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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sweet, sweet decrepitude

I'm not the only one, I'm sure, who feels that autumn is a time of renewal. It's the time when school starts again, and even if we're not in school ourselves or have children in school our bodies retain the rhythm of starting over each fall. The cooler weather sends the lassitudes of summer and vacations away and commands that we return to work.

And yet, with the leaves falling and the inevitable approach of winter fall is a time of decay, a reminder of our mutability. Is it any wonder that the season raises such mixed emotions of home and anticipation and melancholy?

Upon our return to New York I was struck by how crumbing and decrepit our home is, especially after looking at all the shiny, new surfaces of suburban California and Utah. This depressed me at first -- had we really been living this way all along? Our building's hallway smelled of mildew and I noticed, as if for the first time, the peeling paint on our radiators. Why did we find this acceptable? But after a few days the rot grew on me and began to feel familiar once again.

Of course, we got over our romance of antique buildings long ago. We've become disillusioned with this "landmark" building which requires constant and costly maintenence and talk about how our next home will be in new construction (although probably still in Brooklyn). We know an artist -- with family money and real estate smarts -- who lives in a gigantic house nearby. He's left some of the walls and ceilings unfinished, lending them a kind of shabby chic. But this aesthetic only really works in grand spaces; in tiny apartments like ours it looks merely shabby.

Still, this shabbiness is one of the things I missed most while living in California. I missed odd, imperfect surfaces, the funky, the out-of-place. I missed seeing people in old, ripped t-shirts and scuffed shoes, middle-aged punks, children with dirty faces. I missed the freaks. Over the weekend we attended a block party hosted by The Kitchen and Friends of the High Line. While we were there I examined the families, the irresponsible artists who'd gone and had kids, however inadvisable. I felt at home.

Nevertheless, we are doing something about our radiators.


Tania said...

We bought wire brushes & sandpaper to rub down and paint our radiators when we moved in (4 years ago.) Rick said he'd do it. They are still in the home depot bag. I figure, as long as the kids lead tests keep coming back fine, it's low on the priority list!

Hevansrich said...

I love this post! Plus, there is nothing like being in the East during the fall. enjoy it!!

Kate The Great said...

I enjoy the composition of this post, Ace. It's very thought-provoking. It's got the same voice as the stuff over at TGW, and that's one reason why I stick around there.