Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Story of the Day: 2-14-11


Stranded in Brooklyn

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also my parents’ anniversary. So it is as good a time as any to pay tribute to three of my favorite people in the world: my parents and my wife Sarah. My other favorite people, in case you were wondering, are my daughter Hazel, my sister Mandy and her family, and Bristol Palin.

My parents were great about visiting me in New York, even though it was almost always a miserable experience. My dad came to visit by himself once during the greatest heat wave in New York history. He ended up having to rent a hotel room because he couldn’t handle staying in my un-air conditioned Brooklyn apartment and I didn’t know how to tell my girlfriend at the time that she wasn’t welcome so she stayed over on the fold-out couch, making all of us somewhat uncomfortable. The hotel he rented was my suggestion; it was incredibly cheap for Manhattan but it was essentially a youth hostel. His room was about four feet by four feet and he had to go down the hall to use the bathroom. It was an incredibly sad state of affairs for all involved.

On another trip, my dad and I went out to a bar in Manhattan with some of my friends and he left earlier than I did. The train he needed was out of commission, but he only found this out after waiting an hour for it to arrive. He figured out how to take another route, but by that time it was after midnight, and I lived in a sketchy part of Brooklyn where even bums were afraid to walk around after dark. He managed to get home without getting mugged, but I’m sure the trip did not exactly take place within what he would call his comfort zone.

Another time, back when I was still living at 21-20, the whole family came to visit. The morning my sister was leaving she woke up to find Scary Gary’s horrible snarling monster of a dog trapped in our foyer. We called the police, but right before they arrived, Mr. Talgot returned from his morning frut run and took the dog into his apartment. My sister missed her plane and the dog missed his one chance to escape from under Gary’s iron fist, so again, lose-lose.

I don’t think it was mere coincidence that things always went off the rails when my parents visited. When my parents are around I magically transform into the image they’ve had of me since I was a small child. For instance, I used to lose things when I was a kid. I don’t really do that anymore. I am mature now, and responsible. But every time they come to visit, I lose things. So they will always see me as the kid who loses things, because when they’re around, that’s who I am. And there’s something about my parents being around that negates all my responsibility and self-discipline. When they come to LA, we always get lost. I try so hard to not get lost that I end up second-guessing myself and getting lost. I have no explanation for this phenomenon, but I am sure it is real and it is full of science.

Maybe the worst example of things spiraling out of control in New York occurred the day they met my wife Sarah for the first time. She wasn’t my wife at the time, of course. I wouldn’t get married without inviting my parents. They raised me better than that.

The night before the out-of-control day, I had spent the night at Sarah’s apartment in Park Slope. I’m not sure where my parents were staying, but it was far enough away from Brooklyn that once they got there, they weren’t about to leave. I lived in Greenpoint, which is a good 1/2 hour train ride from Park Slope on a good day. The day in question was not a good day. We had told my parents to meet us at a restaurant in Greenpoint for brunch at 11:00. We hopped on the F train with plenty of time to spare. The F train went blazing past our stop. We got out at the next stop and took an F in the opposite direction. Then we waited 1/2 an hour for the G to arrive, and had to transfer to another train, which took us to a bus, which took us to Greenpoint. All told, we were about 45 minutes late.

When we arrived, we apologized up and down. My parents were very nice about it, still eager to meet this girl I’d been raving about for the past few months. The three of them got along famously, because, of course they would. I would never marry a girl my parents did not approve of. They raised me better than that.

After brunch, we parted ways with Sarah at the subway entrance and my parents and I headed back to my apartment. She was on her way down to her friend Rosten’s apartment to practice with her band. Oh, which, now that I’m remembering, was why we couldn’t leave Brooklyn … because we were going to see Sarah’s band play in Park Slope at 7:00 that night. That’s how New York works; when you’re in Brooklyn at 12:30 and you have a show to go to at 7:00, you have to find a way to kill 6 1/2 hours. If you try to go back into Manhattan, something’s bound to go pear-shaped.

A few blocks away from my apartment, I realized that my only set of keys was in Sarah’s purse. I called her. No answer, of course, because she was on the subway, underground. I did not know where Rosten’s apartment was located. Thinking quickly, I decided that our best option was to get on the subway and head in a general southerly direction in the hopes that she would realize what had happened and get off the train at exactly the right station and miraculously find the car we were in and hand off the keys to us.

This didn’t happen. Attempts to contact one another by cell phone were met with dead signals. What we did was go to her apartment, where she wasn’t, and wait in the park until she called us. We waited for about 1/2 an hour. It started to sprinkle. Things were not looking positive. Finally, she called and gave us a somewhat central location where we could meet. We didn’t want to get all the way back on the train and head up to our place, only to head back down to see her band later that night, so we decided she would give us the keys to her apartment and we would hang out there until it was time to go to her show.

We all hopped back on the train. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the station near the coffee shop where I was to meet Sarah. The rain was coming down in buckets, so I told my parents to wait at the subway and I’d brave the storm myself. I found the coffee shop, met up with Sarah, got her keys, and returned to the subway with three $4.99 umbrellas in hand. It’s always raining in New York, but the rain often catches you unawares while you’re out on the street, far from your home. The solution is to always carry an umbrella with you, no matter what the sky looks like in the morning, or buy a street umbrella. Street umbrellas are a flimsy, one-time use item that you buy only under the direst of circumstances. You use your street umbrella to get to wherever you’re going and then you throw it in the trash or the back of your closet. You don’t carry a street umbrella with you as your umbrella of choice. The next time it rains, you just buy another street umbrella.

We then got back on the subway and took the train back to where we’d just come from, walked to Sarah’s apartment in the pouring rain, geting soaked even though we had umbrellas because the umbrellas we had were truly abysmal. There was a moment of panic when I couldn’t get the front door to Sarah’s building open, but I banged furiously until one of the neighbors let us in. Neighbors always let you in in New York, even if they’ve never seen you before.

The adventure was pretty much over at that point. It was now 4:00. We hung out at Sarah’s apartment for 2 more hours then got back on the train and headed to her gig. Where she was brilliant, of course, and my parents were suitably impressed. To their credit, they rolled with the punches, even though I’m sure the minute they finally got some time alone they banged their heads against the wall for raising such an irresponsible child. Ah well. In the end, in all worked out for the best. I got the girl, and they … I’m not really sure what they got out of it. A wonderful daughter-in-law, a brand new granddaughter, and a couple of useless umbrellas.

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Story of the Day: 1-30-11


Neighbours

Our first apartment in LA was in Los Feliz, just east of Hollywood. Before we moved here, our brother-in-law Sonny drove around looking at apartments for us. He found us a reasonably-priced place in a great location. We filled out all the paperwork over email and got the apartment even though all we had seen of the apartment were a few dimly-lit pictures.

It didn’t really matter, because any apartment in Los Angeles is a palace compared to any apartment in New York. The day we arrived, we were speechless. It looked so huge. Our stuff hadn’t arrived yet, so we spent the first three nights sleeping on a foam mattress we borrowed from Sonny & Julia and drinking wine out of paper cups.

One of the biggest selling points of the apartment was the fact that we didn’t have upstairs neighbors. At my previous apartment in Brooklyn, the upstairs neighbors had made me very tense. They fought loudly and often. I always expected that at any minute I would hear a gunshot followed by a massive thump. And one of them wore what sounded like wooden shoes. And she paced back and forth in her 12 X 12 apartment for hours on end. I could never figure out what she was doing, because you could clear the entire apartment in 4 steps.

The only thing above our LA apartment was a patio that was shared by everyone in the building but no one ever used. We did have a downstairs neighbor, a very nice fiftysomething Cuban man named Herve who wore his eye makeup with such regularity that we were pretty sure it was tattooed on. He had a dog named Booboo who he would call to from his porch at night: “BOOOOboooo! BOOOOboooo!” We could sometimes hear his TV through the floor and he sometimes played his disco music a little loud, but overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor.

After we had been there for a few years, Herve was forced out by a rent increase and three hipster kids in their 20s moved in. They weren’t there very often, leaving for weeks at a time to go to Ibiza or wherever beautiful young hipsters go. When they were there, they partied loudly every night until about 11, and then they’d go out for the rest of the night. Which wasn’t such a terrible schedule, because they were usually gone by the time we went to sleep.

When they moved out, another couple moved in who were the exact opposites of the hipsters. They never made a peep. And when I exercised in the apartment — which I did very rarely — the woman in the couple would knock on her ceiling with a broomstick handle instead of coming up to talk to me about it like a civilized human being.

One day I was sitting on the couch, watching TV, and she knocked on the ceiling. I went down to confront her.

“Hi,” I said, “I was sitting on the couch just now and I thought I heard you knock on the ceiling.”

“It sounded like someone was stomping around,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I was sitting on the couch.”

“It sounded like a hippopotamus,” she said. “It was really loud.”

“Well, I exercise sometimes in the apartment,” I said. “You’ve knocked on the ceiling before when I’ve done that. You don’t need to knock on the ceiling, though. You can just come up and ask me to be quiet.”

“That must have been it,” she said. “You must have been exercising.”

“No!” I insisted. “I exercise sometimes, but this time I wasn’t! I was just sitting on the couch!”

“Could you get a rug?” she asked. “That might help.”

This went on for awhile until I finally told her I would appreciate it if she stopped knocking on the ceiling and I walked away. I never exercised in our apartment again, but to be fair, she never knocked on the ceiling again, either. Thankfully, they moved away after about 6 months, I guess because they couldn’t handle my hippopotomusian-bulk.

The final neighbors pushed us over the edge. They nearly pushed the entire neighborhood over the edge. It was two women in their 20s. A few days after moving in, one of them bought a puppy. That night, she put the puppy out on the porch and left. For hours.

As we learned, the “cry it out” method does not work for puppies. After about two hours of incessant crying, people in the neighboring buildings began shouting out of their windows for someone to “shut that beast up.” I thought they were going to start throwing shoes and tomatoes. At 2 in the morning, we finally could take it no longer. We woke the building manager up and told him the neighborhood was on the verge of blowing up our building. He immediately got on the phone and called the tenants, who came home and brought the dog in about an hour later, still yapping.

The exact same thing happened again the next night. Only this time, the building manager couldn’t get in touch with the tenants. The dog yapped straight through until about 5 in the morning, when the tenants got home from work or the club or wherever it was they went at night.

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sarah wrote a terse letter explaining to the neighbors that their dog had ruined the entire world and everyone hated them. It wasn’t really that bad. Sarah’s nice. It was the nice version of “your dog has ruined the entire world and everyone hates you.”

Later that day, we got a knock on the door. I opened it to find an incredibly cute twentyish British girl standing in my doorway.

“Hello,” she said in an adorable British accent, “I live downstairs, and I just wanted to tell you that I’m terribly sorry about the dog.”

“It’s not a problem,” I grinned, little cartoon hearts flying around my head.

“He belongs to my roommate, and she works at night, and we didn’t know he barked so much, and it will never, ever happen again.” Smiling and fluttering her eyelids.

“Great!” I said. “Thank you so much for coming up. Really, you didn’t need to do this.” Which was true; she really didn’t need to do that.

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said, solemnly. “I’m so sorry he disturbed you.”

“No problem,” I said, “bye now.”

And she went back downstairs. Her apology made no difference; we were already on the hunt for a new place to live. But it was still by far the most neighborlyiest thing I’ve ever seen a neighbor do in response to a complaint.

A few days later I went to see the Ben Stiller movie Greenberg. The movie ends with a big party scene in which Ben Stiller’s character decides to go to Australia with his niece and her friend. The friend looked extremely familiar to me. Long story short: it was my downstairs neighbor. I met her on Sunday, and on Wednesday I was watching her on the silver screen. These are the kinds of things that only happen in Hollywood.

Just this morning I read an article about how she’s going to be the next big thing. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone called her “a sorceress of an actress.” She’s in this movie. She’s the British one.

If any reporters stumble on this looking for dirt, I can tell you this: she’s a good neighbor. But her roommate’s dog is kind of an asshole.

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Story of the Day: 1-28-11


The Waterbug

I wanted to go into this weekend caught up on my stories for the week, so I’m recycling this old story I sent to Matt, back when I lived in Brooklyn. Enjoy!

Jesus Christ, man… last night Sarah and I were just settling down to bed and she looks up and screams – there’s an enormous waterbug near my ceiling. Do you know what those things are? They’re like 3 inch-long flying cockroaches. It was the filthiest, hugest, flyingest thing I’ve ever seen.

Sarah ran into the bathroom and shut the door while I was left to battle the monster alone with my shoe. “Turn off the light! It likes the light!” she screamed. “I’m not going to be alone in the dark with it!” I shouted back. I stood in front of the bathroom door with my shoe, she stood behind the door, which was cracked just a little bit. Neither of us are wearing pants.

The thing flew toward my closet. Suddenly, I couldn’t see it. I stand there waiting for it to make a move. I can’t wait any longer, I peek my head under the door frame and see the thing perched there on the ledge, just waiting to strike. I reach my hand around the frame and give it a quick wack. “Got it!” I screamed. The bug falls to the ground and immediately scurries into the corner underneath my dartboard. Sarah starts heading out of the bathroom.

“Stay in there!” I scream. “It’s still kicking!” After another 5 minute tussle with the thing running back and forth under the step ladder, trying in vain to fly, I finally counter it as it makes its way up the ladder and I crush the living shit out of the bastard. It was a fierce battle. The rest of the night, I kept feeling something crawling on me and slapping it away.

All I could think was that the heat, the insects, the fact that I had to carry 4 distinct, heavy bags home with me last night (workbag, gym clothes, Staples purchases, groceries), all of it was saying to me – “Get out of this city NOW, motherfucker.”

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