I get an apartment closing date of October 8, 2003. Bad news, as this means negotiating with the bank to extend the loan commitment for two days. On the other hand, good news – enough time to get the place painted so I can move in a good couple of weeks before the marathon, which is on Sunday, November 2. But no. Because – well, this is New York, right?
On the walk-through inspection before closing I notice for the first time something very curious indeed: there are no lights in most of the apartment (including the living room, dining room and bedroom). You read that right: no lights. Not in the ceiling, not on the walls. Nowhere. Zippo. Nada. But there are lights in the kitchen, bathroom and inside the closets. Go figure. Apparently – and I suspect a lamp sellers’ conspiracy here - this is not uncommon in post-war buildings in New York.
However, being from a country where you flick a switch on the wall and the light turns on (a novel idea, that), I know that lamps are not for me. Which is most unfortunate, as light installation is very expensive and such a messy job (we’re talking jackhammers ripping open concrete ceilings here) that it can’t be done later after the painting. Timetable for moving in starts to compress.
Henceforth follows a crazy few days of learning about light installation (“track lighting”, “ceiling channeling” etc), getting quotes and making multiple calls to the building management company’s repairs persons to get the required approval. (Why do you need approval to get work done in your own apartment? Well, you know.) Finally, the electricians go in. Despite what the building’s written rules say (no contractors making noise outside 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays) I am told that, no, it’s 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Then the electrician calls me on Friday to say that his men have to stop at 2.30 p.m. Fridays. Timing now looking very tight indeed.
One night, after noshing on healthy carbo-laden brown rice and vegetables at my local Japanese/Chinese, I get a fortune cookie message saying “This is a great day to handle those real estate matters!” (God: would you, just for once, stop picking on me and piss off, if that’s OK with you.)
Three weeks out from Marathon Day, I run my last pre-marathon half marathon – this time on Staten Island (think New York’s Stewart Island, but more people and less scenic). Things going great – running much faster than I did at Philly – and then, déjà vu, identical food reactions to last week’s 20 miler. Stop during mile 8, then mile 9. Culprit not the local Italian after all, but rather the instant oatmeal in both pre-run breakfasts. Mental note: avoid that poison on November 2.
Two weeks out from Marathon Day, I sprain my achilles tendon again. Frantic calls to podiatrist to reinstate my NSAID drug addiction.
Meanwhile, back at the new apartment: for some reason, the plasterer and painter, who do not make noise, are also subject to the hours rules – which the building gestapo strictly enforce. Becomes apparent that painting will not be finished by Friday October 31, 2003 (which astute readers will recall is the day the lease on my rental apartment expires and some 48 hours before the marathon). Painter tells me I can’t move in then. More frantic calls – this time to find a hotel room. But to no avail, as everything’s booked up for marathon weekend.
Running coach’s advice: in the week before the marathon, get lots of early nights and don’t have any stress in your life. Ha bloody ha. At least one thing goes right: I arrive home on the Monday to find the pizza shop shut with a notice that they’re closed through Wednesday for renovations. Good, I think, it’ll be quiet for once. But no, I spend a whole evening listening to hammering and powersaws, and finally after 9 p.m. go downstairs to try to negotiate a stop time, which they don’t honor so I end up trying to fall asleep to the sound of a powersaw. (Very astute readers will have seen the irony here: the reason I am still in the rental is because my contractors can only work on days of the week beginning with “T” and then only between the hours of 10.57 a.m. and 11.24 a.m.)