Tag Archives: chelsea

Sleep tight. . . .

Remember when we got the huge new bed? And remember when we were overrun with sea monkeys?

Well, those two things have kind of come together in a horrible way for us. It’s another infestation, but less friendly, more plague-y. That’s right: we found bed bugs.

Can you hear me screaming all the curse words, even from where you are? Good, that means I’m doing it right.

Go ahead and take a moment to glance around, itch everywhere, and then send us a text cancelling our next social engagement. It’s all right: everyone does. We grow accustomed to it.

How did we get them? Beats us. You can’t exactly interrogate the little m-f-ers, so it really could have been from anywhere. But where it is now is under the kids’ bed. (New bunk bed with all metal frame currently on requisition.)

So what did we do? Well, the exterminator suggested we go stay somewhere else for 14-20 days. This brought a fit of grim laughter. If we had somewhere else to live for that long, don’t you think we’d already be living there? And let me tell you, even very nice people aren’t eager to accept our kind of refugees into their homes.

Because the moving out option was not open to us until our summer staff retreat, and because the exterminator implied to Mr. Fun Apartment that waiting that long would constitute child abuse, we got instead the more complicated, larger pain in the ass option of “bag and bomb.” That essentially means that we have packed ALL of our stuff into large plastic bags. Then, the exterminator dropped what is hopefully a very lethal and effective pesticide into each bag and sealed them up.

But did not take them anywhere.

That’s right. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more fun, the Fun Apartment stuffed itself into (at last count) 57 awkward and somewhat fragile plastic bags. That number does not including the ones in the bathtub that hold the clothes we are allowed to wear over the next two weeks, and then take to the laundromat for some 40 minutes of fun in the hot, hot dryer.

And it’s two weeks of this, not counting the four extra days when the exterminator couldn’t be bothered to come by. So 18 days. Oh, and the extra 6 six days he suggested, while he tries to wrangle up the stragglers who did not deign to go inside the bags, but instead continue to wander about the apartment in search of luxury living spaces in Chelsea. (Location, location, location!)

And after 24 days of living like refugees in our own house, another fun time awaits us!: putting everything away again! It will be like moving in! Again! Except not into a new, bigger place. Into the exact same place.

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Climb every mountain.


In the interim, we’re camped out among the bags, all carefully stacked to the heavens. But we can start to see the bones of our old home reemerging. Today, after some rearranging, our little guy gasped with delight “We can have a couch?!” Upon receiving confirmation that, yes, we could indeed have a couch, just like regular people, he positively glowed.

And to show that we’ve been visited by not just any ordinary bedbugs, but ones with incredible senses of irony: I was counting the days until we can slice open the bags and move in again, and as I was tapping the days (10), a bed bug wandered across the calendar.

So, good thing we’re going through all this. It’s going swimmingly. Exactly as planned.

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Neighborhood Watch.

Late one night, almost two weeks ago now, the air outside the Fun Apartment was thick with helicopters. Siren wails were trailing through the streets. Voices from the street carried up through the windows–not the usual Saturday night revelry.

“What’s going on out there?” I asked the Man of My Dreams. He shrugged and went back to needing glasses to read the laptop screen. It was after bedtime, so we were observing the radio silence protocol. The helicopters continued to flaunt our blackout curtains, however. Finally, my gossipy friend Facebook filled me in. “Explosion in Chelsea?!?! WE live in Chelsea!”

We began to scour the meager media reports. Apparently at 8:30, about the time, I was escorting one of the boys on an after hours bathroom trip to the back of the Fun Apartment, a dumpster exploded on 23rd street two avenues away. I hadn’t heard a thing, but the Mister, up front in the north wing did report having heard a loud noise.

We texted a few “We’re ok mom!” messages and then warily went to bed.

And morning came, a foggy quiet morning with very little new information, but several more inquiries about our wellbeing. Still, it was clear that, after the helicopter chaos of the night before, things seemed to be settling down. I slunk out, ostensibly for bagels, but really just for recon. Mostly, it seemed like a regular Sunday morning, only with 23rd street closed.

And we are a little ways from the scene. We were tempted to think of it as “far away” because it happened 6 blocks and two avenue away. Six blocks, after all, is a long way when you are walking with tired kids and heavy groceries. But six blocks seems a bit closer to home when one thinks in explosion terms. As my sister said, “Just how close does it need to get before you think it’s close?” Still, within the cozy bubble of the Fun Apartment, we felt safe. I guess we didn’t think there was another option.

Later, I brought the boys over to see the site, too. We couldn’t get very close, so they didn’t see much, but they got to ask all their questions and get it out of their systems before they headed for school the next day and heard all sorts of reports filtered through the brains of 7 year olds. And the boys did have a lot of questions, which I answered as patiently and calmly as I could (yes, there are a lot of police officers. No, they probably aren’t draining all the water from the water towers. No we can’t go any closer. Yes, they have handcuffs. No, Encyclopedia Brown probably isn’t here, he is busy in Idaville.) Finally, we got down to the nub of the situation: “If a police officer sees a chicken walking in the street, and he is really hungry, can he shoot the chicken?” That’s when I figured they were probably done processing and we could go to the playground.

I held a small balloon of hope in my heart–a hope that this was garden variety New York craziness, and not well, you know:

That balloon deflated rapidly, as the investigation came to a head very quickly. From three things seemed to happen very quickly. One mass text message later and by Tuesday night, the whole story seemed pretty thoroughly taped up.
It was so thoroughly taped up that I am left wondering if it actually happened. People don’t seem to be talking about it. The free newspaper went back to telling me about the best places to drink beer in the city (although they missed the best one: our window seat.) I walked by the site of the explosion site this weekend and I couldn’t tell with any certainty where exactly the bomb had gone off. And I walked the rest of the way home through a joyous street fair, thinking, “Nice try, hatred and fear. But you lose. Again.”

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Tribal

You’ll have to excuse us at the Fun Apartment this month. We have birthday fatigue. Our Little grew a bit bigger a week or so ago and, well, the jump from four to five required quite a lot of effort and energy.

See, in New York, it is hard to just . . . have a birthday party. At least, it is hard to have a birthday party attended by more than one child. So we have been putting off whole the “birthday party with your friends” business because, well, there are difficulties to be faced. But we thought, if we kept it small in stature and size–only his three close friends–then it might just be manageable.

The main difficulty, as it always is in New York City, is space. It is at a premium, especially around the Fun Apartment where one kid coming over for a play date creates a standing room only situation. Also, all of our extra chairs are broken in various eyebrow-raising ways. We could go outside, of course. There are parks and playgrounds, but these will probably be too cold to sustain a party longer than half an hour — what poor planning to have winter children! We could try an expedition party and head off to some fun destination, but then one has to schlep a cake and gifts through the zoo or a museum, while still keeping track of the guests. (Telling another parent that you are sure that you saw their child somewhere in the room with the giant whale, an hour previous, tends to put a damper on budding friendships.) And our local restaurants will demand a rather exorbitant fee for the disruption that a party of five-year-olds would provide. Or they might just laugh in your face.

So our inner party-planners were stymied, and decided to sleep on it. That is, until we realized that the ideal party space lay not two feet from our sleeping heads! Our beloved neighbors recently decamped to Brooklyn in order to accommodate two new roommates: twin girls. Their apartment–Ready to rent! You could live there!–was standing empty. So they graciously allowed us to have a riotous party in their former living room.

Space problem resolved, we tackled the problem of theme. If only indecision could be considered a party theme. An early birthday present of a woolly mammoth convinced the birthday boy that an ice age-themed party was his heart’s most intense desire. But, just like last year, after I had already bought the sharks, he changed his mind, a mere five days before the guests were due to arrive. Wild Kratts, he insisted, was his one and only party idea. While I love these crazy bros, I was not so eager to embrace this new idea. But, because, I am able to see the bright side of everything, I did not collapse into a(nother) screaming panicking fit. Instead, I patted myself on the back for my foresight in accidentally holding onto our amazon prime membership I signed up for to get the Christmas presents here on time. (How was I to know that you had to actually cancel after the one month free trial??) Smart by accident again!” I congratulated myself, while clicking on the free two day shipping button! Soon, small quantities of various animal print goodies arrived at our door.

(Although, I will pause here to concur with a friend who thinks that it would be good for us all as a society, if we agreed to give up on this whole goody bag thing. Although I do like the idea of giving presents on one’s birthday, instead of expecting them. But what to do with all those random little items? I have a special bin, specifically for “small toys we got for free somewhere!” Perhaps I sort too much. At any rate, I digress too much.)

I even managed a crafty type thing I’ve been intending to do for years. “I know!” I thought. “I’ll clean out all these random broken crayons and melt them down into rainbow crayons! They’ll be perfect for the birthday party! They are recycled! There may now be room in the crayon bucket for all the crayons! I am a such a domestic demi-goddess / mad genius!” Naturally, this project was a disaster start to finish. After I wore my fingernails down to brightly colored stubs, the Mister asked “Why didn’t you just soak them to remove the paper?” Luckily we didn’t have to go to the emergency room to remove the crayons I stuffed up his nose. Chopping and melting the crayons was easy, but Martha Stewart neglected to mention that this process turn your previously-serviceable muffin tins into a brown field super fund site. And the rainbow crayons, while kind of cool looking, only color on one side. And they looked so interesting and unrecognizable that one unfortunate party guest mistook them for a colorful snack.

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Me love cookies.

But despite my domestic demigoddess failings, it was a wildly, successful birthday party. And it was grand! My son and his three besties ran rampant. We opened the door to the Fun Apartment, and the door to the neighbors’ cool, enormous empty apartment and the guests immediately sorted themselves. The kids dove headlong into the Fun Apartment, pulling down every toy bin in reach (and a few I’m not entirely sure how they got to),  while their parents enjoyed some adult celebrating in the cool whiteness of the neighbors’ apartment. I have always maintained that the secret to a good kid’s party is in the cocktails. Thus, I found myself at Chelsea Wine Vault asking the rather unlikely question: “What wine would you recommend for a five year old’s birthday party?” They picked a winner!

“Should we go check on the kids next door?” I asked, setting down my wineglass. This naive statement earned me such withering looks of pity–looks that said “No, of course not, you foolish woman. They are fine and will find us if they are bleeding.”

“I could really get good at this parenting of increasingly independent children,” I thought, passing the bottle around again.

The lads eventually joined us to wrestle in a large pile at the center of all that empty space. Then they invented a game that involved throwing their inflatable animals at each other. I’m sure it was something totally sanctioned by the Wild Kratts: Living Free and In the Wild!

 

Keep on creature adventuring!

Our guests stumbled home when the threat of bed time began to loom. I even thought about how fun it would be if we woke up in the morning with the three extra kids in residence. But alas, or luckily, they all departed for home–hopefully two steps ahead of an impending meltdown.

But by the time the school birthday party rolled around, I had run out of celebration stamina. Fridays are rough around here anyway and when you throw in attempting to make rice krispie treats with uncooperative marshmallows, let’s just say that the bloody decimated bodies of Snap, Krackle, and Pop, or those of their bastard cousins from Trader Joe’s, were littered throughout the Fun Apartment’s kitchen. I kept expecting the Keebler Elves to show up with some crime scene tape. And I showed up late at school anyway. But at least nobody took a bite of the rainbow crayons.

Another reason to celebrate: this little guy’s birthday is also a party for all of us Fun Apartment residents, because it was on his first full day in the world that we decided to move back to New York, in a post-natal haze, with only a vague sense of, oh who the hell knows what to guide us. “If New York is in your heart,” said a friend, ” then that is where you need to go!” But for the longest time after we moved, even we–the Fun Apartment natives–weren’t sure that we had made the right call. After Little’s first birthday–a walk along the high line with balloons–even after champagne, the man of my dreams and I cried a little. “Did we make the right choice?” We asked. After giving up good jobs, an awesome house with lots of space, we weren’t sure we had arrived in Paradise. Instead the Fun Apartment felt more like Easter island. We moved here only to accustom ourselves to ever-increasing, ever-more expensive hardship. “Will he ever have a birthday where we don’t cry ourselves to sleep, in between kicking ourselves?” We wondered.

The long view won out, of course. This month, along with the Little’s birthday, it felt like we actually celebrated our 5th anniversary of Fun Apartment living, rather than just marking it by nodding solemnly at each other. Five years is more than twice as long as we planned to stay, but hey, plans change. We are finding our tribe. And loving it.

 

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Ch-ch-changes

“We interrupt your irregularly posted blogs to bring you this.” Mrs. Fun Apartment was too much in overdrive for all of December playing elf – cookies, crafts, presents, and travel – to make any recent posts. To cut her a break while she recuperates with a glass of wine and the new season of Downton Abbey, her adoring husband has written up a bit of an interlude. . . .

Mid-November marked twenty years since I had closed on the sale of the Fun Apartment. For my own amusement if not yours, I wanted to take a measure of some of the changes around here since then:

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View through the railroad apartment just before demolition began on Day 3 of ownership. The little yellow stove is among the few things that remained after demolition was complete.

Today, the Fun Apartment is a sort of studio-one bedroom hybrid, opened up for the most part for light and air. In 1995, the railroad apartment was four distinct rooms that ranged from 70 square feet up to 140 square feet. The plastered walls, cracked and poorly patched, were all painted an all-too-chipper shade of yellow. The old wood floors had been covered over with vinyl tile. Everywhere! From kitchen straight through to bedroom. As now, one entered into the kitchen. But instead of having a bathroom walled off, this kitchen had a tub that was boxed in. There was no sink. At all. There was a small stove, also yellow, from about the mid 60s. That I kept and worked into the new design. And I also kept the claw-foot tub, after freeing it from its tiled wallboard enclosure. There was a refrigerator, belted with duct tape, that I had carted away before it might ever be opened.

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Behind the pipes for the missing sink is the claw-foot tub. On its underside, a stamp from the foundry dates it to 1924. After liberating it from this enclosure, I reset it in a new spot in a new bathroom. And it serves the boys (and ourselves) to this day.

Of the fifteen apartments in the building, ours was about the third to be owned by a tenant-shareholder. The rest of the apartments held residents living on old rent-controlled and rent-stabilized leases. A number of those leases were for less than $100 a month at the time! Today, only four remain as such. Among the folks gone now were:

Tom Hudson, apartment 4R. The next-door neighbor who moved in during the early 70s. He was the one who informed me that a woman who lived in our 480-square-foot apartment had raised six boys here, all of whom grew up to become NYC cops. At not that old an age, Tom died in the heatwave of July 1999. Sadly, his remains were found too late to be included in the tally of the victims of the heat.

Clarence and ?, apartment 3E. Below me was an elderly pair of men. One clearly suffered from Alzheimer’s or the like. He would yell viciously at his partner many a night, with the sound carried perfectly clearly through our common air-shaft.

Laura Gonzales, apartment 1E. The somewhat daft but entirely friendly old lady on the first floor was quick to chat and share gossip. Did she herself tell me that it was fetal alcohol poisoning that had made her son not quite right? In any case, her grown son, who would frequently come around, clearly had, um, issues.

Anna Pinto, apartment 5E. Well before my time, Barneys New York relocated a bunch of tenants from their buildings on Seventh Avenue to this building. That included Anna. Her severe osteoporosis, giving her posture nearly a 90 degree bend, made my own chronically slouched shoulders seem ram-rod straight. Getting outside only once per week, Anna had the smoothest skin imaginable right into her seventies. And she would wear her winter coat during almost every season of the year. Living on the fifth floor of an elevator-less building, she regularly accepted help getting her weekly haul of groceries up the stairs. But, if no one were around, she would get them up by herself, slowly but surely.

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Nearly the same view as above (on Day 3), but this might have been Day 70. The bars on the fire-escape window were a holdover from days when the neighborhood was iffier.

If the apartment and the building have undergone thorough transformations, so has the neighborhood – every bit as dramatic or more.

ON THE BLOCK
The block itself doesn’t look all too different – even as the population has shifted toward a more affluent set. Just next door, a somewhat pricey hair salon replaced a small bodega that sold candy and sodas to schoolkids. Across the street, the old local Intermediate School (I.S. 70) was phased out and closed. In its place came The Lab School, now one of Manhattan’s most competitive public middle schools. (Why is there jockeying for seats among fifth graders in public schools? Only in New York!)

Though I have heard of times when our mid-block playground was too much of a drug market for others to use, I never witnessed those days. As I understand it, much of that got shut down around the neighborhood after the Drug Enforcement Agency established a bureau at 17th Street and 10th Avenue. Still, some strains remained in 1995. A few doors down from us (different building but same co-op), there had been a dealer living on a rent-controlled lease. The laws so overwhelmingly favor tenants that it’s not easy to evict even a bad apple like him. But the co-op did succeed in getting him out, circa 1997, after one of his clients overdosed and died just off the public corridor. For real.

The most obvious changes on the block all occurred down at the corner of Ninth Avenue. When I came around, there was an outpost of Covenant House, the stopping place for run-aways. They had taken over the funky pair of buildings constructed in the 1960s as a retirement home for old merchant marines. Not long my arrival, Covenant House slapped a funny little façade along 17th Street for the bottom two stories of their twelve-story building. The intent was to make it look more like a row of brownstones. But the scale, accuracy, and craftsmanship all fell short. And the results were absolutely ridiculous. I just wish I had a photograph to show how dreadful it was. The next owner was an arm of the Chinese government, which used it for a few years as a dorm for visiting scholars or such. And then after them came the Maritime Hotel. And the Dream Hotel [Handel Architects]. Those boutique hotels remain there to this day. With everything else going on around here, I guess that their view to the Robert Fulton House projects across the avenue doesn’t much matter for their guests. But the more the neighborhood goes upscale, the more I appreciate how that stretch of public housing keeps the area anchored in reality.

FROM THE RIVER TO TENTH AVENUE
Chelsea Piers Sports Complex had only recently opened in 1995. North and South of there, the Hudson River Park – with its popular playgrounds and biking/jogging paths – was just in the planning stages. Even still, that park was further along than the Highline was. In 1995, the Highline was a hulking mass of unused and unloved infrastructure. This was four years before anyone broached the improbable idea of making it into a raised park that meanders down the lower Westside. I knew one person who had sneaked up in those days to walk along the old railroad tracks, where weeds and even trees had sprouted. I wish I’d done that same at the time when it could have been enjoyed raw and empty.

Among the sprawling brick warehouses and former factories lying west of Tenth Avenue, most were serving as industrial spaces or as nightclub venues in 1995. Now, many of them have been converted into art galleries. Or they’ve been torn down to make way for the high-rises for the uber rich. (See ‘Ins and Outs,’ below.) And Tenth Avenue remained fairly gritty. Industrial bits interspersed with the likes of The Roxy (closed 2007). I was reminded by a friend who lived on our block back at the time that, in 1995, Tenth Avenue was plied at night by transvestites (as opposed to the regular prostitutes who worked Ninth Avenue). These days, both avenues have gotten very well-heeled.

NINTH AVENUE AND THE MEAT PACKING DISTRICT
Over on Ninth Avenue, Nabisco’s old factory complex was yet to be reborn as Chelsea Market. When it first opened in the spring of 1997, Chelsea Market seemed to me like a nice enough place but maybe not that great an idea. Mostly, I just liked the fresh milk I could get there in glass bottles. I had no idea of what a destination it would become. Today, we have to brave the throngs of tourists if we want to get produce from Manhattan Fruit Exchange. Across the street, Google has taken over the mammoth Port Authority Building. In November 1995, Larry Page and Sergey Brin hadn’t yet started their search-engine. Down the avenue at 14th Street, a three-story building had been occupied by a local outpost of Western Beef — not one of New York’s upscale supermarket chains. As of 2008, that same building has housed a spiffy Apple Store, clean and clutter-free.

Below 14th, the Meatpacking District was still a meat-packing district in 1995. Apart from the odd bar or diner, it would shut down and be nearly deserted after dark. I made my way a couple of times to the long-standing restaurant, Florent. Sadly, the French chef closed down his 24-hour diner in 2008. Maybe he didn’t like having Apple around the corner. Or the Standard Hotel [Polshek Partnership, 2008], where Jay Z and Beyoncé come to visit. A block away from Florent was the old biker bar, Hogs & Heifers. Though I had never patronized it, I reveled in seeing it hold out amid all the changes. All the rest of the block and the neighborhood had changed as quickly and as drastically as Cinderella. In stark contrast to the old meat-packing warehouses colonized by the toniest of boutique stores, Hogs & Heifers was the only establishment I knew of down in the Meat-Packing District that remained as was. Was was the key word there. I’m sorry to learn that Hogs & Heifers also closed its doors just this past summer. Oh well. Maybe it didn’t do well by the crowds drawn by the recently opened Whitney Museum [Renzo Piano, 2015] that stands now between the Highline and the river. (From a recent walk though the neighborhood, I realize that there are still a handful of meat wholesalers that have remained, off to one side. Perhaps they are kept around to give an air of authenticity.)

Further up Ninth Avenue, stores had always catered to a more working class clientele. Bodegas. Run-down laundromat. Fish Market. Cheap liquor store. Now, the avenue has tipped toward upscale restaurants, fancy wine stores, and pricey cupcake shops.

EIGHTH AVENUE
Around the corner from us on Eighth Avenue, there had been a string of eight stores: bar, cigar shop, restaurants, coffee shop, clothing stores. Each one was independent. Now it’s all chains and franchisees: bank, drug store, fast-food joint, wireless phone store, and coffee shop. No moms or pops in sight. One of the lost establishments was a little coffee shop called The Paradise Café. Now we’ve got four Starbucks in the half-mile between 13th and 23rd. This stretch of Eighth Avenue has always had an abundance of restaurants. Still does. But I guess even the best of them close their doors eventually. Not a single one remains from 1995. The one we remember most fondly? Sam Chinita’s, in an old style diner with the look of an Aerostream trailer. After closing, it was reincarnated down the block, if less flashily, as La Chinita Linda. For all the choices among the hybrid Cuban-Chinese menu, we only ever ordered four things. Black beans. White rice. Fried plaintains. And sweet plaintains. Oh, and beer. Five things.

SEVENTH AVENUE
There isn’t much on Seventh Avenue that has ever held my attention. I would skip it entirely except I’d like to give honorable mention to a hold-out dating from 1920! When I started renovating the fun apartment, there had been an assortment of little hardware stores scattered throughout the neighborhood. As handy as those small and cluttered shops were, I made plenty of trips – by subway or bus no less – out to Home Depots in Flushing, Queens, or Secaucus, New Jersey, to haul back all manner of materials and tools. Now, there’s a Home Depot on 23rd Street and, just recently, a new Lowe’s on Sixth Avenue. And all of the little hardware stores have gone. All but one. (Well, the great Prince Hardware is still going strong on Ninth Avenue, but they shifted down by one block in the late nineties.)

SIXTH AVENUE
Speaking of Sixth Avenue, it didn’t yet have Bed Bath & Beyond or The Container Store or Trader Joe’s or any of the other big-ticket tenants. However, it did have Apex Tech

– the trade school that routinely advertised during the afternoon reruns I had watched throughout my childhood. (“Remember: I can’t call you. You have to make the first step.”)

LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Here are a couple of other changes. One – the Empire State Building. Not new, of course. Nor Chelsea for that matter. But the Fun Apartment does have a decent view to it from one window. And, yes, it has changed in the last two decades. For untold years, the upper reaches of the Empire State Building have been bathed in light after dusk. And then it would go dark promptly at midnight. You could set your watch to it. I liked that. If you were up and out late, it reminded you (or reassured you) as much. However, during our Philadelphia interlude, they re-fitted the landmark’s lighting system with LED fixtures. I’m all for saving energy where you can. But this upgrade came with two major drawbacks. For one, they let the too-cheap-to-meter LEDs burn until all hours of the night. I wouldn’t mind it so much if they just picked a time. One AM. Two AM. But there’s no consistency. It can be found lit up at 4 AM or in the dark at 3 AM. So disappointing!

Worse yet are the colors. Then as now, they pick colors to fit the day. Holidays, sport teams, whathaveyou. But the colors used to be simple and staid. It was often just one color. Sometimes they banded a second color around the highest tiers. Today, I am grateful for days when they use just one or two colors. All too often, they take their inspiration from candy-canes and juke-boxes. They pay no heed to the shape of the building as they tart it up in four or five or more colors. Worst of all are the nights when they rotate the colors like some pinball machine. New York City may not amount to much more than one huge amusement park, but they don’t have to make it so obvious. Ugh!

The most significant change in twenty years? Our two boys of course. When I designed the new layout and started work on it, I hoped to make the apartment cozy enough to fit two comfortably. Although it was four-plus years before I met the future Mrs. Fun Apartment, the idea crossed my mind that I might want the place to accommodate a, um, roommate. What had not crossed my mind was accommodating three roommates! Now, if we could only figure a way to start collecting rent from those little guys . . . .

 

INS AND OUTS – for a partial record of what has come and gone around the neighborhood in these last twenty years . . .

Out went a bodega next door to us (Circa 2002). In came a hair salon. (Circa 2002)

Out went the old local Intermediate School (I.S. 70). In came The Lab School, one of Manhattan’s most popular test-based public middle school.

Out went Mr. Pizza, a pizza joint at the corner. In came a hip noodle shop, Nooch, circa 2003. Out went Nooch, circa 2011, and in came a Koffeecake Kafe (which shut its doors last year and has yet to be replaced).

Out went Alley’s End – a cozy, windowless restaurant on our block where I had taken the future Mrs. Fun Apartment on a ‘blind date.’ In came Sueños (which we never tried). Out went Sueños. Now it still sits empty.

Out went Camouflage, circa 2014 (a stand-alone clothing store that featured stylish men’s clothing). In came a Caffe Bene (2015).

For the two brownstones on our block and countless others in the neighborhood, out went the divisions of one or two apartments per floor. Renovations have taken them back to being single-family residences. For several years, Kevin Costner lived in a Chelsea brownstown on 21st Street. Other sources tell me that Kate Winslet lived a block over from us for some time. I am certain that no A-list actors lived in these parts in 1995.

Out went Covenant House, the stopping ground for run-away teens. In came a dormitory of sorts for the Chinese government (maybe 1997). Out went the Chinese dormitory, and in came the Maritime Hotel (maybe 1999).

Out went Eigen’s, a big old plumbing supply store on West 17th between 7th and 8th (circa 2007). Decorated with years of filth and disheveled boxes, Eigen’s was geared for the trade. But they had everything plumbing, and served well for the random apartment renovator. After the old paint and grime was stripped down and an addition doubled the height of the building, in came a set of high-end residences.

Out went Barnes & Noble.com as the main tenant at the hulking Port Authority Building a block south of us. In came Google (buying the whole building in 2010 for $1.9 billion with a ‘B’). Out went a decent-sized post office along Ninth Avenue, relocating immediately next door in space that’s a fraction of the original size. The old post office space remains empty. At the other side of the building over on Eighth Avenue, out went a bank of Citibank ATMs (Nov 2015). Not sure what’s to come. Out-going is Banana Republic as the anchor retail tenant in this huge complex. I don’t think they were there in 1995, but they’ve been there for the vast majority of those years. They’ll be closed for good after Tuesday. Not sure what’s coming next. Maybe Google needs some retail space to showcase their glasses and cars and god-knows-what.

Out went a manufacturer that produced ductwork on 18th Street (circa 1999). In came the event space The Metropolitan Pavilion. On that same block, Midtown Electric has somehow held on through all these years.

Out went the switches & offices in the 1930s telephone building (circa 2012). After something like two years of renovations, in came – you guessed it – high-end residences. (‘High-end’ like how? Like penthouses were offered for $30 million or more. Or for rent at a mere $75,000 per month.)

Out went – not sure – low-end offices that had replaced old sweat-shops, in came Publishers Weekly offices (late 90s). Out went PW, in came the New York offices for Twitter (2015).

Out went Sam Chinita’s cuban-chinese diner in a vintage stainless steel diner exterior and non-descript interior at 19th and 8th. In came a Greek fish restaurant, reclad in an entirely blah façade. Out went the fish restaurant. After many years has been shut down and boarded up, something is finally coming back around. Not sure what.

Down around the Meat Packing District. .  .
Out went the restaurant Florent down on Gansevort Street. In came . . . not sure.
Out went Hogs & Heifers biker bar (August, 2015). In came . . . nothing as of yet.
Out went I don’t even remember what — a mix of nothing stores and maybe some industrial shops and boarded up storefronts with perhaps a hidden nightclub in the mix. In has come fancy boutique and splashy store for seemingly everyone: Apple, Hugo Boss, Pategonia, Diane Von Furstenburg.

Out went any number of low-slung warehouse and garages stretching long and wide between 10th and 11th Avenues. In came a series of new buildings that ring the river or the Highline. Many of the new buildings that have sprouted up are by star architects: Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvelle, Shigeru Ban, Neil Denari, a handful by Annabelle Selldorf, and another handful by Morris Adjmi.

Out went a medium security state penitentiary for woman over on West Street (2012, after Hurricane Sandy). Nothing new in yet, but plans are afoot.

Out went Sam Chinita’s cuban-chinese diner in a vintage stainless steel diner exterior and non-descript interior at 19th and 8th. In came a Greek fish restaurant, reclad in an entirely blah façade. Out went the fish restaurant. After many years has been shut down and boarded up, something is finally coming back around. Not sure what.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. There are some 90 establishments fronting Eighth Avenue among the seven blocks between 14th and 21st street. By my count, only nine or ten are the same businesses that were there in ‘95. A Western Union below 15th. A neighborhood dive bar and a poster shop near 17th, a laundromat and a dry-cleaners near 18th, the Joyce Theater at 19th, a Salvation Army store, a pizza joint, and a bodega at 21st, and maybe a Korean deli or a second laundromat that I’m forgetting. Of the whole set of 90 shops, about 26 are restaurants and an additional 15 other types of food establishments. As a make-up of the neighborhood, that proportion has held steady. And that neighborhood bar (that makes claim to also being a restaurant) has been a constant. But all the other 40 have changed over at least once in the intervening years.

For any others who knew the neighborhood from back when, what am I forgetting?

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Spring Breaking.

We did not go anywhere for spring break. And by anywhere, I mean we didn’t go past 6th Avenue. It was a true staycation.

We stayed. We played. We watched some videos. We had a couple playdates. We went to Trader Joe’s. And we did not get bored.

There are several actually worthwhile New York things to do within shouting distance of the fun apartment. And we did none of them. The weather did not know it was spring break, so there was not a lot of outside time. There was hanging in. The man of my dreams worked late. Twice.

And I did not succumb to alcoholism.

I worried a bit before spring break that it would be messy and grim — a true test of survival. But instead it was a nice, low-key week of doing little boy things.

See, being on spring break with girls looks like this:

Not my kitchen. Not my kids.

Not my kitchen. Not my kids.

Being on spring break with boys looks like this:

WWE Practice

WWE Cage Match

Or sometimes this:

They grow up so fast that he's ready to shave.

They grow up so fast that he’s ready to shave.

On Sunday night, as I tried to remember whose lunchbag is whose and which pants belong to which boy, I thought to myself, “Wow! That was easier than I thought! Hey, we did it! Yay! Now, what street is the school on again?”

But then, as I typically do after surviving something stressful, I had a mini-breakdown over nothing after the main event. On Friday evening, I found myself sobbing into a sinkful of dishes, weighed down with angst about never finding a suitable (i.e. paying) job.

But luckily that passed quickly and we sat down to a spur-of-the-moment living room picnic dinner, buoyed by wine and surprise cupcakes provided by the Mister.

After all, this is the Fun Apartment. We can put legs on anything and make it walk.

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Filed under Living Small, Not cool