Friday, August 03, 2007
The Near Miss
I'm about to live in a condominium again...albeit a very different one: 1) in another city; and 2) in a series of old apartment buildings that went through a "condo conversion." The tale that follows--"The Near Miss"--came out of me during the 2003 Christmas season. Just, because...
THE NEAR MISS
I spent the better part of January of 2002 involved in “construction.” Quite proud of myself, I found myself supervising the installation of the tile floors, the granite backsplash, the painting, and the wood floors in my new condo at
Only the wood floor guy was totally professional – and efficient. But then, again, he was the most boring.
The tiling and painting were turning into one prolonged, intertwined adventure.
Dario – a charmer with a winning smile – had recommended some “painters” to me. They turned out to be his wacky roommates, and their artistic friend. As I perceived them to be gauchos, one and all, they’d had to listen to my tales about my father and his Carlos Gardel worship.
These muchachos were charging me about half of what “professionals” would have. However, they were taking forever. Day after day, they had to wait for the tiling crew to get the key from the concierge, Jack. Jack: Mr. Hidden Bay, in the flesh. This courtly, (not always) unflappable, former hotel owner greeted one and all as if he were welcoming them to his own home. Although he knew we were bending the “rules,” a bit, he looked the other way.
Alas, late one afternoon, I heard a knock on the condo’s door. It was Robert, one of the security guards. “No work after five p.m.,” he sternly informed me. I pouted. He said, “OK, just a little bit longer – but not past six p.m.” I could have hugged him. My motley crew continued to work until they could barely see their hands in front of their faces. After hours, they congregated by their car, and – I believe – drank. Crazy Argentineans, I told myself.
At long last, the work was all finished. Several days before I was scheduled to move in, I entered my condo to admire my handiwork. I tried to close a door. To my horror, I discovered that the doors were too long! The tiles hadn’t interfered with them, but it appeared as if the wood did. I rushed down to the lobby, distraught. “Jack, Jack, what can I do?” Jack merely pointed at Artur, who was working on some lights in the grand foyer, and said, “Ask Artur to help you. He’s a good man.”
Artur – who’s from Uzbekistan – came up to the condo, peered through his glasses with this quizzical half-frown, half-worried look I got to know over the next nine months or so, told me he could do the work on his lunch hour… and gave me a price. He wanted cash. His fee appeared to be reasonable.
He returned later on, used first his own saw (which burned out), then that of a friend (or was it
Over the ensuing months, Artur returned to my condo – time and time again – to help me take care of this or that. I always gave him cash. There was some terrible politicking going on among the unit owners… and, especially, between some of them and the very beleaguered property manager. The meetings of the Condo Association were horror shows. I stayed out of the fray as best I could.
Hidden Bay was getting to me. By April, I realized I couldn’t live with the “pall of the Holocaust” hanging over me. More and more, I was beginning to realize why my mother had shielded me as best she could from her past. Meeting Havi’s grandparents – both
Several weeks later, I went to
Undeterred, I kept searching. Finally, I unearthed a Yizkor (Memorial) Book on
Back in Aventura, I discovered that things at
I wasn’t getting any better, either. I was trying, though. Construction gave way to decoration: I purchased a cherry console and some beautiful wallpaper at Ethan Allen. I had no idea wallpaper was so expensive – it cost more than the actual labor! I was writing, again: a poem about the Centenary of Cuban Independence (in Spanish), and an outfit-by-outfit description of my entire Barbie doll collection. A veritable “fashion show.” I also assisted Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida by interviewing and then writing companion pieces – in Spanish and in English – on one of Miami City Ballet’s prima ballerinas. I needed to get my writing practice wherever I could find it. And – little did I realize it – Carrie Bradshaw was slowly but surely planting a little seed in my mind.
And then I visited my cousin. That was another turning point for me. This one hit hard: I saw my father’s bitterness and my mother’s negativity staring back at me. Deep down, I realized they lay within me, too.
“Love at a Distance” I had equated for a long time with my relationship with my mother. My visit to
Sylvia Maria's and
A year and four months later, I realize I was expounding on both sides of who I was. Fortunately, they’re giving way to who I am.
A near miss? Indeed. I needed to transport my “delicates” from Aventura to
In that wonderful Bahamian lilt of his, Robert had been kind, patient, and understanding with me during nine months. He had never made me pout again. Horace adored him, which I knew – by then – to be the best possible sign of a person’s worth. He took me to the U-Haul rental place at the corner of Biscayne and
“Vans fit in the parking garage,” Robert informed me. So he proceeded to drive the van into the underground lot. We began to hear the grating of metal on metal, but we continued. Finally we came to a halt. We couldn’t move. We were stuck.
Artur appeared as if from nowhere. He was horrified. “What are you trying to do?” The van was wedged right under the system of pipes containing the water that fed the building’s sprinkler valves! One more inch – nay, millimeter – and we could have had five hundred gallons of water, per minute – rushing at us!
He helped us back up, slowly. Very slowly. The enormity of what had almost happened didn’t hit us immediately. Instead, we broke into giggles. Nervous giggles, in retrospect. Outside, on the loading deck, we finally allowed ourselves to breathe.
My “delicates” made it to
I saw Laszlo one last time, during a return visit this past summer. I had spoken with his stepson before I had left
Four months ago, I invited Robert, his lovely young girlfriend, Gerta, and Cristina, another of
I made them veal porkolt. I’m not sure if it was fully to their taste, but I AM sure it was the first time they ever ate Hungarian food four blocks away from Calle Ocho!
I think I’m finally beginning to hit the bull’s eye on a regular basis, Grandpa.
Saturday, December 27, 2003