The life and times of an ethnically ambiguous little lady.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Eat Off My Floor!

I love my apartment. Sure it's about as sound proof as a homeless dude's cardboard box but I still love it. The nice sized bedrooms, the big living room with the view of the backyard we don't have access to, it's great.

But with every delightful renting space in NYC, there seems to be a catch. After almost 2 1/2 years of living in my apartment I've finally figured out the catch: my landlord. At first I thought it would be an added bonus having my landlord in the building. If there's a problem I can just run on down and let her know. And my frugal ass can save 39 cents on a stamp when it's time to pass along the rent.

Now, I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a delightful community that's just starting to ride the gentrification ship. It's a Polish neighborhood. A very Polish neighborhood. So Polish that if you don't speak it as a language, you can't get a job at one of the local stores.

I've observed some things about Polish people who have immigrated to the states, since I've lived here. For starters, they love meat products and they can do tantilizing things to potatoes. Secondly, Polish women are really attractive but the aging process definitley works against them. And most importantly, they are cleaning freaks. We're talking Hitleresque in their attempt to annhiliate anything that could be considered a germ. And in turn, if you don't adhere to this strict cleaning code, you become the enemy.

It was just around the time that my lease was expiring and my landlord and I had agreed to renew it for another year. My roommate had just moved in that day. The phone rings.

"Ah, hello, Emily? We need to talk about the lease," said my landlord. (Another thing I've noticed is that Polish people never make small talk).

"Right. My roommate just moved in. I'll bring her down to say hello," I said.

"Good. And listen, I'm only going to renew the lease for 6 months instead of a year."

"Ah, and why is that?" I asked, attempting to stay calm and pleasant.

"Well, there's a mouse in the building."

"I know."

"And I think it is your fault. We didn't have a mouse before you lived here."

I take a minute to compose myself. "Why would you think it's my doing? I mean, I've lived here for two years and there's never been a problem. Not to mention other people live in the building. And you're doing construction on the third floor and,well, we live in New York. There tend to be mice."

"No. It's you. So six month lease then?"

Now here's the thing. I've been told I can get a smidge worked-up. This especially comes out with cab drivers. (That's a whole other story.) But for once, I felt that this woman was out of her freaking mind. Perhaps it was too much time around the cleaning products, but this was making no sense.

"But we already agreed," I said. "If I'd known that I would have moved out."

"How about we have a training period? I can check up on you regularly and if the apartment is clean you can stay for a year."

Yeah. And maybe then I can take a butter knife and poke my eye out with it. How about that?I mean, if I wanted to have the cleaning regimen and discipline of the army, well, I would have joined the army.

And then began a long discussion with strong words and thinly veiled contempt on my part. But in the end, good reigned over evil and I'm in the apartment for another year. Granted, I may not scrub my floor with my toothbrush, but at least most of what I do makes sense, which brings to mind another interesting incident.

It was actually a few months after I'd moved into the building. One of the windows in my room is right over the garage, so there's a view of slooping roof. It was a Monday night around 11:30 p.m. and it was raining. All of a sudden I hear a noise coming from my window. So I go over and look and I see a pair of feet. Now granted, the guy looked like he was looking to climb a little higher, but still.

I did what anyone would do. I called my landlord.

"Hey there. So listen, there's a guy climbing up the roof. Think I should call the police or is this normal?"

"Hold on. I"ll check," my landlord said. I found it interesting that this could be a normal circumstance.

After that, I heard my landlord come out and lots of yelling in Polish in the hallway ensued. A minute later she comes to my door and gives me a nod. "It's okay," she says. "It is my sister's boyfriend. He forgot his keys."

The sister lives on the third floor. Had the man not thought to use the doorbell instead of climbing up the roof? Or maybe, I don't know, give her a call?

And if that's not a polish knock-knock [pun intended] joke, I don't know what is.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Rebel without a map

People tell me that my father and I are a lot alike. And sometimes I see it. Then again, sometimes I don't...

My father doesn’t ask for directions. Talk about living on the edge. This caused an incredibly strange journey during my parent’s vacation in Brazil last summer.

It was Friday night, the sun was setting, and my father decided that he wanted to celebrate the Sabbath like the good Jew I'm not. Sure, some people come to Brazil for the beaches, the music, the bikini waxes, but not my father. After getting the name of a synagogue from the concierge, he set off with my mother and no command of Portuguese. After twenty-five minutes of walking, it turned out that no such synagogue existed in said location.

“Well, we tried. Let’s head back,” my mother said.

And just as my father was about to respond he spotted a couple, a very obviously Jewish couple. How do you know they were Jewish, you anti-Semite, you ask? Well, let’s just say nothing screams Heeb like payas (those curly sideburns) and an accompanying girl with a long skirt and a stroller full of babies.

“Perfect!” My mother exclaimed. “I bet they know where there’s a synagogue. Saul, go ask them.”

“Roberta, did you hear them speaking Portuguese? How am I supposed to ask them?” Now, I’m going to have to disagree with my dad on this one. I think there are a lot of ways he could explain himself. Simulate praying. Draw a Star of David in the air. Show him you’re circumcised.

Instead he said, “Let’s just follow them and see where they’re going.”

And that’s when my father started his Jewish reconnaissance mission. And as my mother knew it was fruitless to argue, she went along for the ride. I don’t know if it’s because my father was in the army during Vietnam—albeit it was language school—which made him feel like trailing someone was a good idea, but off they went, following just close enough. Whenever they feared they would be “discovered” they would jump into the nearest doorway, like some kind of two member A-Team gone horribly wrong. They followed the couple for three miles, past the beach, past the prostitutes, the pick pockets, and the many salsa and merengue clubs that littered the city with music.

(Note:It was at this point in the story that I decided that my mother must really love my father. You just don’t go on a three hour tour with someone you’re just ehhh about.)

Finally, the Jewish couple entered a building. Only problem was that it was someone’s house. Seems the couple was heading to Shabbat dinner, and not to hang with God just yet. Dejected, my parents began the trek back to find our hotel. Granted, the expedition wasn’t a total loss as my mother found a “Curves” gym, (or “Rolls” as my friend likes to call it), to which she belongs in the states, and over which she got very excited.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Damn You Modern Technology!

I've always been a little slow (when it comes to new gadgets). I'd be perfectly content if all things were done on stone tablets and those tin can phones. And let's just abolish cars and do the old horse and buggy thang.

I was one of the last people I knew to get a cell phone, but as soon as I got it I couldn't live without it. When it accidently fell into the subway tracks one night, I seriously considered jumping down to rescue it. Of course, I'm only 5 feet, so getting back up could be difficult, and i was wearing a skirt and a white shirt, but that was a small price to pay to get my lifeline back. It was only after a guy nearby saw me looking distressed that he actually jumped down to get it.

"Here ya go," he said and walked away.

B'scuse me? He didn't want anything out of this, like say, my phone number? I started going through my bag looking for anything I could give him as a reward.

"Listen, I have a half eaten sandwich. Or do you want my book? I'm not quite done it but it's really good. Or would you like some of my jokes? Or my virignity?"

In the end, he just looked kind of shy and uncomfortable and refused any of my rewards.

My grandmother seems to suffer from technologaphobia as well. But then again, she's up there in years, so she has an excuse. We spent an interesting afternoon getting her profile up on JDate as she is single and looking to mingle. Nothing like getting to know much your grandmother "likes to party" and whether she likes her men "ripped or move to love." I accidently checked off that she likes to rollerblade which ended up getting her a floury of unwanted responses.

And after much coaxing, it looks like I have my very own blog. Is this a good idea? Maybe not. I'm afraid I'll forget that anyone with access to the World Wide Webs--as our president likes to say--can take a look and read all about my embarrassing dealings in life. Then again, most of my dealings are public enough that perfect strangers can partake anyway. So if anyone is reading, hope you enjoy. If nothing else, I can guarantee that you reading this will waste at least a couple of minutes of your day. Sheesh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Coming Soon.

All sorts of awesomeness.