“I want my life to be a sitcom,” said I at a tender age. That’s right, I didn’t want be in a drama like Dallas or Dynasty. Instead, I yearned for the roar of audience laughter after every mishap.
Growing up, I watched too much TV. Nothing brought me more joy than taking a trip back to the 50s and 60s via Nick at Nite. The Munsters, I dream of Jeannie, I love Lucy, Bewitched, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke show, this was my most favorite TV schedule. If it were past my bedtime, I’d record the episodes. Like any good re-run aficionado, I’d watch the episodes over and over and over again.
As an adult, I always found humor in the most unexpected places. By my late twenties, I had moved to a most 1950’s/60’s American kind of setting. There were manicured lawns, families with baby strollers, housing, which lacked character and plenty of old people. This most old fashioned setting was in the heart of New York City.
I lived in Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village. A cluster of redbrick high rises, which covered Manhattan’s East Side from 14th Street to 23rd Street & along First Avenue. The neighborhood provided a quiet paradise in the shadow of the city’s beating drums. As I walked in the eerie darkness with only streetlights and the glow of television sets from apartment windows, 60’s music accompanied my stroll.
The lively music reminded me, “oh yes, I am living in my own sitcom.” My neighborhood would fit perfectly into the setting of any show from the yesteryear with its old school Americana feel. I closed my eyes and pictured my opening theme song.
The montage would include the following:
-Skipping out of my apartment building and into Stuy Town’s parkland.
-Accidentally dropping my groceries and laughing about it
-Skipping down 14th Street
-Throwing my barret up in the air
-Turning off the lights of my bedroom, as the glitter of the Chrysler building, substitutes as a nightlight
Everything was happy in my retro sitcom kinda life, until someone switched the channel. “We’re getting priced out of this building,” said my roommate in a panic. That’s right, our rent was raised so high, we both had to move out. I got nervous, the Twilight Zone theme played. “No, no I want my life to be like an episode of I Love Lucy,” said I.
Actually a trip to the Twilight Zone would be more fun than apartment hunting in Manhattan. I started looking for an apartment and decided to search in Harlem, where cheap rent and dreams come true. In the midst of gritty Seventh Avenue, I met with the realtor and stepped into an ordinary walk up building. I felt like Jack staring up at a huge bean stock.
I am going from an elevator building to a walk-up? I reached, the fifth floor (or the top of the beans stock). The realtor opened the door to a little piece of heaven. There it was, a marvelous studio with plenty of light and charm. I fell in love and immediately put in an application. A week later, I signed the lease. It was my first apartment on my very own.
Soon my life in Peter Cooper Village/Stuy Town became a spinoff sitcom, sort of like Rhoda or Maude (spinoffs of the Mary Tyler Moore Show & All in the family). I didn’t have a T.V. in my new apartment; hence things were needed to strategically liven up the place. Seeing owls have always put me in a merry mood. An epiphany hit me, “oh I shall lovingly decorate my apartment with owls,” said I.
My modest Manhattan dwelling, soon morphed itself into “le petite chateau de owls.” I bought an owl statue and an owl painting, but one unexpected item delighted me the most. Perched on a tree, against a barren violet sky were two adorable owls. They adorned the mat of my bathroom and welcomed me to the royal throne each morning (toilet). I nicknamed them Lucy & Ethel, since they looked almost mischievous on a tree, staring into the outer space of nowhere.
Quickly, Harlem became home. My life still had many humorous elements. The new setting was more inspiring than thirty minutes worth of laughter. Living on a gritty street, the pretty brownstone blocks bursting with quirk and an arty edge made life like a cool Wes Anderson film.