What I love about where I live – an invitation to a series.

October 1, 2009 at 9:30 pm (By Ron)

I have a lot of internet folks I know, and some of them I have a vision of what they look like as people, some through their Twitter avatars, some through their blog pics.  But I rarely know much about where they live!  This leads me to imagine a lot of things, most of them fanciful!  For example, I know Amba doesn’t live there anymore, but I see her in a West Village apartment, one with several problems, but with at least two really, really cool features.  Like what?  Oh, say  a great 19th century fireplace, or a super doorman, or a fantastic view, or a fabulous Master Bedroom.  Something like that.  If the Chrysler Building had apartments, she should have one with one of those chrome eagle heads as a patio overlooking midtown.  Yow, the thought of it!

I propose a series where you write about what you love a lot where you live.  Now, I don’t want people to concentrate on the city or state or region they’re in; more their domicile, the house or apartment where they hang their head at night.  Got a cool armchair, a neat appliance you take pleasure in, a wall that has just the right color, a cool skylight?  That’s what I want to hear about.  This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your city or region or your weather, but connect it to your home, not just “it’s nice and sunny here.”  See where I’m going?   Let’s share the love…and I’ll start us off.

1.)I have a great view out my living room window.  I live on top of a golf course, with a  street and a small park between a line of trees that are supposed to keep wayward shots on the course, but every year the Golfoids drop a few balls off my porch awning onto my front lawn.   I’ve been saving these orphans for over 20 years.  To what end I don’t know, but when I figure it out…it’ll be fantastic.  (Don’t golf myself)  The trees are lush and the whole view is incredibly soothing.  The window faces west, so I get to bid the sun adios every day…  I get to see hordes of birds (or bats?) up in the trees take off at dusk for lotsa mosquito killing duty, even nicer.

2.)I live on a corner with another house on only one side.  Surprisingly quiet, even though I’m only a mile from downtown.

3.)I have a gigantic lilac bush that runs down the whole side of the house to the end of the lot. It only blooms for a short time in May, but for a month I open my bedroom window and sleep in the perfume of lilacs, and the scent eventually fills the whole house… fabulous!

4.)  Location!  40 feet from my front door is the bus stop, highly useful when your ride is semi-functional as mine is.  Within a block:  A 24-hour pharmacy, a good mainstream grocery store, and a great green grocer, jammed packed with an excellent collection of stuff.  I can exist without the car if need be, even in the winter when I sometimes get snow-locked in.

5.)My den is small, but it’s like a  fighter cockpit of what defines me.  All my main stuff is close at hand, in a system that I know by heart but couldn’t really explain to someone else. Everything is almost just arms length away, so when I need something…bang, I don’t have to hunt for it.

6.)The media room sets the tone for the work day.  I can’t work/exist in pure quiet, so something is always cranking away out there.  Somedays the Ramones, or Scarlatti, or Brian Eno, otherdays, I have Pulp Fiction or Dr. Strangelove on a loop all day long.  When I need a break, I check and see how Jules and Vincent are doing or if Major Kong can get those damn bomb bay doors open…When I’m really cranking on work, it’s a “Beatles day” where my studio outtakes of the Fabs grind away while I’m trying to debug some crazy piece of C++ code…they’re working, I’m working, and George Martin is telling me it sounds wonderful to him.  Am I in Studio Two at Abbey Road?  I lose track, and that too is…sublime.

7.)Between the den and the media room…the kitchen.  I love to cook, and can’t see why I just can’t do everything at the same time…so I do!  I miss sitting in an office cubicle as much as…well, no I don’t miss an office cubicle one teensy tiny iota!  Eating, cooking, working, snoozing…I do them when I need to do them, and clocks be damned!  The house lends itself to this big time.

Chime in with what you love about where you live!

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30 Comments

  1. amba12 said,

    every year the Golfoids drop a few balls off my porch awning onto my front lawn. I’ve been saving these orphans for over 20 years.

    You’re waiting for them to hatch?

    (This spins off an idea for a children’s book about a mama alligator brooding a clutch of golf balls.)

    Oh baby, you’re so right about the special feature of my New York apartment. Doorman, ha ha. You mean the drug dealers, selling to the kids who came over on the 9th St. PATH from Jersey after they got kicked out of the park? No, it had a skylight. Yes, an artist-in-a-garrett, peaked skylight. It was a “one and a half” studio with a “sleeping alcove” that had an archway, not really a separate room, and a kitchen that was just a row of stuff you were facing when you opened the door. But the skylight made it tall and filled with light, so it felt much more spacious than it was.

    It also had a fireplace, but the condition of the chimneys was too iffy to use it. My neighbors who’d lived there since 1939 had used theirs for years, though.

    Because I had a real estate guardian angel, I wound up getting a lease on the studio next door, too, for a preferential rent, after one of my neighbors died. (They were a couple, both women. The other will have her 97th birthday later this month.) Yes, there’s a story there, but it’s the kind of love and war story only New Yorkers are interested in.

    This is not yet my contribution to the series, which after all is not “what I loved about where I lived.”

  2. PatHMV said,

    Interesting, Ron. I’ll play.

    I’m in an unusual situation for your question because a year ago, Hurricane Gustav knocked a tree onto my house, causing extensive damage. Since then, I’ve been living in one room behind my garage, on the undamaged side of the house. My refrigerator works, but the damage led me to shut down all the rest of the electricity in the house other than the kitchen countertop outlets. The room feels like an oversized dorm room, with all the books I didn’t pack up in there and my TV, a chest of drawers, and a desk. Looks out into the tiny bathroom, next to the laundry room. The highpoint was when I got the (gas) hot water turned back on about 2 weeks after the storm hit, and I could take hot showers again! Fortunately, I had just ordered a new barbecue grill, which arrived 2 weeks before the storm. It uses natural gas, so I was able to use it to do all my cooking. Packed up most of my dishes and plates, been eating off of paper plates for a long time now. Got pretty good with the grill, though. Even learned how to bake biscuits and cookies in it, plus even cook large roasts!

    My neighborhood is great. It’s in town, not a suburb, and even though it’s not part of one of those planned, single-entrance subdivisions (it’s a real, old-fashioned neighborhood that has grown pretty organically over the last 50 years), the couple of blocks around me have no through streets, so the only traffic is people who live back here. Very safe. Even in the worst traffic, my office is about 8 minutes away from every job I’ve ever had in this town. My mom lives about half a mile from my house. It’s near the route for our annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sort of like Ron’s neighborhood, it sounds like, it feels isolated but in reality the interstate, great restaurants, bookstores, you name it are no more than 10 minutes away. Just a 10 minute walk away is a wonderful collection of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, right next to the local independent grocery store.

    I’m not real keen on the way my house looks on the outside, but I love my house as a whole. The living room is huge, with one wall occupied by a built-in set of cabinets and bookshelves, with an entertainment center area in the middle of it. It flows easily into the dining room area, which is right next to the kitchen, which has a ton of countertop and cabinet space. Between the dining room and the kitchen is a peninsula counter. When there’s a party, my dog likes to flop down in the pathway which is the entrance from the dining room to the kitchen, so that you can’t help but pay attention to her, as you step over her to get from one room to the next. The long wall between the back yard and the living/dining room is completely filled with windows, so there’s a ton of natural light. The living room is the reason I bought the house.

    On the other side of all those windows is a nice deck. When the weather is nice, and it’s not too hot (rules out many months here in Louisiana), I enjoy sitting out there with a snack and a Coca-Cola. When I can, I enjoy making a nice breakfast (bacon and biscuits from scratch, yum!) and eating it out there. Before the storm hit, I was planning to add on to the deck to make an outdoor kitchen (hence the purchase of the great new grill), but that’s of course been put on hold for a while.

    There’s an office in the front of the house, with sliding doors separating it from the living room. Down the hallway is the bathroom, master bedroom, and a second bedroom which I use as a library. Since the tree knocked out the entire wall of those two bedrooms, I took the opportunity to extend the house out an extra 4 feet, which has given me a ton of extra room (or will, at least, once the repairs are completed). I also redid the bathroom, adding a large walk-in shower, which I can’t wait to try out!

    Also in those two rooms, I added in french doors out the back wall. As soon as the repairs are all done, I’m going to built a second deck to have someplace to sit in the evenings, maybe read while I enjoy the outdoors. On that side of the house, just on the other side of the fence separating another little subdivision, is a large pond with a fountain in the middle of it, which always provides some nice white noise.

    Oh, I’m looking forward to having my house back, getting all my furniture back.

  3. amba12 said,

    Wow, Pat, I didn’t know you were still living in the garage room! What’s the ETH (estimated time of homecoming)?

    It strikes me that both you and Ron have gained a paradoxical new “lease” (not literally) on living space through disaster. The hurricane damage has given you the opportunity to make the house even more the way you envision it. While Ron was sick in the hospital, his best friend did some home improvements to welcome him home. Call it creative destruction.

  4. Ron said,

    Wow, Pat, I can’t believe you’re still living that way! As Amba asks when will it be fixed?

    But yeah, I love your description of where the house is and that quick access. Mine is not quite as good as that, but certainly good and I’m a big fan of that.

    I may take some pics to send to Amba for images of things I’ve described.

  5. Donna B. said,

    You’ve all given me food for thought. When I first read Ron’s post, I did a little mental rundown of the things I like about my house and where I live and… I was disappointed.

    I couldn’t think of all that many, but I also don’t want to move or change too many things, so what does that mean?

    Though not anywhere in the league of upheaval that PatHMV describes, a large part of my problem is a series of minor disturbances that haven’t been dealt with. I need to deal with them, yet, for various reasons, do not feel that I’m “allowed” to do so.

    Tonight I can say that I’m glad our stove and hot water are natural gas and not electric. While we have power now, the severity of the thunderstorm coming our way means it may not last long. We’ve already put the lanterns and extra fuel canisters out. But no matter how little light we may have in the bathroom, a hot shower is still possible and I know how to make coffee on the stove top.

    I’ll miss the internet for a while if the power goes out, but I have lots of books and those Coleman lanterns.

    What I like best about my house right now is that it does not depend on electricity to be functional.

  6. PatHMV said,

    We’ve made a lot of progress the past 2 months. I have a roof, and for a week now, I’ve had walls and ceilings, with sheet rock and everything! In fact, today they even turned back on the central a/c, because it was getting a bit musky inside. I still have to get the last bit of money out of the insurance company. If they do what they’ve promised me they’ll do (give me the difference between their lowball estimate of costs and the actual costs my contractor charges me), and do it promptly, then everything will finish up smoothly, and I should be moved back in within a month or so. If, on the other hand, the insurance company balks, I may have to call a halt to the last stage of repairs while I fight with the insurance company.

    Donna, it is nice to have a house set up so that you can survive without too much discomfort with electricity. With the repairs, I’m replacing my stove, trading an electric range for a gas one. It’s a modern, fancy one, so it will need a little electricity to work the oven, but the stove top can be lit and operated manually. And even the oven just needs a tiny bit of electricity to run the control circuits, so I’ll be able to hook that up to the generator when the power is out for a while. The grill is gas, too, so that gives me another cooking option.

  7. Donna B. said,

    The main reason I have a gas stove is that I cannot cook on electric burners. I love electric ovens for their more accurate heat regulation, but you get exactly the opposite on electric stove tops.

    On electric burners you get less control over heat. I stayed at my father’s house helping him with my step-mother’s terminal cancer for about 3 months. Part of my helping was cooking for them and I learned to absolutely hate my step-mother’s beloved electric range.

    When I turn the burner off, I expect the generation of heat to STOP. This doesn’t happen with electric burners. Even when you turn them down, it takes a long time for them to stop producing the heat you don’t want.

    I love being able to control the flame/heat on my stove. I think of it as major progress over the original “cooking with fire” idea. I can control it! That’s not possible with either electric burners, charcoal grills, or wood-fired stoves.

    I might be the only person here acquainted with the problems of cooking on wood-fired stoves. One has to get the fire hot enough to fry or boil something on the top, yet somehow control the heat in the oven to not burn the biscuits or cakes. The engineering in “old-fashioned” wood-burning stoves is really awesome.

    …As was the the cook’s/housewife’s understanding of temperature and chemical reactions. While our ancestors might not have been able to do the mathematical equations properly, they fundamentally understood the interactions.

    For me, the worst possible situation is to live in an all-electric house in a rural area. Water depends on electricity to a pump… and without water, comfort decreases on geometrical terms.

    Municipal water systems may be the most valuable of all “social” systems yet. Or in the foreseeable future.

  8. amba12 said,

    J’s mother had an old woodstove that was about the same vintage as J. It was a magnificent thing, really. And she could create and sustain exactly the right temperature to bake a tender cake. Maybe the oven was a little ways apart from the top burners and could be controlled by a separate fire, I’m not sure.

  9. Ron said,

    I was reading that commerical kitchens may go to magnetic induction for the stovetop as it extremely energy efficient. This requires that you use ferrous pots and pans on the stove top as it is they who get heated, so copper or glass won’t work.
    It is odd to notice the pan getting warm but everything else stays room temp, so you can put your hand on the ‘burner’ just after you remove the pan…

    Just an observation.

  10. amba12 said,

    And I thought microwaves were weird.

  11. Ron said,

  12. Donna B. said,

    But Ron, this is the same thing I was complaining about — that the cook needs control over heat. Whether this is on the stove top or within the cookware… control is essential.

  13. amba12 said,

    Cool!

    (And Donna, look again:

    Another advantage of induction cooking is its responsiveness. This is especially important for chefs, who demand more control over their cooking than the average college student. By varying the strength of the magnetic field, the heat generated in the pot is varied almost instantly. This responsiveness exceeds gas stoves and far exceeds traditional electric stoves.)

  14. Ron said,

    I must admit that when I wrote the original post I didn’t think to myself: “Induction cooking! That’s what we’ll talk about!”

    The wonders of the Interweb! :)

  15. Donna B. said,

    OK, I will look again, because cooking with gas or electricity adds heat which is very undesirable in the summer in Louisiana.

  16. Ron said,

    Donna… They’re not cheap, but here’s a portable induction cooker for $135!

    http://www.cookingtreasures.com/cart.cgi?group=19636&gclid=CJ6T59bHnp0CFdFL5QodhDRA1A

  17. Melinda said,

    I’m in a picturesque West Village studio, too. It’s actually billed as a one-bedroom, but it’s one long narrow room with an arch in the middle. No skylight, which is just as well, because I’m not on the top floor.

    What I loved about my apartment the first time I saw it is that it has a kitchen big enough to put an actual table in, plus some food prep space. All of the other apartments I saw in my price range when I was looking, over 30 years ago, were box-shaped efficiency things with a Pullman kitchen.

    Likewise, I also liked the way the arch and all of the other nooks and crannies sectioned the apartment into a bunch of little alcoves. One has my couch, another my computer desk, another one has my bed, another has a credenza I had specially designed and built to hold everything from my home entertainment equipment to my files and a couple of junk drawers.

    My apartment’s very small, only 300 square feet, and my late husband never met a possession he didn’t like. By contrast, I’m a minimalist, and I’ve given away tons of stuff over the past couple of years–including books I’d had since college. So I’m enjoying the sparseness and cleanness of the space right now, and the smell of home-cooked meals. Also, there’s enough room now for my two cats to run around like lunatics.

    My only two windows face the backyard of the building, which has a couple of trees, the trash and recycling bins, and the guys from the tattoo parlor on the ground floor having a smoke. So although I’m on one of the busiest, and most convenient, blocks in the city, I enjoy a lot of quiet. As long as I lock the windows when I leave, since the apartments in the back tend to get robbed more often.

  18. amba12 said,

    No skylight, which is just as well, because I’m not on the top floor.

    You can tell she was in stand-up.

  19. amba12 said,

    I could have told you many things I loved about my New York studios. They were much more “like a fighter cockpit of what defines me” (what a great image!) and not much bigger! I was pretty sure one of the reasons I loved Life of Pi so much was that when I read it I had just spent a couple of decades in a small lifeboat with a large predator myself. When I first walked into that skylight apt. in 1971 it was like a snail being reunited with its shell. Not only that, I rented my first studio (all unknowing) one month before rent control ended for the building; and I rented the other studio for a preferential rent by getting a transitional landlord (who wanted only to flip the building) over a barrel with the collaboration of my then something like 83-year-old friend and former neighbor. (My triumphant line to this slickster, who wore a 3-piece suit even to inspect the boiler: “I don’t want money, I WANT SPACE!!”) For a while there, I had two for less than the price of one. And I was no affluent free-rider on rent control; I needed the breaks.

    Like Melinda’s, my apt. faced the back and so was far less noisy than it could’ve been given its close proximity to the corner of Ave. of the Americas and West 4th Street. Location, location, location! To tell the truth, as neighborhoods go my first — the East Village — was my favorite. The West Village was too much like the midway of a state fair. But being on top of the West 4th St. subway station meant you could get almost anywhere but the upper East Side, and who would want to go there anyway??

    See, this exercise has just made me homesick. So what do I love about this place? I don’t feel that I really live in Chapel Hill. I live on Planet Jacques and Chapel Hill is a more convenient parking place for the planetoid. (Think the Little Prince and the baobabs.)

    One curious thing about my living arrangements is that there is always one sealed-off, neglected room. In NYC for a long time it was J’s old apartment on Thompson St., a few blocks away, which we kept and which I used to escape to for work. There was a whole other cat family there that we couldn’t blend with the West 4th one because there were bad viruses loose in the Thompson household, so I spent part of every day there, but the place kept getting water-damaged by plumbing disintegration and it got into worse and worse shape. Then, after we finally gave it up, the studio next door (formerly my neighbor’s) gradually became the neglected space, because J was less and less able even to get over there to have dinner with friends, or to be left alone, and a lot of the stuff from Thompson was dumped over there with no time to sort it out. Now, the second “guest” bedroom, which has been used very rarely by guests, is the unused room. My parents’ book collection is in there, and my favorite rug and futon/frame from the studio-next-door, and my touchstones, shells, and driftwood from various travels. It was originally going to be my office as well as the guest bedroom, but then J wouldn’t let me out of his sight, so instead of going into the other room to work or dream I escape through the star trek portal of the laptop.

    I dream about the persistent neglected space too. It seems to be a physical manifestation of my own abandoned life. It is often full of neglected cats, a whole other family who take care of themselves and each other and multiply, so there are new kittens of various ages. There is a sense that they are aggressive survivors who may either attack or contaminate the “official” cats, but I have to admire their self-sufficiency and solidarity.

    What I love about this place in Chapel Hill will have to wait for another time.

  20. Rod said,

    Amba: I knew you were somewhere in North Carolina, but I didn’t realize it was Chapel Hill. I am practically in your back yard today at Pinehurst. What a spectacular Grand Hotel! Sitting in the lobby right now is like being transported back a hundred years, and doing it in luxury. The dining room has a dozen huge Murano chandeliers. And there is plenty of Southern hospitality.

    I just bought a new house yesterday, but I haven’t moved in. My wife and I designed our present house. It is Georgian style red brick with black shutters. I like some of the personal touches: a carved, built in wine rack – a patterned oak floor in the living room – a spiral staircase that sneaks up to the master bedroom.

  21. amba12 said,

    How do you give up a house like that?? Or do you look forward to working on the new one and making it your own?

    I don’t know where Pinehurst is, or how occupied your time is but … we’ve got to stop meeting like this! I’d come and find you (with J in tow) if it meant we could meet, even briefly.

  22. PatHMV said,

    Amba, sometime between now and the end of the year, I’m going to go visit my brother in Blacksburg, Va., but probably by way of my sister in Atlanta. One of the easiest routes between Atlanta and Blacksburg goes through Greensboro. Maybe I could make a side detour of a few hours and come have a cup of coffee with you guys…

  23. amba12 said,

    Pat, that would be great!! Greensboro is about 50 miles west of us on Route 40, as I found out when I went to pick up Rainy.

    We narrowly missed meeting Rod today, much to my regret. He was in Pinehurst, about 70 miles away. Tempting, but the MapQuest (and Google, AAA, etc.) directions for getting there were unnecessarily complicated (a human could have explained it much more simply), and after getting J dressed and up, etc., there wasn’t going to be the extra time to get lost. Also we’d have driven back in the dark, now that the days are getting shorter.

  24. Rod said,

    I’m back home in the West. The Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst is the kind of place the upper classes would frequent 100 years ago – a big, rambling place filled with chandeliers, cushy chairs, and an unbelievably courteous staff. Pictures on the wall show famous golfers, entertainers, and politicians. One unusual guest was Annie Oakley.

    Sorry to have missed Amba, the muse of the motley collection of commenters herein.

    Meanwhile, in answer to the question posed, I like my old house and would be happy to stay here, but for my wife it is haunted with some bad memories. Rod

  25. amba12 said,

    I’m kicking myself for having missed you. I wish I’d tried harder.

    If you ever have another meeting there, or anywhere else within shooting distance of here, let me know.

  26. Rod said,

    Amba: I should have given you some lead time. The answer to navigating between Charlotte and Raleigh, I discovered, is a GPS. I plugged in the address and every turn was forecast by the ever calm electronic lady of ther machine. . . recalculating. . . continue 1/10 of a mile on Dead End Street, then turn left on Other Way. Proceed 4.3 miles on Other Way, then turn left on Superior Court.

  27. amba12 said,

    Yes, the directions given by MapQuest and all its clones struck me as machine-like. When giving directions to a human, you need to select the most prominent features. The directions were too detailed: every roundabout and exit was identified by ALL the information on it, so that nothing stood out:

    Turn LEFT onto NC-86/S COLUMBIA ST/US-15/US-501. Continue to follow US-15 S/US-501 S. Pass through 1 roundabout.

    Take the US-1-BYP S/US-15 S/US-501 S/NC-87 S ramp toward SOUTHERN PINES.

    And later:

    Turn RIGHT onto MIDLAND RD/NC-2 W. Continue to follow NC-2 W. Pass through 1 roundabout.

    Turn RIGHT onto AZALEA RD/MIDLAND RD/NC-2. Continue to follow AZALEA RD/NC-2.

    This made me go, HUH??

  28. Rod said,

    Amba: I see you stayed clear (for the most part) of the scrum which followed realpc’s post about the existence of God. When I was a kid, politics and religion were the third rails of social discourse. I am beginning to see why. It seems you can only carry on a conversation on those topics with people with whom yoou generally agree. The rest is slogans.

  29. amba12 said,

    Did it go on?? I was there when there were 10 or 11 comments.

  30. amba12 said,

    Oh lord. realpc has been fighting with the Randi skeptics and Panda’s Thumb and all. They probably follow her around and shoot at her.

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