Category Archives: Dumpster Diving

GOODBYE, OLD FRIEND

I experienced a tragedy recently over the Christmas break. This is not unique, nor is it entirely as dramatic as I’m about to make it, but let’s just say Santa took away as much as gave this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it back and set the scene:

FADE IN.

EXT. A QUIET STREET ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE. EARLY MORNING. SPRING.

EVAN, 29, is taking his dog on his morning walk. He is in sweatpants and a hoodie, hair akimbo. He is handsome but not conventionally handsome. Handsome in the way Spencer Tracey would’ve referred to Barbara Stanwyck as handsome. He has sleep in his eyes. He walks slowly though deliberately, as if trying to finish a race with as little enthusiasm as possible. FINN, his dog, SNIFFS the ground as they walk.

Suddenly there is a large CRASH. Evan whips around and sees a potted FIDDLE LEAF FIG strewn about the sidewalk, innards splayed on the curb, and a WOMAN wiping off her hands and retreating back into her brownstone. Evan rushes over, reaches down and cradles the plant’s trunks .

EVAN

(groggy)

What have they done to you my sweet precious child?

With the strength of two underdeveloped six year-olds Evan whisks the fiddle leaf fig up and rushes it back to his apartment. SHRIEKING can be heard. It is faint but high-pitched and definite.

INT. EVAN’S APARTMENT. MOMENTS LATER.

Evan pours soil into an empty planter.

EVAN

Breathe, dammit! BREATHE!

At this point he realizes he’s probably Faye Dunaway-ing this whole scene but he continues anyway. He lifts a watering can and out pours a nourishing stream over the soil and onto the plant’s roots.

EVAN

(in his best Gene Wilder)

LIFE, DO YOU HEAR ME! GIVE MY CREATION LIIIIIIIFE!!!!!

CUT TO:

image_2END SCENE.

Woo boy, that was an extremely histrionic way of saying I found a plant on the street one morning, picked it up and put it in a pot. La-di-da, right?

I will say this though: That fiddle leaf fig was a fucking BE-YOOT. Gorgeous! Even more so since I saw a woman chuck it on the street the morning of garbage day here in New York. After all it had been through I really considered the fact that it lasted all of spring, into summer, well past fall and onto winter an act of Jesus taking the proverbial wheel.

Then winter break came and shattered my great fortune like one of those lollipop hammers in Candy Crush:

image_1It was going so strong! Sure my apartment doesn’t get a lot of DIRECT SUNLIGHT but the only people in Manhattan who get DIRECT SUNLIGHT is (in this order) 1) Donald Trump 2) Sarah Jessica Parker 3) Richard Kind (I know, weird, right?) 4) DeBlasio and 5) Gloria Steinem. THAT’S IT. NO ONE GETS DIRECT SUNLIGHT. And, yes, I was gone for a week but I had a neighbor come in a water it while I was gone. I did everything I was supposed to do! The fact that I was able to keep a fiddle leaf fig–an orphaned fig no less–alive for this long had to have meant something, right?

It meant something alright. It meant my thermostat hadn’t kicked in yet:

imageAlas, the silent killer of the house plant is a slow and steady hiss: The radiator. The bastard! It had gotten so cold while I was gone for Christmas the steam heat in my apartment completely obliterated my precious fig.

I let it go for awhile; its rotting corpse withering before me. I tired to be okay with it, really I did, but the only thing more depressing than a dead house plant is knowing we gave Tom Hanks an Oscar for Forrest Gump, so I took some action and had it replaced:

photoNot what you expected? Well, neither did I, but the local florist on my block had palms in stock and it was palms I got. I could’ve been precious. I could’ve been demanding. I could’ve broken the bank getting a designer house plant that was a littler more trendy, but instead I went for what was cheap and in season. Because you know why? Daddy’s on a budget and these are the realities of life. YES, it makes my apartment look a bit like the safari section of a Ralph Lauren department store and, YES, I’m in danger of some nasty paper cuts, but in the end I have a live, vibrant, green, living, live and LIVING thing in my apartment and it is a sight to behold.

I guess the lesson is this: do what makes you happy as long as it’s within your budget. Fiddle leaf figs, although ‘of the moment’ (hello, Elle Decor, there are other shrubs out there), are also pricey, and if you can’t afford what Richard Mishaan is using in his interiors then don’t sweat it, my friend. A little green can go a long way, no matter what kind of green it may be.

Bring some life into your space and don’t be deterred when it dies. It will be worth the experience and brighten up your day.

BTW: NYC Pigeon Pendant by Three Potato Four. Check them out!

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PATIO UPDATE

My patio and I have a weird relationship.

Private outdoor space in Manhattan is next to non-existent, especially if you’re like me and work hard to stay financially afloat every month. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have it. So lucky, in fact, that I have fallen in love with it. Ass over teakettle in love. But my love has come at a price. Since patios like this are a rare find it’s unlikely, when it comes time to move, I’ll find another one like it, which makes wanting to furnish and make it my own a real challenge. Why pour a bunch of money into lawn chairs and hammocks and canopies and A SLIP-N-SLIDE when in a few year’s time I’ll move and have no use for any of it? It’s a burden I can’t shoulder right now and for that I hate the patio I love. I resent it for being there and myself even more for falling for something I know I can’t have. I am my patio’s jealous mistress.

IMG_3733

Finn shares my wistful feelings about the patio.

Hm. Well, I did the best I could with what I had. I scraped together some chairs from the local hardware store, bought a durable outdoor rug on clearance from One King’s Lane, potted a few succulents and found a small bistro table on the street during garbage day (classy). It was fine but it still didn’t feel like I had imprinted on the space in any meaningful way, so I decided to get to work.

The top of the bistro table had a dark walnut finish. The (I would assume) polyurethane finish had cracked and flaked from years of neglect and the legs were dirty and sad.

First I started by sanding the top down, obliterating the polyurethane coat and wiping out the stain. It’s important to note, whenever you’re sanding a piece of furniture and you don’t know where it came from (or even if you do) WEAR A DUST MASK AND PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR. You don’t want to breathe in any microscopic fibers because you will get chlamydia and die. I started with something coarse, like 40, and once all the coats were sanded and I was left with bare wood I went down to 220, just to smooth everything out. Sand with the grain and remember, Kemosabe, it is a slow, tedious process, that sanding is. If your arms feel like they’re going to pop off at the joint, rot and wither away, you’re doing it right.

I wish I had taken pictures of the whole process, but I’m new to this whole blogging thing and didn’t think about it in advance. I promise I’ll get better as this thing goes on.

Next was a fresh coat of black paint. I went with Behr’s high gloss outdoor paint. It was a primer/sealer all-in-one and since I’m lazy that seemed like the best bet. You can start with a interior matte black but you’ll need to seal it with a top coat, and for what I needed to do it didn’t seem worth it.

IMG_3774

De-lush-us!

The day I was ready to paint it started to rain so I moved the whole operation inside, which just goes to show anyone can do this, even if you don’t have outdoor space. Just make sure your apartment is well ventilated otherwise you’ll start to see dancing elk on your ceiling and you’ll wake up with a wicked hangover.

I let the table dry for a whole day before applying a second coat. After the second coat I let it dry for another day. I wanted to make sure the thing was good and dry and sealed and ready before I threw it out there to brave the elements. Here’s the final result:

photoIt’s not a huge change but for 15 bucks and little elbow grease I couldn’t have asked for more. The whole endeavor was only a few hours of work and it’s made for a classier, more elegant patio space. And it was just enough to assuage the fear I’d be wasting my resources should I move and have to give it all up sooner than expected.