tales of a girl in the city

juillet 21, 2005


My life goes from multi-millionaire to deli-guy in under 60 seconds.

Take my day on Tuesday, for example. We had a meeting at work to discuss our $7.5 million dollar penthouses. I'm the only woman present at the table, and the only person there--aside from the reporter we're speaking with--who doesn't have two comma's in her bank account. All the men are barraging the poor journalist with manly details: measurements, square footage, dates, money. I can see the guy's eyes rolling into the back of his head. What he needs is a story, not a flow chart. And though the floorplans are fantastic, floorplans don't sell newspapers.

The reporter asks a question about the history of the building, and none of the Big Guys know the answer.

"1887," I tell him. It's the first thing I've said; I've been biding my time. "But no one knows what happened to the domes, or why they were removed. It's one of the mysteries of this building, and it's part of what the buyers love."

And with that, the journalist is once again jotting notes in his notebook. What he needs is a story, and stories are my terrain.

To the businessmen at this meeting, these penthouses are an investment, a business transaction, which is why they've been conducting this interview in quantifiable terms. But this isn't about price per square foot, and at first I'm the only person at the table who recognizes that. The people who will read the article, and, more importantly, the people who will ultimately buy these homes, need to know what kind of life $7.5 million dollars can buy you. Forget cast-iron and 14 foot ceilings, this penthouse is built from two things: glamour and envy.

In five minutes, I paint the reporter a picture of both.

When the meeting is over, my boss congratulates me and after he leaves, I congratulate myself. It's been worth it to come in on my day off--well, kind of--but now I'm hungry and ready to take off my fancy shoes and return to flip flops. So I do.

As I walk out the door, my business-presentational self slips from my shoulders, and I'm out on the street. The man on the corner twangs a few notes on his electric guitar and I hum along when I finally recognize the tune. Weaving my way through traffic, I cross the avenue to the deli where I get lunch nearly every day. The door is wide open, and it isn't crowded, thank God, because I can feel my blood sugar plummeting as the adrenaline wears off. I'm already smiling when I see who's behind the counter.

"Andrew!" I shout as I'm walking past the bags of BBQ chips, "How are you?"

"Kathryn! Hello, Kathryn! Where have you been all day?" He's at the stove, flipping someone else's turkey burger or egg-and-cheese.

"So you missed me," I flirt, "but not as much as I've missed you. I suck at cooking Andrew. How come my grilled cheeses never taste like yours?"

He put the whole wheat toast in as soon as he saw me, and we chat about his day off tomorrow while the bread is making its way around the metal track. I ask him if the new guitar-playing street musician is driving him crazy. We decide we can handle him--he's not as bad as some of the people who pretend to play instruments but are, in fact, talent-free. By now he's putting the mustard on my sandwich, and I feel like I did when I was little and at the table, waiting for my mom to cut off the crusts.

"Here is the best sandwich I've made all day," he says as he hands me the package. Warm, still, in its aluminum wrapper, I grin.

"Thank you, Andrew," and I mean it.

I pass my office again on my way to the park. For a second I'm thinking, again, about $7.5 million and what it will buy. Then my stomach rumbles, and I remember what's important.