West Of The Fields

I don’t generally mind signing my name to checks, contracts and the like. I pretend I’m signing an autograph, and let the loops on the B, W, and G (which are the only distinguishable letters in my signature anyway) go wild.

The wee hours of this morning, though, found Abbi and I scribbling our names twenty-six times. Each. In duplicate. Which comes to one hundred and four signatures total (two, come to think of it, for every week of the year).

Abbi and I signed our lease. One hundred and four times.

“It’s official,” I said. “You’re stuck with me.”

I celebrated with a big ol’ cup of coffee, and a day-old Beard Papa cream puff. Mmmmm, for breakfast!

Anyway, our new building, The Westport is located in Manhattan’s tony (kidding) Clinton district (which I prefer to refer to as Hell’s Kitchen). The website describes the building thusly:

Located just steps from Central Park and Columbus Circle, in the heart of New York City, these stunning contemporary apartments offer the sophisticated New Yorker a superb selection of a spacious, high-tech designer homes, luxurious hotel-style services and amenities, condominium-quality features and finishes, plus the convenience of an absolutely unsurpassed walk-to-everything location.

One former neighbor described it a bit differently, “an average New York apartment tower: not architecturally distinctive, just a run-of-the-mill building with a relatively handsome facade.” Which is fair enough. They were throwing up a lot of those brick boxes as Millennium approached, in contrast to the Miami Beach style glass towers en vogue (and absolutely financially out of the question) these days.

Which is fine with me. I just wanted a clean, dry place with a view to eat, watch tv, record some songs, and sleep. So when Abbi and I would walk through a place, she’d be looking under the sink and in the cupboards, while I would walk straight to the windows.

Fact is, the place isn’t much to look at from the outside. But it’s a doorman building (whatever that’s worth) with an elevator (you’re welcome, Dad), a roof deck, and a gym (my buddy, singer/songwriter and hoop dreamer Chris Abad, who lives down the street, was like, “You know they have a basketball court in the basement, right?”).

Either way, we’re in. We move into our south and west facing (get this, Midwest) 800 square foot one bedroom (with walk-in closet and terrace) unit on April 1 (no foolin’).

Funny this is, The Westport is literally across the street from Chris and my very first New York apartment. When we moved here in 1995, the lot was a one-story taxi garage. Years later, shortly after Chris moved out, the garage came down and Related Properties began building The Westport. More than once, I sat on my fire escape and watched the construction. And more than once, said construction woke me up, and prompted Daily Journal entries like this one dated March 22, 2002:

Standing in the Roseland mezzanine looking down on Ryan Adams lurching and jerking beneath the strain of his ego’s creation, I was at once envious and contented: It’s just a few short steps from the Mercury Lounge to Roseland. Is it enough to come close? To know you have the songs, the band, the chops, and the where with all to make it? Or is there a point, ever — Madison Square Garden? Royal Albert Hall? The Grammy Awards? — when it’s close enough to there (wherever there is)? And what’s the cost? Do you burn bright, then burn out? Or keep a slow and steady flame flickering definantly against a steady gale?

Handing out promo CDs (in this case, “Crash Site”) as the exhausted audience filed out into the cold night afterwards felt like a bad episode of VH1’s “Bands on the Run.” One guy yelled “We’re from Texas,” his red leaflets scattered and blowing across the sidewalk. A singer/songwriter stood in the corner with a suitcase of CDs, giving away his dream for free. Bandmates railed about “the competition,” elbowing me out of their way. Like sharks in chum-filled waters, folks snarfed up my messenger bag of CDs. My last one went to an especially assertive — and wasted — older guy in a Bryan Adams “18 ‘Til I Die Tour” t-shirt.

This morning, the sun spills over Hell’s Kitchen, the piledriver slams it’s relentlous, mercilous rhythm, setting its foundation deeper and depper and deeper, one cold hammer blow at a time.

Ends up the pile driving had a raison d’etre: too much bedrock. And ends up other neighbors — like CBS, Sony Music Studios, and The Hit Factory — were equally nonplussed. This explanation from www.wirednewyork.com:

While project teams often face many hurdles in the design and construction of a building, in the case of 500 W. 56th St., it was the site and its logistics that created the toughest task for this project team.

From the beginning, excavation and foundation work ran into rock. Not just a little bit of rock, but a large amount of rock that did not show up in geotechnical information and was therefore unaccounted for in design documents, explained Bob Schwartz, a project executive for Plaza Construction, the project’s New York-based construction manager for this $75 million, 400,000-sq.-ft., 25-story, 371-unit apartment building.

“Pile driving,” added Schwartz, “had to be coordinated with our neighbors, many of whom have television and recording studios. On numerous occasions, we had to interrupt construction so they could record segments for their weekly broadcasts.”

And so, some thirteen years after moving to 447 West 56th Street as an unemployed, single bachelor, I’m moving to 500 West 56th Street as an engaged media executive. I’ll be paying roughly three times the rent of the old place across the street. But I’ll be gaining a large amount of rock.

One can never have too much rock.

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