Lame Adventure 330: From Barnyard Puppets to Neighborhood Pooches

Twenty-nine years ago when I was a freshly minted NYU(seless) grad, I found my no fee, rent-stabilized, gas and electrical inclusion (i.e., no charge for gas and electric), Upper West Side hovel in The New York Times.  After making the mistake of agreeing to take me on as a tenant, my Irish-Catholic landlady, Catherine McCrank (name changed to protect the demented), ordered me to sit at her kitchen table to write a list of house rules that she dictated. I made the Faustian deal to follow her rules for the life of my tenancy in her building.

Deal with the devil circa 1983.

Since Manhattan usually has less than a one percent vacancy rate and I had been looking for a garret for three months, I would have willingly signed a confession that I was San Francisco’s Zodiac serial killer between the ages of four and twelve just to land this affordable 312 square foot crash pad.

The first rule was No petsNo air conditioner which has haunted me brutally this summer appears further down the list.  Back to Mrs. McCrank’s No pets rule, she loathes animals, particularly dogs.  Some tenants have snuck in cats, and occasionally there have been dog visitors, but this has been a dog-free house as long as I’ve resided here and at this stage, I’m almost the oldest tenant in the joint.  The length of my tenancy shocks the younger residents when they ask that irritating question:

Younger resident:  How long have you lived here?

I used to give an honest answer but after a while I grew tired of hearing:

Younger resident:  No way! You’ve lived here that long?

Now when someone asks I handle it as follows:

Me: I can’t remember.  Forever!

Then, I laugh, and they laugh and what we’re laughing at neither one of us knows other than they’re probably paying a good fifty percent more than me in rent, so I suppose the joke’s on them.

Unlike Mrs. McCrank, I love dogs.  I grew up with a mutt I adored that hated my guts, Mean Streak.

Meanie on the lookout.

In the above photo, Mean Streak’s paw was bandaged from excessive nail biting; he was a worrier as well as a canine warrior.  He was also an excellent watchdog and I assumed that he barked and snarled at me to maintain his skill set. I never held his ferocious temper against him.

I always figured I’d eventually live in a place where I could finally have a dog, but after twenty-nine years living in this sweltering, albeit affordable, rat hole – where I’ve just renewed the lease to start year thirty, I’m resigned to the reality that this is never going to happen.  Therefore, the closest thing I have to a pet is Bill E., my newly acquired puppet barnyard goat.

Low maintenance puppet pet. Just dust off on weekends.

I also like to come and go as I please.  Dogs need a lot of time and attention.  I oversleep nearly every morning of my life.  If I had to add “walk Fido” to my to do list I’d never make it out the door in time to squeeze onto the jam-packed subway train for my commute downtown, sandwiched between satchels with enough space to fit a week’s provisions for a family of four.

What is in here, fifty copies of “Fifty Shades of Gray”?

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to my tale of no-pooch-for-me woe.

There’s Blanca.

“That be me!”

This adorable 9-year-old Westminster Terrier lives across the street from my brownstone with her always pleasant owner, A.  They’re quite a team and it’s probably a reflection that A, who is so cheerful, would have a mellow dog.  Possibly a telling factor in Mean Streak’s sour demeanor was that my childhood phone number was 1-800-LUNATIC.  Was that a coincidence?  Probably not.

Back to Blanca, seeing her and A on my walk to the subway station to head down to The Grind is a welcome start to my day.  Lucky for me, Mrs. McCrank did not have one more rule on her list, “No socializing with neighborhood dogs.”

“Arf you, Mrs. McCrank!”

54 responses to “Lame Adventure 330: From Barnyard Puppets to Neighborhood Pooches

  1. Excellent; and thanks!



  2. Okay, I was able to decipher all of the conditions in 1983 Deal with the Devil. Except the penultimate edict on your list. No water boats? Never mind, no water beds! Well that makes a hell of a lot more sense cuz how would you ever get a dinghy, much less a yacht, into your apartment?

    On the issue of electrical appliances, I imagine that as long as a vibrator is not sucking juice from the main current you can have as many as you want, and turned on 7 hours a day. Unless of course there’s a provision on page two against screeching in glorious rapture.

    Along these lines, what was up with the NY Post headline this morning? The city is cracking down on vibrator giveaways? Didn’t have the required shekels to pick it up at the bodega in Hoboken this morning. Care to comment? I really can’t visit their website or give Mr. Murdoch any of my filthy lucre.


    • Wow, Mike, you sure have electronic swizzle sticks on the brain today. I have no idea what’s up with that Post headline having not seen it myself. If anyone was reading it on my train ride in, my view was completely obscured by a sea of humanity coupled with satchels the size of the sky. Anyone else care to weigh in about that oh readership of seven?


  3. No AC? She does realize that NYC is not like the lovely Limerick–which is all about rain, fog, freeze and misery.


  4. “Arf you!” Hahaha! Only you could come up with that comic genius. I think living in that hell hole only speaks of your resilience and fortitude if not your slightly masochistic tendencies… 🙂


  5. Wow. Mrs. McCrank really needs to get laid.

    I understand how one can sign such a deal with the devil in the quest for affordable housing in Manhattan. But I still marvel/shake my head sadly at the fact that you’ve been dog- and air-conditioner-free all these years.

    Bill E. is probably a good pet. And his food bowls don’t get all stinky in the heat. But Blanca is so cute! She’s actually smiling!


    • Blanca is actually smiling, she’s quite a character! Bill E. advised (as I hallucinated), “Get the A/C first — deal with getting a real dog later, but remember, I’m not a chew toy!”


  6. Turn off lights when not home? Hmm sounds like you are boardin with the warden and it brings me back to the halcyon days of my youth in NJ when I lived at home as a teen and my mom would yell at us for leaving lights on with the phrase “Do you kids work for PSE&G!!!!” (NJ’s Public Service Electric & Gas)..or better yet my Italian grandma Carrie shouting “This place is lit up like Luna Park!!!”


  7. I don’t have air conditioning in the Mansion, LA if it’s any consolation… I have to go to the bathroom to cool down slightly (It’s always cold in there!) Having said that, it’s not very often that the days are so warm that I HAVE to cool down! And talking of cool, how cool is Blanca, smiling like that? Does Mrs McCrank smile? Is she cool?


  8. Mc crank still alive? Children that are wise to your posts?


  9. Aw, Bianca is gorgeous, and your analysis of Mean Streak has earned you a place in Doggie Heaven for your forbearance. Your landlady is now fixed in my mind as the one in the 1968 Producers…. “He’s up on the roof with his boids”….


  10. Socialize with dogs across the street … well … there you go with your positive thinking. At least your rent is low 🙂


  11. Bill E. looks like a fine pet indeed. Although I don’t know how you’ve been without AC (Ms. McCrank must like the heat….ummm, wonder why THAT is). Least you’ve got Bianca, all the great stuff of having a pet without all the fuss. At least fall almost here so abiding by one of her evil rules won’t be as difficult. And hey, you are on the Upper West side, right? This was great.


    • Brigitte, there are days this summer when I’ve been about as hot as a blast furnace in hell, but you’re right, it will soon be fall and I’ll be back to my usual tepid temperature self. Clever Mrs. McCrank lives in a different building far from the sounds of my whining. Thanks for visiting!


  12. Blanca is adorable. I love dogs that smile! I’ve enjoyed your comments on MW’s and Le Clown’s places for awhile. I look forward to following! Hope it cools off soon in NYC!


  13. Okay, so I’ve seen leases that said things like “No water beds” and “No pets”. But “No tape on the walls”? Jesus. Why doesn’t she just say, “No cooking food” or “No owning possessions”? Wow.


  14. I like this one. Clever and witty — as are the comments. I can’t keep up! but I enjoy.

    I wonder if my friend R and your friend A would get along?


    • Back story about the storm of visits on this very rainy day in the Apple, my friends Madame Weebles and Le Clown gave me a shout on on his site. Glad you enjoyed meeting Blanca. She’s a charmer! A’s a pretty naturally sunny person, so unless you’re the second coming of Lucifer, she’s cheerful with everyone.


  15. I miss having a dog, but you’re right, they’re a lot of work–essentially a slightly-more-capable child. So Mrs. McCrack doesn’t want you to bring home a dog. Blow her mind and bring home a proddie!


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