28 April 2006

Where's my camera?

I'm moved. Everything is here, instead of there, and while none of it is where it should be, I am home. And exhausted.

I know you all want to see what it looks like -- and after agonizing over the paint colors, I think I got it all right -- but I can't find my camera, or the adapter to get the pictures from it to my computer to you.

I wish I could find it, though, because the best, funniest picture would be of Luca in full-on rock climber mode, scaling the heights of my mattress, which I am propping up against the wall every morning, until I can engineer the murphy bed.

I was worried that he and Oz would be sad to leave the loft of my old apartment, but at least Luca has found a substitute.

18 April 2006


I haven't moved in nearly nine years, so you can imagine what it's like packing up my apartment. I am trying, in the way recommended by professional organizers, to be ruthless. My new place isn't any bigger than my current one, so I can't just bung everything into a box and stick it into a spare closet. I haven't worn this sweater in five years -- thrift shop! Do I need five non-stick frying pans? No I do not. Gone.

But the books, the books, my friends. What do I do about them?

It's not that I'm opposed to getting rid of some of them. I am never going to embark on that ancient Greek philosophers course; I can get rid of the Plato. And even though I like to reread them, the paperback PD James mysteries can be sent to my parents' vacation house for their renters to enjoy (my parents are thrilled, let me tell you).

Unfortunately, that seems to be as far as I can go. My books say something about me, and I want people who see them to see them and say, "ah, yes, she is that kind of person; the eclectic, physics-and-contemporary-fiction-reading kind of person. We like her."

I'm also a classic-English-and-Russian-big-novel reader. And popular non-fiction. Then there's the entire Edith Wharton, Jane Austen and Graham Greene collections.

I can get rid of most of the short story collections. A lot of them are available online, and I don't really like the genre anyway. Except for Alice Munro. And maybe I should hang on to the Annie Proulx, since she's hot right now.

OK, the Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo can go; I think I was going through a phase, probably related to a boyfriend. And the two books of great bike rides in New York City could probably find a better home. I cannot part with any of my dictionaries, style guides or other writing reference books, though.

You see the problem, right?

15 April 2006

The new place

Some pictures of my new apartment, as it looks now. The outlines on the floors are not noting crime-scene areas of interest; I'm figuring out where my furniture will go.

Here's the part where all of you who don't live in Manhattan say: what? how could anyone live in such a small place?

While I would love to have more space, I am really enjoying the challenge of figuring out how best to use every inch. As my friend Todd pointed out, middle class people the world over live like this, and having to be super-efficient in my design is making feel very Swedish, or possibly Italian.

My friends Ruby and Anne came over yesterday, one after the other. Ruby brought me daffodils and a green pitcher to put them in. Anne and I sat on the floor and drank red wine. Both of those things made me feel very much at home.

Next, to paint.

11 April 2006

What I did next

I went to the new apartment. My new apartment. I must have checked that I still had the keys a dozen times on the ride up. Whenever I check something in my bag like that, I assume a thief is watching me and realizing, "aha, that one has something valuable she's trying to protect, but her abundance of caution has just betrayed her," and that I'll be mugged soon thereafter.

I had to switch subways three times on the way. The second time was to get away from a man who suddenly started to rock back and forth and mutter under his breath; he was neatly dressed in a suit, with a trim beard and a yalmulke, and while I know it was probably legitimate davening -- or mental illness -- something about him scared me. What was that bag he was gripping underneath the seat? Maybe it was because something big and great had just happened in my life that I expected something bigger and horrible to happen to cancel it out. Of course, had a bomb gone off in the subway car after I had left it, I'd feel incredibly guilty for not having said anything. I wonder if I'm cut out for life in New York in the Age of Terror, or whatever the CNN brand is.

The apartment looked the same as it had earlier in the day at the walk through, only now, it was mine. I turned on all the lights. I walked around. I sat on the floor here, then there, envisioning where I'd put what painting. I had brought The Numptys with me for company. Right now they are in the kitchen.

The previous owners had not left a big bag of trash, only three things: a razor blade, a milk crate, and two small bottles of Jameson. I was in such a good mood that it took me a full hour to wonder if there was any morbid significance to that combination.

The End of Ambivalence: The Closing

There was an immigration rally near City Hall, a block away from the closing agent's office. Rally + City Hall + Hillary Clinton (she was one of the speakers) = massive security, but despite that, I was 20 minutes early, and, of course, the first one there.

The closing agent didn't draw breath from the time I entered the office until... never. She's probably still talking. "You can sit there," taking me into the conference room, around which there were 8 chairs, three on each side opposing each other, "no, not there, your lawyer will sit there; you sit in the middle."

The broker and I had come down together from the walk through, and the closing agent seemed unsure of where to seat her. On the one hand, she was the seller's broker; on the other, she had nothing to do in this besides collect a check from the seller and be nice to me. The broker sat next to me -- not in my lawyer's seat, don't worry -- and the closing agent sat at the head of the table, flipping frantically through a stack of papers and telling us stories of closings gone awry. "This one time, no one could find the title.... then there was the time -- this is funny -- when the lending bank showed up with a check for the wrong person...." She showed me the title that would become mine once the old title was turned over. "Take a good look now," she said, though she didn't let me hold it, "because this may be the only time you ever see it."

The seller's lawyer arrived and sat opposite me. His voice shook as if he wasn't used to public speaking; he always refered to me by my name, rather than "the buyer" or "her"; I developed a crush on him immediately.

The seller, whom I never met before, was a woman about my age wearing a blue sweater and linen pants, and the relaxed look of a person about to make a lot of money. Her lawyer, my lawyer, the payoff bank's lawyer, everyone knew each other, and the closing agent tried to make a party of it, "it's like old home week in here," and when that didn't excite anyone, she asked the payoff bank's lawyer, in her softest voice, "but Agnus is okay? She's getting around alright?" referring, I suppose, to a sick wife.

There were preliminary papers to sign, but the most important person, the lending bank's lawyer -- with the big checks for the seller and the contracts for me -- wasn't there. "We're all waiting for Eliah," my lawyer said (var. Elijah; Passover starts this week), and Eliah came nearly an hour late.

There was only one surprise check to write -- for a fuel surcharge for the building's oil bill -- but it was for less than 20 dollars. The broker had to remind the seller to give me the keys, and everyone shook my hand. I left the building as quickly as I could, into the immigration ralliers. It was a beautiful day. I felt like I could do anything and had no idea what to do with myself.

10 April 2006

Do I really want to do this: The Closing

This post should be entitled "The Walk Through", but as of 9:45am, I haven't heard yet whether this is happening. It didn't occur to me that this wouldn't just happen automatically, but apparently, I had to ask for it, and I only did that over the weekend.

Because really want I want to do is turn over my entire life savings to someone who could have trashed the place in the six weeks since I last saw the apartment.

Not that I think she did. But if there's even one bag of trash left, and I don't know that beforehand, I'm going to be pissed.

Otherwise, it's a lovely day for check writing here in New York. Sometime after 1pm, I will be an Owner.

08 April 2006

Happy Anniversary

12 years ago today, StuntMother and Father were married, in Cambridge, England. Of course, they were just Francesca and Ed back then, identities which they have managed to hang on to and enhance, despite the addition of the kids, something I am reminded of every time I am lucky enough to spend time with them.

It was a typical English day: the weather was what they call 'changeable'. By which I mean, the morning was overcast, then it rained down pingpong-ball-sized hail, then, just before the ceremony, the sun came out and stayed. It's a metaphor, my friends.

Francesca had asked me to read a poem of my choosing at the wedding, and I spent the week before agonizing over my choice, "West Running Brook", by Robert Frost. I wasn't sure people would understand why it was nuptially appropriate, apart from it being the one American contribution to an otherwise all-English ceremony.

I thought I understood why, until I was standing at the front of the congregation in Pembroke College Chapel in my Laura Ashley dress, when suddenly it seemed entirely ridiculous, and I seriously thought of thumbing through my Robert Frost anthology to find "The Road Not Taken", which, while also inappropriate for the occasion, at least had the merit of being short. But I read what I'd rehearsed and remembered that I was not the star of this particular show.

I actually think the poem makes more sense now:

'Fred, where is north?'

'North? North is there, my love.
The brook runs west.'

'West-running Brook then call it.'
(West-Running Brook men call it to this day.)
'What does it think it's doing running west
When all the other country brooks flow east
To reach the ocean? It must be the brook
Can trust itself to go by contraries
The way I can with you -- and you with me --
Because we're -- we're -- I don't know what we are.
What are we?'

'Young or new?'

'We must be something.
We've said we two. Let's change that to we three.
As you and I are married to each other,
We'll both be married to the brook. We'll build
Our bridge across it, and the bridge shall be
Our arm thrown over it asleep beside it.
Look, look, it's waving to us with a wave
To let us know it hears me.'

' 'Why, my dear,
That wave's been standing off this jut of shore --'
(The black stream, catching a sunken rock,
Flung backward on itself in one white wave,
And the white water rode the black forever,
Not gaining but not losing, like a bird
White feathers from the struggle of whose breast
Flecked the dark stream and flecked the darker pool
Below the point, and were at last driven wrinkled
In a white scarf against the far shore alders.)
'That wave's been standing off this jut of shore
Ever since rivers, I was going to say,'
Were made in heaven. It wasn't waved to us.'

'It wasn't, yet it was. If not to you
It was to me -- in an annunciation.'

'Oh, if you take it off to lady-land,
As't were the country of the Amazons
We men must see you to the confines of
And leave you there, ourselves forbid to enter,-
It is your brook! I have no more to say.'

'Yes, you have, too. Go on. You thought of something.'

'Speaking of contraries, see how the brook
In that white wave runs counter to itself.
It is from that in water we were from
Long, long before we were from any creature.
Here we, in our impatience of the steps,
Get back to the beginning of beginnings,
The stream of everything that runs away.
Some say existence like a Pirouot
And Pirouette, forever in one place,
Stands still and dances, but it runs away,
It seriously, sadly, runs away
To fill the abyss' void with emptiness.
It flows beside us in this water brook,
But it flows over us. It flows between us
To separate us for a panic moment.
It flows between us, over us, and with us.
And it is time, strength, tone, light, life and love-
And even substance lapsing unsubstantial;
The universal cataract of death
That spends to nothingness -- and unresisted,
Save by some strange resistance in itself,
Not just a swerving, but a throwing back,
As if regret were in it and were sacred.
It has this throwing backward on itself
So that the fall of most of it is always
Raising a little, sending up a little.
Our life runs down in sending up the clock.
The brook runs down in sending up our life.
The sun runs down in sending up the brook.
And there is something sending up the sun.
It is this backward motion toward the source,
Against the stream, that most we see ourselves in,
The tribute of the current to the source.
It is from this in nature we are from.
It is most us.'

'To-day will be the day....You said so.'

'No, to-day will be the day
You said the brook was called West-running Brook.'

'To-day will be the day of what we both said.'

Afterwards, we ate drank champagne and ate wedding cake Francesca had made herself (three tiers, with white icing and violet flowers; she's crafty that one). The newlyweds were off early for a few days' honeymoon on Jersey -- or Guernsey; who knows the difference? -- and my then-boyfriend and I headed to the Cambridge train station to ride back to London. On the way, we stopped for some fish and chips for the journey, and learned, from the television above the fryer, that Kurt Cobain had killed himself.

Oh, and, their anniversary may actually be tomorrow; like Jersey and Guernsey, I can never keep it straight.

April showers, etc.

"March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb."

"April showers bring May flowers."

Both of those sayings seem to be anonymous and English, but fit our Northeast weather pattern pretty much exactly. It's always a surprise to me how blustery March is, and how cold and rainy April is -- once winter is over, it feels wrong to have anything other than warm sunny days, and yet, every year, there's the wind, there's the rain.

Central Park was nearly empty today because of the pouring rain; it's worth getting soggy feet to have the place nearly to myself. The cherry and pear trees are in bloom; crocuses and daffodils are popping up here and there. There are more daffodils than ever. The Dutch gave New York City millions of daffodils after 9/11, and have pledged to give us 500,000 new bulbs a year, as long as we have the volunteers to plant them. They're so nice, those Dutch. I wonder what we would give them if Amsterdam were attacked.

Another of those English-sounding truisms is that the robin is the first sign of Spring. There is an anonymous English poem about Little Robin Redbreast which sometimes gets confused with the American harbinger of Spring, but the English and American robins aren't the same thing, and that poem, if it's about anything other than the way the words sound together, is about the natural animosity between cats and birds.

There were dozens of robins hopping on the grass in the park today. The rain will have brought some juicy worms up from the earth, and those robins will be all over them. It's Spring alright.

Only here's the thing: the robins never leave. They are in the park all year 'round. Maybe not in the same numbers, but even in the middle of January you can find them without looking very hard. Seeing one no longer means it's Spring.

Between the rapacious hurricane seasons of the last two years and the melting polar caps in the Arctic global warming is in the news a lot these days. Maybe we've finally woken up to it, a little more than a little late. Maybe there's just no good celebrity gossip to fill up the news broadcasts right now.

Maybe the robin no longer has to fly south for the winter because it's warm enough here. The ducks certainly stay put all year (though it's debatable whether they ever migrated; I think JD Salinger was taking some poetic license with them).