by Arlen Kane
I have a neighbor who was lucky enough to have snagged a fabulous apartment in our building a couple of years after its completion. Our building, though not one of Manhattan’s coveted pre-war buildings that boast enormous rooms and glorious architectural detail, was built just after the war, and many of those niceties made their way into the plans for ours.
It means I not only have an eat-in kitchen – and now I can hear thousands of voices across America saying: Eat-in kitchen? What else do you do in a kitchen?
It means I not only have an eat-in kitchen – and now I can hear thousands of voices across America saying: Eat-in kitchen? What else do you do in a kitchen? Well, you lucky ducks out there, many people in Manhattan only use the kitchen for cooking, and that’s if we have enough counter space for prep. The eating takes place elsewhere, in a dining area. This dining area is often squeezed into a corner of the living room – or worse, the foyer – and is defined by a small table and a couple of chairs. This tableau can be seen as the dining niche of a vastly romantic couple or one whose friends are few and far between. I guess that would depend upon whether the table is festooned with a vase of fresh flowers or three month’s worth of junk mail.
Lucky me, I not only have a kitchen big enough to cook a Thanksgiving meal for twenty, but its “eat in” component is spacious enough for a table and four chairs. Expanding the table and adding chairs, I can easily accommodate six people or eight serious dieters for a meal.
My closet space, that often-manipulated term in the real estate brokers’ pitch, is bountiful by Manhattan standards. However I’ve converted a few into storage. One houses my large canvas art. Another is stocked, albeit neatly, with fabric and leather for my handbag designs, and then (ta dah!) there are the shoes. And boots. And coats. And then there’s the opera cloak last worn in the 80’s, long and wide enough that it needs its own zip code. My everyday wardrobe hangs in a couple of closets, and as mandated by some mysterious committee on how to dress in New York, it’s mostly black, so I have mounted closet lights with wild abandon.
Without complaint I’ve made sacrifices to create space in my apartment for the things I enjoy. For instance, I like to cook, and in order to maximize my counter space, I don’t own any appliance that isn’t essential. I don’t own a toaster. I had to explain to visiting family, who were baffled by my offer of toasted bread, that I make toast with fire. I place bread in a pan on the stovetop, turn the knob to fire up the burner, and voila – toast!
I don’t know why but Costco fascinates me. I think it’s the sizes.
Back to my neighbor, who would best be described as my friend. We’ve exchanged confidences for decades, and agree that fashion is an art form on par with sculpture. With this deep connection, how could I refuse an invitation to accompany her to a local Costco. I don’t know why but Costco fascinates me. I think it’s the sizes. A dozen cans of garbanzo beans is a single purchase. So are four 32-ounce bottles of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. Paper goods occupy a world of their own. Certainly I’ll need 36 rolls of toilet paper after buying the garbanzo beans. I noticed that once you’ve committed to toilet paper, there’s no question that paper towels, tissues and napkins in cocktail, dinner and luncheon sizes must follow.
Although it’s a local Costco, it still requires two forms of public transportation to get home. There was no way I could endeavor to get this load onto a bus, so I called for a private car, whose cost immediately wiped out the Costco savings. No matter, except for perishables, I wouldn’t have to shop for months.
What I hadn’t considered was where to store my stash. I couldn’t justify selling an abstract acrylic just to make way for toilet tissue. Swap out the opera cape to accommodate printer ink? There was only one way out – a storage unit. The ad said it was located not far outside of the city, and at a promotional rate of $50 off the first month’s rent, it seemed a viable solution. I’m trying to convince myself that I’ll enjoy the lovely view of the countryside on my way to my garbanzo beans. Costco, I learned, is a great way to save money, but not in Manhattan.
Header photo copyright Eric Stephen Jacobs
Arlen Hollis Kane is a Manhattan-based award-winning writer. Memos from Manhattan, her regular column for 50Plus-Today, 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.