Welcome to the Neighborhood (How Well Do You Know Your Neighbors?)

apartment living in NYC

By Arlen Kane

The Ups and Downs of Apartment Living in NYC

I have a new neighbor, and I must say I’m happier about it than I’ve ever been about any new neighbor.  You might think – and I wouldn’t blame you– that I’m so glad because these last years of Covid left us less engaged with our friends, families, and co-workers.  In 2021, people used the word ″isolation″ more often than the word ″narrative.″

In my particular case, the outsized happiness I feel at having this new neighbor isn′t tied to the imposed seclusion of Covid, but rather that this particular apartment was unoccupied for many years.  The reason is a long, sad, story about greedy developers′ dreams gone awry.  Nonetheless, I slogged through those lonely years with few neighbors and dark windows across the airway, where once there was life.

I′ll explain why the occupancy of that specific apartment is so important to me.  My building takes up the frontage of an entire city block, but the rear is a ″U″ shape.  No need for an architectural course, the consequence is that my kitchen, bathroom and bedroom windows are situated directly across and just a few feet apart from my neighbor’s windows.  It means that if I yelled ″Yoo Hoo″ loud enough, it might get my neighbor′s attention.  Until now, I never had the desire to test it.  But after years of dark emptiness, all that′s changed.

They Built the Great Wall of China

That apartment′s renovation took slightly less time than the construction of the Great Wall of China.  Then one day I heard that the apartment had been rented.  I eagerly awaited the move-in.  Would it be a man or woman, or young newlyweds?  How will the new neighbor decorate his/her/their new home?  Were they to be modernists or will tapestries and chintz meet my eye?  And what about the cooking?  The intimacy of apartment house living makes this an important factor in our quality of life.

What’s for Dinner?

For instance, the young Korean sisters who moved in downstairs get periodic deliveries of kimchi from their mom.  I′m not a fan of fermentation unless it′s producing wine.  The homemade kimchi may alleviate their homesickness, but I can′t wait for them to finish the batch.

Another neighbor must have been brought up on a cattle ranch because I′ve never known anyone to eat so much beef.  Despite the fact that I haven′t had red meat in about forty years, I still do love the aroma of his grilled steak, and so I endure the shrill smoke alarm he inevitably sets off.

Then there are the neighbors that make a marinara sauce that drives me insane.  I had to have the recipe.   I posted a notice near the elevators saying that whoever was cooking the sauce that was driving me crazy, please contact me.  I left my number like a fourteen-year-old seeking babysitting jobs.  It worked.  I got the recipe.

A Mystery Unfolds, Neatly

When I learned that my new neighbor would soon move in, I sewed new curtains for the bathroom and kitchen, bought healthy plants for the sills, and then I waited.

Finally, on a Saturday afternoon not long ago, I saw the back of a man hurrying down the hallway pulling two identical suitcases in two perfectly parallel lines behind him.  I just knew that he was my new neighbor.  That same day a laptop appeared on his pristine kitchen counter.  Soon after, he folded a shirt with one of Marie Kondo’s inventions that folds things perfectly.  Oh good, he’s neat and orderly.

Now I was looking forward to the excitement of the furniture delivery, then the appearance of the art — but nothing happened.  I still hadn′t seen the fellow himself, not even for a New York nod in the hallway.  All I ever saw was the back of a t-shirt but couldn’t read what it said.  I needed more information.  Who is this guy living with no furniture, just a coffee maker, a mattress and probably Marie Kondo′s latest book?

I was looking forward to the excitement of the furniture delivery, then the appearance of the art — but nothing happened.  I still hadn′t seen the fellow himself, not even for a New York nod in the hallway. 

Please Make Him a Techie

I so hoped he worked for Google.  I need someone to help me figure out why my iPhone continually updates my contacts, deleting my newest ones and replacing them with people I haven’t spoken to since before brunch was a word.

I still don′t have any idea what he does for a living but he does leave the apartment every morning by 8:30.  If I don’t read in bed for a while, we make coffee together – apart.  He’s usually home between 8:30 and 9:30 pm.  There are times when we cook together – apart.  Some evenings he brings home prepared food and then I worry about whether he’s eating right.  A couple of times he didn’t come home for a few days.  I wondered if he was traveling on business or is there someone else.

A Golden Anniversary

My musical taste is eclectic.  I play opera, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, flamenco, salsa, bossa nova, doo wop, hip hop, sock hop – everything goes.  I dance around the house, sometimes I sing.  Nothing, no reaction from across the way.  He pays no attention to me.  It′s like we’ve been married fifty years.  Still, I′m wondering if it′s too soon to ask him to take out the trash.


Arlen Hollis Kane

arlen kane

Arlen Hollis Kane is a Manhattan-based award-winning writer.  Memos from Manhattan, her regular column for 50PlusToday, is reflective of her love affair with her hometown.  Her focus is on writing about the ever astonishing people, places and events that inspire the phrase “only in New York.”

After reaching 50, she fulfilled a childhood passion by enrolling in the Fashion Institute of Technology.  She designs and hand makes scarves, handbags and jewelry. Her abstract acrylics and photographs have been featured in a one-woman show in the Gallery of the Borough President of Manhattan, and in juried shows, including at the National Arts Gallery.

Arlen volunteers for Dorot, an organization that helps seniors stay engaged and socialized, and Big Apple Greeter, which gives visitors the experience of seeing New York with a local.






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