Sunday, April 13, 2014


The people who lived below us moved out a couple months ago, our landlord renovated the apartment, and last week new tenants moved in. There are only four apartments in our building, one of which the owner lives in, and one of C’s dearest long-time friends lives across the hall, so the situation is more neighborly than your typical New York building, but still it was surprising when a little over a week ago a small orange envelope slid under our front door with a yellow card inside that read, “Hello neighbor! Just a quick note of introduction and to let you know that we will be moving in this Monday. Apologies in advance for any move-in noise you might endure this week whilst we get settled. Thank you and we look forward to being your neighbor.”

Do you suddenly miss your childhood and a simpler time that may or may not have been simpler but that at least contained birthday cards from your grandmother with brand new five dollar bills in them? My mother, when someone moved in next door to us on Lesley Street on the northeast side of Indianapolis, would take them something, a cake? a casserole? I don’t remember, but something. Why would you not do that when you know full well their pots and pans are not unpacked yet, and they are likely full of apprehension in an unfamiliar place, and the smallest gesture might be all they need to feel welcome?

Last Saturday night, I said to C, “I’m going to make peanut butter cookies tomorrow night and take a plate down to them on Monday. We’ll keep half for ourselves.”

C had come home from work on Friday sick as a dog, with a fever and achey joints. I was sure he had the flu despite the flu shot he got and I didn’t. Our plan for Sunday afternoon was to go out to Jackson Heights in Queens, to scope it out, look at a few apartments, see if it might be a neighborhood we could live in. Apartments listed there looked to be very similar to the ones here in Inwood but quite a bit less expensive. C was still feeling poorly but it was a sunny day so he rallied.

I loved the neighborhood, C did not. I was seduced by lunch at an Indian buffet restaurant which I’m pretty sure is the best Indian food I’ve had in New York, but I’m always saying this or that is the best this or that, so would you trust me? At any rate, it was very good. We have a few good restaurants in our neighborhood but not much variety and no Indian food at all. Jackson Heights is the New York neighborhood for Asian food and that’s a strong draw for me. But I do agree with C that it felt cramped, landlocked, remote. We’re spoiled up here, so close to the great Hudson River and our little patch of primeval forest.

I do love Inwood and I do hate the idea of moving so far from from our dear friends here, to a neighborhood where we don’t know anyone. Anyway, we won’t be ready to seriously think about buying a place for several months, so we have time to mull over staying or going.

When we got home that afternoon, I told C that since we were tired and he was still sick I wasn’t going to make cookies after all, I’d wait and make them later in the week. He looked stricken. “No!” Once you have your heart set on peanut butter cookies …

So I made them. I put about a dozen on a plate and covered it with plastic wrap, the rest in a container for us. Monday night, we’d forgotten that we had tickets to see the preview of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, so we couldn’t take the cookies down to our new neighbors that night. Tuesday we went down and they weren’t there. Or nobody answered the door. Wednesday I had a writing session downtown and was gone all evening. I wasn’t going to give our new neighbors four-day-old cookies, so C and I finished them ourselves. We’d already gone through ours.

Yesterday, Saturday, we had T and his 15-year-old godson up for dinner and games. T’s godson’s birthday was last week, and he’d gotten a new game called Pandemic. It's one of those very complicated strategic games that many people seem to enjoy very much and I can't for the life of me figure out why. I like this game, though, because it's played cooperatively, not competitively, so nobody gets irritated when it's my turn and I say, "Just tell me what I should do."

Since we had evening plans, I wanted to spend the day writing and not cooking. (I’m so close to a first draft of my play -- which is actually the fourth or fifth draft, being a complete overhaul of a play I began writing a couple years ago based on a screenplay I wrote about ten years ago based on a story I wrote about a dozen years ago, but who’s counting. It’s been a complicated story to get down, and the last couple weeks it's all falling together, so I wanted to spend the afternoon with it.) I made a Szechuan beef dish that requires only a bit of prep and then several hours in the slow-cooker.

C decided to make chocolate cookies from the one-bowl baking book I got him for Xmas. They’re super-chocolatey, delicious, and very rich. We'd have them for dessert and then take the rest down to our neighbors, finally. You didn’t ask, but here’s some advice for you. Don’t put a plate of cookies in front of a teenage boy and expect to have leftovers.

I don’t know where the expression, “It’s the thought that counts,” came from. Obviously it’s not. I’ve been thinking about cookies practically non-stop for over two weeks, and our new neighbors are still probably cowering in their cold, stark apartment, far away from everything familiar and reassuring, surrounded by unpacked boxes, wondering why their new neighbors are so unfriendly.