Smells and the City

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer in the city: the reason I moved to New York.

It feels like I, along with millions of other New Yorkers, waited all winter for summer and it's finally here! But with summer comes all of the things you forget about the warmer months during the winter. For example:

You're walking down a lovely tree and brownstone-lined block on the Upper West Side enjoying a warm afternoon. Perhaps you've purchased an iced coffee and are on your way to the park to sit on a bench with a good book. You're all set for a perfect afternoon when, suddenly, something lands on you-your head, your shoulder, your face! An AC unit from some window above had leaked gross AC water on you! You don't want to admit that the water drop actually felt kind of good in the heat because you feel totally dirty now that this scum water has landed on you. But, there's nothing to be done but continue to the park like nothing happened at all.

Garbage is always disgusting. It piles up on the streets and you have no choice but to walk by it. I live by a high school that has three feet of garbage piled up every morning. Some might argue that this is worse in the winter because sometimes the snow prevents it from being picked up for days, but I think it's much more disgusting in the summer. The heat causes it to rot and I have to hold my breath while I walk past it. The problem is that this garbage is from a building which is under construction so the scaffolding leaves you with limited areas in which to walk and passing people cause you to walk slower so it's nearly impossible to hold your breath the entire time, leaving you with no choice but to inhale the fumes. I always feel so refreshed on my way to the gym on Saturdays because the garbage has been cleared away then.

I love dogs and I'm happy to be living in a city which loves dogs as well. I do not, however, love the way dag urine smells in the hot sun. Everywhere you walk in the city you are stepping over dog pee and the heat causes the smell to amplify significantly. Even worse than the stagnant stench are the hot breezes which blow the fumes in your direction and it seems as though there's no escape!

Perhaps the deadliest of all city stenches is that of B.O. It's particularly bad in crowded areas where tourists linger. Even though I was at one point fascinated by the city (and I still am, I suppose) I don't feel the need to walk in slow zigzags and gawk at everything. This is what holds up sidewalk traffic. It's like the streets of New York are in constant rush hour and all of the stores are traffic accidents. What happens on the freeway where there are accidents? Rubbernecking. Tourists are extreme rubberneckers! It's especially bad when you are in a hurry to get somewhere and someone just stops right in front of you, causing you to run into them, and then they look all offended because they aren't from around here and don't understand that bumping into strangers is an everyday occurrence on the streets of New York. So imagine this: you've just gotten off of work and you're running late to meet a friend downtown. It's hot outside and you're walking down Broadway in Soho, a prime tourist location. You're moving pretty fast until, somehow, you find yourself stuck behind three or four groups of tourists stopping to take pictures, or looking in store windows. No matter how hard you try you can't seem to finagle your way through the masses. But then it hits you: that awful and gag-inducing scent of body odor and your eyes are drawn to the homeless-looking man two people ahead of you. Try as you might, you can't get around them! And you're going to pass out on the sidewalk unless you take another breath but if you do you might pass out from the smell alone! On several occasions I've just had to make a b-line for the street and cross my fingers that I don't get hit by a taxi (which has happened to a friend of mine).

This same example also applies to second hand smoke and being stuck behind annoying smokers.

A Twilight Zone...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

At first glance my apartment seems to be pretty average. I mean, aside from having the sink and shower jammed in a hallway separate from the "toilet room," three different kinds of "hard wood" floors, and no closets to speak of, the apartment is New York normal. At least, I'm assuming.

But lately I've been noticing more and more strange occurrences which are enough to leave you afraid to be alone at night. I'll begin with the less threatening.

For starters, my apartment is not quiet. My room faces a roof top and there are no people to walk by or cars honking outside. But there are strange noises the apartment itself makes. I don't know what it is, but every so often there is a vibrating coming from the toilet room. For those of you who don't know, this is just a tiny room and a toilet. That's it. And it vibrates. It's like some machine somewhere in the building turns on and it vibrates my toilet.

Also, there's my fridge. It rings a bell. It's not like it knows when dinner is ready or anything, it just does it on its own accord. It sounds sort of like a cow bell ringing for five or ten seconds and then it stops. I don't have any idea what that's about. Oh hey! As I sit here writing this it just rang again.

These noises are odd, but I'm used to them now and they don't bother me.

It is only in the past few weeks that really bizarre things have started to happen. I've slept with my window cracked open pretty much since I moved into this apartment, but lately weird events have been taking place.

About a month or so ago I heard a screaming outside of my window. At first I thought it was nothing, this is New York, but when it happened again I had my hand on my phone in case I wanted to call the police. It was a woman, but she was screaming like she was really pissed off about something. This was at about 12:30am. I haven't heard it since.

Three times I've been woken at really odd hours: 2am, 1:30am, 3am, from someone somewhere singing. Sometimes it sounds like a ballad being sung alongside some music playing. Other times its just someone softly singing somewhere. I can't tell if it's a guy or a girl, but they need to cut it out. Or else it's just the ghost who lives on the roof across my window.

The most bizarre occurrence: The water splash. It was around 10:30pm on a Saturday night when I first heard it. Someone was dumping something outside of their window and it was landing on my fire escape! Then I heard someone coughing and I thought, "eaw! Someone's totally throwing up!" I grabbed K to come and listen, but by the time she got into my room, it had stopped. Now, this didn't happen all at once. It was like whoever was dumping liquid out was continually filling up a bucket. I must have heard five or six different splats. Stranger than this, a few weeks later I woke to the sound again! But this time it was a week night and it was 2am in the morning! What the heck are they doing?! I have yet to figure it out.

When I woke the next morning there was a baby blanket hanging on my fire escape. I don't know if it was dropped there or put there by someone, but it was really creepy. Three days later it was gone. I'm pretty worried about having my apartment broken into here; I know four people who have had burglaries in New York. And my window doesn't lock. So you can imagine that I'm a little spooked by this night time activity that seems to resonate right outside my window.

On top of this, the neighbors in the room right above me are incredible noisy all night long. It sounds like they are rolling bowling balls across their floor. K has never heard a thing. I'm not sure if this is because she can sleep through anything, or just has really bad ears.