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