Diablog: The Chesterfield

It's summer. The trees are in leaf. That means I can't see the river any more.

But you can see the trees.

That's something.

The trees are more than most Manhattan dwellers have to look at. And the lawn smells so good when it's just been mowed by city employees, with our neighbors lying all over it sunning themselves. Life is good here at the Chesterfield.

The what?

That's what this place was called when it had a name, when it went up in 1910 as the first steel-reinforced concrete building in the neighborhood, lording it over the brownstones across the street. Now it's a tad shorter than its immediate neighbors, but it's still a grand dame in chocolate brick and beige terracotta. The super tells me it has landmark status.

Are we going to specify the neighborhood?

No, we've said too much already. A lot of readers might like to see into our little writer's garret. This is my worst nightmare.

Your prying digital camera is not going to show them anything, I assume? Like the LCD HDTV sitting between your center and left speakers?

No. That's kind of an acoustic faux pas. If I really wanted to be respectable, I'd probably have to substitute some ugly (but better sounding) acoustic treatment.

I'm guessing the rack sitting between your center and right speakers would fall into the same category.


What about the two surround speakers--the left one sitting atop an LP shelf, and the right one in your home office nook, firing across the archway that leads to the office cum livingroom cum home theater?

My long-wall speaker placement is terribly asymmetrical, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. Between that, the clutter, and the room's hexagonal shape, it's kind of a semi-crypto-anechoic chamber.

I don't even want to know what that means. Then there's the bedroom. The horror, the horror.

What's difficult about using the bedroom for boxes is that you have to walk through it to get to the kitchen and bath. With three doorways, a window, and a bed, there really aren't many places for a couple of surround speaker packages and a receiver or two except right in front of my biggest LP and book shelves. Being cut off from my treasures drives me crazy.

Crazier than the fact that the bathroom has no heat source, no electrical outlet, unless you count that thing screwed into the light fixture, and is so small that two people can't stand there unless one stands in the bathtub?

I've gotten used to the bathroom. It's cozy. I can mop it in seconds.

What about that stupid pull chain that turns on the light in our weeny L-shaped kitchen, so small it can't accommodate anything bigger than a tray table from Bed Bath & Beyond? How about springing for a light switch, big spender?

And poke holes in our thick plaster landmark walls? Perish the thought. If I could do that, I'd be reviewing in-wall speakers, an even more perishable thought. The pull chain has a certain air of antiquity about it. So does the whole building. Just look at the stained glass windows in our lobby, featuring the mighty Chesterfield lions. That lobby is the size of a football field. I feel a little uplifted every time I walk through it.

And then you get up here, to the audio obsessive's den of horrors. It wouldn't be so bad if this were one of the mansion apartments, the ones that have about the same dimensions they had in 1910. What are they, three or four bedrooms? Gosh, they're amazing! Why can't we rent one of those?

Are you referring to the one on this floor that rents for $5000? Or the one below that rents for $6500? Come on, we'll never do that on a writer's pay. Be thankful for what we've got, a 1BR drmn riv vu for less than a thousand a month.

Now all your readers hate you. Though it's no more than you deserve...

Be thankful for the tree that's growing outside the kitchen window, the one that cuts off our view of the river except in winter. It's the most ideally proportioned tree I've ever seen, though admittedly, I'm biased. I've watched it grow up. When I get writer's block, I sit in our weeny L-shaped kitchen and let my eyes follow it from the trunk up to the tiniest twigs and back down again.

I'll have to try that sometime.

Try it now.

Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.