Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Firemen are Studly

On a dreary and unseasonably cold Friday morning in early June, five months after moving in with Kerri and Elvis, I got up at 6:00 am as I always do.  Kerri and Elvis were out of town, so I might have made a little more noise than usual, but otherwise it was an unremarkable first fifteen minutes of my day.  I took a shower, slipped on my bathrobe, and twisted a towel onto my head.  When I walked out of the bathroom I noticed that there were a bunch of firetrucks parked on my street.  I wandered over to the living room window and saw some firemen waving their arms.  Still being a bit addled by sleepiness and not having had my coffee yet, I simply thought, "How weird that the firemen are waving their arms."

I set about going through my normal morning routine, walking into the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.  I always set the timer on my coffee machine the night before because I literally can't handle making a pot of coffee without having had any in the morning.  I'm that kind of not-a-morning-person -- the kind who needs to have a firmly routed routine because she can't process information in the morning.  The kind of not-a-morning-person who doesn't process firetrucks and firemen frantically flailing their arms as odd and something to investigate.  So I'm in the kitchen pouring myself a cup of coffee when another fireman catches my eye, points to me, and then points to the door to the building.  "Oooooooh.  You want me to open the door . . . "  Perhaps it was the aroma of the coffee (because at this point I still hadn't actually had any), but it finally dawned on me that maybe the firemen were hanging out in my front of my building because there was something wrong.

I ran down the stairs, still wearing nothing but the world's shortest bathrobe and a towel on my head, thinking, "Shit.  The doorbells don't work.  I wonder how long they've been trying to get in here?"  I opened the door muttering a more polite version of that thought and found approximately twenty firemen, in full regalia (helmets, boots, axes, oxygen tanks, etc.).  Apparently there was black smoke billowing from the roof and they were worried about carbon monoxide buildup.  I stood on the stairs, still in the world's shortest bathrobe with a towel on my head, as they kicked down the door to the boiler room and streamed down into the basement, battle ready.  The few remaining firemen followed me up the stairs (have I mentioned I'm wearing nothing but the world's shortest bathrobe?) asking me questions I couldn't answer and opening windows.  "Is anyone else in the building?  Who is in charge of the boiler?  Do you have a carbon monoxide detector?"

They finally left me alone to call my landlord and let him know what was going on.  I also finally got my cup of coffee.  They came back a few minutes later and discovered that I did in fact have a carbon monoxide detector, making me feel like even more of an airhead, since at this point I was still wearing the world's shortest bathrobe and a towel on my head, but now I was also carrying a cup of coffee standing in my living room saying, "Really?  I didn't know we had one.  Well that's good,"  to about ten firemen in full gear who were trying to keep me from asphyxiating.  I couldn't even blame whatever noxious fumes were filling my building for my idiocy, since apparently they hadn't made it to the third floor.

Satisfied that I was not going to die, the firemen left again and I finally got a chance to change into something a little more presentable.  Mind you, I still needed to get to work eventually, but everything had happened so fast that it was barely 6:30 at this point.  Five minutes later they knocked again to say that while I was fine on the third floor, and the second floor neighbors didn't appear to be home, the basement was completely full of a dangerous level of carbon monoxide.  They needed to leave all the doors and windows open for a few hours to clear the building.  Great.  I was the only person in the building (since Jimmy the Bookie didn't open the bodega until 8:00 or 9:00, what with it not actually being a bodega and all) and I needed to leave for work in twenty minutes and my landlord, very unhelpfully, was not answering my calls.  So I left most of the doors and windows open, left a few more messages on my landlord's voicemail, and left the building with the knowledge that, if there ever really were a fire in my building, I would definitely save my coffee machine first.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kerri and Elvis

One of the reasons why I managed to hang on so long living with Bahrry was that I had a plan as to where I was going to move next.  My very good friend from Peace Corps, Jane, was planning on moving to the city after law school the next summer.  She already had a job lined up and we'd spent the four years since the end of Peace Corps using eachother as sounding boards for our various roommate dilemmas.  She was there through all of Artie's dirt, and I was there when she needed to vent too.  Granted, her issues were a little less dramatic than mine, but still, we knew eachother well enough to know what would and wouldn't bother the other one.  In fact, while I was still living with Bahrry, we started to make a list of things we wouldn't stand for from the other.  My list for her included candle thievery.

When I set out to find a new place after receiving the letter, I actually was only looking for a sublet or a place with a flexible move out policy.  I saw four apartments, all of which were nice, but settled on a lovely two bedroom just 15 blocks south of my old place.  I would still be in the neighborhood that I loved, but with a different grocery store, post office, liquor store, entrance to the park, and subway station -- all the things I needed to continue my avoidance of Bahhry and Dan.  

This new apartment came complete with Kerri, a friendly 31 year old with her own PR business and her own dog!  I love dogs and had felt deprived ever since my family's amazing black lab, Bart, died right before I came home from Peace Corps (he died on election night, 2004, so my friends concluded that he just couldn't live through four more Bush years, which is fair enough).  I met Elvis (the dog) when I went to check out the apartment.  I fell in love immediately as he jumped and danced and tried to eat my hat!  Kerri was pretty great too -- a morning person with a teacher-boyfriend, she was totally on board with the no blaring music at 3:00 am thing.  She was personable and open, but she had a lot going on and didn't seem to be looking for a new best friend.

 Elvis dancing in the living room.

Elvis begging for treats in the kitchen.

 And just because I'm feeling sentimental, a tribute picture of my awesome dog Bart, who apparently (wisely), was a liberal democrat.

The apartment was pretty great too.  The building was a little dumpy, but we had the whole third floor with only one other apartment in the building directly below us.  On the first floor was a hugely ghetto bodega -- the only one I've ever encountered in NYC that doesn't actually sell any food -- which I later discovered was a front for a bookie.  We couldn't buy milk there, but Jimmy the Bookie (I swear to God that's his real name) would collect our packages for us, which was a nice perk considering our doorbell didn't work. 

The apartment was set up railroad style, with Kerri's room at the far end, then my space, then the living room, and finally the kitchen.  My space was split into a bedroom with two closets (one walk-in!) and a den with a nice big window.  Kerri had to walk through my den to get to her bedroom, but she was extremely considerate about it being my space, and with doors between my bedroom and her walkway, it was actually quite nice.  The living room was open and airy; lovely in the spring but freezing in the winter.  The bathroom was standard, expect for the shaft window that looked into my bedroom.  The kitchen, however, held the key to my heart -- a washer-dryer!!  If you don't live in NYC, you probably don't understand how amazing one of these contraptions can be, but despite the fact that our was about twenty years old and somewhat temperamental, it was by-far my favorite appliance ever.  Living in that apartment, I actually managed to do my laundry before it started overflowing out of the laundry basket.

 My bedroom.  Picture taken from the walk-in closet looking at the other closet and the shaft window to the bathroom.

 Looking from my bedroom into my den.

 My Den

 My Pretty Street

Living with Kerri and Elvis was easy.  She was sweet and easygoing and considerate.  I found myself responding in kind.  I never usually washed my roommates dishes, but Kerri would sometimes wash that aforementioned cereal bowl of mine, so I'd wash hers from time to time as well.  Kerri didn't drink, but didn't seem to mind that I occasionally had a glass of wine with dinner.  She totally understood that I couldn't have a coherent conversation until I'd finished at least one cup of coffee, despite the fact that she'd often already gone to the gym and the store by the time I got up on a Saturday morning.  I got home from work first and Elvis would greet me with full fanfare.  Kerri never expected me to care for him, arranging for other people to do it if she went out of town, only asking me if she were in a pinch.  She really was one of the best roommates I've ever had.  Too bad it didn't last . . .