Never thought I’d miss NYC this much

I’d like to describe my historical attitude towards where I live as “transient stability”. I like to live somewhere and build little habits specific to that location and find my place within that place. But I never think of any one place as forever.

I was looking forward to living in Boulder for 6-12 months – I really was. I thought maybe so much exposure to the hippie/alternative stuff would entice me to try new things…but instead I see a lot of flakey people with too much money or financial irresponsibility – kind of hard to tell the difference around here. I can’t seem to conjure up any respect for their lifestyle/beliefs and therefore will not be enticed to beat a drum on a hilltop during the full moon or participate in an ecstatic dance event or even pursue Hakomi (body-centered psychotherapy) because it hinges on forming a “loving bond” with your therapist (creepy!). I look at my classmates and teachers and wonder, what the hell am I doing here? My god – I handled the culture shock of living in Japan way better than I’m handling this!

I need Manhattan. I can meet the pulsing energy of the city head-on and 5 minutes later be the relaxed, attuned manual therapist my fellow city-dwellers seek. I need to be around people who don’t take themselves so seriously – and despite what you see on TV, that’s most New Yorkers. I hate holding back my sarcasm and snarkiness and self-deprecation because I’m “putting negative energy into the universe”. Well damnit – just wave some smoldering sage twigs at me like you do at all the other imperfect moments in your life and call it even.

So I will be taking on hideous rent again – about $3000 for a large 1BR or small/”flex” 2BR. Even if a landlord insists on 3 months’ deposit because I’m self-employed, I have that in the bank in addition to my $10K cushion. I’ve got my phone job up to a steady $4K/month gross even though I’m in school 36 hours a week, so I’ll be able to make my bare-bones expenses without a single Rolfing client. I will crank up the marketing machine a month before I return and continue to see a handful of massage clients that haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement for me. And I can pull all of this off even with 2 months in Africa earning very little from the phone job – I won’t be earning nothing though thanks to Skype and royalties.

All I need at this point is for the institute to let me take the course that starts 11 days after my current one ends instead of making me wait until March. Please. I want to get back to my life!

The Cost of Bedbuggery – Boulder Edition

I can NOT believe my misfortune. Just 20 months and 1700 miles after my first incident of bedbuggery, I am back in this awful situation of having to deal with it. AGAIN.

Three hours ago I killed two blood-filled bugs between the pages of a paperback and captured another – also between the pages of that paperback, but since it hadn’t fed on me yet, it didn’t “squish”. This happened around 12:15am local time (bedbugs are nocturnal), and the trapped bug can’t climb the sides but keeps trying (bedbugs can’t climb plastic, metal, tile, etc). I was looking for them tonight because I found a shed exoskeleton and got suspicious. Further investigation found a smear of something on my just-washed sheets toward my feet – and I have no cuts. My sheets are the color of fruit punch so I couldn’t figure out the smear color. So…after 10 mins of lying still while playing Words With Friends (well…strangers), I’d exhaled enough carbon dioxide to attract the little bastards.

That mild rash on the back of my elbow/upper arm that I thought was related to heat or friction? Bites. Those odd red marks on my neck and upper chest? Bites. Strangely I thought I knew what the bites look like but I have something that’s more rash-like – I have the Wikipedia bed bug entry to thank for finding out that’s how it can look. Guess I’m a little allergic to bedbugs. I wish the reverse was true.

In a few hours I’m going to take the trapped bug to the management office and hopefully they can skip the inspection step and go straight to the spraying. Unlike my horrible NYC experience, I don’t have much stuff to spray and wipe with alcohol and pack into plastic bags.

Last month we had new windows installed, and they taped notices to our doors. One of my neighbors across the hall scribbled on their notice “bed bug spraying tomorrow”. I called management and they said “the tenant bought a suitcase from a thrift store and got paranoid”. I think management LIED. But to be fair…everything in my apartment is second-hand and I could easily have brought them in. If I did, I suspect the couch. I’d noticed little bugs but since it was daytime, figured they were something else. However… they’re just like the ones I squished in my paperback.

I’m worried about how they “treat” for bedbugs. The inspection is done by human eye, not sniffer dog snout. I’m worried they’re going to pump a little spray – much as I could do myself for $9.99 from Bed Bath & Beyond. Well see if Boulder can match the Big Apple on this one.

I moved 1700 miles by airplane. No truck – van – pod.

My sister once moved from Bellingham, WA to Aspen, CO and the “reputable” moving company she thoroughly checked out called her the day of the move and said “we can’t do it today – we’ll do it tomorrow”. Uh…she had a flight booked that evening. She didn’t even have that much stuff (at least in theory) – I think her only furniture was a queen-size bed w/nice frame and a dresser. Everything else was clothing and personal effects plus some outdoor sports equipment. Hardly a houseload o’ goodies. It cost her $1200. I learned from that lesson…

My New York City furniture

A friend with a pick-up truck is storing my bulkier things (bed, couch, trunk, massage table) and some household goods (dishes, vacuum, etc) in a friend’s garage. When he moves back into his apartment on the upper eastside, he’ll use any of those things he wants to – he threw out all his really crappy stuff and sublet his studio 3 years ago.

Getting to Colorado

I paid an extra $25 for the Classic ticket on Frontier airlines that allows for two 50-lb pieces of luggage (I snuck 5 more lbs in for free). Actually…the ticket was free thanks to a Frontier Airlines gift card from one of my phone fans 🙂

My lease deal

My 8-month Boulder lease at Glen Lake Apartments – which is on the outer edge of central but has everything I need within a 10-min walk (Safeway, Rite Aid, Starbucks, Taco Bell – joke!) – came with $200 off the first month’s rent as a signing bonus. I looked upon that as my craigslist furniture fund. Some of my purchases were awesome and some still SUCK.

My Second-hand Escapades

  • Couch $100 + $20 delivery: Not terribly happy with this. On the mushy-foam side and it’s low – like it should have 4″ feet screwed onto the corners.
  • Queen-size bed $50: I knew when I bought it that it was a mistake but my back and hips hurt so much from one night on the floor, and the friend helping me probably wasn’t good for more than that day. It reeked of curry for weeks and now – 6 weeks after purchase – still has a savory smell. The guy’s ad was a total lie in more ways than I can count. But strangely enough…it’s comfortable.
  • Coffee table $15:  By far my best deal – looks hand-made, inlaid with ceramic and terracotta tiles, very heavy.
  • Canvas chair for my balcony $15: Fantastic bargain! Currently living in the massage room until I get a more suitable one.
  • Two floor lamps $10: They have those CFL bulbs in them (4 total), so the guy was way underpricing. Not crazy about the one in the living room but the one for massage – it’s an “old-fashioned” dimmer one which is sooo perfect.
  • MEXICAN MICROWAVE for $10: My coolest score of the lot! The brand is LG but it was bought while the guy was living in Mexico City. All the pre-sets are for things like frijoles and albondigas. Hey – did you know that salsa verde and salsa roja are SO different that they get their own buttons? I love this thing!
  • 20″ CRT television $30 + $10 bribe to deliver: Only sort-of happy with it. She listed dimensions and I thought it was screensize. No 27-incher for me 😦
  • Green fabric armchair FREE: Thank you neighbor for leaving it in the lobby for whoever wanted it. Soft texture, firm cushion. I like it better than the couch.

Sending out some Dollar Tree love 

Even at Walmart the simple household stuff I bought (like veggie peeler and dishes and shelf liner and bucket) would have cost at least $150 instead of the $42 I laid out. And by the way, I really really like the dishes I got. Only a buck but I’ll miss them!

…and some Rite Aid love!

Sometimes they do deals on household stuff. I desperately needed a box fan and got one for $8….$24.99 minus $3 off $15 purchase coupon, $14 in +Ups and $8 + tax in cash. Got back $5 +Ups. I also wanted a little plastic table for my balcony and got one free – on sale for $7.99 get back $1 +Up and $2 rebate. So I “sacrificed” $4.99 in reward bucks. It’s this sort of thing that makes playing that game so worthwhile 🙂

Great use of returned-gift credit at Amazon

I had $300+ credit built up from returned gifts from my phone customers. So instead of stilettos and miniskirts that I couldn’t dream of fitting into, I have a coffee press, Dirt Devil vacuum, drinking glasses, yoga mat, all-purpose knife, etc. that didn’t cost me a penny.

No love for the US Postal Service

Mom sent me a box of things I forgot and needed but didn’t send it parcel post because she thought it was urgent to send me a shower curtain (I like baths and she knows it!). So it cost twice what it should have – $43 for 16 lbs. I was a little pissed…she won’t take money from me for it but I’m still not happy. Then she put together a flat-rate box of smaller clothes for me…she should have put in something heavy to make it worthwhile.

The Art of the Barter

Me and my bartering…I know. Craigslist for Boulder is pretty sparse but there was a handyman/painter offering his services – just make him an offer. Turns out his wife has scoliosis and could use my services. And so the deal was done – I got my room-separating pole hung(pole was $11.50 from Home Depot plus $4 worth of hanging hardware), and I worked on my first local.

Freedom from Manhattan rent is a beautiful thing!!

I moved out of Manhattan on April 15th (and it was pretty hellish both emotionally & logistically) and into my new digs in Boulder on April 25th. This morning I transferred $2500 into my saving account leaving nearly the same amount still in my checking account. Boy did that feel good!

Manhattan v. Boulder Expenses

I was paying $2125/month with utilities included for my 500sf studio in Manhattan, and they were very adamant that I would be raised to $2200 if I renewed. Here in Boulder I’m paying $830/month plus utilities (average is $55 for my unit) for a 600sf one-bedroom. So that just liberated $1240. With my coupon and eating habits, my food/toiletry/etc costs remain pretty much the same, and to my surprise public transportation has the same price tag as The Big Apple. In fact, the pizza place up the road charges 50 cents more for a plain slice of pizza than most places in Manhattan – and I’m quite sure it won’t be up to par.

Manhattan v. Boulder Income

But my income has taken a hit because I’m no longer doing massage therapy – for the moment (more on that in another post). Was I making more than $1240/month at it? Yes – but my $4oo goal was a close call every week and it was stressing me out. A big factor was my appearance…I put on a lot of weight between May 2008 and Aug 2010, and I felt very anxious about having a door slammed in my face. It has happened. You can say they were interested in something else but that doesn’t stop it from smarting. My last massage appointment in NYC was 2 days before I moved out. He looked through the peephole in his hotel room door and didn’t answer the door or my text or the call from the bell desk. I took it as the most definite sign from the powers that be that I was meant to get the hell out of the city for a while*.

The new pad

I’m going to put my bed in the “dining room” (5’x6′ bed in a 7.5’x7.5′ space) because there’s only one a/c in the apartment and it’s not going to help me sleep. So in essence, I’m going to live in a studio again lol. But the bedroom has a purpose – it’s going to be my massage room. I’ll be setting up my student practice (read: can’t charge market prices) when I return from two trips this month (post about those is pending). Now if only I could get my city-hating electrician brother-in-law to come put a ceiling fan in the massage room…

I can travel again!!!

Travel has been sooo important to me since my teen years, and with that huge Manhattan rent bill combined with the NYC hotel-instigated law that you can’t sublet for less than 30 days (plus my building’s rule about such things), my vacation-renting habits were no longer viable. Of course I couldn’t afford tickets to Delhi or Nairobi anymore so it wasn’t a big deal. However…I’ve had two domestic travel opportunities arise for this month alone and I feel free to take them because there’s no longer this thought:

10 days away = $750 wasted on rent and cable/internet/phone and NO massage income to offset that.

So…do you see what I mean by “freedom”?

* I’ve dropped 23 lbs in the last 37 days on a very unusual and questionably healthy diet.

Back in NYC – but not for long

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance” ~ Harrison Ford

During my 6 weeks of “beginner rolfing” training, it came up more than once that things inside me are very sticky – my colon sticks to my psoas muscle, my pericardial sac to the lining of my chest cavity, a neck nerve to a brain membrane, all of my lumbar vertebrae to each other…the list goes on. It would appear that my body is freakishly in sync with my spirit – I’m STUCK. Have I tried to “unstick”? Of course I have – more than once and in more than one way. But things haven’t improved. [Warning: Possible overshare coming – skip to next paragraph if you’re not comfortable with that.] I am still alone and afraid of personal connections, I am still overweight, I am still taking Rx happy pills, and I’m still a semi-hermit. I am also still a massage therapist and still in New York City. Well how about changing three of those things completely and seeing if the others fall into place?

So I’m giving up the apartment that has been my home for 7+ years (they were raising me $75/month anyway). I’m walking away from my gasping massage practice. I am moving to Boulder in about 5 weeks and will remain there until I complete my certification – I’m guessing December. And I’m starting a rather bizarre diet plan in 10 days.

Now for the financial nitty-gritty behind all of this…

My Home Trade-down: I have a place in mind that’s available to move in next month on the 23rd. I’m trading my $2200/month (new rent that I refuse to pay) including utilities studio apartment for an $830/month + utils one-bedroom. I’m getting my current place inspected next week so that they can tell me what they think I’m responsible for and give me a chance to defend or fix without having it hit my deposit. Oh that’s right – new deposit is $300 and I’m hoping to get back my full $2125 security on this place.

The Move:  I’ll by flying either Frontier Classic or Southwest in order to get 2 x 50-lb bags checked free. I have gift cards for both from my non-massage job. One of my classmates has offered to come in with her pick-up truck and drive around getting furniture for free or cheap off Craigslist – ideal – because I am not bringing my things. My friend-sublettor is moving back into his place and doesn’t have a stick of furniture, so he’s more than happy to use or store whatever I want to keep for my return (bed, couch, trunk, massage table). The apartment complex I’ve got my eye on has offered me $200 off my first month’s rent if I sign on the dotted line by March 25. The plan is to furnish the place on that budget…yeah it might suck but it’s only 8 months. And I’m moving in at the same time the colleges break for summer…could work for a few of the things I need. Probably not a bed though…eww.

Income:  I won’t be hanging out my shingle for massage work. I will stick to my other job which should be just fine. I anticipate grossing $3K a month while needing $1700 for “bare bones” costs. I’m budgeting $300/month for self-care, which leaves me with $1000 to put towards tuition and that burdensome whole life policy. And if my half-plan comes off I’ll be working in Manhattan again in a year, earning the market rate (nearly double what I charge for massage now) and inching towards a healthy 6-figure income.

Tuition:  my last post mentioned having $9K out of $18K saved. Well I’ve paid up the $4K for the first part and it turns out I had $2K more set aside in my savings account than I thought, and I’ve added to it. So I’ve got 2/3 of the remaining $14K  tuition saved – and I’m getting that security deposit back to add to the pot. As much as I’d like to keep it set aside for my return, it’s a timing thing. I need it when I need it and I’ll earn & replace.

Couponing & Shopping:  I will be living around the corner from a Rite Aid – yay! And there’s a Safeway supermarket across the street from Rite Aid, which I believe is a good one for couponing.

Transportation:  I’m within walking distance of everything I need except the school, but I’m located right on the bus line. I hope my sister meant it when she said she’d lend me a bike – could use the exercise and Boulder is very cycle-friendly.

Possible Glitch:  This would actually be desirable. If I get bumped from the waiting list and onto the course that starts in a few weeks, I’ll be paying for my Manhattan apartment for 2 weeks without using it. Ouch. And flight prices could be as high as $450 for a one-way ticket – but Greyhound is feasible ($120), and after being subjected to sanctioned sexual battery by the TSA last week (thanks for the cameltoe-inducing enthusiasm, bitch – and no I’m NOT exaggerating), 44 hours on a bus with very strange people doesn’t sound awful.

And so it begins…the second half of my life. I have no idea if what I’m doing is right or wrong for me, but if it’s a mistake I’m the only one who will suffer – and pretty minimally at that. What’s the worst that can happen – I don’t like Boulder and quit the course? So I’m out a few bucks and a few months of my life. I’ve made much bigger mistakes (divorced from a crossdresser, remember?). This would be so much easier if it was a more dramatic change – I’m oddly wired to do that well (Japan, Scotland).

Turning BedBug Lemons into Apartment Lemonade

As you know by now, I’ve been living in plastic-wrapped hell for the past few weeks while my place goes through a series of fumigations to make super-sure that all the critters are annihilated. Okay, so “hell” may be a little strong, but I work from home so I don’t really get away from this environment, the pesticides give me headaches if I don’t open my windows and freeze at least once every 3 hours for about 10 days after each treatment, and I have to warn new massage clients about how the place looks because some folks think all the plastic gives my apartment a “Dexter vibe”.

Of course I don’t want to tell my clients about bedbugs, especially since my problem was incredibly minimal and didn’t affect them – they’re only active 2am-5am and don’t like vinyl or finished wood (the materials my massage table is made of). But I’ve offered a vague version of the truth to explain the state of my studio: I just had some building maintenance work done and am taking the opportunity to repaint and redecorate. That pretty much commits me to repainting and redecorating, since I threw out the rugs as well – which my mom pointed out were looking a bit worn anyway. Heck, one of them was a $30 remnant that was only supposed to be temporary.

I hate painting, but I hate “NYC apartment white” even more. I have two color walls, and I bartered back in 2004 to have that job done. So yesterday I remembered that, when my landlord was trying to raise my rent $150 this time last year, he offered to have the place repainted to make me feel like I was getting some value for that big increase. I declined and postponed the negotiations to my advantage. Well, I haven’t contacted him at all during this bedbug hullaballoo, which I figure makes me his favorite tenant ever. This was very deliberate on my part – I wanted the “perfect tenant” bargaining chip. So last night I emailed him to see if the offer of a paint job still stands, and he said yes, no problem, call so-and-so to arrange. So I’ll get the normal wear-and-tear scuffs spiffed up, and those bright walls I’m planning to paint myself will essentially be primed for me, free!

Then I decided to push my luck a little. When I negotiated my current lease terms earlier this year, my February 1st cycle became an October 1st cycle (10/1/10). This sucks for me because it means the next round of negotiations will take place in mid-summer 2010, when rents are at their highest because of seasonal demand. And if I were to move, negotiating in September is equally disadvantageous. Personal experience has shown me that you can end up paying 5-7% less if you’re looking in winter v. summer, and in Manhattan, that’s 3 figures for most places. So I requested a lease extension on my current terms to April 1, 2011 – and got it, no hassle! Not only do I not have to deal with lease renewal turmoil until Feb 1, 2011, but I’ll be back in a “cheap” lease cycle whether I stay here or move.

I really do want to stay as long as possible. It’s my home and my livelihood, and heck, I’m investing a few hundred in paint, curtains, rugs, etc. to spruce the place up. I’ve been here 6 years and wouldn’t mind 6 more.

The Cost of Bedbuggery

Last week, my building brought Champ, a cute little sniffer dog, around my apartment. Someone in an apartment along my line about 5 floors down had a serious case of bedbugs, and it so turns out that my apartment was the furthest one to have any evidence of them. No, I haven’t been bitten, nothing is visible even to the professionals with their little mag lights, but the dog is trained to tap at the scent of live bugs or live eggs. And tap he did. Damn you, Champ the Bedbug Sniffer Pro.

They sprayed an organic barrier around my apartment perimeter and my bed – if a bug attempts to cross that line in the next 2 weeks, it will die. I’ve been sleeping on the couch for over a week because Champ didn’t tap it.

The really fun parts begins Friday, when they exterminate – which involves flash-freeze spraying my furniture. I have to pack all my things in plastic by then, and it’s actually worse than moving because I have to wipe every little thing with alcohol first. It took me 3 hours just to do my bathroom. I thought it would take under an hour. Oh boy.

So far this whole adventure has cost me $32 for 6 plastic storage tubs and 3 rolls of saran wrap. And about $680 for nice new Serta Perfect Sleeper Plush (would have been a lot more, but Macy’s got a sale on mattress sets at the moment, and a friend of mine has access to a Macy’s employee charge card, which gets me 20% off). I’ll be throwing out my current bed, a rug, a hassock and a cheap bookcase that just won’t survive another jiggle. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do about replacing those last few things. I’ve got a few weeks to figure it out because I’ll be living a plastic-wrapped life for the next few months.

Okay, so I’m going to cheat and only live in plastic for a few weeks. They come back in 2 weeks for a second freeze-blast in case they missed any eggs, and then we’re supposed to keep things wrapped up for 3 months in case a third treatment is necessary. The plastic isn’t part of the treatment – we’re just keeping it that way so we don’t have to do it again in the event of  a 3rd round. Well, I reckon that, as the furthest the bugs got, I’ve got the tiniest problem. I seriously doubt that I’d be a candidate for #3, so the plastic is coming off after that second treatment in 2 weeks.

Other expenses incurred…well, my mother is coming in to help me on Thursday because, well, she’s a really good mom…so her train ticket plus take-out lunch and dinner. Then I’ll be spending Friday and hopefully Saturday night with her in NJ because the couch will be wrapped in plastic and the new bed doesn’t arrive until Sunday; that’s another $20 train ticket. If Macy’s calls me with an early delivery time for Sunday though, I’m sleeping on my parquet floor. Tomorrow morning I’m hitting up Walgreens for their sale on packing tape – excellent timing. Oh, and this whole thing has had me guzzling Arizona Big Cans of iced tea like it’s…it’s uh…Arizona iced tea. I’m about $7 into this new habit in 5 days. You do know those cans are nearly 24oz, right?

And the condo management company is picking up the extermination tab – as they should, but still, I’m glad I didn’t have to argue that. So pardon the dry writing tonight – I’ve been sleeping on the couch for a week averaging 5-6 hours of sleep each night, and 2.5 hours of massage and 5 hours of packing and lifting is taking a toll. Sunday was worse…10 hours of cleaning followed by an 11pm outcall. Yeesh.

My ‘hood is the biggest bull’s eye on the planet right now

Every year, Bill Clinton holds his annual Global Initiative conference at the Sheraton New York across the street from me in a timeframe that overlaps with the big pow-wow at the United Nations. Well, our current prez was in the ‘hood yesterday afternoon for the Letterman taping, and now he’s back – along with all the other Heads of State – for the opening of CGI.

I have a front-row seat to all the security hullaballoo because they all arrive at the side door, which is EXACTLY across the street from my door. However, no one gets to see any of the bigwigs. They put up a huge tent on the street for the cars to pull into, close the flaps, let the VIP out, open the tent, pull away. They’re never exposed to the light of day – or the cameras of random spectators.

I saw the change-of-shift for the snipers on my roof on my way out to the bank. Around the corner was a staging point for the NYPD, with over 50 uniformed officers lined up for instructions. Passing tourists jumped in for a photo op, I kid you not. The street is crawling with earwigged agents from the Secret Services of many nations. I never felt safer walking the streets of New York City with a large amount of cash in my purse! 

Since I wasn’t going to actually see anyone because of the big tent, I decided to head upstairs while my lunch was still hot. The doorman did call me back for a moment to witness the antics of the bomb-sniffing dogs checking out the big planters at the entrance. He told me that when “the big guy” himself arrives, it’s like someone hits the Pause button on the world. Very electric atmosphere, and what can I say, just very entertaining to live exactly where I do.

Family weekend: Damage v. Finders-Keepers

Don’t get me wrong – I love my immediate family, we’re all very different but live so spread out that it’s a real treat to catch up. However, I’m not a drink-yer-ass-off-til-3am type, and they are. Well, not my mom (usually – she makes an exception to that behavior about twice a year), but she was smart enough to take the train back to NJ before Saturday night got into full swing. Kinda wish I’d joined her.

First, I got back home way later from my housecall than expected thanks to weekend subway rerouting shenanigans. When I left my place at 6pm, I was still satiated by my stuffed french toast brunch at 11am. By 7:30pm I was ravenous and having mental conversations with my stomach to convince it not to growl while I was working. I got back to Manhattan around 9:15pm and was just about ready to eat my own arm off. Little sister, aka Starfish, was having a sushi appetizer with her boyfriend, aka Crispy because he got 3rd degree burns on his lower legs/feet 20 months ago when their apartment went up in flames (dark sense of humor runs in the family). I hate sushi, she knows this, I texted her to get the damn check and meet up for dinner. It wasn’t until I texted “If I don’t hear from you by 9:53pm, I’m getting take-out” that she actually got moving.

SIDEBAR: Restaurant Recommendation — We went to a GREAT place that I hadn’t been to since they moved to a new, larger premises – the food was my favorite kind (edgy spin on “standard” dishes, from quesadillas to pad thai), the drink menu was fun, the decor was very original and thorough, and if you ever go there – CHECK OUT THE BATHROOMS!!! It’s on 9th Avenue & 51st Street, known as Hell’s Kitchen and NYC’s current “gayborhood”. I love it. Anyway, you probably could have served me melted american cheese-like product on burnt cardboard and I’d have wolfed it down with the same gusto, but my less-hungry and very food-picky sister and her boyfriend raved – hey, they’ve worked as waiters and bartenders in several restaurants in Aspen, and they’re very critical – gave it a big fat stamp of approval. At least hunger doesn’t make me too stupid.

Damage to Liquor Cabinet:  So last night, my brother landed at my place around midnight after moving his now-exboyfriend from Baltimore to Queens. Starfish and Crispy came along 15 minutes later, and they ripped through my nearly-full liter bottle of Jack Daniels. On a frugal note, I’d picked this up in duty-free last year for $21 instead of the $35-50 it goes for here in the city. Still, if you do the math, they drank about 7oz each from 12am-2am after having 3 cocktails at VYNL — and then they went out on the town.

Damage to Apartment:  At some point last night, the flapper in the toilet tank broke. I turns out that it’s something the landlord will actually be charged for, which I’m guessing might get passed on to me. If it does and it’s more than $15, I’ll balk. Otherwise, I’ll suck it up. It was acting up for the past couple of months, it’s just normal wear and tear, and it’s the only chargeable thing that I’ve incurred in 5.5 years.

Damage to Furnishings:  The only thing I’ve come across so far is a lost airbed storage bag. That’s perfectly tolerable. In the past, I’ve had a towel bar pulled off the wall and a Lenox vase smashed.

Damage to Wallet:  $130. Dropped $80 on brunch for 4 yesterday (not bad, considering the food was excellent and there were 4 cocktails on the bill), $30 on dinner last night, and $20 for my brunch tab this morning.

FINDERS-KEEPERS:  As soon as I got everyone and their crap out of my place, I started putting my cute little apartment back together – towels in laundry basket, deflate airbed, etc – and came across a lidless deodorant (Starfish), a nearly-empty tube of Jergens Natural Glow lotion (Starfish), a Bic lighter (Crispy), a pair of sandals (Mom), a spare razor blade (Starfish), and a Fossil watch (Crispy). I like the watch. Might have to pretend it’s not here. Heh.

Oh, for fun, I let Starfish and Crispy rummage through my bags of categorized “stockpile”. I smiled sweetly and held out an open shopping bag for them to peruse the contents, announcing “Oral Hygiene department”, “First Aid aisle”, etc. She was surprisingly judicious in her selections – 3 bits of make-up, 2 deodorant, 2 dental floss, 1 Listerine, 1 shower gel, 1 box of antibiotic bandaids, Tag body spray, and a set of ProFoot Aero 3 shoe inserts (Crispy often does double shifts as a bartender). My brother wanted in on the insoles too, so next time Rite Aid does that “3 Profoot products for $15, get $10 rebate” deal again (they seem to do it every 3 months or so), I’ll snag mostly insoles instead of those Flextastic toe separators.

I also played the KTM. As anticipated, Starfish ran out of cash fairly quickly, so I got 3 checks from her in return for $200 cash (accumulated charity donation dollars – she’ll get the tax write-off).

And now they’re gone…breathe…maybe it’s MY turn for a stiff drink now that my darling little binge-drinkers are gone. Oh right, they drank my liquor cabinet dry. Maybe just a nap then.

My Pricey Neighborhood: The Awesome, The Annoying, The Absurd

I had a particularly dense 24 hours of unexpected entertainment without wandering more than a few steps from my eyrie bower. You tell me if this justifies or explains the hefty price tag on said bower…

Wednesday afternoon, I nipped out to mail some coupons to my mother and couldn’t get to my usual mailbox of choice – first thing I noticed were the news vans with the telescopic satellite transmitters. Second were the corralled masses on the sidewalks. Clearly something pretty awesome was going on at the David Letterman/Late Show studio half a block over, and the nearest policeman confirmed it: Paul McCartney would be performing live on the marquee. He told someone else he didn’t know when the concert would start, but it really doesn’t take a genius to figure that out – the show starts filming at 5pm, and the few concerts I’ve stumbled across in the past have usually kicked off around 5:30pm. The Cute Beatle started at 5:25pm and kept at it for 40 minutes — twice as long as Phish gave us a few years back. I’ll say it again, awesome.

The following day, I caught something in the lunchtime news about our president being in the city today. I googled and found out he’d be giving a dinner speech at the NAACP convention. At the Hilton. On my block. I realize the man seems to have rock star status these days, but I hate when presidents are in the ‘hood – Clinton with his own personal UN meeting every September, and in the past, Bush giving speeches at the Hilton or attending fundraisers at the Sheraton. Can we say snipers on the roof, ear-wigged G-men in the street, and 6 hours of random street closures and not being allowed out of my building (or into it, if not already there) for 10 minutes or so at a time. Yeah, annoying. Very annoying. I had no business that day.

In between these two events, I picked up my mail and found a stuffed blank envelope in my cubby, with nothing but an apartment number for a return address. A penthouse apartment number. Of someone whose name I can’t mention because her media watchers found it in my blog and…well, let’s just say that I’ve deleted all past posts on a certain apartment-related subject. So for the sake of calling her something, let’s go with “Ms. Stonefeller”. I’ve been invited to a cocktail party fundraiser to campaign against some kind of building plans that will mess up the skyline (I translate this to mean “her view”). Apparently there’s some kind of neighborhood preservation society for a whopping 2 blocks, and it’s a registered non-profit/charity. How…noble. But I think I’d rather spend the $75 minimum donation providing supplemental support for my Working Poor Mom and her daughters for two months Or paying a rescued girl’s school fees and related costs in Nepal for a year. Or finagling 250 boxes of cereal for the teen shelter. And when all is said and done, it’s beyond absurd that someone like this would have the gall to ask for contributions from people with about 5 zeroes less on her net worth statement. But if she needs a cup of sugar (or better yet, a box of Raisin Bran, to alleviate the stress on my closet space), she’s welcome to knock on my door – I’m happy to do that kind of neighborly thing.

When all is said and done, I’d say that this month I got my rent’s worth of home entertainment – the awesome rock concert, the annoying presidential security measures, and the absurd invitation from my, uhm, neighbor – in just 24 fun-filled hours.