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An Ode to the Greatest Grandma Couch in NYC

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When I moved to NYC in 2005, I came only with one of those plastic storage totes, crammed full of clothes and duct taped closed so it wouldn’t explode in the plane’s cargo hold. My boyfriend, Todd, already lived here in an NYU dorm, so when we moved into our first apartment together, we had absolutely no furniture. We sat on black beanbag chairs at first, but I eventually got antsy and found us the most beautiful modern Victorian couch on craigslist, cream-colored with a brocade pattern, carved wooden arms and legs. A guy had inherited his grandmother’s apartment when she’d died (probably on the couch) and wanted to get rid of it, so I paid him (or likely Todd’s dad did) $150 for the pleasure of owning it for the next eight years.

That couch saw a lot during its lifetime with me. It moved from my first studio in Chelsea to my two-bedroom in Park Slope to my two-bedroom in Williamsburg to my two-bedroom in Downtown Brooklyn. It never went with anything else I owned, and basically everyone but me thought it was hideous. But it was my grandma couch, and I loved it. Here’s a list of all of the people I can think of who shared special times with that couch, in chronological order:

• My friend Lauren, who was in a college writing class with me in Ohio, visited me basically the moment the couch came to my apartment and slept on it for a week while forcing me to go see Broadway shows that I couldn’t have cared less about. But she also introduced to me to H&M.

• My friend Mike visited from Ohio and was approximately twice as tall as my couch was. And also twice as big as that studio apartment was in general.

• My blogfriend Amy came to visit from Missouri, told me Life of Pi was her favourite book before I’d ever even heard of it, and got asked for directions by 9 out of 10 people who saw her on the streets because she looked so much more confident visiting here for one day than I did living here for years.

• My BFF 4-ever and 4-lyfe, Tracey, drove ten hours in the rain to visit me from Ohio. When she arrived, the streets were lined with garbage, and the air smelled like wet garbage, and she was horrified that I lived in this ugly, smelly place, but she loved my couch.

• My sister, Joanie, and my cousin, Bethany, visited from Kentucky and Ohio to accompany me to NYC tourist sites when it was 2 degrees outside. Bethany would later buy me an air mattress, but nothing would replace the couch for friends-sleeping-over purposes.

• I moved to Williamsburg with my co-worker, Wen, in late 2006. He didn’t buy a mattress for the first six months we lived together and slept on my couch instead. The couch was never the same. It also had to watch as I painted the apartment pink and light blue one weekend and then Wen repainted it dark red and navy another weekend behind my back.

• My blogfriend Aaron came and slept on the couch from Australia basically just to let Kamran buy him a $14 sundae at Serendipity.

• My parents visited in the fall so my dad could see what all of the hullabaloo was about NYC, so I slept on the couch and gave them my bed. My dad wasn’t so impressed with NYC. But I’m sure he loved the couch.

• My original NYC BFF, Beth, slept on the couch for two weeks after leaving NYC for a while in order to be able to drive her Alfa Romeo, realizing she missed midnight bowling with me too much, and coming back. She brought golf clubs with her to an island without a single golf course and with apartments the size of bathrooms elsewhere, which about sums up Beth perfectly.

• In 2010, I moved in with my co-worker/friend Jack, and we immediately Oxicleaned the thing, which was somewhat successful in that parts of the couch were bright, sparkling white, and parts of the couch were still infused with Wen oils for life. Jack slept on the couch for a month when the air-conditioner in his bedroom broke all the same.

• My friend Kim came over to watch all of season 1 of “Game of Thrones” with Jack and me before season 2 began and then spent the night. And then woke up at 8 the next morning and put on a nautical-print sundress for brunch, because she is a true New Yorker. She’s since spent what adds up to days of her life there, talking to me about boys and our superior taste in literature and watching movies usually centered around teenage killing sprees.

• Jack’s best friend Chris often stays up half the night playing Halo on Jack’s XBox and then falls asleep on the couch. Jack has special sheets for him. Aww.

• My blogfriends Ellie & Kinard visited for Ellie’s birthday and let me take them to my very favourite restaurant and didn’t complain about the very un-New-York thick-crust artichoke pizza I fed them. I assume that one of them slept on the couch but don’t actually know, since they woke up hours before me every day to do totally weird things like read books and do yoga.

• My former co-worker from Ohio and one-half of the one of the many marriages I take credit for making happen, Sarah, came to visit me while very pregnant and adorable. When she went to sleep one night on the couch, I dumbly closed the swing lock so no one could break in on her and cut the baby out of her for black market sale, and then Jack came home at 3 a.m., and she had to waddle to my bedroom door and tell me that someone was knocking outside.

• My cousin, Ethan, brother of Bethany of the famed air mattress, came to visit with his pregnant wife, Katherine, who slept on the couch. They made BBQ and vegetables for my friends and me using their famed homemade BBQ sauce, and we all drooled on everything and each other because we hadn’t had a home-cooked meal in so long, and they were horrified.

So, that couch and I share a lot of memories. I’ve recognized for a while that it’s seen better days and that a normal person with a job and self-respect probably would’ve replaced it long ago. But it had just lasted so long that I didn’t want to cut its life short unnaturally.

Well, on New Year’s Eve, I was hanging out at home with my roommate/landlord/former co-worker/friend, Jack, and he decided he wanted to sit next to me and plopped down on the couch without thinking. The crack of wood echoed throughout our cavernous 900 square feet, and we flipped the thing over to find that one of the major crossbeams had fractured. NBD, we thought, the sides were still holding everything together well enough, although we noticed that two of the side pegs doing the heavy lifting had also broken off. I argued that we should let the couch live on until it just completely fell apart, but Jack started casually browsing the Internet for fancy new leather and metal mid-century wannabes all the same. And then we happened to fall in love with one of them, and he bought it.

And then two hours later, when I pushed myself off of the couch to go to bed, it straight up broke off at the sides and sent us plunging to the ground. The middle leg splayed out, splinters flew, and the life of my couch tragically ended just in time for a new one to take its place.

R.I.P. Grandma Couch, R.I.P.

Broken Couch

A Day in the Life

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The Kamran’s Last Week in NYC edition:

• Tuesday, we went to dinner at Louro, which is owned by a chef friend of ours and can be summed up in three words: asparagus ice cream:

• Wednesday, we went to Soba Totto for their lunch special that includes a rice dish, a bowl of hot or cold soba, pickles, and salad. The food is deliiiiicious, but the best part is seeing how the different people around you eat their soba. There are the people who use their spoon to gather some broth and then use their chopsticks to add some noodles to the spoon. There are the people who eat some noodles and then slurp some broth. And then there are these young Asian dudes in crisp black suits who don’t talk for an entire hour while they bury their heads in their bowls.

• Thursday, we went to Mission Chinese Food. It’s originally from San Francisco but opened here a few months ago to long lines and hugely hyped reviews. IT IS AMAZING. Wait for my review.

• I have no idea what we did Friday night–probably watched “Shark Tank”, knowing us–but I can tell you that we ate Cambodian sandwiches from Num Pang. They were out of the corn-on-the-cob we like with the spicy mayo and the coconut and, you know, lightly apologized for it. They probably didn’t realize that was MY LAST TIME EATING THAT CORN EVER. Unless I take a half-an-hour subway ride. For corn.

• Saturday afternoon, we met our friends Anthony, Jeff, Nik, and Marko at a sushi buffet called IchiUmi for Kamran’s farewell lunch. (My roommate, Jack, was out of town. I know you’re all in love with him and would have noticed his conspicuous absence.) We ate something like 240 plates of food. Everything tasted better than ever, as everything had all month long. Kamran tried on Anthony’s sunglasses to prepare him for his new life in sunnier climates:

I had asked Jeff to help me move my things from Kamran’s apartment to mine, partly because he’s strong and partly because he’s nice and mostly because he has a car. But over the course of the lunch, everyone else was somehow convinced to help me out (well, except for Marko, who was getting ready to defend his dissertation and thought getting a PhD was more important than schlepping my underwear across town), so I suddenly had a gaggle of movers and Anthony’s car, too. And thank god, because what I thought were a few boxes turned out to be several boxes, a dresser, a nightstand, two ottomans, and a zillion bags stuffed with shoes and toiletries at the last minute. We hadn’t told the building about my move in the hope of avoiding having to get permission from anyone and to avoid the $50/hour fee they charge to use the freight elevator and just walk out the front doors with all of my stuff. But of course the doorman saw through us the moment we asked to borrow one of the rolling carts and told us we needed to use the freight. So we loaded everything onto the carts and rang the bell for the freight elevator, and the porter stepped off and said we had to write him a check for $50 before we could go any further. So Kamran paid $50 for a trip on an elevator for me. And what a ride it was.

Kamran rode with Anthony and Nik to give directions, and I rode with Jeff and was of course the one who got us lost. Never trust a person who drives a car twice a year. One of my biggest annoyances living here is cab drivers who ask me how to get to my apartment. Um, take the 4 train to Brooklyn? I wouldn’t be in a cab if I had a car, buddy! Now do your job. Anthony and Nik went to get coffee while they were waiting for Jeff and me to arrive, and then Kamran had to watch their illegally-parked car, and Jeff had to watch his illegally-parked car, so I was left to bring everything up to my apartment on my own. But of course the doorman at my building was kind and helpful, because it’s Brooklyn.

Anthony and Jeff left in their illegally-parked cars while Kamran and Nik came up to my apartment so we could order banh mi and watch the new Louis C.K. stand-up special and hang out on our roof deck

watching the sun set:

When we got back to Kamran’s apartment that night, it was so weird to look around and not see any of my stuff. When we first started dating, I would haul a bag of clothes from my apartment to his every time I stayed over. Eventually I was staying over so often that he bought me a dresser. And then I filled the dresser so full that I started stacking my clothes on a table beside it. And then another table next to that. And then a chair. I had my laptop there. The scrapbook I was working on. All of my camera gear. My birth certificate. That’s how moved-in I was. So it was strange to be at his apartment and have clothes for the next three days and nothing else. We watched movies and ate one of my favourite meals, the quesadilla enorme from Baby Bo’s Cantina:

• Sunday, we took a walk to Beekman, the secret park we discovered a couple of years ago and have been walking to all of the weekends. There are waterfront parks near me in Brooklyn–much bigger, nicer ones, actually–but this one was ours. I got pooped on by a bird as I was passing under a tree, which is the only thing that could’ve logically happened my last time there with Kamran:

• Monday morning, I took the bus from Kamran’s house to work for the last time. I got the most perfect seat in the front by the window and thought about how it was my last ride on the bus and was nostalgic for a moment until I remembered that I would be going home on the bus, too. So I stopped looking out the window and enjoying the sights of 2nd Avenue and read my book instead. But then Kamran asked me to meet him in the Flatiron after work so we could return his cable box together right off the 6 train, so I didn’t get to ride the bus home for the last time. I’m sure I’ll get over it. Someday.

His movers had come that afternoon and taken what seemed like almost everything away, but “almost everything” still left, like four hours of packing and cleaning for us. I took his plant, and he posed with the gigantic Scooby-Doo that took up half of his 275-square-foot apartment for seven years but that he wouldn’t throw out (nor give to Jeff, who really wanted it) because he swore he was going to someday mail it to the ex-girlfriend he had won it with in Atlantic City. YET ANOTHER UNKEPT PROMISE COURTESY OF KAMRAN. j/k, j/k.

The first pictures of Kamran I saw before our first date included Scoob creepily looking over his shoulder in his old Princeton apartment. But we still left him by the freight elevator to be tossed out with the day’s leftovers. JUST LIKE OUR LOVE.

We ordered our favourite Greek dinner from The Famous Chicken Place,

and had to, like, actually sit and talk to each other with the cable box already being gone. For the six and a half years we were together, his kitchen table was the same as his computer desk (studio living!), but with his computer gone, we talked about eating at the table for the first time ever. And then we ate on the couch like always. He texted the guy from his floor he’d made friends with to see if he wanted to say goodbye to us, and I was hoping to run into the girl I had casually talked to in the hallway for two years and had been meaning to become friends with but hadn’t, but the guy didn’t text back, and I didn’t run into the girl and didn’t even really know which apartment was hers, so that was that.

We made a trip to the lobby with as much as we could carry, and then I waited downstairs while he went up for another load, and then he waited downstairs while I went up for the last load. I took a picture of the apartment completely empty (I have to do a separate blog post on that because it’s so hilarious/sad) and a picture of the closed door for the last time, and you can faintly see the yellow stain on it that may or may not have been pee but that we didn’t clean off in all of those six and a half years,

and then we went to the doorman to leave our keys. He asked who they were being left for, and Kamran said, “Oh, um, the landlady, I guess. I’m moving out.” And the doorman was like, “Oh, really? Well, sad to see you go. Good luck with your new place!” And we were like, “Yeah, thanks for calling up to us every night when the delivery guy arrived with our dinner.” And that was to be the extent of our goodbye to the building.

It felt pretty strange to be leaving so unceremoniously after so much time there. I mean, it’s not like we were heavily involved in the goings-on of Tudor City–there were art shows and concerts in the park and building committees that we weren’t remotely a part of–but it’s also not like we didn’t know people there. People talked to us. People recognized us by our sweater vests (him) and our winter capes (me). People ran into us in the street and laughed about how funny it was to see each other in regular clothes outside of the building’s gym. We had wildly creative nicknames for people–The Tudor Lady (whose greyhound was named Tudor, after the neighborhood), The Crazy Lady (who stood outside with her mangy old bulldog and danced to music only she could hear)–and people would ask Kamran how his wife was and me how my husband was (awwwww (or barf, depending)). I kind of wanted some sort of send-off from Stacey with the red hair or the woman at the end of the hallway who always passed me in the morning in her yoga gear or even the asshole neighbor who would literally run into his apartment to avoid having to be polite to us if we nearly passed in the hall after he had taken his single empty can of Pepsi to the trash room. But no one was waiting for us with banners and balloons, so we silently carried our things to the curb and waited for a cab to take us to my apartment.

But then a moment later, the girl from the hallway came out to smoke, and we exchanged e-mail addresses. And then another moment after that, the guy Kamran had made friends with walked up, munching on a sandwich. We all stood around chatting and talking about future plans, and then the guy helped us load our stuff into the cab that pulled up. Well, first the cab driver said he wouldn’t take us and drove off. But then he stopped down the block, reversed, and popped his trunk open. CAB DRIVERS. We finally got to my apartment close to midnight. I think it was Kamran’s, like, fifth time there.

• Tuesday, Kamran came to work to say goodbye to all of my co-workers who actually like him better than me, and then we went back to my apartment to do laundry and eat one last banh mi. When we sat down to eat, I accidentally knocked his bubble tea to the ground, and it went eeeeeverywhere. Kamran, who used to act like I was the least-responsible person in the world whenever I spilled anything at his apartment, calmed me down and did all of the work of cleaning it up. And then we shared my bubble tea while watching “Deadliest Catch”, which we started watching together a few years ago and seemed appropriately epic for our end times. We cried and cried and then went to bed and cried and then held hands and cried and I told him not to say anything nice to me the next morning so I wouldn’t cry before work.

• Wednesday, I left for work knowing that I’d come home to an empty apartment. I hugged Kamran and closed my eyes for a second to enjoy it but then was like, “Shit! Shit! Don’t cry!” So I stopped thinking about it, kissed him, and left. It sucked.

Weekend Update

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Kamran was in California all last week being a lawyer, so I spent the week at my apartment, stretched diagonally across my entire bed and eating as many hot dogs as I wanted. My roommate/landlord/co-worker/friend, Jack, and I watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (super-entertaining) and Prometheus (ridiculous (abortion machine!) but fun to watch) on his giant 3-D TV, and then I watched The Great Gatsby (teeeeerrible and so, so sweaty) and Martha Marcy May Marlene (amaaaaazing both in acting and cinematography and creepy as hell) in my immense free time.

Saturday night, my friend Ash had a bunch of us over for Early Thanksgiving at her apartment in Queens that has a kitchen big enough to cook a multi-course dinner in. The menu included gougeres, clam chowder, turkey slathered in herbs, shepherd’s pie, cornbread and chorizo stuffing, Brussels sprouts salad, pumpkin Gorgonzola flan, and caramelized apple spice cake decorated with marzipan pumpkins she had formed and painted herself. It was insane. She is insane.

pumpkin Gorgonzola flan

Yesterday, Kamran came back to town, and his friend Gary from back home came to stay with him, and we all went to Jean-Georges for a tasting menu. We’d had a hard time figuring out the best place to take a tasting menu virgin, so I’d made a reservation for J-G and put us on the waiting list for Per Se and Torrisi. J-G called on Saturday afternoon to confirm the reservation, and then, literally two minutes later, Per Se called to offer us a spot. FOILED! Poor Gary only got his first tasting from a three-Michelin-starred restaurant and not the BEST three-Michelin-starred restaurant.

And tonight, I’m going home to Ohio for Thanksgiving. Pretty good livin’.

Easter Candy Memories

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My best friend, Tracey called me up on Friday and mentioned her trip to Ohio chocolatier Anthony-Thomas to buy her family’s traditional Easter candy. They don’t celebrate the resurrection of Jesus but sure appreciate the Melt-A-Way Mints God created on the 3rd day.

That got us talking about Easter candy and how we should import Cadbury Creme Eggs from overseas since they got smaller over here a few years ago, and I brought up an even larger egg I remember from my childhood. It was like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg except huge. Huge! Big enough to last me for weeks, while my little sister gobbled hers down before the Easter ham even got cold and then watched me enviously from across our shared bedroom as I allowed myself mere tastes of mine per day.

Tracey said, “Oh, you mean the one from Anthony-Thomas with your name written on it in icing?”


It turns out that the year my mom was dying, my dad asked Tracey’s mom to buy the usual giant peanut butter egg for my sister and me to take one thing off his plate; apparently she actually brings it up from time to time on Easter as one of the Ett family traditions. Here I’ve been digging around my brain for the past 10 years, trying to remember where that thing could’ve come from, and my best friend could’ve told me at any time.

And get this–when I Amazoned for the Anthony-Thomas egg, I instead found this other giant peanut butter egg, which serendipitously already has my name written on it.

There’s no such thing as coincidence.

The Time the Biggest Jerk on the Bus Called Me Fat

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I told you yesterday about my recent resolution to be Holly Happypants on the bus so that I might lead others to good behavior by my example. Well, everything was going swimmingly on the bus the next day, with me not blowing up at a high school kid who was propping his elbow up on my shoulder to help him hang onto the strap, me getting a really comfortable seat one stop after I got on, and the bus being generally uncrowded. By the time we got to Wall Street, there were only a handful of people left, so no one made anything of it when a man began making the longest and most obnoxious phone call.

He was clearly talking to a customer service representative at a company that deals in batteries and started the conversation by angrily demanding to know if they had his particular battery in stock, though he couldn’t actually name the battery. “The one MY radio takes,” he said, as if that was any help. He gave the person his name and phone number and told him or her that his radio looks like an iPod. And then he began berating the person, getting increasingly more aggressive:

“I’m so tired of you people not doing your jobs.”
“Do you have the battery or not?”
“I know YOU don’t know, so go find someone else who does.”
“What am I supposed to do–call back every day until you get the battery in?”
“You’re not educated enough for me to talk to.”
“Give me your supervisor.”
“I want to talk to your supervisor!”

Everything was repeated twice for emphasis and said in the loudest and rudest of voices in the sort of accent that Angelina from “Jersey Shore” had. It was unbearable and almost incredible that a human could talk to another human that way, but we were almost at my stop, and I had that whole pact with myself about trying extra hard to behave myself on public transportation, so I grabbed a nutrition bar from my bag and popped a chunk of it in my mouth to keep myself otherwise occupied.

Just then, the bus stopped at the traffic light before the turn into the Staten Island Ferry station, and people in the back started yelling. The bus has to wait at that light every single day, so there shouldn’t have been a problem, but that day was strange for some reason. Traffic had been inching along all the way down from 42nd Street, the sky was overcast with rain, and this guy had been literally yelling into his phone–the air was thick with tension.

Someone in the back was saying, “The light is green! THE LIGHT IS GREEN! GO, bus driver!” Hilariously, I realized it was the same lady from the day before who complimented my hair and whom I was glad I hadn’t been rude to before despite her totally deserving it.

People began yelling back at her: “The light’s red!” “Check your eyes!” “Be quiet if you don’t know what’s going on!” It was complete chaos, as if everything everyone had wanted to say to one another all morning and every morning was spewing out now.

Someone said, “Some people around here need to get driver’s licenses!”, and I believe she was talking to the woman who didn’t know the difference between a red and green light, but the guy who had been making the obnoxious phone call screamed out, “YEAH! ALL THESE BUS DRIVERS SUUUUUUUUUUCK!”

And at that point, it was just too much for me, and I said, “Oh, my gosh, shut up!” That’s not really a phrase I use, but it had been building up in me for ten minutes, and it came out without warning.

I had been talking into the ether, but I guess Obnoxious Phone Call Guy took it personally and said to me, “YOU shut up!”

Read the super-juicy ending here and get so mad both for me and at me!