Formally trained at The Martha Stewart Academy, Max had a difficult time moving in with somebody like me. He was disturbed by so many things in my apartment—the plain white linens, the lack of throw pillows, my surfaces clear of homey knickknacks. Where were all my throw blankets? Didn’t I own a few more table lamps I could set up? Why didn’t it smell persistently like flowers or fresh laundry? These were the habits of a barbarian, and I suppose I should count myself lucky that he has since spent months attempting to reform my bachelor ways. It was uncomfortable at first, but I’ve decided to be courageous and look at it less like an assault and more like a challenge to move beyond my comfort zone. One that involves a crazy, never-ending roller coaster ride of emotional turmoil.
I don’t mean to sing my own praises here, but I’d say I have an above-average olfactory sense, a gift that tends to be more curse than blessing in the city of New York. My apartment didn’t smell bad, but rather didn’t really smell like anything, which is how I like it. I tend to find scented rooms a little uncomfortable, to be honest. Why does your 6th floor East Village apartment always smell like a garden center full of hydrangeas? What are you trying to cover up? Do you have terrible gas? Are you growing pot in your coat closet? Do you have a rotting carcass fetish? There are no flowers around, it doesn’t make sense. Context is everything.
All of this changed with Max.
Face your fears.
By my count, we have 2 plug-ins, 2 reed diffusers, 2 oil burners, and a vast assortment of tiny vials of variously scented oils, much like a witch doctor. Bear in mind that our apartment is about 600 square feet. Max used to have a third oil burner before I think I urged him to throw it away, and I’ve put my foot solidly down against the concept of tiny bowls of potpourri strewn about the place, but I know it’s probably only a matter of time. I know he’s just waiting for that right potpourri.
At one point shortly after he moved in, he purchased a third reed diffuser and put it on the mantle. It was the sort of thing that gave me the nervous eye twitch, but hey, I thought, he’s new here, let the boy have it. It wasn’t until it fell to the floor, diffusing its contents all over my rug and the couch, that tacit frustration boiled over into rage. “THESE THINGS ARE ARE MADE BY THE MEDDLING HANDS OF THE DEVIL,” I recall yelling. I sulked for days, pretending that it was the oil spill all over my antique rug (which is gone now… just cover it with cornstarch and vacuum later! Thanks, Martha!) that bothered me, not that my apartment smelled like a funeral parlor. That smell could linger for days, but possibly forever, and eventually I’d have to move, telling people, “Oh, it was a great apartment, but I got tired of smelling Savon’s Sandlewood oil. It was time to move on.”
All of our many new fragrances were easy to accept with a kind of passive compliance, but things got more distressing when Max zeroed in on the throw pillow situation.
All I heard about was throw pillows. I had purchased some fabric that I had planned to make into throw pillows, but a combination of laziness and a crippling fear of my sewing machine had delayed the process for about a year. Max thought this fabric was “too manly” anyway (“but we are men, Sugar Tits!”), so what followed was weeks of bickering over which pillows. Max would threaten me with some semi-contemporary trellis pattern thing and I’d get all weepy about the vintage kilim pillow he made me donate to Goodwill (gone, but not forgotten) and that would go on for a while until we’d realize we were actually fighting about throw pillows and then we’d explode into a pile of rainbows and glitter paint.
Eventually I presented Max with a single option, which he took: the Coco Pillow from CB2. Neither of us loved them, neither of us hated them, which was a big improvement over everything else we’d presented each other. Stalemate pillows, if you will. We bought two. Drama, ended.
But two pillows wasn’t enough to satiate Max’s undying thirst for throw pillows. So, desperate to finally end this whole debacle, I walked into the Marimekko shop at Crate & Barrel and bought a yard of fabric.
And then I FACED MY FEARS.
I looked up some instructions online. I broke out that sewing machine. I made some fucking pillows. I watched the pilot episode of that Terra Nova show and was disappointed. Talk about a packed afternoon.
Don’t pretend you’re not impressed. FYI, made them about an inch smaller than the insert, which keeps them from getting too droopy. You know, pro tip.
Totally sewed them with an envelop back, too! This allowed me to skip the whole zipper issue, seeing as who the hell am I kidding here? I can’t sew a zipper.
But then, because my pillows were such a wild success, I showed them to a friend at a party and we got to talking about whether I could make cushions for our friend Emily’s couch for her birthday.
Vintage teak Danish sofa. No cushions. Foam, dacron, spray adhesive, fabric, sewing machine, zippers. “Yes!” drunk Daniel said, “I would love to do that! When do we start?” And then sober Daniel had a panic attack.
I basically followed this awesome dude’s instructions for the foam, which I purchased at Canal Rubber. They’re WONDERFUL there, by the way. If you go in, give Lee a holler for me.
Then, using these advanced tools… (indeed, those are children’s scissors from IKEA. Our kitchen scissors were inexplicably lost so the other option was cuticle scissors.)
And a hefty amount of figuring it the fuck out…
I made this sexy tweedy thing. And another one for the back.
Which turned into these sexy tweedy things.
So people could do shit like this on them.
Sometimes people tell me, “oh, Daniel, you are so gifted and crafty!” And I say to them, “I swear, I don’t have any special skills.” This is basically true, save for one caveat: I am just a naturally gifted DIY superhero who can do anything. ANYTHING. I even learned how to thread a bobbin during this whole sofa cushion thing. And watched the entire first season of Walking Dead. As I said: ANYTHING.
Face your fears.
As it’s getting dark so early, it’s cold outside, and Max was getting a little too comfortable, I decided I really wanted some house plants.
Max has this thing about houseplants. He hates them. Sometimes I think about why this might be, seeing as a good houseplant is loyal, and alive, and filters your air, and needs very little maintenance. Is it because sometimes the leaves collect dust? Is it because they have soil, which is traditionally home to bugs? Is it because they photosynthesize for energy, which is basically eating the sun? Is it because they grow, like silent, perpetually still zombie children waiting around in corners of your house?
I already had this one. Bought it at Morton-Williams, 82nd & 1st Ave. (can I hear a whut-whut?!). I do not know what it’s called, but I do know that it lived through the move and just keeps growing. So, so proud.
And what? What did I do? Went and bought a Fabian Aralia from some guy on Craigslist? Like a crazy plant person? Who talked about plants with me while I pet his dog? Sure did.
Then just to be an asshole I bought this little lovely at Trader Joe’s for a couple bucks. Planted her in a weird sized vase I had and water her every once in a while. She’s alright.
I recognize that buying houseplants as a form of passive aggression is about the gayest thing imaginable (I can say that, you can’t). It just feels so right.
I wasn’t really prepared for this, though. Seasonal decorating.
Gourds. Everywhere there are gourds. Gourds, pumpkins, glass pumpkins, more gourds.
These cropped up shortly before Halloween and have been slowly rotting on most of the surfaces in our apartment ever since. Max says they’re a “slightly pre-Halloween up until and including Thanksgiving” thing. He is disposing of them piecemeal—we’ll come home, something will smell funky, and he’ll find the offending gourd and toss it.
It’s not a horrible smell, just something a little bitter in the air. It might be worse, but, you see, we have these air fresheners.
Until next time: FACE. YO. FEARS.