I don’t know what it is about living in an apartment that stirs up some kind of mischief in my husband and me. For years, we’ve lived pretty sedately in houses in Charlottesville, Virginia, Dallas and Austin. In fact, we’ve always been pretty well-liked in our neighborhoods, aside from that unfortunate incident with the pipe bomb and shrapnel and shattered window next door circa the Fourth of July 1988.
(What can I say? I’m married to a pyromaniac who likes to experiment with gunpowder and dynamite. One year, I published a column about it, which one of my friends referred to as a “cry for help.” The local police took to circling our block every Fourth of July, which I, for one, found quite amusing.)
But anyway, houses and apartments. Maybe it’s the massive investment in a house that keeps you upright and stable or maybe it’s because, by the time you can afford one, you’re too old and tired and too much of a role model to your kids to create much havoc. So, we haven’t repeated our shameful little acting-out episodes from the good old days when we lived in an apartment. No,we’ve become respectable, sad to say.
Still, here we are again in an apartment. Slowly, but surely, it begins to bring out the worst in us. We begin to scheme about making some changes in our communal living place. Improvements, we like to think.
For example, our apartment building doesn’t have a name, which we feel lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Every day, we pass swanky-looking apartments with fancy names like The Beresford and The Montana. We would feel far better about our living arrangements if our apartment had a name — like, say, The North Dakota. (This would also be geographically accurate since we are, in fact, north of the Dakota.)
The name, of course, would have to be painted somewhere, which leads us to our apartment’s next shortcoming: It has no awning. How is anybody going to know the apartment’s name if it doesn’t have an awning with the name on it? Would taxicab-yellow be an appropriate color for our new awning? We believe that would work.
Finally, we really really need a doorman who would preside under said bright-yellow awning at The North Dakota. Somebody really cheerful and helpful who’d scream out our names and ask how we’re doing and where we’ve been and ain’t this rain a bitch?
We’ve hesitated to bring all of this up, since we know money is always a factor. To help defray costs, we’re thinking about circulating a signup sheet for everybody in the apartment house to pitch in and serve a few hours a week at the door. Since my husband and I are the organizers of all these improvements, we’d be exempt from doorman duty; I mean, you’ve got to have a hierarchy, right?
Oh, well, It’s only in the planning stages, as I’ve said. So right now, only my husband and I know we live in The North Dakota. Maybe, at this stage in life, we’ll just keep it to ourselves.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read more about being forced into being the vocabulary cop
Hey–it’s always good to have a dream!
So funny. I wonder what determines if a building gets a name or not? I’m not a NYC dweller so maybe that’s just an ignorant question!
Love it! And I’m sure your landlords will be most appreciative of your suggestions. They DO have a suggestion box by the front door, don’t they?
It must be such a big change to go from houses to an apartment. I know what you mean about wanting the place to have a name. When I lived in apartments (for years and years), I always named them (Ivy, the Shoebox — nothing swanky more like functional names) and I still think of that today. Hang in there!
Awww, I love that idea, Ruth! Wonder what I should call my apartment building? There’s a fancy building nearby called “The Trilogy.” Sounds kind of pretensious, but it’s also nice to have an actual name, rather than just an address.
I like it. The building is the North Dakota, and your apartment is Fargo. You can install a wood chipper for misbehaving guests and bad neighbors.
I can relate. When my family lived in NY parking was a premium. Not only did living in close quarters change you but having to find a parking spot brought out the worst in us too. Once after a big snow storm we cleared out our spot, then went to the grocery store only to find that our neighbors had simply moved their car down into our clear spot. Urgh. After that, we were tempted, but never did, to put a lawn chair in our parking spot to “reserve” it. (Some neighbors did!)
if you need a soundtrack/theme song — and as you’re from Austin —
Dakota Lullaby: Albert & Gage
of course, the songwriter is from South Dakota [though it just says Dakota in the song], the singers are from Austin, but nonetheless, it could work.
Been to South Dakota, as recently as this summer. If North Dakota is as beautiful, name anything you want after it. You should know, though, that people from Montana (my mother’s birthplace) tell “North Dakotian” jokes that are EXACTLY the same as Aggie jokes. I have no idea why.
Taxi yellow, North Dakota, is all sounds like great fun. But maybe you could get the name in neon…
Ruth, it is commendable that you and hubby do not wish to huddle behind a nameless facade. How drab. But may I suggest an alternate signage that might also possibly restore a diminished area of your lives, i.e. your Hell ‘n’ Havoc days? Simply name it: The Apartment Building. The lettering should be rendered in simple block font, steel gray, on a black rectangle. It will be an instant standout against the grander, frou-frou names of other units in the neighborhood. To this staid marquee add a trifling pink neon border with a martini glass tilted at a rakish 45-degree angle in the lower right-hand corner. Allowing the martini-glass-outline neon to flash would be a welcome touch. Then when you are asked the question, “Where do you live?” and you reply (in a haughty albeit off-hand manner), “Oh, The Apartment Building,” I am certain many a curious, suspicious eyebrow will be raised in reaction. Hmmm, just who are these people and what does go on over there?
Oh, and about the doorman, to save expense, I think a discarded Macy’s mannequin (unclothed) with embedded speaker-phone would suffice.