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NOTE: I forgot this post had been living in my drafts since April, 2011. The good news is that I’m in a much quieter apartment. I still think this is one of the most entertaining exchanges I’ve ever seen.
Apartment living and nightmarish neighbors – like bacon and eggs, black and white, Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse – those two always go hand-in-hand.
My last apartment in N.Y. was reasonably quiet, minus my across the hall neighbor’s prayer bell, which sounded multiple times per day. My beach apartment offered some of the worst neighbors that money could buy. And my current apartment complex may or may not be populated with fugitives. It simply seems suspect that everyone decides to move out after 11 p.m. Last week, when my parents were visiting, my dad jokingly asked someone if they had a body rolled up in a carpet they were loading in their truck. He said they didn’t laugh back – chances are they probably did.
In typical upstairs neighbor fashion, Stompy McStomperson cannot walk lightly on his feet. He drops everything when he walks in the door. And he had a niggling cough for about three weeks. All night long, I would hear him coughing – when it finally stopped, I suspected he dropped dead from tuberculosis.
One night, my friend Ashley texted me from N.Y. – she couldn’t sleep, due to the incessant noise caused by her upstairs neighbors. What follows, simply needed to be shared … because it’s amazing.
Ashley left this adorable bulldog card for her upstairs neighbor.
Dear Upstairs Neighbor(s):
I am writing you this because I am a coward and am completely terrible with in-person problem-solving.
Anyway, it’s a few minutes after midnight on a Monday … well, Tuesday now, and it kinda sounds like you’re bowling up there … here … where you are. This happens often between what I imagine are games of tag, exciting cage matches and vacuuming.
I usually get back late from work so I completely understand how tough it is to fit in all of that activity before bed. But I guess what I’m really trying to say here is: I would super-appreciate it if you could please try to keep things down after 9 p.m. on “school nights.” If not, please at least invite me to the festivities. I love bowling! And I’m totally bad at it so you could get a huge ego boost from kicking my butt … unless you’re bad, too.
Your downstairs neighbor
The next day, she received this card.
What he wrote:
Apologies for your disquieted home. Your note proves that my faith in the building’s soundproofing has been overly optimistic. I say my, though my wife lives here as well – I am probably the cause of most noise. One caveat – our refrigerator had been slowly and loudly dying for some months and was only replaced this week. Some bowling games, at least, were caused by its thudding. It is dead and gone.
We will be more conscientious of our noise level at night and __ ___ hope that your evening will be improved. Therefore, may I suggest 10 p.m. as a reasonable start time for Night Procedures? With two of us navigating space in this apartment, there will surely be some noise, but we will do more to mitigate it.
Unfortunately, we have no bowling lane to offer but we do love tea and coffee. You are welcome to come up and share some if you’d like to get acquainted with more than our ___ detritus.
We are sorry you were put out.
Stay tuned, as Ashley brokers peace in the Middle East using greeting cards …
(I know this point can be easily invalidated by the fact that I am currently “cooking” frozen chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s in my oven right now, but stick with me. Okay?)
Last year, I stumbled upon a magazine called Everyday Food. Similar to my favorite cookbook, Weeknight Fresh and Fast, both have extremely deceptive titles. I’ve often thought I should create a cookbook that really gets to the heart of a fresh/fast/everyday dinner. (Hint: it involves cheese, fruit and some kind of chip or cracker. And by fruit, I may mean wine.) Nonetheless, when I have a little more time and ambition, I really do enjoy cooking. In an effort to diversify my meals and encourage me to eat different foods, I started subscribing to Everyday Food. While there were definitely some recipes I never planned to tackle, very little of the magazine seemed unreasonable. And what I didn’t cook, I thoroughly enjoyed imagining scenarios when I totally would make these dishes. “Crowned roast will be perfect for a football Sunday when I have eight people over!”
And then it happened. They stopped publishing Everyday Food; in its place I would receive a subscription to Martha Stewart Living.
The first issue, April, appeared in my mailbox a few weeks ago. I was curious, having never read it before, and a little hesitant. While I can cook (when I’m not being lazy), I cannot bake/craft/decorate/sew/match my clothes. Outside of my culinary talent, I am an expert at folding clothes. That’s pretty much where the domesticity ends.
Martha Stewart Living reinforced that for me.
Let’s start with the cover (pictured above), shall we? What beautiful Easter eggs! Something tells me that you didn’t decorate these with a PAAS kit – or you would have a smiling lamb decal stuck to the bottom. Sorry, Martha. I couldn’t decorate eggs to look like this if they were the size of basketballs.
Progressing through the magazine, I see ads for stunning appliances – shiny dishwashers and fancy washing machines. I’m reminded that my apartment microwave is from the ’80s and can’t even cook a bag of popcorn.
Next,we stumble upon Martha’s April calendar – I’m already behind. I did not schedule spring maintenance for cars and farm vehicles on the 4th and I did not get a facial this Sunday. Clearly, I don’t just neglect my home; I neglect my non-existent farm and self, as well. The good news? I can get back on track. Tomorrow, I need to wash my winter clothes and store them with sachets of cedar shavings. I’m sure I bought extras of those last year, right? And on the 28th, I need to sow tomatoes in the greenhouse. Maybe last month’s issue told me to plant the tomatoes. Or build a greenhouse.
I got eager when I saw the next page – spring-cleaning tips. I’m terrible at cleaning but I’m a major sucker for tips on how to do it better. Finally, I thought, something useful and relevant. I was reading one that seemed to make sense – pour white vinegar in your toilet and let it soak while you clean around your house. (And unlike cedar shaving sachets, I actually have white vinegar in my kitchen.) Then I got to the last sentence – “Be sure to not mix vinegar and chlorine bleach, which will produce a poisonous gas.” I could see myself trying to explain to the authorities how I “accidentally” made meth in my toilet bowl and decided to turn the page.
Oh, what’s this? Nine photos of Martha Stewart holding different breeds of live chickens. Perhaps because I am allergic to eggs, raising chickens has never crossed my mind. But I’m happy to know that I can now differentiate the blue andalusian from the australorp. I’ll never make that mistake again.
I thumb past an ad for Crocs boat shoes – if you thought Crocs were bad, you should see Crocs boat shoes. Shudder, turn page. Putting money on Talbot or Coldwater Creek making an appearance before we’re done here. But wait! Why would we buy clothes when we can sew them? Dust off your sewing machine; we’ve got instructions to make a blouse and a dress! Hopefully we can put the leftover fabric to use when we make those darling lunch bags later on in the week.
Next comes food and entertaining. Minus the napkin rings made of twigs, this is actually the reasonable part of the magazine. I won’t bore you with its practical contents.
Flower arrangements and gardening fill the next handful of pages and then we land in straight up craft country. If your Easter basket did not include any of the following: vintage flowers, spread monarch butterfly specimens, a $90 planter pot or blown duck eggs, you failed at Easter. You should have just skipped your tacky gift giving altogether.
Rounding out Easter, we have more food, baking and craft ideas. My favorite is a wreath made of both brown eggs AND quail eggs. You have to pierce the eggs with a paperclip and siphon out the yolk with an ear syringe. It says you need three dozen eggs; I would need about 54 dozen eggs to account for the ones I would break.
By this point, my insecurities have all been confirmed and I’m left with nothing but questions (and perhaps a little envy). Who has not only the time and skills to live this way, but also the money? I’m guessing her ideal reader is married to a wealthy man and has no children. Also doesn’t sleep and lives on a farm.
(And that beep tells me that my 1980’s apartment oven is currently setting my frozen chicken tacos on fire. ‘Til next time.)