Posted in The New York Story


In 1992, I was living in a 720 square foot apartment in a prime neighborhood, paying $400 a month in rent, all utilities included.  Well, not electric, which I found out the hard way, but everything else was paid.  My experience in apartment hunting consisted of visiting several complexes with my mother, hoping on the back of a golf cart, and being squired around fabulously furnished apartments by overly tanned, too-thin women in coral colored lipstick, with huge, honking fake nails done in French manicures, and long, over-sprayed hair, wearing miniskirts and scuffed pumps.  Obviously, I was paying as much attention to the salesgirls as the apartments. 

At the one complex I really loved, the deal breaker was when the elderly wisp of a sales woman (the only sales staff I had seen over the age of 23), was telling us about how secure the complex and apartments were.  To demonstrate, she shouldered the door.  The frame cracked and splintered, and before I could say another word my mother had said, “No thank you,” had me by the arm and was walking me away.

Ultimately, I found my ceiling to floor mirrored 1/1/wwd unit, signed the papers and started moving in the next morning.  No fuss.  So imagine my surprise at, first of all, the size and state of New York City real estate, and then the costs related to renting, and the trauma that can be apartment hunting in that city.

Not all of my visit with Isabella was eventful.  I did spend a lot of time napping, or painting my nails and toenails Revlon’s Raven Red, listening to music, and trying out new-to-me restaurants, but the apartment hunt was an adventure.  Using my hotel room at the Paramount as a home base (and happily sharing the cost of staying there because the girl was no mooch) Isabella and I embarked on a quest.

I learned about doorman apartments, walk-ups, cold water flats, basement rooms, and went into neighborhoods that make perfect backdrops for current day nightmares.  I came out of the shower one day–the shower!  How have I forgotten to tell you about the bathwater?

Detour from the apartment.

My first night in the Paramount, Isabella had left me alone.  I was gross and sweaty from the day’s adventure, so I started running a bath, happily expecting to soak away my grime in some sweet smelling somethingorother.  I brushed my teeth at the modern, artistically lit sink, feeling a wash of calm. 

I decided I had overreacted about Isabella’s self-description.  I made all kinds of fond excuses for her.  Since retrieving my luggage, we had eaten dinner at the hotel and she had gone (presumably to wherever she had been staying prior to my arrival), leaving me to adjust to the time zone and freshen up.  I was happy with where I had landed, and my vacation was looking up.

I glanced over at the tub and did a double take.  Horror!  The tub wasn’t clean!

I shut off the water quickly, and fished out the plug to let the tub drain, then washed my hands up to my elbow.  I mean that bathwater was brown.  It looked like a creek water, if you’ve ever gotten a container full of that for your tadpoles.  Who knew what had been in that tub.

When it was empty, I took a towel to wipe it down.  The towel came back clean.  I was perplexed.  Maybe the rinse had been all it needed?  Shrugging, I started to fill the tub again.  I walked into the bedroom and watched a little tv, then went back into the bathroom.  Horror!  The tub was dirty!

I did this three times before it occurred to me that there might be a bigger problem.  I filled the sink.  Same thing.  Brown water.  The pipes were dirty!

I called the front desk and explained my situation as sweetly as I could.  After all, it was a nice hotel and I didn’t want to embarrass them about the issue.  I just wanted them to move me into a room with clean pipes.

There was giggling.  I was confused.  I was also a little narrow.  It was important for me to have a bath, I didn’t understand why it was funny.

“I’m so sorry,” the girl stifled her laughter.  “This must be your first visit to The City.  It isn’t the pipes.  It is the water.”

I brayed like Kenneth Parcell having a donkey fit.  “The water?!  The water is brown?”

I’m sure what she heard was, “Heehaw!  Tha waawtah?  Tha waawtah is broawn?!  Heehaw!”

“Yes.  I can assure you that the pipes are clean, the tub is clean, and that the water is supposed to be that color.”

“But waawtah isunht broawn?”

“In New York it is.”

I was dismayed.  She assured me that I could still get clean in dirty water.  I have no idea what that poor girl thought of the moron on the phone with her, but I’m sure she added it to a long list of ridiculous hotel conversations she’d had.  Unhappy, but fairly certain this was going nowhere, I thanked her for her trouble and hung up.

I drew a fourth bath and stood frowning at the tub as the water filled it.  I did take a glass and fill it from the tap and shook my head.  Brown.  Maybe that’s why New Yorkers were such angry people?  They had to drink brown water.

I finally decided that the water couldn’t be any dirtier than I was, and I got into it.  Later, when I crawled into bed, I fully expected to find Lane-sized stains on the sheets the next day.  I didn’t.  I also didn’t take another bath and opted for showers instead.  If I couldn’t see the water concentrated in one place, I could pretend it wasn’t like bathing in the Chatahoochie River.

Isabella got a good laugh out of that.  She also got a laugh out of my amazement that some of the bathrooms in the apartments she was viewing were basically closets with a toilet and a shower head, and a drain in the middle of the floor.  Not like a shower off to the side, either.  The shower head would be facing the toilet an arms-length away on the opposite wall, with a drain in the floor between the two.  I was beginning to appreciate Texas.  We might have talked funny and not been very glamorous, but we had different spaces for showering and peeing, and our water ran clear.

But I was saying that I came out of the shower one day and Isabella said, “I’ve found it!  I found what I want.  Let’s go see it.”

“It” was really gorgeous by any standard.  It was tiny, just 400 square feet, and it was located above the Pink Pussycat, a porno boutique, but it had nearly floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street, and beautiful french doors separating the hardwood living room from the wee bedroom.  The height of the ceilings made the space seem cavernous, and the gaping maw of a fireplace that took up most of the living room wall added to the illusion.  The bathroom was as small as the head in a cruiseship cabin, and the kitchen was only about two feet bigger, but the location was fantastic (down the block from the Record Runner and across from a great Greek restaurant), and the price was right.  Only $1000 a month!

I’m pretty sure Isabella got tired of my Jessica Simpson styled, “Oh mah gaaaaawd!” gaping at the difference in size and price of our domiciles.  I’m still laughing about it, twenty years later.  In fact, twenty years later, with Amy living in Manhattan, I still shake my head at the differences.

Apartment found, now it was time for her to spring the next surprise.  “Okay, so now I’ve got to go get my roommate.”


“I need to go home and get my roommate.  You’ll love her.  Her name’s [we’ll call her Jo] and she works for [record store].  She can get you all the free records you want.”

“Where is she?” I wondered.  How far were we going?

“She’s in D.C.”


“Yeah, we’ll take the train down and stay with my parents, then we’ll drive back up with Jo.  Unless you want to stay here alone?”

My money was being eaten away by the longer than expected hotel stay, but I couldn’t fathom spending a night in the new apartment alone.  There was a homeless guy who lived on the grate in front of it.  He kind of scared me.  And also, the door had thirty locks on it.  That had to mean something bad.

I agreed to take the train down to D.C., beginning what would be a surreal 48 hours that included drugs (mine were all over the counter), driving, New Jersey, the Limelight, an attempted mugging, and so much Shakespeare’s Sister that I would have punched someone in the mouth for suggesting that we ever listen to them.

Posted in The New York Story

Pen Pals Should Come With a Warning

Some nights when I am in the bathtub, my mind starts to wander back to things I would just as soon forget.  I am SUCH a weirdo.  I have done some truly ridiculous, embarrassing, dangerous things.  I’m not going to tell you about some of them (yet) because I am still too embarrassed to put them in print.  However, the fact that I have considered it means that eventually, it will all end up on my blog.

But here is a story until then.

Once upon a time, there was a 16-year-old named Lane.

It was 1987, and there were no internets.  Al Gore was still working on that.  There were no web forums nor chat rooms, no fan pages nor official websites.  If a girl wanted to meet other fans of David Bowie, or Duran Duran, or Sigue Sigue Sputnik, or Strawberry Switchblade, she had only a few sets of recourse.  She could keep an eye out for familiar doodles on other people’s Trapper Keepers, hang out at the Sound Warehouse, try to get to the concerts, or, she could put an ad in Smash Hits (the imported version) and ask for a penpal.

I did all of these.  The latter I did without telling my parents, so imagine their surprise when mail started showing up addressed to “Khanada” (God, okay, that’s embarrassing right there.) from all over the world and prison.

My mother and I had a conversation that went, “Lane, that letter is from a prison.”  “No it isn’t!”  “Yes, look at the address.  I don’t want you responding to this.”  “Uh!  Mooooooooom!”  Of course I responded, and I asked, “Are you in prison?”  Of course he was.  My friend Jason wrote back and told my inmate-soulmate that I had been killed in a freak boating accident.

One of the girls who responded to my plea for fans of the Thin White Duke was named…  I have to give her a pseudonym.  We’ll call her Isabella.  Isabella was cool.  She wrote well.  She was entertaining, and we shared very similar backgrounds as military brats, and we ended up writing to each other for a couple of years.  We also started phoning one another once a month, or so.

She would fill me in on her fabulous, fascinating life at fashion school in NYC, detailing her promotions job for The Limelight, and talking about which Veejay she was refusing that week.  In turn, I would fill her in on my world.  My part of the conversation rarely took more than five minutes.  I was in hayseed awe of her world, and when she would beg me to visit her, I always demurred.  I was afraid she would take one look at me and say, “Never mind.”

But one day I got a wild hare.  I drove myself right down to the travel agency below my neighborhood and asked, “How much does it cost to go to New York City?”  Tiffany, who would book that and every trip I took up to  my honeymoon 12 years later–I’m a loyal customer if you treat me well–got me a price and got me into a good hotel.  I went home and called Isabella.  She was thrilled.  But, she said, if I was insisting on a hotel, I had to stay at the Paramount.  The Hilton was just so-so.

I called Tiffany, who got me an amazing rate, and then I called the hotel posing as my own assistant to confirm the reservation.  I told them I was tying to keep a low profile while I was there, and asked for a few provisions.  It entertained me anyway.

I spent the next six weeks putting together my wardrobe.  There was the black catsuit and cropped ivory Nehru jacket.  There was the skin tight tank dress (that a man tried to trade me for a signed Steven Sprouse t-shirt.  I should have made the trade, but I’ll tell you about that later.)  There was the black and white striped, bateau neck shirt, worn with tights and a black mini.  And a few other pieces along with the basics.  I knew I wasn’t going to be anywhere near what Isabella’s wardrobe would bring, but it was the best I could do.

My parents were furious.  My over-protective parents, without whom I had never traveled.  I was twenty-one and had never been anywhere alone.  It was time, I told them, and I was going.  They could have their fits, but it was paid for, and I was going.  And I was going to be gone a while.  If I liked it, I was staying.

I flew into Newark airport on August 23, 1992.  I will never forget seeing the Statue of Liberty as we banked over the city.  I was equal parts elated and terrified.  What if Isabella didn’t come to pick me up?  What if she hated me?  What if she took one look at my corny Texas clothes and blew me off entirely?

You see, Isabella had described herself to me in detail.  She was tall, 5’10”, frequently mistaken for Isabella Rosselini.  She had men falling all over her, and was constantly fighting off suitors.  She went to a fashion school, where she was a top student.  She worked for what was one of the hottest clubs in New York, and also had ins at Sony and Capitol.

I was 5’3″ (almost), and though I was still working in commercials, and doing runway for petite shows at Market, it was the Dallas market and I thought it was nothing special.  I was round faced and freckled, and worked a temp job while I was going to school for my degree in English.  I went out to clubs, but I wasn’t the hot girl who got asked to work at them.  I’m not the muse.  I’m the girl you tell about the muse.  And my ins at record companies consisted of going in to record stores and buying things from their labels.  (That’s not entirely true.  A Capitol exec tried to recruit me, and I said no.  I didn’t want to live in LA.)

Isabella was this looming, grand thing in my mind, and I was afraid to meet her.

I got off the plane and walked out into the waiting area.  This was pre-9-11, so I fully expected that Isabella would be waiting for me.  I scanned the thick crowd, searching above the heads of the short people.  Looking, looking, looking, worrying.  Had she seen me and split?  She had a picture of me, but I only had her self-description.

And then I heard a voice.  “Laaaaaane?!   Laaaaaaaaaaaane?!”

The voice was coming from my height.  Maybe lower.  I was confused.  Finally, I located the person calling my name.  I did a double take, literally looking behind me for anyone else who might be named Lane because that. was. not. Isabella.

To be continued.