Monday, 23 June 2008

 

Playing The Field

While I have great regard for commitment and monogamy, I must admit that I, myself, have been rather promiscuous.

New York’s dating scene is notoriously cut-throat but it pales in comparison to the city’s housing market. A few lucky people find their perfect match right off the bat but the majority of us go through several real estate partners before finally settling down.

I have gone from rookie renter to serial subletter and someday I hope to settle down into a long-term lease but for now I continue my wanton wanderings. Below is a lease-and-tell chronicle of some of my more memorable affairs of the real estate variety…

The first love

The first apartment I ever had of my own was listed as a “cozy” studio in Manhattan’s pierced and mohawked East Village neighbourhood. In New York realty-speak, “cozy” means the size of a small walk-in wardrobe.  But, for a wide-eyed, twenty year-old film student, it was a palace. There’s no feeling that comes close to the sense of accomplishment and pure exhilaration of moving into your first apartment.

With this rite of passage one also ends up learning important life lessons. One of the more amusing ones (in retrospect only) was a wild evening with two Norwegian au pairs whose Basic Instinct style flashes from the futon were, I later discovered upon getting my phone bill, just to distract me and my friends from the fact that they were using my phone to call every relative they had in Norway.

When I moved back to NYC after a 3-year stint in Singapore, the first apartment my realtor happened to show me was this very same one. It was like reconnecting with an old friend but it looked so tiny I couldn’t believe I actually lived there. I ended up going with…

The one NIGHT STAND

This brief dalliance with a ground floor studio in a townhouse on the Upper West Side was doomed from the start. The very evening I got the keys, I discovered the apartment came with room-mates. Furry, four-legged ones. The relationship was over less than 24 hours after it had begun. This led to my first (and hopefully last) legal battle (which I subsequently lost thanks to the fine print on the paperwork I’d signed) and, although I didn’t get the opportunity to shout, “I’m out of order? You’re out of order! This whole trial is out of order!”, the up side is I now have some experience to draw on if I ever do a courtroom drama.

 Although the whole affair was less than pleasant, I was in for a soft landing because I ended up in the vermin-free arms of…

The Femme Fatale

This slick little apartment in a modern high-rise with the most unbelievable views of Manhattan and the river was the real-estate equivalent of being in a relationship with a sophisticated, sexy and successful young woman… who, I discovered, had a sordid background.

A few years earlier, the building was the site of one of Manhattan’s most sensational and grisly murders. Often, as I strapped on my rollerblades in the lobby, one of the doormen, shaking his head, would recount how he'd helped two residents load a trunk into a cab, later finding out it contained the dismembered remains of a local bookie.

Apart from that, the building was rumoured to be home to some of the city’s most high priced and exclusive escorts. Although I never was able to confirm this information (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), I got to know some of my other neighbours and we are still close friends. My apartment was sandwiched between one of New York’s premier concert pianists and an auctioneer couple with a talent for mixing exquisitely lethal margaritas, which they’d pass me over our balconies every evening. Between the Gershwin from one side and the tequila from the other, it’s no wonder I look back on those years with such great fondness but not too much lucidity.

When I began taking on more work in India, it made sense to sub-let rather than maintain an apartment of my own, so my promiscuity escalated. Next up was an involvement with…

THE OLDER ONE

I’d always been a fan of New York’s indigenous pre-war architecture but had only lived in modern structures until I ended up in this charming one bedroom on the Upper West Side. Full of antiques (and dust!) the apartment was owned by a flamboyant and uproariously witty 90 year-old. She lived across the hall and would often trick me into taking her out for drinks. Always catching me off guard, her modus operandi was brilliant and would involve lines like “I’m 90, would you just walk me to the corner so I can pick up some dinner?” When we got there, she’d follow it with “Let’s just have a quick drink while they pack my food.” An hour later, through a 3 martini haze, I would realise I’d been had – again. In spite of this regular trickery and the delight she took in scandalising me with play-by-play details about her sex-life, requests to please “knock-up” her daughter and answering the door in nothing but her underwear, we got along famously and I ended up being a frequent guest at parties with her friends that included New York’s most celebrated tycoons, politicians, writers and artists.

When she found out I was an actor, she started showing a picture of me to every Indian taxi driver she came in contact with. She would then excitedly call me wherever I happened to be in the world to inform me that they knew who I was. When I expressed my mortification and asked her to stop, she was clearly offended. The next voicemail from her was a curt, “I showed your picture to a cab driver today and he had no idea who the hell you were.”

I sublet the apartment for a few years before she eventually sold it but she remains one of my favourite people in New York and I still get invited to the parties.

THE TAKEN ONE

In between apartments, a friend offered me his roommate’s section in their large Chelsea 2-bedroom. She was away on a long assignment in South America and I fell madly in love with the unbelievable water pressure. Every time I turned on the shower, I had to hold onto the hand rail for fear of being knocked to the ground or pinned to the wall with its force. Every shower was an adventure – like whitewater rafting in the comfort of one’s own bathroom. But this was not my space and I was always aware that it belonged to someone else. And, like when you mess with a committed woman, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get caught. That happened late one October morning when I emerged from the shower and found an irate Argentinean woman sitting on the bed. Her assignment had ended ahead of schedule and she was home early. That was the end of that tryst. The room went back to its true owner and I went back to standard water-pressure.

THE THREESOME

I recently found myself in the top floor apartment of a brownstone off Central Park West. It belonged to a feminist writer who was spending time in Europe and the apartment, newly renovated, with great light and views, seemed perfect. There was one catch, though… the owner clearly thought very highly of her boyfriend’s charms and had a framed photograph of him above the bed. Nothing wrong with that – except that it was a nude. It took some adjusting to (and an amendment to my “One Penis Limit In The Bedroom” rule) but, after a while, I hardly noticed the pale, hairy man hanging (in more ways than one) on the wall. It was, after all, a very small price to pay for a great New York sublet.

THE (possibly) DANGEROUS LIAISON

I’m currently in a quirky and Spartan walk-up in the West Village that belongs to an Italian photographer. Thankfully, there are no naked men on the wall but it’s possible I’m living above a serial killer. He has a pallid, gothic look to him and, as I passed him coming into the building, he fixed me with a steely, disdainful gaze and hissed in an eerily Hannibal Lechter-esque tone, “Ah, new meat.” (The friend I was with claims he said, new “face” but I know what I heard.) I’m going to try my best not to make eye-contact or do anything that might even vaguely annoy him but, if I go missing, check the freezer of apartment #2R.

13 comments:

  1. "The Taken One" made me laugh out loud. It reminds me of some of our SF apartment trials, though none with the glamour of yours. Loved the wicked humour with which this is written a tad more than I hated discovering the Bush-era date of this post. :(
    Here's fervently hoping we get to see more of your writing soon. What wonderful weaving of words!

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  2. pure pleasure..no other words to describe what you write! and i always thought your chivalry-dropping-handsome looks were the the best part..turns out there is more.much more :)

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  3. Its quite a read!

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  4. Haha,... your escapades prove you most certainly wanton. I hope the fact that you rarely write now is not an indication of having reformed yourself.
    I mean I hope you make the most of your experiences, so we in turn get to read them.

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  5. Loved reading this article. Your words transformed visually for me. I could picturise your journey.

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  6. Great article...I always associated a few of the relationships you mentioned with reading...you know when I read a friend's book I would relate it to "The Taken One". Reading any Agatha Christie mystery as "One Night Stand" etc.

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  7. Hahaha...another great read!! My favorites were "The Older One" and "The Taken One"....what can I say? Again, love your sense of humor and style of writing!!! Please write more!! I am sure you are busy with other priorities...but your writing is truly something...it's joy to read your articles!! Hope you continue to do so... :D

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  8. Never,Never ever do this with Women,hahaha
    Find a Beautiful Woman-(Beautiful in heart,mind and soul)
    and Marry her the Conventional way.
    Have a lot of kids and animals in your home.
    coz u deserve only such a liasion,none other..

    Gurdeesh

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  9. I was cracking up, thoroughly, whilst reading this post. Thank you for the afternoon humor.

    A post of your's a day, keeps my grumpiness away. But sadly, there aren't enough of these to survive a lifetime. Please do write more.

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  10. loved them all..the older one was too cute . not much work to do @ work , so really a good way to pass time until the next boring meeting. :)

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  11. Thank God its about your apartments and not a chick !!

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  12. You, my buddy have got stories on end. I don't think I'l tire easily. Love the prose (even more because it's 'real' [perspectives and stylistics give an edge to every encounter].)

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