There are so many things I could have shared about my first week in New York — details of the new apartment, when we slept on an air mattress and there was nothing to sit on but the floor or overturned cardboard boxes; finding a great, cheap sushi restaurant, enjoying a sublime Columbian brunch of “divorced eggs,” and learning that the closest Thai restaurant is possibly the worst Thai restaurant either of us has ever been to; a recounting of the awesomeness of APAC and the humor and pathos of The Audies.
I could also have introduced you to this “we” I speak of, which would have been interesting. I’ll do that now, only by naming the intrepid adventurer who has been with me on this journey Dutra, after the character so beautifully and perfectly rendered by Susan Choi in her latest novel, My Education. My Education’s protagonist, Regina, describes Dutra this way: “Dutra was the only true idealist I’d ever known. He was intolerant to the utmost degree of waste, incompetence, disorganization, incompletely implemented knowledge, and wrongheaded priorities — he was intolerant, in other words, of human life, and all human-built systems…” I can think of no better character sketch for this fun and funny man, nor can I think of more honorable characteristics in a person or a partner. So, Dutra it is and Dutra it will be, and that’s all you get to know about him.
I could have written about the once-in-a-lifetime experience of recording Kate Christensen’s beautiful new memoir, Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Desires, but that deserves its own story-telling and time-taking.
So, because I’m still dragging with exhaustion, I need to set up my studio and get back to work today, I still have a million boxes to unpack and my first excursion to the neighborhood laundromat is high priority, for now I’ll share only this:
The toilet was clogged upon moving in. The toilet remained clogged despite being plunged, snaked, and sworn at. This morning, first thing, I phoned the management company, told Maria my sad story, and within three minutes there was a knock on the door. Diego had arrived to take care of business. He plunged, snaked, and sang, crooning in his thick accent, “Kitty kitty kitty,” as Houdini, the black cat, the most curious of the three, peeked into the bathroom. Diego unbolted the toilet and took it apart, rummaging in his buckets for long wires and wrenches. It took half an hour, but now the toilet is unclogged.
This is good news.
However, the prognosis and the treatment plan are not. The toilet will continue to clog as long as we put paper in the bowl. The question is how to use a toilet without toilet paper. Diego’s solution? Just throw the paper in the trash can! No problem! Use the toilet. Use the paper. Flush the toilet. Throw the used paper in the trash can.
Dutra blurts out, “That’s no way to live!!”
Diego shrugs. “It’s a problem.”
Dutra asks, “Would you do that at your house?”
Diego laughs. “No! No.”
Dutra asks, “Are you married?”
Diego says, “Yeah, yeah. I know. The smell.”
Dutra and I look at each other. He says, “This apartment rents for $(some unnamed obscene amount of money). And now we throw used toilet paper in the trash can.”
Welcome to New York.