Tag Archives: architecture

Lame Adventures 361: Air Raiding

Because a room with a view has always been preferable to one without, the price of air in New York City is becoming more expensive. Yes, the air is for sale, but not on sale.

Robin Finn, The New York Times, “The Great Air Race

This story is about real estate developers that build glass, steel and soulless monstrosities. They’re purchasing air rights. These rights, from surrounding low-rise properties, can cost the developers millions of dollars.  The sellers can make some serious change on these very lucrative deals. The downside for the sellers, as well as surrounding tenants, is living in the gaping shadow of a mile high blight.  Owning the area’s air rights basically guarantees that rich swells that buy into these flashy towers will have rooms with views and sun. So, yes, there is now an expensive price tag on the Big Apple’s air.

Even if I could somehow afford to live in a Blade Runner-style high rise, where I’d have to slather my chalky white pelt with SPF 110 rated sunscreen just to take a gander out the window at New Jersey, I’d take a pass.  I like small.  I like low.  I’m not into blinding sunlight, either. This is not to imply that I’d welcome living in a dark and dreary ground floor cell that faces a brick wall.  I do appreciate many of life’s modern amenities — running water, a working stove, a bed the size of Texas.

Overall, I prefer a dwelling with character.  I’m a fan of original moldings, high ceilings, exposed brick, carved staircase railings, pocket doors, bay windows, and if there’s a gargoyle or some museum-worthy sculpture jutting out of the stone façade, better yet.  Buildings built in the 19th and early 20th centuries are much more easier on my eye than any modern air-owning behemoth influenced by Jenga.

Houses on West End Avenue oozing character and probably high rent.

Houses on West End Avenue flaunting character.

Classic architecture strikes me as being built to last.  For example, if the ceiling caved in on me while I was visiting the Apthorp, Ansonia or Dakota, three coveted Upper West Side addresses, I imagine that I’d get killed instantly.

The Apthorp from behind.

The sturdy Apthorp from behind.

This is not exactly a comforting thought, but at least my suffering would end rapidly.

The Apthorp's rear entrance on West End Avenue.

The Apthorp’s rear entrance on West End Avenue.

In contrast, there is the ultra modern (circa 1975) Calhoun School, an architectural eyesore a few blocks north of where I live. On the plus side, it is a low rise.  On the negative, this building was intentionally designed to resemble a TV set.

If I stand in front of the Calhoun School long enough, will I get to see The Simpsons?

If I stand outside the Calhoun School long enough, will I get to watch Letterman?

If the Calhoun School’s ceiling were to fall on me, it does not strike me as a building made from the dense bedrock used in the more stately homes of my neighborhood.  Therefore, it is possible that if I was smacked with a chunk of the Calhoun School, I might survive that mishap, albeit paralyzed from the tongue down and left to suffer for decades. Another Calhoun School factoid: in 2004, four additional floors were added.  It now looks to me like an obsolete Seventies era TV with a pile of crap on top.

Even though a room with some view is nice, pictured below is the current view outside the window of my sanctum sanctorum.

Entertaining.

My entertaining view of urban wildlife.

I cannot claim when I invite a guest to my lair, I’m inclined to suggest in a seductive tone:

Me: Hey babe, check out the pigeon sleeping on the air conditioner outside my window.

I’m more inclined to entertain my guests in infinitely more creative ways rather than relying on purchasing a view in the stratosphere that would easily cost my life savings, if a collection of commemorative quarters could serve as a down payment.  Who needs a view when my guest and I can take turns reciting poetry, painting (my bathroom for starters), or I could serenade her with a rendition of Ho Hey on spoons slapped against my naked thigh?

Check out my commemorative quarters collection!

Check out my commemorative quarters collection!

I cannot deny that nighttime views of the bright lights in this big city can be romantic.  But, if the owner/occupier of that view is a shallow bore, it would be comparable to watching a TV test pattern or the Calhoun School’s cafeteria wallpaper.  Therefore, if I were in the company of someone enticing, I’d feel privileged to snuggle in a brownstone’s fifth floor attic apartment facing a bustling avenue.  In that case, I would hardly mind if every molecule of the air outside were owned by the Fat Cats of Gotham City.

If we get bored inside we could always indulge our sense of vertigo on the roof.

Rooms without a view that look cool to me

Lame Adventure 350: Time Tales at The Grind

For the past few weeks, months or years, it’s been one of those days for me.  There I was at The Grind sitting at my computer that’s situated directly below a vent breeding mold faster than rabbits mating on speed.

Innocuous looking ceiling vent.

Fertile mold.

Mold shacking up over my head.

I was crunching numbers while thinking philosophical thoughts:

Me: I wonder if Trader Joe’s will have those brandy filled chocolate beans this year?  Did I lock my door this morning?  How soon before I’m as obsolete as a public pay phone?

Empty pay phone hole — metaphor for my future?

My loyal sidekick, Greg, shattered my deep thoughts.

Greg:  Are you busy?

Me (thinking): Just going blind doing math before segueing into regretting the entire trajectory of my life.

Me (saying):  What do you need?

He asked if I could go into Photoshop and add a simple date to a simple label for him. He was in a bit of a hurry and he wanted to simply complete one project before simply starting another.  This request sounded reasonably simple to me:

Me:  Sure, give me five minutes.

My computer had other ideas.

“No Photoshop for you simpleton!”

For ten agonizing minutes I am stuck in the intersection of Irritating and Annoying before I am granted access to Photoshop so I can fulfill this simple request.  Just when I am going to print the label with the simple revision for Greg, my lord and master, Elsbeth, starts printing the equivalent of the phone book.  Finally, I give Greg, who started working on another project in the intervening 45 minutes, his simple label that inhaled the better part of an hour of what remains of my simply depleting life.

A few weeks ago, Greg gave me the paperwork for a delivery of tile that we received.  Another of my illustrious responsibilities as Minister of Tile that makes practical use of my fancy film school degree is to date stamp paperwork.  I am the type that can never remember the date, so that’s why I wear a state-of-no-art Timex with date-telling capability.  My timepiece is the consummate chick magnet to grandmother-types that wet dream about watch faces with numbers as big as eggplants:

Waiting a New York minute to learn the day’s date.

My boss has strong opinions about architecture.  I asked Elsbeth:

Me:  Hey boss, what do you think about the Hearst Tower?

Elsbeth:  Which building is that?

Me:  That one over on 57th and Eighth.

The address did not ring the gong in my superior’s head so I Google image searched it for her while accessing my inner NPR reporter.

Me:  They finished the base in 1928, but due to the Depression, they held off building the tower until 70 years later.  It opened in 2006.

Hearst Tower base completed in 1928. Architect: Joseph Urban.

Comedy and Tragedy with plenty to laugh and cry about.

Elsbeth looked at the resulting eyesore, liberally dropped words like hideous, ridiculous and awful accompanied by a few f-bombs with i-n-g endings.

Result: super modern glass and steel tower by architect Norman Foster that’s been jutting out of the base since it opened in 2006.

I agreed that time was not kind to this project or to quote my liege:

Elsbeth:  What the fuck were they thinking?

Unamused muses at the base.

The crass guest that’s here to stay jutting out of the base.

This week Elsbeth highly amused my colleague, (not) Under Ling (anymore), when she revealed that the reason our shared drive runs slower than a pregnant snail carrying a boulder is because:

Elsbeth (exasperated):  People are downloading all their personal crap on it, like pictures of their dog!

Not this dog waiting patiently for his master to throw him a bone.

Nor Thurber, my family’s dog, looking anxious in this picture my sister Dovima texted me as he’s about to leave for the kennel.

A month ago, (not) Under Ling (anymore) was feeling significantly less mirth when she burned her finger using a glue gun.

(not) Under Ling (anymore) giving me the index finger.

Now a message to my seven loyal readers, for the first time in 350 posts, before subjecting myself to the next 350 Lame Adventures, this site is going on hiatus until after the November election. Since I prefer the shiny, fresh and nubile, I’m not the type that republishes past posts, but if you crave a fix of Lame Adventures-style junk food for your mind, preferably while bored at work or in the process of getting dressed down by your main squeeze for forgetting to take out the trash, help yourself to reading any of the 349 others.  Check out different years. You might even hit on a good one. If you need a nudge from me about where to go, my personal favorite is the one with the photographs.