Sometimes you have a bench. And it’s all yours. And it’s amazing.

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In the American Museum of Natural History, there is a bench.

This is my bench.

(Pay no attention to the photograph above.  That’s not my bench.  My bench is so much more awesome than that bench.)

My bench is the best bench.  It is not a fancy bench, high-backed or elaborately carved. It is not an artsy bench, made of gum wrappers or heart-shaped paper clips.  It is not a famous bench, or an oft-used bench, or even an attractive bench.

But this it is my bench.

It is not my bench in the prosaic sense of ownership.  I do not “own” the bench.  I did not purchase the bench.  I did not carve the bench out of a giant sequoia.  I did not donate a certain amount of money to the museum to have my name engraved on the thing.  I did not put the hulking piece of wood there and arrange it with the objects around it to my liking.  But it is mine, nonetheless.

This is where I write.

Most every day, I take up my notebook and my pen and leave my Manhattan castle.  I ride the underground rails down to the 81st street stop.  I get off the train and enter the museum underground.  After flashing my handy membership card, I wander the museum at leisure for an hour or so. In this hour, I listen to instrumental music and make my way through the halls.  One day, I will be able to say that I have read every word on every plaque in every hall in the place.  

I’m not there yet.

Still, headway is being made, and that is what this wandering hour is for.

After my intellectual appetite is satiated, I head to my bench.  It is in an oft-forgotten, ill-frequented hall, in a boring section that hardly anyone goes to, behind a glass case.  If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t know it was there.  🙂

Unfortunately, I cannot disclose to you, the reader, which bench is mine.  I do this for several reasons:

Reason One: You would go looking for it.  You would agree with me that it’s the best bench in the world and you would go there to write, too.  Then it would be really awkward when I went there one day and found you spread out like you owned the place and I had to punch you in the throat because you stole my bench, you cad.

Reason Two: You would broadcast it.  You would Tweet about it: #bestbenchever.  You would Instagram it with a hazy filter.  You would create a video of you extolling the bench and post it to Vine.  Or you’d tell your friends over brunch: “Hey, I heard about this awesome bench, guys.”  No thank you, sir.  Not gonna let that happen.

Reason Three: I’m incredibly superstitious and I feel like if I tell you it won’t be a good writing spot anymore.  No joke.

Anyway, back to my bench:  it’s glorious.  Out of the way, against the wall, with hardly any foot traffic that happens by, it’s my personal Shangri-La.  Without fail, every time I sit there I am able to write well.  And if not well, then at least prolifically.  

It is there that I have traveled back to 19th-century London.  It is there that I have flown through the air with faeries.  It is there that I have journeyed into a dystopian future, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a horse-drawn carriage, kidnapped a child with a senile elderly woman, shared a first kiss, thrown a punch, and even checked my email.

It’s one of the most precious and exciting places in the world to me right now, and I’m so glad I found it.

Just wanted to share.

🙂

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Sometimes you have a *click click* ssssssssss-steam leak.

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While we were on vacation our apartment was left unattended from 18 December to 11 January.  (Sorry, burglers.  Even if I had told you this before the fact, there really wasn’t much in there to satisfy.)

This was the longest stretch it had been sitting empty in, like, forever.  As least in the four years I’ve lived there.  Needless to say, I was a bit concerned.  Not I’m-going-to-set-up-a-nanny-cam-to-make-sure-everything-is-ok-everyday concerned, but at least I-think-about-it-every-so-often-and-hope-everything-is-ok concerned.

I had left a card for our superintendent (complete with Christmas tip) and let him know we were going to be out of town for that stretch of time, asking him to keep an eye on things and grab our mail if it overflowed.  All seemed well.

The vacation happened.

We come back home (after an exhausting day of traveling, much of which was delayed) at 2am.  We open the door to our apartment and there, in the middle of the kitchen floor, is our window A/C unit.  That was IN the window when we left.  There is the Christmas tree, star akimbo, wearing only half our ornaments.  The rest are on the ground in various pieces.  Curious.

We put down our bags and investigate.  There is no sign of forced entry.  There’s nothing stolen.  There’s nothing broken.  Everything in the apartment is a little sticky.  Everything in the apartment looks like it got wet.  The floors are sticky.  The walls are streaked.  The dishes look like they had dirty water in them at one point.

“There must have been a leak,” we say.  “But why is the A/C moved?  Why did the tree obviously fall?  And why is it not messy?”  One would assume that, if there was a leak, things would be much dirtier and disgusting than they are.  Especially since someone obviously came into our apartment to do something (in theory, fix the leak).  And where did the leak come from?  There’s no origin point in the ceiling or anything.

Confused, we went to bed.

The next day was Sunday, so I couldn’t talk to the super.  It’s his day off.  We cleaned instead.  All the stickiness.  All the warped books.  All the streaks on the walls.  It was so weird.  We couldn’t even ask our cat what had happened because we took her with us!

When I finally caught up with my super, I got the story.  And it all makes sense:

During the deepfreeze that hit the east coast, the heat was cranked up.  We have radiator heat.  The force from the steam must have been so powerful that it popped the cap off the radiator.  Steam billowed into the apartment (for how long, who knows? A day? A week? I shudder at the thought.)  A neighbor saw the steam and thought it was smoke.  They called 911.  The fire department came.  My super couldn’t find the keys to our apartment.  The fire department climbed up the fire escape, busted the A/C out of the window, knocking over the Christmas tree right in front of the window.  

They came in and did whatever needed to happen to fix the radiator, but the place was still moist.  I imagine it was rather like a steam room.  The super and fire department left, closing the door behind them.  The steam could not escape.  Now that it was cooling down in the apartment, it turned to liquid and rained down from the ceiling over everything.  And then we came home at 2am on the 12th of January befuddled to no end.

Thankfully, nothing was damaged, no claims need to be filed.  Some of our books have warped covers, but that’s pretty much it.  Our Fosse-esque steam leak (it’s not really Fosse-esque unless you describe it like this post’s title, but that’s ok) was minor.  All’s well.

Now we just have to keep our eye out for mold!

Good to be home!!  🙂

Sometimes you get lost on an Idaho mountain while snowshoeing.

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Behold the beauty of the western United States. (Click the panorama for a larger picture) Marvel in its magnificence. Kowtow to its comeliness.  This is where I have been for the past week.

Here, in the shadow of the Rockies, I traveled with my girlfriend’s family north into Winter itself and rented a cabin in the wilderness.

(NOTE: It is odd how I left the east coast at a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit only to discover it is now in the negatives!  Got out of there just in time, I’d say.  It hovers in the positive single digits here at its worst.)

On our first full day in rural snow-country, we went snowshoeing.  It was my first time.  Apparently there is usually a lot more snow on the ground than the good six inches under our feet at the trail-head.  This was the lowest elevation on which we would stand today, though, so I was already sufficiently impressed.

After strapping on the odd contraptions and grasping poles in hand, we set off.  After a bit, we came upon this helpful map:

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After studying the trails for a bit, we decided to head right to the summit of the hill and gaze upon nature’s visage.  Just because I’m such a helpful helper, I snapped a picture of it with my iPhone (its only use, since we were well out of cell service).  And we were off!

We made it to the summit and beheld the view (see first picture).  We stopped for a selfie:

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And then we made our way down.  And no, we were not going to simply reverse our snowshoes and retrace our steps.  We were witnesses Gaea’s spendor!  We consulted the iPhone picture (good on me, right?) and mapped a route back to the trailhead.

An hour later, we found ourselves blazing our own trail through up to two feet of snow.  So we backtracked.  Then we found ourselves on a cross-country ski trail.  So we backtracked.  Then we found what we thought was the correct snowshoe trail, but this only made a tiny loop and reconnected with the cross-country ski trail again.  So we had to make a decision.

It was now late afternoon, the sun sitting low in its easy chair on the horizon.  Something must be done.  It was decided we would follow the ski trail.  After all, based on the map (thank you very much), this trail should take us directly to “The Hub,” wherein we first saw the sign and snapped the life-saving picture itself.

(NOTE: I was pretty proud of myself for taking that picture)

The ski trail, however, brought us to a crossroads of ski trails that existed nowhere on the map.

Peril.

After more discourse, one of us discovered he had a bit of cell reception.  He fired up the ol’ iPhone and turned on his compass (thanks, iOS).  South was the direction of choice, because that led back to the trailhead and parking lot.  We turned right and made our way down that ski trail.

After a bit we came to another “hub,” complete with several intersecting ski trails and THIS ONE HAD A MAP!  Huzzah!  Unfortunately, it was a completely different map than the one we had previously seen:

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Perplexed as we were, we decided – dash it all! – we would just follow the ski trail all the way back to “The Hub” (the original), and then follow the actual snowshoe trail back to the trailhead.

Glorious day when we happened upon that original sign with the original map.  Our error, it seemed, lie not with what direction in which we chose to go, but with the fact that the first map we came upon was not specifically a winter map.  It had all sorts of hiking trails on it, too.

Sigh.

Safe and sound, though, we made it back to the cabin, where we could marvel upon the splendor of our cat:

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