Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fled the Country

Last Thursday morning, I heard a knock on my door. It was someone looking for my landlord. Since I didn't know who it was, and I don't like making problems for people, I told the gentleman that my landlord didn't live in the building anymore. When he asked how long ago my landlord left, I decided that being vague was the best route to take. After all, how am I to know who this guy was? So I told him that my landlord had left in the summer and left it at that.

Then this layl Shabbos, I come home to find a 20 page Summons addressed to my landlord et al taped to the wall. The Summons was against not only my landlord, but all his known business associates. I suppose that solved the mystery of why my landlord basically moved in the middle of the night to Israel. More to the point, it explains why he decided not to provide a forwarding address to the Post Office. He continues to have all his mail sent to his old mailbox downstairs, with his father coming by every few weeks to collect it.

As I was coming home motzei Shabbos, my downstairs neighbour was exiting the building carrying the Summons. She said that she wanted to see what the papers said, because (surprise) both she and Basement Lady have been paying rent by depositing money directly into the landlord's bank account. She wanted to see what she might be implicated in. By the next morning, the Summons was taped back on the wall for all to see.

Just when I thought things were "quieting" down around here (she types as Downstairs Boy continues to give a full-blown concert from his bedroom.). If ever there was Big Sigh moment, this could well be it...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I have been trying to track down a poppy pin this past week. In Canada, you see, Canadians really put their heart and soul into commemorating those who sacrificed during all wars, and from now until November 11, they wear a poppy pin on their left lapel.

I hadn't seen such a pin since I came to the States, so I just assumed that such pins weren't available. After all, the tradition is pretty a legacy of our having been part of the British Empire, and since almost everything in American history is basically an attempt to break from British tradition, I didn't question it.

But then it hit me- if wearing a poppy pin is mainly a Commonwealth thing, then shouldn't the Canadian Consulate have pins? It was worth a try. And sure enough, once I managed to bypass the automated system and get a live person at the Consulate, I was told that they do indeed have the pins.

The Consulate is open from 9-1 Mon to Fri. I mean, those are their REAL hours, despite their claim that they're open to 5. So I'm hoping to make it that far in Manhattan in the coming weeks so that I can purchase a pin.

It would make my grandpa, olev hashalom (who was Glaswegian) proud!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Neighbour, Neighbour

I was vacuuming my floors yesterday afternoon when there was knock on my door. It was my downstairs neighbour.

She started off by the conversation by saying "That's why I would never knock (referring to my pre-Rosh Hashanah policy of tapping on the floor when her son was making a racket). This is making a lot of noise; my ceiling is shaking". Interestingly enough, she seemed a bit taken aback by the fact that the noise was caused by a vacuum. So I decided it was an opportune time to educate her about the nature of the building.

I told her also that I tried very hard to be quiet. My point was that I try to be considerate of the fact that what I do may affect them, i.e. I try to be a decent neighbour. But I think she didn't catch that, since she responded that I needn't refrain from doing anything because they're loud.

I think she did take away though how 1. her son's bedroom is below mine, and 2. the floors/walls are paper thin. In short, we live on top of each other, with no privacy. What I found interesting about the "exchange" was that the offense that I committed, in her opinion, was that my knocking was causing her son to feel like he couldn't do whatever he wanted. While I chalked it up to cultural differences, I couldn't help but think "But he can't do whatever he wants. He's a young boy. And he needs structure in his life!".

Anyhow, the incident weighted upon me, as it seemed to me that obviously, despite my lack of knocking since Rosh Hashana, there was lingering resentment on their part. So I figured that the right response was for me to go downstairs and try to clear the air one more time. My first attempt to speak to them en route to shul was unsuccessful - the wife was sleeping. I decided that I would leave shul early to try to speak with her again before heading over to friends for lunch. After all, peace takes precedence over everything, right? B'H', my second attempt was successful: as I came down the stairs, the husband was collecting the mail, and informed me that his wife was up. So ran over to their door and knocked. His wife opened the door, and was thrilled that I had come by. She said that she didn't have anything negative in her heart when she had come by the morning before, and while I wasn't 100% convinced of that had been true at the time, I did think that my coming by rendered that true retroactively.

It was a nice ending to the saga. And, now that we're formally introduced and the air has cleared, I'm hoping that for the duration of our time as neighbours, we'll be able to remain neighbourly and keep the peace, bli ayin hara. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Missed Photo Ops

Friday afternoon, I look out the window onto the backyard and witness a glorious sight. There, curled up all warm and snug on the foam square closest to the playgroup's door, was Big Tabby Cat. It was almost as if he was challenging them, like "What're you going to do NOW?". I was busy cleaning for Shabbos though, and neglected to secure a photo.

Then Shabbos morning I peered out the window to gauge how bad the rain was falling. I began convulsing with laughter. Big Tabby Cat had somehow climbed up onto the roof of the neighbour's garage, which is abuts my landlord's backyard. He sat there all serene, looking out calmly over his kingdom as the rain and wind whipped about.

After his big show over the weekend, when I met him by the garbage bins earlier this evening, I had to stop and see what his reaction would be. How feral is he, I wondered? Would he skitter off like the former backyard cats or was he more used to humans than that?

He was awfully well-behaved, that's for sure. I suppose he felt it below his dignity to do as his predecessors had and rip open the garbage bags to procure food. Instead, he just looked at me, with a sad look. It broke my heart. So after dropping off my groceries, I came down a few minutes later and put out a bowl of milk for him by the corner wall, away from the garbage.

So I guess I'm now officially the Cat Lady for my building. Oh, and since once you feed a cat you're allowed to name him, Big Tabby Cat now has a name: King. :) I'm looking forward to some stellar pics sometime soon.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My New Favourite Day of the Year

After my phone interview this morning, I dashed to Manhattan to jump through hoops for an employment agency (I'm not a fan of having to drag myself into the city for a 10 minute face-to-face in order to be submitted for a position).

That's where the day took a nice nose dive. First, the recruiter had neglected to give me precise directions to her building. Instead, when I arrived at the noted address, I found myself staring at a Starbucks. I walked a little further, consulted my sheet, determine that Starbucks was the right address, then started looking for a dry place to make a phone call. That's when my umbrella broke. There I was, getting pummelled by rain, shoes already squeaky, trying to find that darned building. You can imagine my chagrin when I place the call (and waste yet more money for a pretty much useless exercise) and find out that the address stretches around from the avenue to the street. I have to walk halfway down the block after turning the corner in order to arrive at her location.

By the time I reached her office, I was not in the best of moods. It was bad enough that she had to have me come in despite my having had the interview in the morning, but to give me incomplete directions on a day when it's down pouring? Not cool. I announce myself to the receptionist who then gives me a huge wad of paperwork to fill out. I start to fill out my name, birth date, etc. and then figured the heck with it- why am I providing all this information now? The client hasn't even seen my resume!

The receptionist was displeased, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that she was dressed inappropriately for her position (can we say jean miniskirt and low-cut t-shirt under some sweater thingie?). Naturally though she thought that I was the one who was amiss. Well, maybe she was right. After all, I was declining to complete the sacred paperwork.

The recruiter was only slightly better. I had been told on the phone that I would be meeting both her and the account manager for the position. Of course the account manager had had to step out. More to the point, the recruiter just asked me really basic questions (which I had already answered on the phone) and barely listened to my responses. I refrained from correcting her, since I figured she wouldn't be registering that either.

To console my drowned rat self, I bought a beautiful peach-coloured pashmina. Definitely the highlight of my Manhattan experience today. Because blast it- at 3:30 on a Thursday, the metro was already packed with sardines. When I arrived home though, all the aggravation (and moisture- I was drenched to the skin) melted away. For lo and behold, B'H' for Oct 15- I opened the front door to discover that the heat was on!

Now that's the way to end your day, y'all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty...

This afternoon, surprised that it was the allotted hour and the playgroup/pre-school wasn't yet outside (ok, I'll admit it- I was hopeful), I took a look-sey out the window.

You'll recall that the invasion of the playgroup in June caused the resident outdoor cats to set up shop elsewhere. Imagine my amusement when I peered out just now and saw a Big Cat sitting smack dab in the middle of the foam mat. Perhaps the cooler weather has been causing the cat to seek shelter in the playgroup's slide/cars; kitty cat looked pretty at home.

Then it occurred to me what was about to ensue: how would the kinder, Flatbush natives all and most probably scared of animals as a result, react to Big Cat when they exited the house for their play hour?

I didn't have long to wait. I was clear in the kitchen, which is basically the farthest room from the backyard save the lavatory, when the petrified shrieks met my ears. Boy, do I wish I could've videoed that encounter. I wonder how Mr. Big Cat responded?

Anyhow, what with the change in weather, I'm thinking more of these episodes may be forthcoming. I wonder who will give in first? My money's on Big Cat for now. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Beat Goes On...

Over Yom Tov, while I was kept up way late by Downstairs Boy (i.e., 1:30 AM and 3 AM, respectively), Front Neighbour and her crew seemed to have vacated the premises for the last days. Phew.

Then, as I was walking down the block Shabbos, I saw Block Yenta. She informed me that our landlord had told FN that either she shapes up or ships out. BY seemed to be of the impression that the current vacancy was permanent. However, as I tend to suspend belief where gossip is concerned, I didn't really give the situation too much thought. Sure, the thought of being spared at least one set of crazy, loud neighbours (who smoke excessively to boot) was pleasant. I just didn't believe that my mazel was on the upswing. :)

Sure enough, tonight around 9:30 post-chag, I hear the oh-so familiar sound of the front door opening, followed by thundering footsteps up the stairs and the next apartment door opening then slamming shut. From the voice that I overheard, I could tell that it was Front Door Israeli Guy, aka He Who Told Me To Keep The Front Door Open last Shabbos. Within seconds, they turned on their water full blast- an event announced by a screeching noise that reaches my ears from the very farthest point in the house. As for what the immediate running water was for, that's any one's guess and none of my business. :) What was my business, however, was my hand washing that was waiting for me in the tub. After the allotted hour soaking time was up, I went to rinse out my things.
That hour happened to elapse about 10 minutes after the said screeching noise commenced.

Now, perhaps I need to pause here and mention that in Canada, we're taught to conserve water. Specifically, we're taught to turn off the water at intervals. For example, when soaping up your dishes, don't leave the water running; turn off the water and then turn it back on when ready to rinse. I practise this conservationist etiquette pretty much exclusively. So I went to rinse out my hand washing, and did my usual routine of running the cold water for 10 seconds, turning it off for a minute or so, then turning the water back on.
It's also worth mentioning that one of the nice features of my building (perhaps the only one at this point, lol), is that when you run the water in your unit, it does not affect the water pressure or temperature in other units. Indeed, I have often been in the shower when FN et al turns on the water full-blast, and I have B'H' suffered no ill effects.

Imagine my horror when FDIG starts banging on my bathroom wall so hard that my shower head (which is an old-school pipe running into the wall) starts to shake. He repeats the pounding, even after I have turned off the water and am simply swishing around my stuff in the basin. I resisted the urge to turn the hot water on full-blast though. It would've served him right.

In short, I was appalled by his behaviour, and given that such is the normal state of things, am planning to have a conversation with my landlord once he is back next week. After all, if this dude isn't a paying tenant... Hopefully the said conversation will remind him that as a guest in the building, some common courtesy is in order. And if he can't manage to be civil (as demonstrated by his behaviour to date), then perhaps he should simply not be allowed on the premises.

At least, here's hoping so! Until I move, natch.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where Do I Join?

In America, you basically have two viable political parties. If you're conservative, you typically vote Republican and if you're more to the left, you vote Democrat.

Having grown up in a country with at least 7 viable parties and most elections resulting in a minority government, I tended to vote for parties that were more to the centre of the political spectrum. That said, I am currently loving PM Stephen Harper. Yes, he's a Red Tory, but it's his leadership style that I adore. How can you not love a man who manages to remain the Polite Canadian while telling it like it is?

Here's the latest example of that style I'm loving. I think it's high time that I form the Brooklyn chapter of the RHSH (Right Honourable Stephen Harper) fan club.

Blast It, Bother, Phooey

My doctor's visit this evening was a total waste of time. The doctor (who came highly recommended) refused to give me any information until he runs x-rays/tests. And wouldn't you know it- they had just run out of the x-ray film he needed to do the x-rays right before my appointment.

So my schlepp out to BP only netted me the debiting of my co-pay from my bank account and several scripts. I even tried to find out something by reading the coded receipt he had me give to the medical assistant. Just my luck- he had only coded for what I had indicated on my medical history sheets.

Blast it. This guy really knows how to pull the Return Visit fast one. Highly recommended? Not by me!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

B9 Me!

This evening I took my very first trip on the Brooklyn bus. EVER. I will of course remind everyone that until the car accident, I had a car. And after the accident, I've limited my use of the MTA to commuting work/interviews, aka going to Manhattan. Local shopping I do on foot. In short, why would I take the bus?

But tonight I had a doctor's appointment in Boro Park, so the bus it was. I will admit to being nervous when I started out: Will I hold up the line onto the bus by not finding the card swipe/swiping incorrectly? Would I be able to move down the aisle or would it be packed like sardines? Would the ride be smooth?

I was most relieved to discover that every city on the east coast of North America seems to use the same bus manufacturer. So when I ascended the steps and went to pay, I was grateful to see the familiar Metrocard graphic indicating the Metrocard slot and method for inserting your card. Then, while the front was so crowded I could barely squeeze by after saying "Excuse me" a bazillion times, I got to the centre of the bus and found it quite comfortable while standing. A few blocks later I managed to get a seat. The trip was relatively quick. The bus was much cleaner than the metro and certainly quieter. The bus driver announced the stops clearly yet without that deafening volume they use on the metro. The ride was even even interesting sociologically: the teenagers and their texting/iPod combo were priceless, and I managed to interact with various nationalities that you don't see in Flatbush. So, my first bus ride in Brooklyn was a pleasant experience overall.

Was the ride bumpy? Yes. Were the seats comfortable? No, but given my experience with the MTA's metro, I wasn't expecting them to be. Honestly, the only serious complaint I had was my wait time. Both going to and coming from Borough Park, I had to watch 3 buses service the opposite side of the street while waiting for my bus to arrive. The schedule consequently seemed more like a joke than an actual representation of service.

Still, I took the Brooklyn bus...and am glad I did. Now I have an alternate way to get around locally, and in the winter (if I'm still in NYC) that alternative could prove really handy. Go B9!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

On The First Day of Sukkot, Hashem Gave to Me...

The first days were quite eventful. Unfortunately, no communal sukkah was erected (although Front Neighbour Girl invited me to stop by whenever. More on that later.); instead there's a little colony of sukkahs on the property. Imagine one sukkah filled with Israelis, then multiply it. That, my friends, should tip you off to the tenor that my chag has taken thus far.
  • All the meals I ate out were fabu, as were the sukkahs in which we ate. The only thing I can't get used to in New York is the sechach rolls people use. I'm used to the pine branches we used back in Canada. Also, I give a hearty "Todah Hashem" for the fact that my outfit lasted until after the last meal- during which the child seated next to me ate a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes. Suffice it to say, I spent Sunday night picking the seeds off my hat and clothing. It was pretty hilarious.
  • Shabbos I was unable to sleep due to the enthusiasm of my co-building dwellers in their respective sukkahs. Saturday night, desperate for some sleep, I dragged my mattress into the living room and finally fell asleep. When I awoke in the early morning (4 AM), I dragged the mattress back in- and didn't feel too guilty when the frame thudded against the floor. I considered it karma.
  • Shabbos afternoon I was leaving to go visit friends (since I was unable to take my Shabbos nap) when I had a run-in with an Israeli. As I was coming down the stairs, I saw a young man whom I had never seen before with a big ring of keys. He opened the door and as we met in the hallway spoke to me. He asked if I could keep the downstairs door open on Shabbos, because they got locked out for 4 hours and had to call a locksmith. I found the whole thing ridiculous and told him that I have my reasons for keeping the door closed. That's when he went Israeli on me and asked me why. I was like, unbelievable! So I figured I could act Israeli too, and told him straight out that my security is my business and that he should do like me and carry his key with him (aka use a bendel dude!). But seriously, who the heck is he to be telling me to keep the door open???
  • Sunday morning, I got up bright and early, eager to get to shul in time to see Hallel. Even though my favourite fall chag is Simchat Torah (aka Shemini Atzeret Part II), I must admit that seeing the whole men's section waving their lulavs and etrogim gets me teary-eyed. It's just a beautiful spectacle. But wouldn't you know it? My stomach is generally unhappy over the chagim, and I was feeling so lousy that I got to shul right after Hallel. I was totally bummed out, and consoled myself by remembering that at least I got there in time for Bircat HaKohanim and Hoshanos.
  • Sunday afternoon Downstairs Kid was in good form as I was trying to take a mini-nap. So I did a polite "tap-tap" on the floor. I hear a fist banging my floor. So I figure it's the kid playing, and tap again. Bang-bang again. Repeat. Within 10 seconds my front door is being banged on. HARD. At first I just ignore it, but then I figure I may as well take the wind out of whomever's sails it is. It's Downstairs Guitar Guy, and he's all furious that his kid is quiet, and why don't I go downstairs to ask them to be quiet. I explained that I banged because I wasn't dressed. Like "Hello"- isn't that obvious by virtue of the fact that I'm not opening the door? Anyhow, it was heated conversation (read: Israeli) and I told him that we weren't going to reach an agreement so let's just drop it. I subsequently went downstairs and spoke to him about the situation though, in an attempt to make peace. After all, it is before Hoshana Rabbah. The sad part is that I had tried to call them before Rosh Hashana to wish them a Chag Sameach. Ah well.
  • Block Yenta saw me on the street and called out to me "I need to talk to you". Suffice it say that despite my general gratitude to her for filling me in on what's going on with/in the building, I was in no mood for new info. Anyway, the past week, Front Neighbour Girl has had her father visiting from Israel and to say father and daughter don't get along would be an understatement. Then again, my apartment has been smoke-free since Daddy Dearest arrived, so I assume part of the negativity is due to FNG's refraining from smoking. Block Yenta then informed me that there have been a couple of incidents involving FNG and one of her regular guests. Now I certainly don't know what's the truth or not, and I'm avoiding believing any of what Block Yenta told me until what's what becomes evident. However, if what I heard is to be believed, things are indeed in a very bad state in the building. Colour me Not Amused.

Chol HaMoed has pretty much followed suit. I'm hoping that things will be on the upturn by Friday. At least, I sure hope so!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Where's the Heat?

Can someone refresh my memory regarding the heat by-law? Is it when the temperature is below 50 F at night and/or after October 15 that the landlord must provide heat?

All I know is that it's dang freezing in my sad little abode. (And please refrain from the "But you're Canadian" comments!) Back in my fair land (and it is beautiful folks, I should post some pics...), landlords get serious penalties for denying heat. After all, there it's a matter of life or death.

Anyhow, a reminder would be most appreciated. This way I know what to state when I call my landlord's brother, aka my landlord's substitute in lieu of both my landlord and his father being in Israel for Sukkot...Aside from "Just turn the heat on already", that is. :)