Let me start by saying I like dogs. In our condo building, there are lots of dogs. I’m pretty sure they outnumber the cats and they may tie with the number of humans in the building. Someday, I’ll have a dog but not while we live on the fourth floor of a condo building downtown. I know enough about dog ownership to know there’s logistics involved—a dog’s got to go several times a day regardless of the weather. And there’s not a ton of grassy patches in our ‘hood.
Because of those logistics, I’m surprised at the number of city canines I see. Day after day, there they are: dedicated dog owners who get up early, don warm clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, umbrella in hand, and they herd the dog down the stairs and out the front door. They walk the dog a block or two while it sniffs out a satisfactory spot to squat, the owner picks up the remnants, and together the duo walks back home. And much like the Postal Service, this happens in rain, sleet, snow or heat.
I can’t see myself doing that two or three times a day. Every day.
There are some cute, well-behaved dogs in our building, thanks to considerate owners. And then there are some neighbors who think it’s OK (and cute!) to let their dog jump on me while I’m getting the mail. (Hint: Not OK. I don’t know you. I don’t know your dog. Get it off of me.) And then there are others who think it’s OK to let their dog poop where ever it pleases—sidewalk, parking garage—and they don’t pick it up. Note to said owners: This is gross and unsanitary. Pick it up.
Despite all the joy dogs bring into peoples’ lives—wet noses, wagging tails, non-judgmental and unconditional love—for now, I prefer my low-maintenance city kitty. Even if she is secretly, silently judging me and plotting to kill me.
We try to get out as often as we can and see our neighborhood on foot. That’s one of the major perks of living in the city—you actually see your neighborhood and feel its vibe as you meander over to the mexican cantina for a margarita just two blocks away. (Ooh, why isn’t there one in my hand right now?) Bonus: You can always walk home after you’ve had one margarita too many. Here are some of my favorite sights from our last trip round the ‘hood:
When people look up at the far-reaching corners of the concrete ceiling and then look down 14 feet to the dustball-ridden concrete floor, they notice our home doesn’t have the features associated with a typical home. It’s not located in a cul-de-sac. There’s no yard. It doesn’t have wall-to-wall carpet. And there’s no hardwood floors. One of the bedrooms doesn’t have a door—or four walls. Our windows are 10 feet tall and don’t have screens on them. But, despite the industrial characteristics, our home does give a slight nod to traditionalism. We have mini blinds.
Mini blinds aside, here are some of the non-traditional pieces that make up our cozy home.
We once heard a story that our loft building was constructed during Word War I to store weapons and machinery. After that it was probably used as warehouse space. It’s odd to imagine someone driving a forklift around in our living room. Traces of the building’s past still show themselves in the forklift lines painted on the floor or in the pillars wrapped in sheet metal, but to us it’s simply our home.
About this same time three years ago, I was in Paris for my honeymoon. We stayed in the cozy, quaint Hotel Verneuil on the rue de Verneuil. We were just steps away from the Musée d’Orsay, local shops and cafés. Here’s a look at the rue de Verneuil. Our hotel is on the left.
Across the street from our hotel, there was a swath of neatly contained graffiti. There was a lone building that some rogue Parisians tagged, and we couldn’t figure out why just that one building. Not one speckle of spray paint touched any of the adjacent buildings. Why was it so neatly contained? And why was there graffiti along such tidy street? We never knew the answer until three years later.
The photo below hangs in the entry way of our loft. Thinking about our time in Paris three years ago this week, my husband decided to do some digging about the origins of the graffiti. Here’s what he found out: Serge Gainsbourg, a much-loved French singer-songwriter, actor and director, used to live in the building. He died in 1991 and is regarded as one of the most influential popular musicians in the world. Tribute graffiti covers the outer wall of his home on the rue de Verneuil in Paris. His daughter now looks after the home.
The Parisians have embraced the graffiti. To them, it’s a fitting tribute to a beloved and legendary artist. I’m glad to now know why the graffiti is there. Three years later, we were finally ambitious enough to figure it out.
In the depths of the city’s dark street corners, things lurk. And I’m not talking about dead leaves, cigarette butts, or people. There’s a surprising abundance of wildlife in the middle of the metro area. Even when the nearest spot of grass is two blocks over, a small population of wildlife scrapes by on whatever it can scavenge. Here’s what I’ve spotted while living in the city:
Spider. OK, this isn’t that strange. There’s really no hiding from spiders, wherever you live. But what made this particular sighting stunning was the sheer size of the hairy beast. It must’ve been someone’s pet tarantula on the lam.
Raccoon. As we arrived home at a very late (or was it a very early?) hour, a little masked bandit rambled across Broadway, just a block from our loft. It was strange to see it scuttle across the street and then between two skyscrapers—raccoons seem like they’d more of a suburban critter.
Eagles. Our condo has a view of the Missouri River, and it’s not unusual to see bald or golden eagles effortlessly gliding among the clouds on a sunny afternoon, following the river’s path.
Bats. I used to live in a midtown apartment that overlooked a historic cemetery, just minutes from downtown. Every night around dusk, hordes of bats would emerge and devour every bug within sight. It was a pretty spectacular show.
Deer. I have seen a deer downtown. Unfortunately, it was along the side of the interstate and it was no longer having happy deer thoughts.
I’m not sure what’s happening on the rooftop adjacent to our building. After watching a group of about 20 people mill about for a bit, their shirts came off. Of course, that’s when I decided to get out my camera to see if I could get a better look at what was going on. On this crisp Sunday afternoon, I hope everyone up there is keeping warm.