For the entire holiday stretch, I’ve been back at my parents house in northern New Jersey, relaxing in a suburban oasis that is shockingly different from my day-to-day existence in Manhattan. Minus the tropical climate and friendly, white-toothed Haitian men leading pool exercise groups, it’s quite similar to vacations I’ve taken to all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. The Staff (my mother and the cleaning lady) tend to my every need; there is a hot tub for relaxing; the food is exemplary; and everything is paid for.
I decided to document a typical day that I’ve had over the past fortnight of bliss, mostly to highlight the differences between life at my house – aka “Home Livin’ Spa & Resort” – and life in the city. This is how it went:
– I wake up in the morning to sunlight streaming into my 3rd floor hotel room. Blinking a few times, I look at my phone for the time – 10:15am, also known as “The Perfect Time to Wake Up”.
– Yawning, I sit up in bed, wondering if I should get up or sleep a bit more. Taking hold of my surroundings, I realize the staff has gone the extra mile and turned my hotel room into a shrine to myself: the room is adorned with trophies, medals, and photographs from my youth. They even put my diplomas on the wall.
– The combined memories of my pee wee football achievements, 3.2 high school GPA, and chess club trophy from 2nd grade invigorate me; I decide to get out of bed and seize the day. When you’re a multi-talented star, sleep can wait.
– After brushing my teeth and washing my face, I walk back into my bedroom whistling to myself.
Startled, I scream and flail into my dresser. It’s Renata, the Russian cleaning lady. For what must be the thousandth time, she has surprised me while I am wearing nothing but my boxers. Had I not previously had a girlfriend for three years, it would be entirely possible that Renata has seen me almost naked more than any single person on this planet.
She never seems phased, either, which bothers me. Do you barge in on all of your clients in their private moments? Am I not special? Are you not wowed by my physique? Renata has been walking in on me wearing nothing but boxers for the entire prime of my physical life – roughly from the ages of 21 to 26 – and not once has she thrown herself at me. Either menopause has stunted her libido, or I need to workout more.
“Must be the menopause,” I lie to myself.
– Whenever I imagine these moments, I picture it going something like this:
The door opens, and the cleaning lady gasps, embarrassed at what she sees. It’s her first week on the job, and they didn’t tell her how to deal with this. A stunningly handsome man is naked, sitting by the window, looking out at the sunrise. He doesn’t even look over when the door opens.
“I’m sorry, sir! I thought…I…” she stammers, unsure of what to say.
The man looks over at her, slowly lifting a cigarette to his lips. He is in a non-smoking room, which he requested; he doesn’t like following the rules.
“They told me the cleaning crew comes at eleven,” he wonders aloud, lighting the cigarette while looking her up and down. He stands up, staring into her eyes from across the room. Never has a man seemed more comfortable in the nude.
“Clock says you’re early, baby, but I think you’re right on time.”
In reality, whenever a cleaning lady surprises me, I cover my private parts and laugh bashfully like Marilyn Monroe and the flying skirt, backpedaling into the bathroom and staying there until she leaves.
– After getting dressed in my usual resort outfit – sweatpants, baggy long sleeve shirt, comfortable socks – I make my way to the dining area. The staff is already making my breakfast; it’s my favorite, as usual. Eggs with chorizo so spicy it’ll give you diarrhea in ten minutes if you’re not used to it; warm bread so fresh that if you hold it to your ear, you can hear the Italian guys at the bakery bitching about the Jets; feta cheese that looks like it was chopped off an ice block; and fresh brewed coffee (in a mug from my Alma Mater, of course).
– The friendly staff welcomes me to the dining area and assures me breakfast will be ready in moments.
– I show my appreciation for the lovingly made home-cooked meal by devouring it in 90 seconds flat; I can see the disappointment in the staff member’s face. I assure her it was excellent.
“How could you even taste it? You inhaled it. Did you even chew once?”
Aside from beer, loving spicy foods, eating mexican twice a week, lying down immediately after eating, and beer a second time, my fast-paced eating style is probably why I have bad heartburn. My father, a doctor, once prescribed me heavy-duty acid reflux medication and said, “You know, normally I prescribe this crap to sixty year old alcoholic firefighters”. On the plus side, if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse and I have to eat food quickly before the zombies or rival human gangs arrive, I’ll be in good shape.
– I give my plate and mug to the staff member for cleaning, contently rubbing my belly.
“Say, what’s on the menu for dinner tonight?”
The staff member shakes her head and chuckles to herself. I’m not sure I like her attitude.
– Satisfied with my meal but a bit put-off by the impolite staff, I meander into the common area. There is a man sitting on the couch, having a coffee and reading the Times. It’s the owner of the resort; his name is Dad. I’ve met him many times before. He is a warm, interesting man; before long he is telling me about his photography hobby.
– I notice out on the patio area there is a hot tub. This is fairly new; the resort installed it a couple of months ago. Rumor has it regulars like myself weren’t coming back as often, and management felt it prudent to make a fairly large addition to reconnect with guests. It worked; the tub is a wonderful add-on. I decide to go in for my first dip of the day.
– It’s a nice hot tub. It has numerous jet settings, although I prefer just a subtle fizzing over the boisterous bubbles that most people enjoy. It also has two upward-facing jets that can be turned on to shoot fun streams across the water; personally, I think the spouts that shoot the streams should be urinating children, like the Manneken Pis in Brussels:
At night, the tub comes with a nice alternating set of colors that remind me of a strip club, something I noticed while I was sitting in there drunk, naming the colors:
I like to picture myself as an Eastern European gangster, sitting in the corner of the tub as the lights rotate from Strip Club Purple to Strip Club Blue to Strip Club Green, a girl under each of my arms…
One of my minions runs up to the hot tub as I scowl at him. I was just getting friendly with Jasmine and Tatiana; he knows I don’t like to be bothered during my hot tub downtime.
“What is it?” I scowl at him. “This better be important.”
He leans over and whispers something into my ear; my face grows serious and I hand him my glass of cognac.
“Jasmine, Tatiana – this will have to wait for another time. Get out.”
The girls quickly scurry off as a shadowy figure approaches the tub. He looks concerned. I look up at him, waiting for him to speak.
“Hey, how long have you been in there? Remember, don’t stay longer than 30 minutes, it’s dangerous!”
It’s Dad, the owner. He’s always making sure guests don’t stay in the tub too long – probably worried about liability if someone were to drown or something.
“Alright, thanks. Getting out in a few.” I hate when my daydreams get interrupted.
– After toweling off and changing, I head to the in-house theater of the resort, in the basement. It’s cozy, and the fridge is filled with ginger ale. Scrolling through the available movies, I choose an On Demand option that is listed as $8.99. I click “Rent Movie,” briefly wondering who pays that nine dollars. I’ve never seen anything on my bill; in fact, I’ve never even gotten a bill from this resort. Quite the opposite, actually – usually when I leave, the staff gives me a few bucks at the door on my way out.
– After the movie I wander around for a while, passing time by the fireplace, reading a few articles on my laptop. There are electronics abound in this place – laptops, iPads, and chargers all over. One time I found a brand new iPod touch under a couch cushion.
– Heading into the bathroom, I switch to an iPad from the common area. Unlike at work, I feel completely comfortable here bringing Apple products into the wash closet. People say a lot of things about Steve Jobs, but to the common man, he is a hero – not since John Harington has anyone revolutionized the act of taking a dump as much as Jobs did.
– Walking out of the bathroom with my iPad under my arm, I encounter that staff member from the kitchen. She shakes her head at me, laughing, and walks away. What’s the big deal? If it was a newspaper under my arm, nobody would care. I make a mental note to write to management about her judgemental demeanor.
– Dinner is home cooked lasagna, more of that awesome bread, and a pilsner. I am joined by the owner and his two sons, who also live here – a 12 year old boy named James and a 22 year old named Nick. The staff also joins us to eat; this is a common occurrence at this resort. It fosters a “family atmosphere”.
– After dinner, the owner invites me to play cards with his sons by the fire. The staff lady watches Real Housewives in the in-house theater while we do so. I pour myself a cognac from the bar. The 12 year old keeps winning, and he likes to talk smack while he does. I could care less; I’m sporting a perfect buzz and looking forward to another hot tub session, this time with the strip club lights on.
– At lights out, everyone goes to bed except me. On the back patio, I can see New York City glimmering in the distance. I exhale a long sigh, realizing in a few days I’ll be trading this paradise for 9-to-5 living and a small two bedroom apartment on 10th street. The Fear is a distant memory; I haven’t felt so much as a pinch of it in days. I live a regret-free life here, devoid of mistakes and fried food; heck, yesterday I even ate a vegetable. I feel content…comfortable.
“Why even go back?” I ask, looking up at the sky for answers.
– I realize I haven’t seen a woman other than the staff members in over a week. Looking back at the city skyline, the images rush into my head – models walking the streets of Soho, blondes smoking cigarettes on fire escapes in the wee hours of the morning, cute girls on the other end of the bar laughing and glancing…
Suburbia can be, in a way, a Fear-free wonderland – a place with refrigerators stocked with all different kinds of cheese, TV’s with every premium channel subscription, and loving family members hanging around eating grapes and drinking wine. It just so happens that the one thing it’s missing is also the only thing a young man really cares about.
Back to Gotham we go. Happy New Year, everybody.
– By Jack Gashi