Friday, February 18, 2005

The tower of foil and vending machine sandwiches

Over the last six years or so, I've worked out of town for about three or months of every year. I always enjoyed these times away, living (temporarily) in a new place, free of the Dr. Seussian piles of books and papers that were taking over my New York apartment. It was an opportunity to start from scratch, however briefly.

During one of my sojourns to Minneapolis, the theater I was working for had me staying in a high-rise building, which was a new experience for me. All my New York apartments had been in brownstones, usually in fourth or fifth-floor walkups. In Minneapolis, I was staying on the twenty-eighth floor, in an apartment that was vaguely reminiscent of the one on the Mary Tyler Moore show, when Mary moved out of Phyllis' building.

(A sidenote: I was happy to find on the streets of downtown Minneapolis a statue of Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards ready to toss her hat in the air. It doesn't look so much like Mary Richards as it does a slightly melted grinning bronze zombie, but what can you do.)

The first night that I slept there, I kept hearing a haunting humming or whistling. I finally figured out that it was the sound of the winter wind blowing past the building, which had no tall buildings neighboring it. It contributed to the slightly spooky feeling of isolation that this building had; it felt hollow and deserted.

I knew there had to be other people in this building - at least thirty floors of them. But I never saw anyone else. I wasn't working particularly odd hours; but whenever I came home the lobby was empty, the elevators were empty, the zig-zagging hallways leading to my apartment were empty.

The view was beautiful. I actually looked down at one point and saw a helicopter flying by (it was a medical helicopter on its way to a hospital landing pad.) But the windows let in an ungodly amount of light, especially in the morning, and I couldn't sleep once the sun was up.

I've gotten more sensitive to light as time has gone on; when I first met David I had to confess that I sometimes sleep with a towel wrapped around my head to block out the light. Using little Zsa-Zsa Gabor sleep masks doesn't work for me, as I always claw them off my face during the night. But in the Tower of Blinding Sunlight, even the towel trick wasn't working; once the sun was up, it felt like lightning bolts were shooting into my retinas.

Finally the sleep deprivation started to get to me; I bought several rolls of aluminum foil and started covering the bedroom window. If you wipe the window with water, the foil adheres to the glass as though it had been glued. These windows were huge, so it took a few rolls of foil to sufficiently darken the bedroom. In the mornings, you could feel the solar heat radiating through the foil - and when I was walking outside, I could look up and see my silver window, proudly trailer-trashy among all the others.

This building had a room of vending machines that fascinated me. There were the usual soda machines and snack machines, where you could buy Cokes, chips or cheese crackers. But there was also a Snapple machine, in which the glass bottles, once selected, fell down the length of the display window but somehow never broke. There was a machine which sold bologna and cheese sandwiches, half-pints of milk, and half-dozen boxes of eggs.

Of course, once I saw that, I had to buy vending machine eggs. Once you put your quarters in, a little shelf levitated to the level of the eggs; the machine carefully scooted the box off its perch onto the moving shelf, which then descended to the door in the bottom of the machine.

Once my groceries ran out toward the middle of rehearsals and I had no time to go shopping, I was living on Snapple, peanut butter crackers and vending machine sandwiches.

I would sit in the apartment (where I set out pans of water in every corner to combat the aridity of the building's processed air,) listening to the relentless wind, watching for helicopters and wondering where I would land next.


Blogger Zenchick said...

my GOODNESS you have been like a walking blog for many years, just waiting to be able to express these many posts!!!
(which are FABU, BTW)

12:22 PM  
Blogger David said...

It's funny... I blogged about this exact phenomenon at the time it was going on. I always like multiple impressions of the same event. (I think my take at the time was that my boyfriend was a crazy person, yet very talented.)

12:37 PM  
Blogger jwer said...

Interestingly, now it can be accurately said that Rob's husband is a crazy person...

4:24 PM  

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