September 08, 2006

Apartment: Office

central nerve center
Every few years I get a hankering to photograph my living space in intricate detail, especially when I'm living alone like I am now. I've captured my apartment in photographs about four times previously, in different apartments, and those photographic records are kept in my physical photo albums. I think this is the first time I've detailed my apartment electronically, and since my housekeeper Emma just cleaned a couple of days ago, I thought I'd share it online. Because I figured that I spend most of my time at my computer, in the "office area" of my one-bedroom apartment in SoHo, Manhattan, New York, NY, it seemed like a good idea to start there. So here's a wide shot of my office area. It's incredible how much time I spend sitting there connected to various I/O devices and now how many functions the computer serves.

where's Mabel?
The only way I can play music in my apartment is through my computer. Most of my communication is done through IM chat or email now. I'm watching more and more video clips online, and I get all my daily news through websites. I shop for groceries, books, music, shoes, clothes, and toiletries on the Internet and also use it to pay all my bills. I play games for hours on my computer. I surf habitually. And of course I cruise and pick up guys online in various chat rooms, and also download all my porn and watch it and masturbate to it in front of the computer. Of my electronic items, only my phone (which I use less and less) and my TV are not always connected to my computer.

from the kitchen
I used to smoke in front of the computer, too, and so it still seems strangely clean to me without the ashtray, box of Marlboro Ultra Light Menthols, and white flakes of ash everywhere. I recently passed the 20-month mark of not having a single cigarette, after nearly 15 years of smoking a pack a day. I miss smoking, but I am learning to enjoy breathing.

where's Gladys?
The feng shui in the hallway leading to the office area is iffy, and I've heard dissenting opinions about my setup. On one hand, the tenents of feng shui suggest that you should always be able to see the entrance door in clear line of sight, which I can. However, the dissent comes in when you consider the flow. Some proponents believe that open flow is the most important thing in setting up an apartment, while others think that it's good to make a pathway winding, to confuse evil spirits who apparently enjoy traveling in straight lines. Of course I considered the feng shui long after I had all my furniture in my apartment -- while I was putting it together I mostly just wanted it all to fit somehow in this tiny space.

a grubby yet comfortable chair
Some guests who have used my keyboard complain that it's difficult to sit in the chair and see your hands when you type because there's not enough space to sit back so that the under-desk drawer slides out far enough. I can touch-type without looking at my fingers at all, though, so it doesn't bother me. Sometimes I have trouble with typing numbers correctly, but that's par for the course with me and numbers. The mouse is sitting on a tray with a gel wrist pad, which is extremely comfortable and has never given me any strain, even during marathon gaming sessions. And by marathon, I mean 30 hours in a row.

view while seated at desk
The photograph that serves as my desktop wallpaper is a shot I took while walking down along Hudson River Park in the Spring about two years ago. I love this photo because I can see lots of detail in it -- the Statue of Liberty, a helicopter, a red flag on Ellis Island, the shipping cranes in New Jersey, the sailboat on the river, all bisected so neatly by that old-fashioned New York streetlamp. I've stared at this photo for hours, especially when baked and listening to music.

yes or no?
Keeping me company on my desk is this small brown bobblehead squirrel, whose head glides smoothly and easily. I can use it like a Magic 8-Ball or something similar -- if I have a question, I can just shake the desk a little and the squirrel will either nod yes or shake its head no and sometimes that's as good of an answer as I need at that moment.

front of filing cabinet
The desk and chair have served me well, but the file cabinet was a bad purchase that I still haven't improved. Accidentally, I bought a cabinet that wasn't set up for hanging files, and so now my files, which were at one time obsessively organized, are shoved into the cabinet drawers all higgledy-piggledy. I bought metal rods that form a framework that can be inserted into the drawers and make the thing into a hanging file cabinet, but I haven't done that yet. And now my files are about five years out of organization and the sheer size of the project of reorganizing it seems beyond the scope of anything I could accomplish in a weekend. So I haven't done anything about it yet.

side of filing cabinet
I love the concept of magnetic poetry, but really, once I've fiddled with the words for awhile, I have a tendency to let them sit for months and I generally enjoy the random interactions rather than hunting for words that work well together in any coherent kind of sentence. The other magnets have been collected over the years -- lots of emergency numbers, pizza parlor and restaurant ads, and various other promotional magnets. One of the big pictures up on top is of my brother and myself at a wedding and the other is of myself and my friend Lisa at our high school prom. On top of the filing cabinet is much computer detritus: old CD-Roms, game packages, disks, etc., along with some active files -- mostly unfinished writing projects in folders.

main bookshelf
This is my office bookshelf, which is the second thing any visitor hits when they enter my apartment. (The first thing is the litterbox on the floor.) I have three more giant bookshelves in my bedroom, but this bookshelf serves as the public face of my reading taste -- these are the shelves that I use to show off my eclectic interests and range of discrimination. Also, my collection of cartoon books and graphic novels is stored out here, along with the most recent of the books that I've written (you can see my Follow Your Heart books in the next picture).

top shelves
The top shelf has many of my favorite books, but also serves as a rough photo gallery. All of these are pictures of myself with family -- my cousin Meg, my mother, my niece Madelyn and nephew George. Along the edge are various meaningful tiny items that it pleases me to look upon often: shells and seeds and small toys or things I've found on the street. Also there's Donkey, which was a gift from DreamWorks after I completed a 21-book publishing program that tied-into the movie Shrek 2. On top of the bookshelf are breakable items, as this is one of the few display spots in my apartment where the cats cannot reach. A lot of the glass objects up there are gifts from relatives or inherited items that I want to keep safe. There are a lot of gargoyles, too, since my first novel was called The Queen of the Gargoyles and so now some people (particularly my grandmother) send me small gargoyle statues with some frequency.

melted Ganesh
Also on top of the bookshelf is one of my favorite possessions: a statue of Ganesh that my brother Rob made in Ceramics in college and gave to me for Christmas years ago. There had been trouble in the kiln. Either it wasn't hot enough or something went wrong with the glaze, but Ganesh melted and became the warped, pinkish remnant you see now. That blackish-gray thing on Ganesh's head was intended to be a satellite dish, supposedly. I love this statue, even if it was attacked by one of the gargoyles on the same Christmas moment I'd unwrapped them both and broke one of Ganesh's arms off. You can't really tell, though, thanks to the miracle of Crazy Glue. I keep that gargoyle distant atop the bookshelf, since it and Ganesh have never gotten along since the arm-breaking incident.

Above my desk hang a few pictures, the biggest of which I just think of as Drool Guy. I've had Drool Guy since college, and he's hung above my computer in every place I've lived, acting as a muse of sorts, drooling ideas down on me. Way back at NYU in 1988, my friend Jamie Scandal and I were hanging out watching 120 Minutes in the student lounge, and Drool Guy was the project she was working on. Her art teacher had given her the assignment of imitating a famous painter's style, and she'd picked Roy Lichtenstein, who remains one of my absolute favorite painters. At first, the drool area was supposed to be brown like chewing tobacco, but Jamie didn't have a brown marker. So she left it white and it could be spit or cum or something even more unsavory. Some people have commented that it is not certain whether the person in the picture is male or female, but I've always thought Drool Guy was male. It also pleases me that the picture bothers my mother so very much.

mushroom $
This is a printout of a ballpoint pen drawing my brother Rob rendered in obsessive detail so that it actually looks like engraving close up. I adore this picture, not least because of the intricacy and delicacy of the linework for an image that basically is a joke -- a dollar bill folded to create a mushroom (an extremely phallic one) out of George Washington's head on the dollar bill. It cracks me up almost as much as the detail strikes me with awe.

fretty plower
This is a big favorite of mine, too -- a gorgeous print of a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph called White Longstem Flower. I love its warm colors and coldly precise delicacy.

wish I were there right now
My Aunt Pat took this photograph of me when I was about nine years old. It's on the porch of a big, beautiful house my grandmother rented for several Augusts in Westhampton Beach, and that long couch I'm on was crazily comfortable, especially since it rocked back and forth on runners. There are three books around me on that couch -- the Mad Magazine I'm reading on the porch floorboards, a book of clarinet music from when I knew how to play clarinet, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle, which is still one of my favorite middle-grade novels. I particularly like that I'm blowing a bubblegum bubble, too . . . it would be another 10 years before I replaced that habit with smoking. This photo really captures me in my childhood -- always reading quietly.

And now here I am in my office area on 9/8/06 at 2AM, in my pajamas, typing this post.

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