indicating that the tilt in the floor had shifted! New, more close at hand noises put me in a state of unease. Making a quick decision as to which of my three cats I would carry out, kick downstairs or leave to their fate, I ran out of the rickety building, which, in a matter of minutes collapsed into the street.