Monday, May 11, 2009

Living Large

There aren't many things that I worry about outwardly. If I worry at all, it becomes apparent in subtle ways such as unexplainable mood swings and snide remarks that bring me close to fist fights with both strangers and loved ones. Or, in short bursts such as "I don't have enough garlic for this stir fry and it's gonna suck." Or, "these shoes are awful and everyone will laugh at me."

But the one thing that I worry about rather incessantly is the stability of my home. There is a loose thread of that throughout this blog, but while I complain about the landlord, scream like a banshee at the narcissists on the roof and spend weeks tiling a wall, the root of the issue is the actual stability of the floor below my feet and the roof over my head.

It doesn't make a lot of sense, but most worrying doesn't. It's about prescience and KNOWING that you are right and logic doesn't necessarily come into the picture.

The building where I live is old, but not that old (it's registered as 1930's but there is physical evidence pointing to an earlier date), and nothing has fallen down so far. There was one big fire about 25 years ago that did superficial damage. The building has been sold a few times in the last 10 years so theoretically someone inspected it on behalf of the new owners to make sure they weren't buying a lawsuit.

So really I shouldn't worry. But worry I do.

What I see is what I don't see. I've never seen anybody inspect the decorative elements (what are those called - finials?) on the top of the exterior front wall that have been there for over 70 years and it doesn't seem farfetched that they could fall, bringing more bricks and possibly the entire front of the building with them (though reasonably, I am pretty sure this building wasn't built with facing, but with actual bricks).

Every time a bus or a truck drives by, the apartment shakes and rattles, so much so that people who live in houses comment on it nervously when they are visiting. When people walk on the roof, the walls shake so much that once, knick knacks were knocked from their shelves. When we took out a damaged wall in the bathroom down to the brick, there were holes in the brick so that you could peek through and see outside. When they gut renovated the apartment downstairs we found that there was no subfloor. Between my floor and their ceiling was about 8 inches of air (since the renovation I think they stuffed it with poisonous insulation-yet another worry). My iron bathtub sits on rotting wood, only 3 of the 4 legs actually touching the floor, and water leaks down continually.
Is that enough? I think so.
When the facade fell off a building on 14th Street & 7th Ave (photo above, thank you Elizabeth), it just adds to the list of why my worrying is logical. People had to evacuate without taking their belongings. Which leads me to the other thing I worry about. What would I take in an emergency? Once, I lost 2 photo albums from the middle 1980's due to neglect while resting them on a curb while loading the car, and then accidentally driving off without them. I think about those 2 albums nearly every day with a knot in my stomach.
How would I ever be able to take what I needed? I have a plan, but it is inadequate because I would have to rescue the cats and frogs first. Then I would have to take valuables such as the computer (which is kind of big--another reason to change to a laptop), cd's with saved information, jewelry (not that there's much of that), and photo albums. It turns out that I accumulate about one photo album a year. And after nearly 20 years of marriage that is a lot of photo albums. I could never carry more than about 5. Do I take the baby pictures? The wedding album? Which great vacations do I sacrifice? The video tapes are small, I might be able to fit those in a backpack. And the cameras. And clothes. And shoes.

I couldn't afford to buy all new clothes and shoes, but if I didn't then I would be back to yet the previous worry: "These shoes are awful, people will laugh at me." You see, this circular reasoning can lead me down the path to hell and darkness.

So this, my friends, is why I don't sleep.


Christopher Egan said...

I had the same thoughts when I lived at 516.Now that I live in a house that has a foundation built in the late 1800s I still worry. Chris

Alex in NYC said...

I live in a building that is probably half your building's age (if that) and it still shakes when a bus drives by. Suffice to say, we're fucked if there's ever a proper earthquake (and isn't that a great feeling?)

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that your building went up in the 1930's... I would peg it al LEAST 20 years older.

I have similar feelings at work, where the bench jewelers upstairs all pause when someone is walking around up there because the floor bounces so much. in addition to 3 or 4 jewelers, there are 2 lasers, acetylene tanks, and literally tons of tools up there. I am often working below this.

As for your photos- even though you love the prints, I think you should have them all put onto a set of a few emergency discs.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry you have to live in fear. Have you tried calling the city housing department to get an inspector to take a look at your apartment? They could put pressure on the landlord to make the necessary fixes. I had a friend in Hell's Kitchen who finally got his placed fixed that way. You could also look around for a place in Queens or Brooklyn. Prices really are dropping, and it's probably better to be safe than sorry. God forbid your bathtub fell through the floor while you were in it.