Friday, July 18, 2008

There's no place like home -- get me out of here

I've been working out of my summer sublet here in New York the last three days. It's hot, though not oppressively so, but my good German-Italian landlord doesn't believe in air conditioning. So I keep the windows open and get a pretty decent cross-breeze as the landlord promised. So far so good.

(A quick digression here -- It takes me back to the mid-1980s when I was traveling in Italy with my parents. We stopped for the night in Viareggio. Our little hotel was on the main beach drag. But when we asked where the air condition controls were we were told that there were none. Not needed! Here we have the fresh sea air! It was one of those becalmed nights with no breeze, and we roasted. Looking back of course all of this does seem naive of us. Even now, but even more so then, air conditioning is a luxury in most European countries and many of those who can afford it just don't believe in it. I've become a little hardier since then, and unless it is past the low-30s can survive without complaint. After that, I still survive, but might complain a little.)

(Another quick digression -- Americans love air conditioning! Every building has central air conditioning or you see window units, hanging precariously and symmetrically from the window. It's true that NY is a hot city in summer, but it is still remarkable. My windows open out into the central court hard of the building, and for most of the day and night the din of air conditioners is so loud that sounds like I'm next to a runway. On the plus side, it drowns out other city noises.)

So back to my sublet. For the last three days there's a builder (love this word - such a concrete image - better than construction worker) doing something in the courtyard below. I know when he arrives because he starts whistling. Every day it's a different tune, with a fine clear tone and heavy vibrato. But it's the same tune the whole day. I repeat the whole day.

The first day it was fine, because I didn't know the tune. But it was infectious. As the day went on, I began whistling it too. Then it was New York, New York! Still good. Then yesterday, it was Mellow Yellow. I began to get nervous. And then after an hour of whistling it, he began to sing it too! "They call me melllllow yelllow...." And finally this morning, he's on to that tune from the Wizard of Oz.

Can I call 311 to complain? (This is the city complaints hotline.) 911? (Police, fire, medical emergency.) Buy ear plugs? Yesterday I went over to the window and began whistling along. We had some fine counterpoint going for a minute.



**Update: Today he switched tunes -- he's on to "If I were a rich man..." He had better not start singing the "Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum..."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

such a lovely post! for a few minutes I was in NY as well.
re: air conditioning... we've become believers too, but unlike some Americans I've known, we do not like to wear sweatshirts in August (or, by sharp contrast, t-shirts in January).

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