Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Tyler and I live on the 3rd floor of a brownstone-like building in Brooklyn. For reasons we do not understand, the temperature in the apartment reaches an unbearable 95 degrees in the summer. Recently, we purchased an air conditioning unit and now we can sit comfortably in our home and, well, breathe...and think straight.

But the air conditioning unit has become a saga in our lives that will not end. There were arrangements to get the unit (we do not have a car), arrangements to install the unit (did you know that the Home Depot in New York City does not cut wood?) and, most recently, arrangements to keep the unit (the landlord is not happy that it drips on to their patio-- so now we have tubes and glues and goops and screws scattered around the apartment as we attempt to direct the flow of water elsewhere.)

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal, but we find that it is a topic of conversation we can not avoid, whether it is about the unbearable heat before the air conditioner was installed or the shenanigans we are going through to have it in our home. We talk about it with one another endlessly. We subject friends and family and strangers to the saga at dinner parties. We even (ahem) blog about it for the entire public to view.

In other words, the air conditioning unit is an obsession.

In a recent discussion with people who live outside of New York City about (what else?) the air conditioner, it was determined that this is officially crazy. Price shopping for units, renting zip-cars, having consultations with the landlord about the unit not falling out of the window on to unsuspecting citizens' heads, carrying 8 foot wooden beams throughout the city to find someone who cuts wood, redirecting the flow of water so the landlord does not feel torrential rains while bbq-ing, that, all of this, is sheer madness.

Because, the conversation continued, this doesn't happen outside of the city. This doesn't happen in cozy suburbs where central air conditioning is the norm, where there are Lowes and Home Depots on every corner, and people have cars to get to where they go. This doesn't happen in new developments with brand new four bedroom, three bathroom homes that boast luxuries like washers and dryers and dishwashers.

Of course, this has occurred to me before. When I visit people's homes and they have things like porches and patios and gardens, and grass, imagine that! Grass that is so expansive, so wild, you have to do things like mow it. Of course, this has occurred to me, that in places other than a city, or even in the city (I've put in air conditioning units with no trouble in the past) installing an air conditioner is not an epic home project, if you even have to install one at all.

And so, during the course of our conversation, it became clear to me that this air conditioning unit, and our obsession with it, is a symbol of city life; cerebral and maddening, the stuff that Seinfeld episodes and Woody Allen films are made of.

That it is a microcosm for spending $1,000,000 for a tiny one bedroom apartment in Manhattan, squeezing yourself into an insufficent picnic spot in an overwhelming crowded Central Park, getting dinner reservations months in advance in order to sit outside on a filthy sidewalk at a new restaurant, sitting in hours worth of traffic to get to a just-as-crowded beach on Long Island on a holiday weekend, carrying 15 bags of groceries from the dirty Gristedes or Met or Key Foods up to your fifth floor walk up, which does not have a washer, dryer, dishwasher, porch, patio, lawn, garden, or, sometimes, even, a closet in which to put your clothes.

All if this is, decidedly, crazy.

After several glasses of wine, I found myself having to defend my decision to live in this city, sputtering ridiculous things like but where else can you get authentic chinese noodles three blocks from your apartment? Because, I could not, for the life of me, explain why I was fighting for the right to pay thousands of dollars to live in a sweltering, miniscule apartment where it takes the better part of a month to install an air conditioner.

All I know, is that I do not think any of this is crazy. I can not adequately explain why because it will sound ridiculous. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny day, she says and rolls her eyes. Walking over the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and looking down at all the traffic, she tries, but, no, that is not it. The little red-headed girls, twins, who ride identical scooters across President Street the same time, every day, as I walk to the subway. Closer, she thinks.

Crazy? Maybe. And, yet, no. What do you think?


  1. Wow, so complicated! Last time hubby and I were without central air, we bought an A/C unit, stuck it in the window, plugged it in and voila! Yes, I do love my country living :) (And only an hour from D.C. in case I am missing the crowds)

  2. As soon as you mentioned installing a unit, I broadcast in my head the episode of Seinfeld when Jerry FINALLY gets A/C, only to have it fall out and hit a dog on the sidewalk.

    I currently live in a place with window units, after having central air for... well, ever. I am not a big fan, but the utility bills are cheaper...

  3. I grew up in NYC, so I totally get what you are saying here. My son lives in a 3-story walk up in Brooklyn. There are things I so miss about New York. But then, again, I live in Albuquerque and it has its charms (including refrigerated air). Most homes here have something called swamp coolers, which only work if there's no humidity. Which is often. Hope you get the air conditioner resolved soon.

  4. Such an interesting post. I grew up in the suburbs, and I have to admit, it does sound a little crazy. BUT, I can admit that not everyone likes the same things. So if you like that crazy stuff, they hey, you go girl! ;)

  5. Completely outside of my realm LOL except for as you say, Seinfeld and Woody Allen movies, of which I have watched repeatedly. Maybe because it's all so foreign to me? But if it is HOME to you then that's what matters. Home is everything. People will brave every inconvenience to live where they feel at home.

  6. Totally NOT crazy! Follow your bliss....and the rest will work itself out! :)

  7. if it doesn't sound crazy to you, then it isn't. you know what matters to you the most. and maybe the a/c unit isn't just the end all for you! ;)

  8. This post was fantastic! You told a wonderful, funny, very real story and kept me interested all the way through to the end. And your ending - perfect. Red-headed twins. Yes, it's those little things. We all have a "home soul" - mine is at the ocean. When I lived in the desert of Arizona, I tried to squash my yearning for ocean, saying, "bloom where you're planted." But it's not crazy to be in love with a place, I thinkit's a very real thing.

  9. Man, my friend, your life is never dull, that's for sure! Air conditioning is a necessity, girlfriend.

    Not crazy. Love the red-headed girls. Holler hi from me next time you see them. K?

    Oh and ride that bike. I gotta get you a horse. Wouldn't the little red-headed girls love you then? Huh? :-)

  10. Yes, crazy, but crazy is good. Wherever one lives there are difficulties of one sort or another .... imagine finding one's cat dancing with a snake! Or, as at this moment, having to buy a solution and a backback to put it in and getting a man who can climb palm terees to spray into the very middle of it to prevent a nasty bug from demolishing it entirely. My husband is gadding about on this very errand as i write ... and i am thinking 'Please save the palm tree as I love it so!'

    I hope you spend many pleasant aircooled hours with your aircon. I can sympathise as it is hot here and there is nothing worse than being bathed in sweat and feeling as if snails are sliding down your skin (see my Wordless Wednesday!)

  11. I can tell you equally crazy stories about home ownership and living in the suburbs, so don't fret!

  12. Aw, I know what you mean. There's a trade-off like you say. :)

    I lived in Tokyo for awhile my closest comparison, and I loved it. But I remember hot summers where my roommates and I had to sleep in the living room because we had no air elsewhere and couldn't get to sleep in our rooms or grocery shopping everyday b/c there's no such as storage, line drying clothes, etc.

    omg I miss it. Because like you say there was the experience of life there that was very unique.

    City life is definitely very different but you also get so much benefit. :)

  13. I love this! :) There's a place for everyone, I think, and some people are lucky to have more than one. I'm fairly adaptable and think I'd learn to get along anywhere, but I'm happiest in smallish towns (I grew up in a town of 12,000 people and miss it). I love the benefits of living near a bigger city though, so I guess I'm definitely a suburbanite at heart. (And some people hate the suburbs, and that's okay, too. Whatever floats your boat. :) There are ups and downs to all places, but where the ups outweigh the downs, that's home. :)

    Also, I may have used an excessive amount of smiley faces...