“And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!” –the Talking Heads
Some days, I wake up singing “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads. In a Sunday morning fog, my subconscious realizes that I have it pretty good. Meanwhile, my slowly awakening conscious mind wants to know, “How the heck did I get here? Is this apartment even fit for human habitation?”
The answer isn’t clear. But it isn’t the dirty laundry on the floor or the disorganized piles of legal papers and tax forms covering every inch of my supposed desk prompting me to ask these questions. My sleep-filled eyes haven’t quite made it that far. No, it is the objects dangling from the ceilings and walls or dancing in the windows that first catch my squinty-slitted eyes. I can’t decide whether my bedroom looks like an elaborately decorated tree house or a trying-too-hard restaurant that serves a lot of roasted beets and kale. How did this happen?
When I was applying for the New York Bar, I deduced that I had collected 13 addresses in 10 years. As a professional rolling stone, I have developed a ritual for christening new apartments:
- Buy a bundle of sage.
- Set the bundle of sage on fire, in the NEW living room.
- Run through the house, waving the burning bundle of sage in the air like a raving lunatic.* (This should get rid of any ghosts.)
- Press your palms together. (Not before putting out the flaming bundle of sage!) Lower your eyes. Quiet your mind. Let the house speak to you. What does it want???
*WARNING: This is what happens to you if you live in California for too long. Under no circumstances should you live in California for too long.
One thing I have learned in all of these moves: don’t fight the house. You are a malleable piece of human clay. Your place of residence has a life of it’s own. Accept this.
Three moves ago, our house told me that it wanted to keep up with the Joneses (6 foot privacy fence, 20 foot vaulted ceilings, fake wood floors.) I obediently complied. I hung a fancy tapestry over the fireplace with spotlighting and put out a Persian rug.
Then, we decided to hell with the Joneses, and moved into a 600 square foot apartment with peeling aqua blue paint on the walls. Naturally, I asked the apartment what it wanted. “Nautical hippie,” it replied.
Fine. I rolled up the Persian rug and put it into storage. I hung a jazz-inspired ink drawing in a suitably uncentered location and pinned a South Carolina parks and recreation wildlife brochure, depicting various species of saltwater fish, next to the bathroom with clear plastic tacks. I also hung up a calendar from a cheap Chinese takeout restaurant in Springfield, Missouri. Yes, we were living between millionaires down by the Battery, but there was no sense in explaining that to the apartment.
Then, New York City called. On our last move, as I lowered my gaze above the highway, electrical grid and railroad tracks outside our living room window, the message was clear: industrial art gallery. Thus, I began to decorate–vertically. Before I knew it, there were chains and 9 glass balls (filled with air plants) hanging from the window sills and 10 lamps hanging from the heating ducts and walls (it’s totally safe; just don’t tell my landlord.) Of course, I put up an industrial looking shelf and a few bright pieces of art, some of which I painted myself. And it was good.
No, actually, it was AWESOME.
However, on some days, through squinty eyes on Sunday morning, I begin to question myself. I wonder if I should just grow up and ignore the apartment and its opinions. Yes, it is fitting and “fun,” but, after all, I am thirty-something. Should I really be living in a multidimensional obstacle course? Shouldn’t my interior decorating be a little more…mundane? But then I read “Grownups” by xkcd and came to my senses. Click on the link; you won’t regret it. (Why people bother with proverbs and inspirational quotes when there are comics, I will never know.)