31 January 2006

Do I really want to do this: The Co-op Board, Part One

I'm getting my "board package" together which must include: three personal references; three financial references; a letter from my employer; tax returns from the last two years; financial statement with documentation; and a letter from my current landlord.

All of that I expected.

I didn't expect the $45 fee for a credit check (I'm pretty sure it costs $30), the $75 lead-based paint fee (uh, are they going to put the lead-based paint back on the walls? They don't actually say what they'll do with this money, but there is a statement in the package that says they are required to inspect only if there is a child under six living in the apartment. There isn't. But I still have to pay), a $500 application fee, and a $500 move in/move out fee, to cover any damages incurred during my move.

If the board turns me down, only the last of those is refundable. OK, have the $45 for the credit check, but can you believe the gall of charging someone over $600 to apply to live in your building? And then turning them down? I guess if you live in New York, you can.

30 January 2006

The end of ambivalence?

When I was making New Year's resolutions this year, I decided that the only thing I really needed to resolve was to stop being so ambivalent about everything. Either I commit to my job, with all its benefits and shortcomings, or I look for a new one. Do I want to be married? Well then, I need to be seriously looking for a long-term relationship. Finish writing the book I started three years ago, or give it up. Don't start on five other projects. If I want to buy a place to live, I should decide whether I want to stay in Manhattan with its conveniences and proximity to everything, and pay more for less space, or move out to Brooklyn and have a long commute, but also a bedroom with a door.

Those are just the big things. But just about every decision I make, large or small, requires endless debate and mental pro-and-con lists, when really, it doesn't matter that much whether I go with the chocolate or the vanilla.

The thing is, I can't even commit to whether I want to stop being ambivalent. There's a certain moral superiority that comes with knowing I can see more than one side of an issue. Isn't that what being liberal is about?

Of course, this wishy-washiness isn't doing our political liberals any good. The Republicans learned a long time ago that choosing a message and sticking to it relentlessly was the way to win. The Democrats still can't commit to that strategy, and while their attention to nuance might make me like them better as people, what good is it to be right if you're not in power?

All this to say: my offer on the apartment was accepted. If all goes well with the mortgage and the co-op board (for an excellent explanation of what co-ops are, see Pedestrian Rage's posts on the subject), I should be moving in two months.

I have some doubts. Will I be able to resell it in a few years at a higher price? Is buying a studio confirming that I will be single forever? (Though it is worth pointing out that the current owners of these 400 sq. ft. are a couple, and from the pictures they have around the apartment, they look pretty happy.)

But I'm not thinking there is something better out there. I've seen a lot of places; I know that there isn't, for the price I can afford.

I'm not questioning my decision to remain on the Upper West Side instead of moving out to Brooklyn, with its hot-and-cold running bedrooms. I like the neighborhood, it's safe, it's convenient, and I can always move later if I want to.

Generalizing from one successful commitment is probably not wise, but I already feel better about my ambivalence. Maybe, when something is right, you just know it, and feeling ambivalent about something is an indication that it's not. I think that now.

But then, I might change my mind.

25 January 2006

What it takes

*Complete copy of 3 most recent consecutive months' statements for each of your asset accounts. INCLUDE ALL PAGES. If any unusually large deposits appear on any of these statements, please provide documentation relating to the source.

*Complete copy of most recent 2 years Personal Federal Tax Returns (ALL SCHEDULES).

*Copy of 2003, 2004 and 2005 W2 Forms.

*Copies of all pay stubs covering most recent 30 day period.

*If you receive a bonus or commission as part of your compensation, provide a signed letter from your employer on letterhead breaking out your base salary and bonus income for 2004, 2005 and projected 2006.

*Clear copy of Drivers License.

Can you tell I'm trying to buy an apartment? I put in a bid on something I thought I could afford, but then every person I talk to seems to add another $2000 onto the price with fees and closing costs and lawyer's bills and probably grande lattes all around.

The list above is just for pre-approval on a mortgage; not even the mortgage itself. God knows what that's going to require. And the co-op board? I don't even want to think about it.

23 January 2006

Other people I recognize on the street

After I didn't see Andrea, I saw an attractive man in his sixties crossing Fifth Avenue with a five-year-old boy. Despite the difference in their ages, I knew the man and boy were father and son, rather than grandfather and grandson. Maybe it was the jeans and leather jacket the man wore

Where had I seen him before? Ah yes, Bob Kerrey, former senator from Nebraska, current president of New School University, just down the block from where we were both walking. His hair has gone white, but/and he's still a very attractive man. He was walking with a limp, and my immediate thought was "oh poor thing; he's hurt himself running after his son."

Until I remembered that he lost a leg in the 'Nam. Duh.

People change

I was walking down West 10th Street yesterday afternoon when I thought I saw Andrea G--g-n walking towards me. She has her husband's last name now, and has for nearly 20 years -- she got married very young -- but to me she will always be Andrea G--g-n.

As a young teenager, Andrea, my mother's friend Barbara G--g-n's daughter, who was a year older than me, represented everything I secretly aspired to, but knew I could never obtain. She wore heavy eyeliner. She had boyfriends. When our families spent a few nights together in a cabin upstate, she had the cool tapes to play and the bottle of Southern Comfort to drink. She grabbed the rope swing hanging over the lake and jumped right in, while I tiptoed up to the edge of the water and put my toes in one at a time. She snuck out late at night. She smoked. I was too afraid to do any of those things -- afraid of disappointing my parents; afraid of what doing those things might do to me -- but she was fearless.

Until, of course, it went too far, she got into drugs, and after repeated attempts to sort her out at home failed, she was sent off to some boot-camp-style rehab center aimed at rehabilitating more than her drug habit.

It was a few years before she'd completely reemerged into life, and I'd moved on to high school by then, and much cooler music -- did I ever really like the Led Zeppelin and Lynard Skynard she played?

I don't know how well the rehab worked on the smoking and drinking front (at her mother's funeral 8 years ago, she was still smoking, though planning, after the stress had passed, to quit; Barbara died of lung cancer), but judging by the Christmas card she sent my parents this year -- a homey picture of her, her husband, and their two children, both of whom are young teenagers -- the rest of what I thought of as her lifestyle has receded far into the distance.

If you'd asked me 25 years ago which of the two of us was likely to be walking on 10th street as if she owned it, I'd have said Andrea. Now I'd be surprised to see her in Manhattan at all, except maybe once a year for a holiday trip with the family to Rockefeller Center. And it's just possible that I would jump into the lake now. Which is better?...

17 January 2006

That old dog done come back

A few weeks ago, Gretel posted that she was having a hard time getting things done, because her black dog was visiting. That description of the blues didn't make sense to me at the time -- a black dog is such a friendly thing; who wouldn't want a black dog?

Last night I was reading a book that referenced Winston Churchill's depression, and how he called it a "black dog that comes into the room every night and lies down at your feet." I got it. It's familiar, the black dog. He comes back and stays with you, just plops himself down with a sigh, at regular intervals. In a sense, you even welcome him, because you know him so well.

Mid-January, yep, that's when he comes to my house. It's cold, it's dark, I've gotten through the holidays unscathed, but with no reward (yes, I got some lovely presents; that's not what I mean), and there is nothing on the horizon to look forward to. Plus, now Oz seems to be under the weather and Luca is not yet entirely well. Perfect conditions for the dog to move in. I'm able to go through the motions, get myself to work, mostly not self-medicate with food or alcohol, but, as the immortal Peggy Lee would say, "is that all there is?"

16 January 2006

My excellent taste

I went into Levain this morning, as I do every morning, to buy the whole-wheat-raisin roll that will be my late-morning snack. (Note to self: the late-morning snack could be the reason you find it impossible to lose weight.) The man next to me was waiting for the whole-wheat-raisin bread to come out of the oven. The owner told us a little story about how not too long ago, Frank Bruni, the New York Times restaurant critic, called to ask whether the whole wheat rolls were their best sellers. She told him, no, in fact the chocolate chip cookies were.

Anyone who knows Levain will not be surprised to learn that. Their cookies are the size of a Volkswagen, have god knows how many calories, should be eaten over several days, but in fact, are so irresistible in their dense, barely cooked chocolate wonderfulness that they are instead eaten -- by me, at any rate -- in one long session involving several glasses of milk.

Bruni, however, was amazed. He could not believe that the rolls weren't their best-selling item. Since I eat them every day, I obviously agree with him that they are delicious. I guess Bruni does a restaurant report on WQXR, and that week, he devoted it entirely to Levain's whole-wheat-raisin rolls. The owner said that for a few days afterward there was a noticeable uptick in older customers (presumably QXR's demographic) asking for the rolls.

Bruni, according to Levain's owner, lives up the street from the tiny bakery, which means around the corner from me. Of course, neither of us know what he looks like. He could have been the man standing next to me wondering about the bread for all either of us knows.

13 January 2006

Where've you been?

I know, I know; it's been a while. Luca has been sick for two weeks, and I've spent a lot of time taking him to the vet, torturing him by shoving various medicines down his throat, and being anxious about the little guy. He may be getting better; it's hard to say with these cats. They just don't let on when they're not feeling well.


I got a battery-powered, pocket-sized radio from my brother Dan for Christmas. I had wanted one at one point, because the time I spent walking to work was cutting into my NPR-listening time. Then I decided I didn't want to cut myself off from my environment in that way, but Dan didn't get the memo.

I tried it out for the first time today, in the three blocks to the subway. Yes, it has come to this; I've been waking up so late lately that I have to take the subway to work. I enjoyed getting that extra five minutes of BBC World Service, though. Stampede in Mecca, Iranian nuclear crisis, then something about the African Union and Darfur. I was going down the subway steps by that point, and the reception was going out.

I was a little self-conscious, joining the ranks of the headphones-on-the-street wearers -- there is no way to make those cords look elegant -- until I realized: just about everyone I passed was wearing them too.

02 January 2006

Starting the year off with a whimper

My friends Stacy and Howard are in right now in a car headed down 95 South to North Carolina. Stacy is moving there for three months to do research on her next book; Howard is Driving Miss Stacy. I helped her carry her things down from her fifth-floor walk-up to the rental car, so I feel very altruistic and virtuous. (In truth, I only made one trip, then got the coveted "wait with the car parked at a hydrant" position.)

I rewarded myself with a midday movie. It feels so decadent somehow, having this Monday off. I even got popcorn.

(Everyone has their post-9/11 traumas; mine are loud noises and crowded public spaces. The AMC 25 on 42nd Street is not the place for an incipient claustrophobe, as it turns out. I went because it has stadium seating, and I figured the midtown location wouldn't be a huge draw on a holiday. Bad choice. It's got these horribly narrow escalators that go up for three stories at a time, barely fitting one person; and I didn't see any stairs. How did the architect get away with this? Did he pay off the building department for the permit?)

I saw Brokeback Mountain, which I'd heard all the good things about, and which I didn't want to be the last person in the world to see. It is all you've heard it is -- spare, taut, sexy, sad... incredibly sad. I cried, as I knew I would, but not as much as I would have if there hadn't been a guy sitting next to me wrestling me for the armrest for the entire two hours.

I was impressed though, that he appeared to be there on a date with a woman. From what I have heard, heterosexual men are not flocking to this movie. I go back to work tomorrow, to the office which is composed of 95% straight men. It didn't occur to me until afterwards that I may have chosen the wrong movie to see in order to keep up with the water cooler chat.