Architecture on West 144th Street

Lazy days. Lazy anxious days. With the Fourth in the middle of the week, nothing happens. Anxiety builds. Today marks the close of three weeks here. I love it, and I want to stay, and I want to make plans to move at the end of the month, but I can’t do any of that without a job. And I sound (feel) like a broken record.

On Tuesday, once I had washed off the makeup of my false start, I resolved to buy a coffee tamper for my espresso machine. A quest which took me to Lincoln Square and the Bed Bath & Beyond. I also decided to see Ocean’s 8.

On the 1 train 137th stop a black woman boarded wearing a sweatshirt and black jeans, she seemed very confused. Asking the woman next to me if the train went to 63rd street, she got agitated when told it stopped at 66th. “I don’t want to go to 66th! I need to go to 63rd!” Once she understood that was the nearest stop she calmed down, but kept looking around anxiously at each stop, asking which stop was it. She seemed young but had gray in her hair. The impression of youth came from her childish demeanor and wide-eyed fear. After a few stops she sat at the end of a row, near the door. I could see her, but not the woman next to her who yelled loudly at her to stop leaning on her. This poor woman snapped back, I’m not leaning on you. (From what I could see the rude woman took up more than her share of space.) The exchange went on for a bit, and you could feel that studied active ignorance that New Yorkers get when voices are raised in the air. Everyone keeps doing exactly what they’re doing, but you know their awareness has been raised several notches.

The poor woman turned away, and I felt helpless in her humiliation. At 79th street she got up again and began peering anxiously out the window. At 72nd she almost got off and my neighbor and I both stopped her and told her to wait for the next stop. At that point, seeing a way to be helpful, I told her I was exiting at 66th also, and I would help her go in the right direction. At 66th, we got off, and I made sure to exit on Broadway at 65th. I then pointed at visible 64th street. Again, she seemed very confused – “I want 63rd!” “And Broadway?” I asked. “Yes. But I need to be on the other side of the street!” I told her to keep walking in that direction and then cross the street when she found her destination and she went on her way.

Immediately after parting I ran into another of the charming young men working for charities. I stopped right away and said “Hi!”. He thanked me for being so nice, and when I started to tell my story of just moving to the city from the Midwest he said, “no wonder you’re so nice, you’re a Midwesterner.” To which statement I balked. I hope these guys are legit. Just like with the last one, I told him I wasn’t comfortable giving any credit info on their tablets on the street, but I’d be glad to donate at my leisure. Last time it was Oxfam, this one was Save our Children, both for Syria. We chatted, and I went on my way. (I still haven’t fulfilled these promises.)

It seems like nearly all the cinemas in NYC are AMC. I bought my $16.00+ ticket at the kiosk and went to find my seat. There were a LOT of very old people attending as well. It surprised me to discover that although the seats were assigned, they weren’t the fancy schmancy leather recliners. Now, whether you’ve seen it or not you might surmise that Ocean’s 8 is a heist movie with lots of little puzzles that get solved at the end. That’s the fun of the movie. Behind me sat an old couple and the woman kept asking about every bit of foreshadowing. “Why’d she do that?” “What does that mean?” And her husband would loudly answer her. I came close to turning and saying “Just. Wait for it.” But I’m too nice for that.

When I left I glanced behind me and the whole row was filled with senior citizens. I soon realized that AMC offers a membership that has $5 Tuesday matinee prices. Worth it, if you know where to sit (i.e., not in front of the elderly.)

From there I went shopping, more clothes I don’t need. It’s how I cope with anxiety. Found the coffee tamper at BB&B. Made my way home. I started taking pictures of the beautiful architecture in my neighborhood. Thinking about renting, and how many people have lived in these buildings as they get chopped up into smaller and smaller living spaces. It made me think about the myth of ownership. We can’t ever really own anything, can we? As we are all just passing through on the planet. This mansion that once belonged to some forgotten wealthy merchant is now shared by several families, college students, actors, etc. Because I’m reading the Hamilton biography, thoughts on slavery intertwined with thoughts on ownership. Following that the right-wing people who celebrate what’s happening on the border, keeping the Other out, is also encased in ownership. As Americans we own this land, and have say on who can come or not, they insist.

Yet, we are so indoctrinated to own, for capital. To build credit. Last time I lived here in my 30s and starting a family, I felt the pressure of not building my equity. That renting equaled throwing money away, and a mortgage equaled investment. Of course, when we left NYC that time and bought a house in Kalamazoo, finally fulfilling the American capitalist dream, we soon found ourselves underwater and the house and debt owned us for years to come.

Yesterday, as a useless holiday, I perused the apartment listings, looking for ideas. I will need to move out of here in three weeks, and I want to be ready, but I can’t do it without a job. I found an Open House listed for not too far away at 6:30 and decided to meet with an agent as a first step. Just like I did in Kalamazoo. I left the apartment, feeling guilty for not using my MetroCard again, so jumped on the 1 train and rode it to Kingsbridge. There’s a little shopping mall there, and lots of stores. I really like that neighborhood and am pretty much decided that’s where I’d next like to be. I walked around and poked my nose in a few places, but most were closing at 6pm for the holiday. I then made my way back down to the open house and met the realtor. She kept saying she’d almost left, and she also probably missed someone, and she had decided to stay until 7:30. (The open house was only an hour. It seemed she’d posted it without meaning to actually hold it?) Of course, the place was small, and stifling. It could be cute. I reminisced on the work we did when we finally sold our underwater house. The repairs, efforts to make it pretty, etc. No such work here. I talked to the agent about the feasibility of renting with Vincent as the co-tenant even though he’d be working in Michigan, as opposed to the guarantor. (The rules for renting these days is you must make 40x the monthly rent and have a year of employment as well as a good credit score or have a guarantor who makes 80x the monthly rent.) She seemed to think it could work.

When I left, I rode the bus the 13 blocks back to my place. A three-ride day. Today, I’m watching the phone and e-mail like a lovesick teenager, hoping some agent will call with anything. Everyone is on vacation. All I can hope for is that things will start taking off on Monday. Tomorrow morning I have the UN test, so that’s a reason to get out of bed early. I keep meaning to take the Bx19 from my corner to the Bronx Zoo to explore that neighborhood but keep putting it off because of heat.  And because of laziness.

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