(…Part Two of a Series on my six years in New York…)
I live on the Upper East Side. This was a fate foretold from the time I was six years old and read Harriet the Spy. Indeed, this is the place I’ve felt most at home in my adult life — perhaps in my entire life. I live on a lovely tree-lined block in a very nice ZIP code, near fancy shops on one avenue, and bars and restaurants on the other avenue. If you ask me what heaven looks like, I will tell you that it looks a lot like the Upper East Side, except there is a Trader Joe’s instead of a Gristedes, and a Whole Foods instead of a D’Agostino. All of these things considered, as have said before, it is easier to get me to leave the country than the Upper East Side.
I digress. The UES is not the point of this story. My apartment building is. If you follow me on twitter, you are probably well aware of the drama that is taking place in my building right now.
I live in a doorman building; a smallish, pre-war number that has been mostly gut-renovated, and where everyone knows everyone else’s business. With that in mind, I am not above telling you all about it.
For starters, the couple next door to me fights viciously all the time. Screaming, ranting, throwing dishes. When I see them on the street, they refuse to look me in the eye. I say hello, and they will not greet me. This gets particularly uncomfortable, because they have two dogs, and Riley Roo quite likes their dogs.
I find this even more awkward because the couple who lived in the apartment before them had a similar dynamic, and they finally split up and moved out. But not before breaking all of their china and putting huge dents in the walls.
In the mornings, when I am walking the dog and trying to avoid my next door neighbor(s)(it’s usually him walking the dogs, not her), I often bump into my doorman trying out some kind of disguise to conceal the fact that he’s sleeping with a woman on the 5th floor. I used to see the doorman flirting with the woman I dubbed “Mrs. Howdy Doody” (and she does look just like a marionette). The next thing I knew, his wedding band was off, and I would see him getting on the elevator from the 5th floor during his break, tucking in his shirt.
And then…there he was, wearing a hat or bandana, walking her incorrigible French Bulldogs at 6:00am. I wonder if he’ll try an eyepatch next.
Speaking of clandestine love affairs: when I was walking home from work on Friday, I spotted my one neighbor (incidentally, also resident on the 5th floor), brazenly dining with another neighbor…not his wife. He was walking her dog this morning; walking it off leash, like he’d never walked a dog before. Like dogwalking was some kind of novelty; some kind of thrill. The nerve!
This is all to say nothing of the Super who is not so super; who doesn’t answer his door for anything; who has a baby with another resident (also on the 5th floor) (!) and a wife and two kids in Hartford.
Then there are the bitter divorcees, cast aside for younger women (I hear you, sisters!); Marcia who sits in the lobby each day and has Hebrew nicknames for all of us (currently in the hospital with heatstroke; no indication of when she’ll get out; collection has been taken up to buy her a proper air conditioner); the dapper gent who has a standard poodle and two pugs, walks them each separately and won’t talk to anyone in the building except for me; the young, engaged couple who lives on my floor who pretends like we’re the best of friends any time any of their preppy chums are around because we all work in financial services.
It seems unfathomable that everyone would know everyone’s business like this — that strangers would know who is sleeping with whom by whose dogs are being walked by which person and when. But these people know things about me, too. They knew that Bill used to walk the dog, and now it is me — morning, noon and night. They probably heard our vicious yelling; probably know exactly why Bill isn’t here to walk the dog any more.
This is Manhattan living, though. In New York, we all live on top of each other — it took me a long time to get used to. I was scared of being watched; afraid of being judged; mortified of being used as an example. And maybe it isn’t that I have acclimated to the sausage-cased feeling of the city — I’m not sure anyone ever fully acclimates to that sucked in, nowhere to hide feeling. I think the thing is I have just become more comfortable in my own skin.