Sunday, November 26, 2006


This is a post about decorating. I have never before paid this much attention to the subject, and its sudden importance now frightens me a little. But I know what it's been like when I didn't pay attention. I know how the haphazard ("bachelor," even, should I think about it) approach to furnishing and appointing a living space has its own peculiarly lonely drawbacks.

The apartment decoration is in full swing now. For the past two weekends we have been scouring Craigslist and Target for the essentials of apartment living. We now have pots and pans, flatware, utensils, some furniture and a television.

At each step of the way I wonder if there isn’t something more to it. Then I go to some New Yorker’s home and realize there is. Or at least I’m more and more afraid there is. Don’t get me wrong—we found some great stuff, and it looks great in our new home. I just wonder sometimes if there isn’t some “style” gene that went all recessive for me when I was gestating.

I went into a couple’s apartment near the East River today. Guy didn’t look that much older than me. The place was filled with esoteric things that somehow spoke in that unmistakable thrift-shop harmony: We sing to praise the ordering consciousness who rescued us.

When I buy shit at the thrift store, nine times out of 10 I bring it home, put it in circulation in my life, and I wind up looking like I couldn’t find the American Eagle or Pottery Barn. My second-hand shit doesn't sing. It sits there showing everyone its popped seams and chipped paint.

Here in this couple's apartment, next to the ceiling-length wardrobe housing his fifteen western shirts with effortlessly nostalgic colors and patterns, sits a 19th-century parasol and a vintage f-hole Harmony guitar. They were finds. I wonder sometimes if I just don’t have the audacity to decorate properly, if the visions in my head of the ideal apartment jumble up too many motifs and philosophies until an 8 by 10 room is filled with a heterogeneous universe of dressers, couches, wardrobes and dinner sets.

Still, we press on. Not because I’m shaking off these insecurities and making bold decorating decisions, but because there are more fundamental decisions to be made: do we wait more than a MONTH before we have a table? No. And I am happy with what we find. I feel accomplished, but the grass is always greener on the other island.

We bought a very nice set of dishes at Target. I like the design, and feel a little tinge of aesthetic satisfaction each time I eat macaroni and cheese or cereal from them. But I can’t help knowing that somewhere out there (read: Manhattan), some investment banker is laying down plastic to purchase a dish set spawned from the childhood dream of some esoteric French ceramics genius; a set whose manufacturing process was so painstaking, so filled with crisp, rustic adjectives that Hollywood optioned the catalog description and made a movie starring Diane Lane.

Meanwhile, I know that I’m going to continue to bumble my way backwards into the world of cooking, gauchely buying the next-best spice at the local store while Ms. Investment Banker has Italian contractors build a stone oven in her otherwise all-stainless-steel kitchen so she can make authentic … uh… spinach fattaiers. Fuck. I’m just guessing here.

I also read an article in the New York Times about apartment hunting in the city (it must be a monthly thing at the Gray Lady), how many landlords reject applicants whose annual income is less than 45 times their monthly rent, how big, successful, rich people can’t get the places they want when push comes to shove. What monstrous parody of life and success are the landlords and credit companies perpetrating here? What monstrous parody is the Times printing each month?

I have driven all over Brooklyn now looking at furniture. I have dodged people of all ethnicities fearlessly stepping in front of Beaker. I have gaped up at majestic buildings and claustrophobic streets lined with the kind of trendy stores and restaurants I would like to walk out my front door and find. I think about the Salinger novels that could have been written about these places I know nothing about. I steer around the bigger potholes and protruding manhole covers, listening to the Velvet Underground, convincing myself I am a scrapper. We got an apartment in the space of a month. We are paying slightly less than my annual income for our monthly rent. I can actually park the car within walking distance of our apartment. But I still feel like these other people are a few light years ahead of me in terms of having it figured out. Oh well.

They said the answer was to become a dancer. Hold your head high.

You have said it very well. The grass does always seem greener on the other islands. Keep in mind that if the residents of that gloriously eclectic place should visit your apartment, they would probably go home and post an almost identical lament on their blogs. It's hard to notice your own style because you are in the midst of it.
If it makes you feel any better, Diane Lane was in Judge Dredd.
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