Look at the building going on here. Twenty stories are going up right across the side street from me, replacing worn, warm red brick four-and-five story buildings, and five small shops. Two blocks away a mammoth complex is going up with a phony name that’s supposed to make you think it’s going to be the Canyon Ranch. Or the Cat’s Pajamas.
People are moving to cities. Rural populations are disappearing. And that’s not just China they’re talking about.
When I was in 8th grade there were 2 billion people on earth. Now there are 7.4 billion. No wonder there’s sprawl. In New York, the sprawl goes vertical.
I wish some of the people who want to move to the city would replace the people on my floor who put their wire hangers wrapped in plastic from the dry cleaners in the paper-only bin in the compactor room.
Don’t tell anyone I said this, but they could replace some of the dog owners, too. No one wants to watch other people’s obsessions.
I like living in an apartment. Building sounds are comfortable. Faint baby cries, elevator doors opening, people in the hall passing by your door, newspaper being delivered with a soft thump outside the door, sports talk with the doormen.
“I have a switch in my apartment that doesn’t do anything. Every once in a while I turn it on and off. On and off. On and off. One day I got a call from a woman in France who said ‘Cut it out!’”
— Stephen Wright
The recently-retired mailman of 10 years in my building called me Bob. Of all people not to know your name. I let it go. I thought it was funny. There was a bartender at Herb’s Tavern in Rocky River, Ohio where I lived years ago, who somehow thought my name was Dave. I let that go, too. My buddies got a kick out of it. If they called for me there, they’d ask for Dave.
The owner of the excellent breakfast place down the street says the new high rise across the street from the place, with monthly rents more than a year’s room and board was when I was in college, doesn’t bring him much business at all. The new tenants are different from the neighborhood patrons, he says.
The cost of living here must be increasingly tough for the increasing number of single people. If I wrote a TV show about single people living in New York apartments I’d call it “Self Storage.”
Once a week an exterminator comes to our building. You sign up at the front desk if you want him to come up to your place with his big bag of glue traps. I asked him once if he ever gets frantic calls from people over the weekend who’ve seen a mouse in their apartment. Sure he says, but they can’t always come out on weekends. He knows of women who’ve checked into hotels while waiting for the exterminator to come to their apartment.
The exterminator also told me you wouldn’t believe some of the apartments. You can hardly walk around in them, there’s so much stuff everywhere. I wasn’t really surprised. I see some boxes almost every day in the compactor room on my floor addressed to the same person.
Even though you usually don’t want there to be much mail in your box, you feel a little bereft when the non-descript guy two feet away has an armful of magazines and museum catalogs.
‘As most New Yorkers have done, I have given serious and generous thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day.’
I grew up in a small town in a rural part of the state. We had a big lawn. We didn’t have neighbors as close as my buddies did. I like living with neighbors right on the floor.
Do you get away on weekends? I wouldn’t want the obligations of having a place or the obligation of having to go to it all the time, or the drive, or having to own a car, but I do sometimes envy the person outside the building on a Friday with all sorts of canvas bags waiting for the car to pull up in front. I envy them that where they’re going they might have a wooden screen door.