I had visions of Candace Bushell-whimsy for my first post-college apartment in New York City. It was to be sex with the modern homosexual as I sipped cosmopolitans and thumbed through the racks of haute culture.
But ambition led to an inevitable wake-up call.
Instead of Sex and the City brownstone, I found myself schlepping in a dismally gray, pockmarked railroader in working-class Queens, with light fixtures caked in dust and a homeless cat named Squints who suffered from the mange.
The stairwells reeked of dried dog feces, too. My landlord's 90-year-old mother, bless her heart, stockpiled metallic buckets of the stuff in her kitchen window, letting them bake in the summer sun.
The smell wafted, causing the building to drown in that dry, putrid odor, one that broke my Sex and the City dreams near in two.
After snorting through the muck for weeks, I decided The Health Department of New York City would provide my final comeuppance.
My roommate Kevin advised against it. "Our landlord will go ape-shit," he warned.
But I drudged up Sarah Jessica Parker, thinking that she wouldn't stand for it. I went through with the call.
The next day, Kevin and I woke to a pounding on our front door. It was a ferocious thudding that nearly rattled the cracked glass window out of the paper-thin door. We both knew it was our landlord, Jan Urie.
Kevin shot me a look of "what the hell are we supposed to do?' I shot him a look back of 'I don't know' unbridled terror. We finally decided to reluctantly open the door, finding Jan Urie and her Polish sexagenarian henchman huddled over our stoop.
Jan Urie had an electrical edge about her with a look as if she could spit nails.
"Who called the Health Department? Did you call the Health Department?" she screeched while jabbing her crooked finger in Kevin's gut.
I saddled up behind Jan Urie. It was time to come clean. "You know, I'm actually the one who called the Health Department."
"You?" Jan Urie pounced. "After everything I've done for you including giving you that couch."
Long silence. "First of all, that couch has pee stains on it," I casually reminded her, "secondly, anyone who lets her own mother live in filth is real bitch who
deserves to have the Health Department called on her."
Yes, this exactly wasn't the right thing to say at the moment. Jan Urie let out a howl like a wild banshee and began hurling obscenities my way. "She's calling the police department on you. They're going to arrest you for verbal assault," the henchman taunted.
I slumped over on the couch with pee stains on it. "Kevin, what are we going to do?" The words fell out of my mouth with a quiet exasperation.
Kevin didn't know the answers to that question, either. We did know that police wouldn't arrest me for verbal assault despite Jan Urie's belligerent reassurances that I was in a "Mexican street gang back in Nashville."
A few weeks later, the Health Department ordered Jan Urie to make a few changes around the building, which she grudgingly accepted.We weren't any closer to the Sarah Jessica Parker-ideal, but things were certainly getting better.