Each to His Own

binocular-bkgd Bert and Ernie do not appear to be adversely affected by all the upheaval around them. There are 49 boxes adorning our living room for now, 49 boxes that continue to provide climbing, hiding, and scratching pleasure for cats. The one human comfort in the living room is the sofa. Our La-Z-Boy sofa has two built-in recliners. The cats have claimed them, too.

BnE in Forest Hills

And for those who are interested, my official New York State mug shot:

Mug Shot


Intimate Moments

binocular-bkgd1Our apartment building was built in 1937; it is called “pre-war.” Architectural detail, and lots of it, easily distinguishes every angle, every nook and cranny of the building, from the sleek, sterile, stainless steel and glass structures of the 21st century.

The walls are thick with plaster and covered with countless coats of paint, so many layers of paint that closet doors cannot fully close and walls and ceilings are lumpy in many places. The cable company has a  difficult time passing its signal through and around these walls to a usable level.

The cable company was here twice, in fact. The first time was a failed attempt to get a wi-fi signal from the bedroom to the living room – walls too thick and impassable, they said. Finally, Sir Braver and I placed our computers just 10 feet apart and with that, we can each download to our heart’s content.

With walls so thick, we expected a level of quiet we had not experienced before. We were proved wrong, however. From within our apartment, we can hear footsteps down the corridors, trash traveling down the compactor chute, toilets flushing here and there, and the inevitable child’s tantrum coming and going from the nearby elevator.

What surprises me most, however, is how clearly we hear the rendezvous that takes place like clockwork, Sunday nights just before midnight, in the apartment directly above ours. Not only do we hear their floor creak and furniture rattle, but we are also privy to their repetitive, and fortunately short-lived vocalizations.

Today I heard a sneeze. “Bless you,” I called to Sir Braver in the next room. “That wasn’t me,” he called back.



A Real Piece of Work

binocular-bkgd1The New York City real estate market is different than any we had experienced before. (This is our first time buying in New York.) We are learning, though.

For one thing, it seems “exclusive” listings still exist here. Apparently that means that here any realtor can show a property that is on the market but only with the help and usually the actual presence of the listing agent. Additionally, there is an absence of lock boxes, so the owner also must be present for each showing. All of this takes a lot of coordination and so showings rarely (if ever) take place on short notice.

Nevertheless, we did make arrangements through a real estate agent named Sonya to see a co-op we found listed for sale on Zillow. We arranged to meet Sonya at 5 PM in front of the building. Sonya arrived with an “assistant” named Annette, punctually.

Punctuality doesn’t always mean a whole lot, however. In this case, although all the parties agreed to the showing, the owner and the listing agent were late. Sonya did not have access to the building or the apartment, and so we waited. After some time, Annette decided to go around the building to another entrance to try to worm her way into the building, and she did. Meanwhile, Sonya, whose patience was wearing thin, finally rang EVERY apartment buzzer hoping someone would let her (us) into the building. Someone did just as Annette also came through the lobby from another direction. Burglar-proof that building is not!

Our plan was to see apartment 4A. Sonya had other ideas, however. She showed us 4K. Apartment 4K was a total mess and would easily require tens of thousands of dollars just to make it habitable. Meanwhile, 4A was unavailable for a showing. Sonya did have another property just a few blocks away she pushed rather hard for us to see. When we finally agreed to see it (against our better judgment), it would be another hour of wait time.

Although you cannot see the disrepair in this photo, notice the stall shower on the far left. Walls, floor, and ceiling of that shower are all dark brown!

No harm done, however. In the process, we did learn that the building was unacceptable to us (and that was just the parts we saw) as was the neighborhood with burglar bars aplenty, not to mention the two bail bondsmen storefronts just down the street.

Sonya, however, clearly stated that the unavailability of apartment 2A for a showing, which was the sole reason we were there, was not her fault. She does not make mistakes, you see. She said so. The mistake was Sir Braver’s.  She flat out said so.

And Sonya’s parting words to us? “I am representing you.”

No, thank you, Sonya.




Uzbek Kebab

binocular-bkgd1Tomorrow I return to cooking, so today we sought a new dining experience. We decided to check out a local Russian restaurant. This particular restaurant Arzu, got good reviews on the web and the online menu seemed like something we could even afford (assuming the prices were in American dollars).

Arzu is a small Kosher Russian restaurant in walking distance from our home. While waiting to be seated, an elderly woman (I think she was older than me, but then I think everyone over 40 is older than me) stopped before me and began speaking to me in Russian as she headed to the door to leave. She was smiling and so I smiled. That was about all I could do.

The restaurant was crowded. There was one long table with a large family enjoying the food and the company. They all spoke Russian. After a while it became clear to me that they all speak English outside the home and outside this restaurant. But here, at Arzu, they were all relaxed among friends and family and Russian was their comfort zone.

The menu was in Russian and English although we still did not know what we were getting. We figured, as I am sure my gentle readers would likewise figure, that a kebab that costs $4 is probably not a whole lot of food. Nevertheless I ordered a veal and liver kebab and Sir Braver ordered a chicken kebab. We also shared a meat pie. Later we ordered a lepeshka (homemade bread) – only half per the waitress’ recommendation.

The kebabs were very tasty. There were roughly six one-inch cubes of meat on a skewer. I loved the liver; the veal was pure fat. Sir Braver’s chicken was tasty, too. The meat pie was very flavorful and reminded me of a meat pie cooked by a Sephardic Jew in my distant past. The half bread was a semicircle of hard crust with fluffy inside. Very good, very different.

All in all, a very different experience for us. The patrons, however, all looked like family.

The Search Begins

binocular-bkgd1A co-op called out to us. “Come see me,” it said. Its listing agent had arranged an open house and we were there. It was our first look at a co-op. The next (and hopefully last) leg of this journey has officially begun.

This co-op is conveniently located by the Queens Center Mall. In fact, the mall is about one block away! Just a few more blocks is the Rego Park Mall. There are services,  shopping, transportation, and more all immediately available, almost anything imaginable within a block or so.

So what about the apartment itself? It’s a two-bedroom apartment with newly renovated kitchen and bath. The owners had just recently furnished when they learned they were moving, so all of the furniture is included. Frankly, it appeared to be an apartment that was “flipped” (purchased low, renovated, and turned around for reseale at a good profit).

The apartment is beautiful! It did not disappoint. Tastefully furnished, it is attractive and comfortable. The kitchen was  beautifully renovated with some elegant touches. The bathroom was perfect. All of the closets were customized with shelving and cubicles and such.

All in all it was a beautiful apartment, but not for us.


And why not?

The second bedroom was very small. Too small, in fact. That tiny room had bunk beds in it but there was not even room for a dresser or small table. We need a second bedroom as a combined computer/office space that would also be used as a guest room for children and grandchildren who live far away.

The view from all of the windows was of a rooftop. Although the apartment is only on the second floor, it apparently looked out over a parking garage, or something. It was a really sad view.

The lobby of the building is cold, sterile, and unfurnished. Although clean and well kept, its austerity was definitely a turn-off.

If location was everything, this place would be a winner. At this stage of the game however, location is very important, but the features of the apartment, the building, and the neighborhood still get factored in. I think we can do better.

The search continues.

And Ernie Peed on Me

binocular-bkgd1Today was moving day for cats. The cats knew it, and they were not happy. No explaining was going to soothe them.

When the hotel room was completely packed, it was time for the cats to be put into their carriers. Oh, they were not cooperative. Bert put up his usual struggle, but Ernie – he hunkered down, motionless, heavy, and as resistant as he could be, master of isometrics that he is. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and with my other hand under his huge belly, I forced him out of hiding. As I lowered him into his carrier, I felt a warm wet stream flow down my arm. There was the proof of just how nervous he was. And there I was, without time to change my clothes or even react.

So here we are, all four of us, in box city. There are 49 boxes lining our living room walls. We have emptied only a very few, but one of the first was my computer. The heck with the rest!

Rush Hour


6 A.M.

  • Rise and shine
  • Feed the cats
  • Get dressed
  • Breakfast
  • Rake litterbox
  • Rush hour commute

7:35 A.M.

  • Arrival at apartment
  • Movers are early and waiting!