Home for the Holiday

 My first solo apartment followed a string of four nightmare roommates in four years.

The book publishing company co-worker on the Upper West Side who lurked outside my bedroom door, waiting for me to go to the bathroom so she’d have someone to talk to besides her cat.

The Wisconsonite in Chelsea with the bad nose job who dotted the eyes on her passive-aggressive notes with little bubbles and left them in the “kitchen” that was actually a converted hotel room closet where the oven door didn’t open all the way.

The creepy couple whose rent I turned out to be paying – and then some – at the dark place in Soho that was mostly hallway, with my tiny, padlocked bedroom and its barred window onto an air shaft.

Me in my pre-blonde days with David, my friend
Marcia's boyfriend (now her husband of 
30+ years)
That last one did it. I took Manhattan’s heavy-handed hints and signed a lease on a ground-floor one-bedroom in Astoria, Queens. There I’d have no nut jobs except those I invited in myself.

It was actually easier to get to work from Queens than it had been from that Soho pit. I was employed by an audio magazine on the Upper East Side, writing about autosound and more house-bound stereo equipment.

The main perk of that job, besides the friendships and relationships among the rapidly changing twenty-somethings on staff, was discounts on the products we wrote about. I examined the specs on dozens of turntable-amp-tuner configurations, then picked the prettiest one: a mid-sized yet powerful Harmon-Kardon stack in brushed chrome. I added a pair of speakers I’d heard at the audiophile section of the Consumer Electronics Show, held in the Las Vegas Jockey Club, where I was the only woman roaming the halls except for an occasional hard-working PR "lady."

Marica (on that tweedy couch) strings popcorn
with other partygoers/menial labor. Note the
speaker in the corner.
That December, of 1982, I bought my first Christmas tree. I held my first tree-trimming party, to kickstart an ornament collection that today is filled with Proustian madeleines. I cranked up the Harmon-Kardon and blasted the Blondie. I gave my work friends, who now, almost 40 years later are just my friend-friends, popcorn, cranberries and spools of thread and told them to get to it. We laughed and drank and swapped tales about being yelled at by our crazy publisher.

After everyone had left, I sat alone on the tweedy couch that had come with the place. I turned off the lights and looked at my glowing Christmas tree. It was strung with little white lights I’d picked up at the Woolworth’s near the office. My parents’ Christmas lights were large and brightly colored. I was going my own way.

The H-K played Squeeze and Elvis Costello and the Pretenders. It had small, glowing red and green lights I hadn’t noticed before that night. They blinked “Merry Christmas” and told me I was where I was supposed to be. I was a quarter century old and everything was merry and bright.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this! Wonderful memories. Wonderful friendship. Wonderful work crew! What a crazy FCK that publisher was. :-D


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