I held the elevator door

What I saw: two guys, Broseph and Chad. Broseph filled the opening of the elevator door like a tank-top-wearing storm cloud, blocking the light from the sun. Chad blew in behind him, dressed in an American flag-striped polo, almost as big but pinker, because of the acne he was too old for.

What I did beforehand: flew to Florida, had dinner alone, wandered the forlorn aisles of the next-door liquor store, ducked a clerk watching a telenovela set in ancient plastic Egypt who called out to me repeatedly asking if I needed help finding anything. It wasn’t until I was driving home that it occurred to me I might have asked her about finding an amateur-friendly horse, under ten years old, nice enough to show in the dressage ring. Or better, why are we here, any of us? I should have asked her that.

IMG_2162What I wore: black suede Pumas, capri-length jeans, black tee shirt, scowl

Where I sat: the exit row

Who went with me: pocket friends

How I got tickets: a couple of weeks ago I saw an ad for a horse and contacted the sales agent about it. Within hours of my booking a trip to try it, I got two messages from friends saying, “Ooh! Look at this one!” and suggesting I go try it. It seemed fortuitous.

What it is: dressage horse shopping these days has become like an obscure subculture of internet dating, and is facilitated by an open Facebook group. You read ads, look at videos, show them to your trainer and friends, saying, “Ooh! Look at this one!” You talk to people on the phone, and sometimes even fly to other cities on the chance that they’ve got the horse you’re looking for. You wonder if you’re crazy. You hope you’re going to be safe. I tried horses on one previous trip that I couldn’t really steer and on another trip, a horse that wouldn’t stop. The people I’ve met doing this have been extremely pleasant and nice and as open to the weirdness of some random, unknown person showing up to ride their horse as I have had to be to the weirdness of riding some random, unknown horse.

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Things that were not funny: a group of construction workers crossed my path as they passed from the pool deck to the interior of the hotel. I was dressed in riding clothes, and more than one of them felt it would be ok to make “appreciative” hissing noises about me.

Things that were sad: dinner alone next to the mating turtle salt-and-pepper shakers at a strip mall Thai restaurant.

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Things that were funny: trying to convince the owner of the Thai restaurant to make my food spicy enough.

Something I ate: massaman curry that was actually spicy enough

elevator2

What about the horse: that story is to come.

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What happened on the elevator: when Broseph and Chad stepped onto the elevator with me, they thought I was holding the door open for them. Really I was pressing the button for my floor. So they thanked me, and I said, “Sure.”

Then the door closed, revealing a big ad for the hotel chain we were in, with the word “selfie” and a dog wearing sunglasses. I said, “You know, a dog can’t really take a selfie. No thumbs.”

Chad agreed. “I know, right?” said he, adding, “It’s like anything can be anything these days.”

As I stepped off the elevator, I threw in, “I mean….Look who’s president.”

The Button

Was it Friday or the following Tuesday? I don’t remember. September was a bit of a blur. A friend quit her job around the middle of the month, and after that, all hell broke loose. I cancelled my trip to Berlin and Prague (and I was looking forward to my trip to Berlin and Prague). But it had become obvious that I needed to figure out some serious shit, and, like, immediately. I called P., who took me out house hunting a couple of times, but she kept showing me ugly houses and then even uglier houses, and would occasionally ooh and ahh and I could never tell if it was for my benefit, because I was so unexcited, or if it was to reassure the other real estate agent.
I saw myself reflected in the seriously shiny gray Formica of the curvy cupboards in the dining room, floating on an acre of white shag wall-to-wall carpeting, hovering above the sunken living room, and escaped, stumbling, to take one more look at the view of the tennis court from the oversized master bedroom. I decided two things: first, that we needed to go outside; second, that I needed to stop working with P. as soon as I could manage.
When did I indicate that this was the kind of house I was looking for?
I started over with another agent, M. M. understood that I needed to see three or four houses a day until I found something, and we weren’t screwing around. Our lease had a month left.
The first day, M. and I met at the first house on our list, but we got there before the listing agent and couldn’t open the gate across the driveway without the code. It was a narrow, wooded lane, and for lack of something more important to say, I asked, “When did it become fall?”
“Just today,” M. answered. Leaves blew around her navy chinos. Soon, she’d have to start wearing socks with her loafers again.
The second house we saw looked like a French chalet from the front, but around back it was a great, brown, plywood box. At least it had a nice pool.
I picked up my first acorns in front of another brown house, overpriced for what it was, with a decent patio and pool, cheery, light-filled bedrooms, though the kitchen was uninspiring. A black lab lay in a wire crate in the living room, not making eye-contact or noise. I wondered if he was on drugs. He seemed so sad and withdrawn. My dogs sleep in crates, and eat their meals there, but when someone comes home they look at people, make noise, and ask to come out.
The acorns I found were perfect little giants, with the caps on, some green and others brown. They were so lovely and intact. I used to want to be able to eat them as a kid, until I got one open, and did. I shared one with M. She accepted my gift without condescension.
The last house M. showed me that day was a humble, tan and brick house, low slung, with a steep, wood-shingled roof. It was on a very quiet, dead end road, surrounded by woods. The front doorknob was tricky to open. We walked into the front hall and there, beyond the entry, was a large living room, fully furnished in chairs with needlepointed seat covers that might have been made by the ghost of my grandmother N. The kitchen was large, with cherry cabinets and 80s vintage appliances. It wasn’t anything special, but it was clean (really, really clean), with spacious rooms, hardwood floors, and, you know, potential. We headed upstairs. There was a small white button on the wall by the front door. I ignored it, and looked at the rooms upstairs. There was an upstairs room with a sloping ceiling that seemed like it wanted to be my sewing room. It had a lot of ugly wallpaper, but also a lot of closets.
the button
The next day I finally got in to see a house I’d been waiting to get into for over a week (some bullshit about renters not leaving until Labor Day). It was special, with a rambling floor plan and a lot of interesting things like a pretty view, a big porch, and a workable kitchen. There was a fireplace in the master bedroom and an obvious room for my sewing stuff. Bonuses like a workshop and an apartment over the garage. But it was more money, and the neighborhood wasn’t walkable. To be honest, its woods were creepy.
I arranged another visit to the bland house that reminded me of my grandmother. I brought the Bacon Provider to see what he thought. My husband was unimpressed. He saw six kinds of ugly wallpaper, thirty-year old AC units that needed replacing, and clunky old storm windows. The owner had already moved to a condo, leaving furniture in only a few rooms. So, while my husband wondered if we could agree to a price, he voiced his suspicion that we might be able to make a deal with a quick closing.
We headed upstairs. There it was again: that small white button on the wall by the front door. I’m not sure why I might have thought it was a doorbell. Or if I thought it was a doorbell. It obviously wasn’t a doorbell. It was some sort of other button. I pressed it without thinking as I went up the stairs. The house was practically empty. What harm?
The real estate agent M. caught up with me on the landing. I asked her what she thought the button on the stairs was. “That’s a panic button,” she said. “You didn’t press it did you?”
“Oh no,” I laughed, meaning, “Oh, shit,” but sounding like, “Oh, of course not.”
Then I said,  “Well maybe,” and then I added, “Well, if I did we’ll find out if it worked.”
It did work. A local Bedhead Hills policeman was at the door, within minutes, his hand on his gun and a look of concern on his face. The front door was sticky and hard to open. I explained that it was my mistake. M. gave him her card. She pointed to me, “She’s a child.”

Frankenwind Sandypants


I had a warm check-in email from the Super yesterday, full of details about alarms going off in this and the other buildings he cares for, a picture of some almost-NYC-marathoners he met, best wishes to JP for his 30thbirthday, and love and hugs. Of course, I don’t know a JP, 30 years old or otherwise, and don’t believe that my super has even one warm feeling for me at all. Nor is he, as he signs his note, my dad.
But this apartment is now my home, and I have been living in it for two long months. In my dreams I still live in Seattle, or in that funny house up a dirt road in the country that rambles on and on and has wallpapered rooms beyond rooms beyond rooms. Two nights ago I spoke to one of our old Seattle neighbors in my dream, and when I woke up I was in a hotel by Lincoln Center, having fled the cold and dark apartment with the kids for a few nights of electricity and room service.
The storm warnings began the week before. The media was calling it a ”Frankenstorm,” a triple whammy of a late hurricane, merged with a Nor’easter, coinciding with a full moon and high tide. We were supposed to get ready. We felt ready; we had candles.
Water supply, 10/27/12
Saturday the 27th we had a nice Italian dinner out and stopped at a supermarket afterwards to buy some water. Already the shelves were emptied of certain items.  On the way home, we saw a guy parking his BMW motorcycle on the street, testing its stability and analyzing its chances of staying upright.
By 5 pm on Sunday the 28th the city had published a map showing that Zone A was a mandatory evacuation area. I spent some time convincing myself with maps provided by several sources that we were a few blocks from Zone A (and were, in fact Zone C). While the wind started to blow, we went out for sushi, thinking that we should eat the fish that would most certainly spoil if not consumed before the storm. The red Japanese paper lanterns swung erratically while we ate.
School was cancelled Monday the 29th, in anticipation of the storm, so we slept in.  Walking the dogs around noon, we could hear a loud whistling sound that seemed to be coming from the construction site of the Freedom Tower, a few blocks south.  The Hudson River was much higher than normal, and green, and angry-looking. Plenty of other New Yorkers were out walking, too, and no one hesitated to duck under the strips of caution tape tied across the paths leading into the park by the river. It was obvious to everyone that if there was something interesting to see yet, it would be behind the yellow plastic caution tape.
Lots of wind, a little rain
As the storm arrived, it was mostly wind. One of the dogs dug herself a den in the couch, pushing all the cushions aside and settling in, surrounded on all sides. The cat watched with all that creepy cat excitement as the water droplets ran down the windows. Out on our street, a large piece of sheet metal landed on our street and thrashed around out there for hours, finally coming to rest under the bumper of a minivan. Our power went out around 8:30 pm, and we went to bed pretty early. The dog had a nightmare and woofed and growled in her sleep.
Broadway near Worth,
facing north, 10/30/12
Tuesday the 30th we still had no power, little mobile phone reception, and I invested a bunch of time and phone battery into trying to see if Con Edison had an estimate for restoring power. The answer was that they didn’t know. Our unreliably delivered daily New York Times arrived (along with Monday’s paper), and though we would see no mail all week (until Saturday), that newspaper came every morning.  We recharged our phones off of my weird Japanese model Panasonic Toughbook, which has a long battery life, is supposed to be able to survive a bad fall, and even has a tiny drain hole under the keyboard so liquids spilled on it won’t ruin it. Everyone complains about my machine because it has a wacky Japanese keyboard, but it still had juice Thursday when we gave up and headed for a hotel uptown. 
Tuesday we enjoyed the novelty of life in an apartment with no power. We played board games, burned candles, and ate things we could cook on the stove. We walked the dogs, getting in and out of the building via the emergency exit stairs, which are dark, steep and spooky.  Everything was a big deal. The BMW motorcycle lay on its side, leaking oil. The traffic lights were dark, and the buildings were dark, and mostly there was the sound of generators and sometimes sirens. Businesses were beginning to clean up their broken windows, pump out the water, throw out the spoiled food. Every few minutes the police came silently up the middle of Church Street with their disco party lights bubbling.
On Wednesday we woke up and it was colder and not as much fun. The Bacon Provider started scrambling for a hotel room, but in the end he and I took a cab uptown and went grocery shopping instead. The cab ride made me very car-sick, and had I not been on the verge of barfing, I might have gasped at the hustle and bustle of perfectly normal-looking midtown Manhattan. People were on their way to the gym, sight-seeing, and shopping for fancy shoes. Though I did not care very much about it when I saw it, we got to see the brokenconstruction crane at 57th street which we had heard caused many buildings to be evacuated, and we got some new food to carry back downtown.
Dangling crane at 57th
10/31/12
Schlepping several blocks to escape the gridlock, we snagged a cab around 44th Street. The taxi driver took us back to TriBeCa, passing the threshold of civilization at 34th street (where the stoplights stopped); at this point he simply drove down the West Side Highway as fast as he possibly could, through multiple intersections.  That night we made grilled sausages and artichokes and the Bacon Provider stood, stirring his risotto by candlelight, and it was perfect as always. After dinner we played Loaded Questions again, and laughed our heads off.
By Thursday the iPads were dead, everyone badly needed a shower, and we packed overnight bags and took a cab uptown again. Once in a hotel room, we took turns in the shower, charged our stack of devices, and had a decent dinner across the street. The Bacon Provider went back to the apartment to feed the cat and walk and feed the dogs. It had dropped into the 50s (F) in the apartment so he slept in a big pile with all the pets on the bed.
Frog skeletons at AMNH
Friday the boys and I went for a walk, thinking we could go to Central Park, but the combination of New York City Marathon preparations and the damage from the storm meant the Parks Department had erected barricades to keep everyone out. As we made our way up Central Park West, a long line of media trucks was assembling, firing up their generators for a weekend’s coverage of the marathon (which was not yet cancelled at this point).  Knowing that pretty much everyone below 34thstreet was still without power (not to mention the flooding and homes destroyed in New Jersey, Staten Island and Long Island), it seemed to us that the resources being poured into the marathon set-up alone could be much better utilized lighting a dark hospital or pumping out a flooded subway. In search of a distraction, we ended up at the American Museum of Natural History, where we looked at an Ivory Ornamental tarantula and some hominid skulls and a giant crystal and a turtle skeleton and some taxidermied tigers and marveled at how most of this museum is like a time machine that takes you on a science filed trip to the 1950s. On our way back up the elevator to our room, some enormous and fit Dutch people lectured us about American politics and the decision to cancel the marathon.
Saturday we packed up, checked out of the hotel, bought groceries, and got picked up by the Bacon Provider in our own car, because the power was on at home and at our garage.  Now we are back in the apartment, which was 4 1/2 days without power and yet the milk never spoiled. Halloween never happened. As glad as I was to get here and see the lights on, it still feels like part of a long, bad, weird vacation.