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Monday, February 06, 2006


Gentle readers, what a weekend I have had.

First of all, I was sick at the end of last week. Everyone has had nasty colds. So far this year, I had gotten little touches of these colds, but none took hold. I had been well. But this time, it wasn’t looking so good. I was stuffed up, my throat was burning, and I had that peculiar feeling of misery that only a cold can give you.

But I had a storyline to draw up for a new book. So I told myself, “Maureen, shut up. Get a glass of juice, eat some soup, and sit down and work.”

But I was tired and achy and cold-like. I kept having to get up and take little naps on the sofa. I woozily switched on a seven hour documentary on ballet dancers and shivered and went in and out of sleep thinking about ballet dancers. By the time I took my NyQuil, I was wondering why I had never gotten a subscription to the ballet, because that was all I could think about.

This morning, I woke up feeling much improved. I hopped out of bed lightly.

“That’s what you get for dealing with a cold in the right way!” I told myself, in a very self-congratulatory style. “You rested, drank juice, took NyQuil, ate soup. And see! See what you have done! You have defeated your cold! And today, you will make great strides with that plot of the new book!”

So, with this feeling of confidence, I sat down at my desk. Readers, my fatal mistake here was my arrogance.

Not long after this, I heard a strange noise.

“But what is this stranger noise?” I cried.

My wall in one of my middle rooms was making loud crackling and popping noises. I heard the sound of falling water and bits of debris.

Walls should not crackle or pop. They should just sit there and be walls.

“Oh no,” I said. Just like that. Oh. No. Noooooooooooooooooooooo.

I knew what was coming for me, because this exact noise had come out of the wall once before, two years ago. And that time ended just as this one did—with water pouring out. It began to rain inside of my apartment.

Let me stop here and explain something. New York apartments are NOT like the apartments in other parts of the country. Many New York apartments are just about holding themselves together. Even the nicest apartments have problems. Mick Jagger’s ex-wife had to leave her apartment because it was completely infested with mold. That’s what I mean about New York apartments. If you have enough space, a fairly decent setup, and you’re in a good location—you will put up with just about anything. It fruit bats take over your middle closet, if ghosts come out of your faucets, you will look the other way. I have one friend who hasn’t even had HEAT this winter.

I actually live in quite a nice building, as things go. It didn’t matter to me so much when, about six weeks ago, I switched on my bathroom light and fire shot out of my wall. When I realized it was electrical and coming out of the bathroom light, I threw the switch, and calmly called my landlord to explain—fire, wall, shooting out of, etc.

So this water coming through the ceiling in three rooms, while not welcome, is something I am prepared to deal with. But I was a bit sad to see the water progress, and my walls cracking in front of me. I painted my apartment myself—mixed the wall colors by hand—and those darling blue walls of mine were cracking and dripping before my eyes. A hole opened in the bathroom ceiling and water poured out of it like a faucet, but fortunately, into my sink. I met many neighbors today, as I was not the only one with these problems.

So I called my friend, the lovely Kate, to tell her my troubles. She said to me, “That’s horrible. I would feel worse, but right now, weirdly enough, almost the same thing is happening to me. Except it’s coming from upstairs, from my insane alcoholic neighbor’s apartment, the one with the six little dogs who stumbles home every night? Something is leaking from her bathroom into ours, and it appears to be sewage-related.”

And with that, reader, I learned an important lesson. It could always be worse. It could, as in this case, be sewage-related.

And that’s one to grow on.