When I first moved to New York, I floated a somewhat Carrie-Bradshaw-esque theory of urban life that has held up remarkably well in the years since I proposed it, even though that was six minutes after I graduated from college at a time I thought the Spice Girls would outlast that young Spears upstart. The theory went that there was a pie chart of human experience — “karmas,” as I faux-spiritually called them — split into three distinct sections: the job karma, the housing karma, and the work karma. The three karmas always add up to 100%, but the ratios within that pie are apt to change weekly, even daily. I know it sounds a bit life-as-USA-Today-infographic, but I swear it works.
For two years, I lived in a palace I wouldn’t have deserved to live in as the Sultan of Brunei, much less as a twenty-three year-old writer battling the strong, choppy headwinds of the New York City real estate market. It was owned by a friend of my roommate’s family, and I vowed upon moving in that leaving that apartment meant I was leaving New York, which turned out to be the case. It was beautiful. It was wood. Two of my best friends still live there. They’re getting married. It was an apartment so pretty it made you fall in love.
For the first year I lived in that apartment, I had a killer place and a shitty job. Then another shitty job. Then temping. I went on exactly zero dates.
(January 2000) Apartment Karma: 100%. Job Karma: 0%. Relationship Karma: 0%.
You’d think suddenly acquiring mice in one’s Palace Of Park Slope would be a bad thing, I’ll bet. And at one time, I would have been inclined to very strongly agree with you. Having braved the inevitable nasty bugs this city inflicts upon even its most privileged inhabitants, I always thought mice wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, they were warm-blooded. They had tails. They also had the capability to be animated cartoon characters. In my imagination, they were even kind of cute. Y’know. Like pets.
No. No, they weren’t like pets. They weren’t like pets at all. They were more like fucking vermin, and they were coming in through the fireplace, through the bedroom walls, through the kitchen cabinets, through a hole behind the stove. They made their restroom lodgings in a bowl filled with decorative rice and flowers we could no longer leave where horrified visitors could see it. I cried. I begged the exterminator to hurry the hell up. I slept with the lights on. With my eyes open. Under a blanket of traps. On the roof. Of a nearby hotel. The very same month, I was hired full-time and was temporarily set for life in a job I loved. I still couldn’t get a date.
(October 2000) Apartment Karma: 30%. Job Karma: 70%. Relationship Karma: 0%.
I moved to LA and then back to New York and began a string of unfortunate apartment searches that ended with me in places less pretty, more expensive, in worse areas, and with less light than the place I had just left. Work was dwindling, and then I became employed by a fire-breathing monster. I went on some horrible dates, but hell, at least it kept that karma from statistical fucking null set for a while. Thanks, Los Angeles.
(January 2002) Apartment Karma: 49%. Job Karma: 1%. Relationship Karma:50%.
The musical took off (May 2003) and then stopped (um, right now). I was living in the middle of nowhere (October 2003) but living alone. I had my heart inflated (July 2002) and subsequently broken (December 2002). Better to have loved and lost.
(2003, all) Apartment Karma: 10-90%. Job Karma: 10-90%. Relationship Karma: 10-90%. But always a cumulative 100%.
Now I’m back in the only neighborhood I could ever picture myself living in as long as I’m in New York. It’s the place my brother lived in when he was in New York and it’s just totally fabulous. In April, I’ll need to find a roommate. At least that means I can count on some play.
Damn. If it’s that Carrie-Bradshaw-esque, maybe this entry needs a more appropriate ending:
All of which led me to thinking…can New Yorkers really have their pie and eat it, too?