I'm a lazy blogger. I admit it. It's obvious. The evidence is here, by its absence, in the archives. It's been almost two months since I've posted. BlogHer has had it with me and asked me to remove their code from my site. I've complied. I can make them no promises about my blogging frequency though I have the best of intentions. I mean, I write. I edit. But I don't post. Maybe it's an only child thing; I still have trouble sharing.
The following post was written on February 6th upon my arrival in New Orleans, my first night back home.
Note: It would have posted earlier if Mardi Gras didn't get in the way. Then all the settling into a new place. A place without a secure, private internet connection (yet). As it's been, I've been poaching from neighbors (intermittent and unreliable) or schlepping my computer to bars and coffeehouses (it's heavy and valuable and I bring it out only for must-do internet tasks, like paying bills). But enough excuses; let's get to it.
It is now 9:30pm, Friday February 6th. I arrived in town at 6pm. Since that time, I moved everything from my truck up to the apartment, lit a lamp and plugged in the radio. I put a few things away.
I brought only the most essential bits with me in the truck: cats, clothes, toiletries and personal papers. (Everything else has been shipped and will arrive - *fingers crossed* - on Monday.)
I also have a chair. I meant to pack it with the rest of the stuff but it needed fixin' and it needed to sit for the glue to set.
No matter. I'm glad I left it behind. Now I have a place to sit.
I do not, however, have a bed. I plan to sleep on the floor tonight. I have promise of a soft spot at a friend's house a few blocks away, but it is a few blocks away and I don't have the energy to pack a bag and head over there.
Plus it feels right to be here tonight. To christen it. And this way, I keep the cats company.
The cats. Since I acquired them in 1997, they have moved nine times, only twice locally. Among the long-distance moves, one was by plane (Philadelphia to New Orleans) and two were under great duress (out of and back into New Orleans surrounding Katrina, traumatic bookmarks to their idyllic hurrication in St. Augustine FL). For the move from New Orleans to Oxford, they rode with me in the cab of the moving truck. Leaving Oxford for Long Island, they camped in the bed of my pickup, which was trailer towed by a 26" moving truck (and driven by my dad). They were comfortable, I guess. They had blankets and food, a litter box. They had the whole space to themselves. All tolled, they spent two days back there, including the night in between.
Same thing this time. Babies in the back. Two days, one night. Food, litter and blankets. Except this time I was driving and they had but a fraction of the bed space. Most of it was taken up by my most essential bits.
Despite the presence of the litter box, there were a few "accidents." Mostly on the blankets. At least once in a plant, a rose bush, the offense absorbed by the cotton sheet protecting its branches (and protecting the cats from the thorns). All of it gratefully minor. Nothing on my bedding, thank goodness. If so, I'd be walking that walk to sleep tonight.
It is good to be back. It is different from when I left (as am I). It is more lively now (me, I am more subdued; certainly this evening after two days and 1400 miles on the road). I am living quite near a happening area. Stores, bars, restaurants and coffee shops - four of them, in fact, all within walking distance.
(One of the four is a Starbucks and therefore doesn't really count for me. I am not a fan. Except for the *bucks in the Atlantic Avenue LIRR Station in Brooklyn. And that's only because it has a relatively clean bathroom: a one-seater, somewhat roomy, with a lock that firmly locks. Granted, you usually have to wait for the loo, but after the ninety-minute train ride, it's well worth it.
I've never actually bought anything there. I just pee and go, but if I wanted a coffee at that moment, I might get one. It doesn't have the *bucks stink.
Maybe it's because it's upstairs from the RR tracks or because it's near the station exit and Brooklyn continuously wafts through its doors, but that *bucks is noticeably absent of the malodour that typically pervades the chain. The one in my new neighborhood is steeped in it. I'm lucky to have other options.)
This - the bars, shops and coffeehouses - is one side of my neighborhood. On the other side lies St. Charles and its streetcars, the clangs and the clanks.
At the center, however, it is deathly quiet. Literally. I border on a cemetery. A small one, yes, but still the domain of the dead. As for the rest of the neighbors, they are mostly families and rich folk who live behind gates.
I too live behind a gate. To get to my apartment door, you must have a key to access the courtyard. From there, you ascend twenty-three metal steps making a left-L about two-thirds up. At the landing, another left takes you to my door and into a sanctuary.
It is more beautiful and so perfectly me than I remember. It all happened so quickly, I came away with only an impression of the apartment.
In January, during my New Orleans recon mission, I found the apartment on craigslist and signed the lease less than six hours later. It was perfect timing.
It was also a complete disaster. The apartment, that is. (The tenant then was a nurse, one with long hours, slovenly habits and a poor sense of design.) Nonetheless, its attributes were apparent.
First things first: the location, the local amenities and the security features (you gotta be Spiderman to get in here.)
Next, the inside: high ceilings, hard-wood floors and big windows.
Outside: a balcony. Plus, a landing outside the door (covered) and a courtyard down below (perfect for storing my bicycle).
Last of all and crucially important: the price. It's right on. Smack in the middle of my affordable range. And the property manager is great.
Until I walked in this evening, however, I had no idea how truly perfect (for me) this apartment is.
On my first turn this evening, just me and my keys, I checked all the lights, the windows, and turned on the fans. I lit each burner on the gas(!) stove. Tested the pressure and temperature from each faucet. I flushed the toilet.
I ran the HVAC units through their phases and looked in all the cabinets.
I stepped out onto the balcony and looked through each window for the view.
Most people - wise ones - would have done all these things before signing the lease. I guess I could have, but the previous tenant was so obviously still in residence that to do so felt intrusive. I was in and out, a quick look-see. I trusted my gut (all signs said go) and figured I'd make do with the best of it and fix some of the worst.
Based on my inaugural review this evening, this apartment is even better than I suspected. The ceilings are higher, the windows bigger and the rooms larger. There are also more windows, two ceiling fans, and a kitchen with absolutely no counter space (the gas range compensates). The front room holds a fireplace and considering the ashy evidence, it might work.
I am looking forward to seeing the apartment in the morning. I am looking forward to my sleep tonight. I'll pad a cot in the middle of the living room. Just me and the height and the dead.
And perhaps a cat or two.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
- my furniture arrived on time and without incident. To save my friends the backbreaking work, I hired movers. That decision flattened my finances, but it was worth it. I say only this: twenty-three steps.
- the rose bush died. And my other plants are struggling. I left most of the plants with Dad. He takes good care of them, especially the palms. The plants I brought traveled in a plastic bin and drowned in the humidity. I've rescued a succulent and a philodendron, but the rose bush is history. Perhaps it's the climate change. Perhaps it's the move. Most likely, it's the urine. Since I moved it to the balcony, Iphi has repeatedly defied the thorns and defiled the soil. I've given up hope. I'll get a new one.
- my apartment/neighborhood is very quiet at night, but it's a bustle during the day. I'm sandwiched between St. Charles and Prytania, both main drags for uptown/downtown travels. A constant flow of traffic and lots of feet on the streets too. Tourists goggling the houses and visiting the cemetery. Neighbor folk walking dogs and running errands. It's a pleasant buzz and nicely balanced by the lull of night.
- the neighbors: we ain't all rich. Or familied. Among the stately homes, there are a smattering of apartments like mine. And like me, many of the inhabitants are single folk in the service industry or young professionals. My immediate neighbors (there are five units in this compound) all seem to fit that bill.
- the fireplace: I don't think it works. It's gas and I see ash, but I smell nothing, hear nothing when I turn the valve. I've held fire to every place that might emit fuel, but no spark. In the bathroom, however, there is a heater that works. A pink wall-mounted job that does burst to action with a match. I don't need it now (it was 75 degrees today; it rarely goes below 55 at night), but it's another amenity I'm glad to have. (Especially since it's pink. And nothing else in the bathroom is. The tile is white and turquoise. With seahorses.)
- the windows: of the seven in the apartment, only two open. The two fronting the balcony. All the rest are nailed or painted shut. Great for security but lousy for cross-breeze. Fortunately, I've got fans and AC units.
- the balcony: there is no better place to be. When I get proper furniture, it'll be even better.
- and and and: mardi gras. I worked for much of the build-up to the big day/big weekend. But the Sunday-Monday-Tuesday triumvirate was suitably silly and disparate (uptown, downtown and all around). Joyous, surprise reunions with friends ("you're back? you're really back?!"). And a high-stepping Fat Tuesday decked in my wedding dress.