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My slice of the Big Apple

The 3-1/2 room sixth-floor apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side was only the second one I saw at the start of my apartment search. Other would-be renters milled about, but were dissuaded from taking it by its small size. "Our furniture won't fit," was a typical comment.

The smallness appealed to me. At the time, following my graduation from law school, I owned one chair.

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Thirty-five years later I occupy the same apartment.

High ceilings, built-in bookshelves, and a fireplace are attractive features of the living room.

My bedroom windows face north and east. The cross-ventilation eliminates the need for air conditioning, even on the hottest summer nights.

To the north, I look down on brownstone gardens. In the mornings, birds chirp in the trees. In the autumn, leaves glide through the open window onto the bedroom floor. Winter storms are a treat, with the trees, gardens, and nearby roof-tops covered by a glorious white blanket of snow.

To the east, I look on carriage houses. There are 11 on my street. As the 19th century drew to a close, these carriage houses were built for wealthy residents who lived in mansions a few blocks away on Fifth and Madison Avenues. They wanted their carriage houses nearby, but not too close, for stables are noisy and far from pleasantly aromatic.

For many years, the carriage house adjoining my building was a music school. Each Saturday morning I awakened to the playing of piano scales. Not a bad way to begin the day.

Aspiring pianists aside, I am fortunate to live in a quiet apartment, for New York is a very noisy city. My building is located between two busy avenues, Lexington and Third. Day and night, cars, buses, and trucks crowd the avenues. I hear nothing. I am as oblivious to the traffic as I am to the tidal waters surging up the East River blocks away from me.

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The years have brought me material benefits. I now own several chairs. Each new piece of furniture is measured at the store with great care to ensure that it fits into the apartment.

Books spill over from the bookcases onto the living-room floor, imperiling access to the front door. My bicycle leans against the fireplace screen. Opera recordings pile up by the couch. Closets are filled beyond capacity. Accumulated treasures, valuable to me, if no one else, clutter the mantlepiece. With so many possessions, painting my apartment has become an awesome undertaking.

Recently I learned of the year my apartment building was built. It and I came into being about the same time. We get on well together!

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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